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Yellowstone Adventure [Part 1 of 6]

About once a year, we like to take a several-day road trip across state lines to a nationally-known landmark. In 2010, we visited Mount Rushmore. In 2011, we flipped a coin to choose between the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone, and chose the former. So this year, our trip would be to Yellowstone.

It was rainy when we left town. I had just bought some wiper blades, though one is the wrong size (grrr...). Weather stayed rather dreary as we passed through the Eisenhower Tunnel and made our way north through Kremmling. Between there and Steamboat Springs, we had hoped to see "Rabbit Ears" Peak, but it was too foggy to see anything more than 500 feet away.

Steamboat seems like a neat place. Still don't have the budget to go skiing, but I'd like to explore this area more when we have time.

As our elevation lowered along Colorado's western slope, the weather improved. Around noontime, we found ourselves at the Canyon section of Dinosaur National Monument. This park is split between Utah and Colorado, and the different parts cannot be easily reached without exiting and returning from the other side. Still, there are some great scenic views in this area which most visitors never see, so we took the hourlong drive in and out.

Included here is Echo Park, a canyon carved by the Green River. The area was considered for a dam in the 1950s, but environmental resistance at the time resulted in the dam being built elsewhere (however, the Sierra Club president came to regret this, when he toured the area that would ultimately be dammed—Glen Canyon).

Not far from this area, in 1776, a pair of Franciscan priests named Domínguez and Escalante searched in vain for a path from Santa Fe to Spanish missions in California (we have crossed their path several times in our own travels, finding historical markers—that's the only way I ever knew about this fascinating expedition... somehow it wasn't mentioned in my history books).

The road leading into this part of the park is the same one leading out (unless you want to take your chances on the cow-paths). So we came back, and stopped for a late lunch in the town of Dinosaur, Colorado. Our sandwiches and cane sugar sodas were tasty, although the restaurant played this creepy gospel music, with a level of brainwashedness less suited to the Son of God than to a North Korean head of state. At least their dino souvenirs didn't poo-poo evolution.

We were a bit behind schedule, and we wanted to reach the Quarry Exhibit Hall (over on the Utah side) before it closed for the day.

The main attraction: a rock wall with over 1200 exposed dinosaur fossil bones, from perhaps a dozen species. There are femurs, spines, skulls, pelvises, ribs... and not from those pissant dinosaurs the size of a chicken. We're talking about the big ones.

We reached the nearby town of Vernal, UT late in the afternoon. This place clearly has dinosaurs on the brain. There's a natural history museum, but it was closed for the day. We'll try to catch it next time.

It was refreshing—for a change—to reach the hotel before the pool closed. After dinner, we visited the hot tub. It was a little too hot for Tim's liking. I warned him: "In a couple of days, we're going to see some real hot tubs!"