Denver to Dinosaurs

Tasia and Amara took the airport shuttle to Denver International so I did not have to pile the dogs in the car at 4:30 am.  I felt quite sad to see them going even though I would be seeing them in about a week in Oregon. I am good with doing things by myself but it is so much better when one shares experienced with kindred souls. We made it through ten days of challenging circumstances and there were relatively few skirmishes and we are all still ”best buds.” My daughter Tasia is an amazing woman. She is so kind, patient , helpful, smart, creative, inquisitive, artistic — she was there the whole time to help me, her daughter and the two dogs when needed. She has the stamina of a pair of oxen and more than once hoisted my pack up a difficult ascent when I was just about out of gas! She was so patient with her daughter Amara who was a real trooper but would peter out at just about the same time I would. She carried  Simba, aka “Tiny”Dog on numerous occasions and also hoisted 22 lb. Kili for about a mile when he could no longer walk. Kudos to Tasia for making these ten days a wonderful 3 generation backpacking and hiking trip.

I finally got myself organized enough to take off about 9:45 am. The car was in total disarray but as long as the stuff fit in I was not going to address the chaos of stuff yet. My last task was to get the free breakfast so I put the dogs in the car and went down to get a plate. The checkin clerk told me breakfast was from 5 am -10am Well there was NO Food!!! It was over at nine!!! I was mostly ticked because I had hoped to get some sausage and eggs to feed my poor skinny dog with no appetite. I instructed Siri to take me out of Denver using no major highways so we set off on a slow drive across town, enjoying some industrial sections, some lower income neighborhoods, driving right through the middle of downtown and then out onto some very scenic roller coaster hills, corkscrew ascents, hairpin turns, and marvelous vista roads. I was headed to Dinosaur National Monument and it was to be a 350 mile 9 hour adventure. The variety of environments was quite astonishing. I traversed through high forested mountains, lower altitude undulating mountains and hills, several upscale ski resort western style towns, some older small decaying towns, and a lot of what appear to be very inhospitable rolling arid land covered with sage brush and juniper. You know you are in the middle of nowhere the you see signs announcing that there are no services or gas for 57 miles. At the end of that 57 miles is a decaying town with perhaps only one operating business in the form of the local Conoco or the Kum and Go. As time went on I was not at all worried about getting a campsite on the Green River as I could not imagine flocks of people descending on this rather god forsaken area. So around 5:00 pm I entered Dinasaur National Monument. The area had changed rapidly as I approached and it was the beginning of some breathtaking lands. But at this point I opted to head straight for the campground and selected a sight (75) backing up to the Green River .

Now I was faced with the challenge of finding my car camping tent as I refused to spend another night fighting with the dogs for my space in the not so roomy backpacking tent. I was warned about it getting hot in this area and it was not to disappoint at a toasty 91 degrees at 7:30 pm. Of course all the car camping apparatus was in the carrier, stored away to make way for the backpacks down below. I managed to get it all squared away by dark at which point i was just finishing my dinner! But all was well inside. I felt a lot of joy, satisfaction and peace. I was in a beautiful area, I could hear he rushing of the water from the Green River, the dogs and I were both well and well fed….all of which bring an inner peace. After so many cold nights in the mountains, I was NOT going to complain about the heat — though I must admit it felt quite sticky and sweaty. Sitting in the quiet I could gaze at a spectacular array of stars while listening to the barking of coyote in the distance. I couldn’t ask for more.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I awoke around 7:00 to a sense of being baked in an oven as the sun was already heating up the new day and already was in full force intending to slowly bake me in my tent. Emerging, well rested, I took stock. It was a beautiful morning but I knew that my campsite would be in the fullpath of the sun for the entire day and we would be kiln dried by the time it would retreat behind the ridge around 7;30. This site was nice and shady the evening before at 7:30. But I had planned on car-treking for the day, going back to the Colorado Dinosaur National Monument Canyon Entrance. I wasn’t sure what that would hold as it had no fossil sites of dinosaurs museum. It was a 31 mile road cutting across sagebrush plateaus with many pullout at the rim of sheer-walled canyons. It turned out to be a superlative decision and the drive was stupendous. The further in and with altitude increasing the sandstone and other rock formations became more and more intriguing and colorful. To amuse myself further I kept “seeing” dinosaur shapes in the rock formations. With the striations and sworls all about, here again this area had it’s own unique character.

The dogs are very patient with my car trekking which involved hopping in and out to drink in each new astonishing   vista. I am so grateful for digital photography as I take tons of pictures so I will be able to lock some of the images into the gray matter of my aging brain. Though I did not have the place to myself, there were so few people and cars out there that there was a lot of solitude to just soak in the beauty of this earth. At the end of the Canyon road there was a two mile round trip Harper’s Corner Trail, a hike that was touted as a way to cap off an already amazing experience. It was high noon but I knew it was partially shaded. The temperature was 79 degrees. So I set out with the dogs. Yes, the ranger said this trail was dog friendly, one of only 3 trails so far I have found in a National Park that permits dogs. (though with the heat and 7580’ altitude, I didn’t work out to be too friendly for them or me). But with plenty of water and treats and stopping each 1/2 mile to replenish we had a wonderful hike along a rock cliff, jutting out like a promontory. There were amazing views of the Green and Yampa Rivers and their bench lands, cutting their way through brilliant red rock canyon. The Green River is truly a very rich green when viewed from above. Poor little Simba was panting so hard that I could here his heart thumping so I would pick him up and carry him a ways. But he kept trudging on at a pace I did not want to keep up. We took lots of cooling time in the shade. By the time we finished the temperature was 91 degrees.


We were headed back to the Quarry Entrance but first an ice and firewood stop. This meant stopping in the town Dinosaur, Colorado and I spent a bit of time observing how this town appears to be on its way to extinction as well. The only two businesses that appeared to be left were two gas stations/convenience stores. The rest were boarded up shuttered motels, several old rusted car and truck cemeteries. I find it very sad to see such decaying of these towns. There may have been only 2-3 business that looked like they were functioning.  I kept posing the question to myself: Will the town of Dinosaur Colorado, the gateway to Dinosaur National Monument soon be extinct?

I find it quite amusing that I am complaining about the heat and yet stopping to buy firewood so I can have a campfire. So I high tailed it back to the Fossil Entrance and did the Split Mountain Drive. This whole section is beautiful in a slightly different way. Because of the heat and the dogs I wasn’t able to visit any of the fossil sites, museum and petroglyphs but the experiencing the amazing formations of Tilted Rocks and Split Mountain on the Cub Creek Road was more than satisfying.


After a routine swift meal we enjoyed a leisurely walk along the Green River and I dipped my arms, feet, and legs in to wash of the top layer of grime that naturally accumulates when moving about a dirt and sand campsite and of course is even more of a delight when one adds sun screen and bug spray to the mix. The stars and coyotes were as delightful the second night.

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