Day Four: Dinosaur National Monument

We were cruising along the highway toward Dinosaur National Monument, listening to music (Grandparent “win” when the granddaughter asks to listen to “some Beach Boys”), playing word games (“‘A’ my name is ________ and I come from ___________; I’m on my way to ____________ with some __________ in my pocket” and so on, in alphabetical order).  Still looking for motorcycle riders with beards and wondering if those are rain clouds in the sky.  The kids really are great travelers; we had a few little spats in the back seat but nothing major to speak of.  They don’t complain about being bored and will take a nap or find something to do if they are.  If we kept the cooler full of drinks and a few snacks on hand, with an occasional bathroom break, all was well with the roadtrippers.

Coincidentally (or not), Rich and I were talking about how people are so dependent on the GPS these days and recounting stories we’d heard of families or elderly people getting lost by following their GPS into unknown territory, losing cell service, and having a tragedy occur.  We turned off the highway into Dinosaur National Monument but there was no ranger station or gate and the visitor center was a little bit back off the road so we just kept on going, following Siri and her instructions.  We eventually came to a downhill dirt road where Siri told us to turn. We turned and immediately saw a sign that said the road was not passable by passenger vehicles.  In my head I began to wonder how many people ignore that sign and give it a try anyway.  It really did not look bad from the top but there was no way to know how it would end up later. We didn’t even discuss it but knew we would not risk the kids or ourselves by attempting the drive. Rich backed up and we got out of the car to look at a posted map (we also had an atlas in the car but the park was not outlined in much detail).  We figured out that this road was not going to take us where we wanted to go to see the dinosaur bones exhibit and petroglyphs on the cliffs. Oh, yeah, and our cell service was gone, too!  Just then a ranger drove up in a pickup with two other SUV type vehicles following him.  I said hello and told him our situation. He said we basically needed to turn around and go back to the highway and use a different entrance to the park, confirming that yes, this happens a lot around here. 🙂

We backtracked for a bit and got onto the highway which led us further into Utah and another entrance to the park.  By now it was after 3 PM–so much for a short day!  Truth be told, Rich and I were tired of the whole thing and didn’t even want to go to the park any more but the kids had been so good in the car all day that we didn’t want to tell them we weren’t going.  We drove up to the visitor center/main entrance and one of the rangers told us a few things we could do with the couple of hours we had left.  The first was to ride the shuttle to the museum to see a whole wall of discovered dinosaur bones.  The next was to drive through the park on our own and look at the petroglyphs on the hillsides.  The last was that Ally could complete some activities in a booklet and become a Jr. Ranger.  All three sounded good and Ally was more than excited to do the Jr. Ranger thing.  With perfect timing, the shuttle was about to leave for the museum so we hopped on board.

The Quarry Exhibit Hall was super cool, containing a wall of approximately 1500 dinosaur bones from Allosaurus, Apatosaurus, Camarasaurus, Diplodicus, Stegosaurus and more. There’s even a section where you can actually touch the bones.  Included in the exhibit hall   are stations with more info about the dinosaur bones and how they were discovered, along with drawings and models of various dinosaurs. It was all pretty impressive! You can read more about Dinosaur National Monument here.

Following our visit to the exhibit, we jumped in the car and took a drive through the park to find a few petroglyphs before it got too late. Meanwhile, Ally was busy checking off items and completing activities in her booklet.

We drove quite a ways without seeing any petroglyphs but there was one area marked on the map that stated the petroglyphs were right off the road. Sure enough, we eventually found them and they were awesome!  They were made by the Fremont people who lived in the area about 1000 years ago.


By then it was late and the center was about to close so we had to rush right down and turn in Ally’s booklet to get her Jr. Ranger badge.  Seriously, I thought it was going to be no big deal–she’d turn in her booklet and they’d hand her a badge.  Not at all!  She had to answer some questions from the ranger, discuss what she’d learned, put up her hand and take a pledge to protect the fossils, animals and plants, learn new things and share what she’d learned, and so on.  She said her pledge, the ranger signed off on her booklet, gave her a badge and all the rangers behind the counter started applauding.  It was so cute and you’d have thought Ally had won a big prize.  She was so happy and proud of herself!  Good job, Ally!

We drove into Vernal, Utah, where we had a room for the night.  Rich had a digital coupon from so he looked for a place that would take the coupon.  We decided on the Vernal Brewing Company, where we had a really nice dinner and Rich tried their peach ale.  At the end of dinner, he brought out his phone to use the coupon and, of course, it wouldn’t work.  Our server and the floor manager tried to help with no luck. We said it was fine and we’d just pay for it and save the coupon for later.  Rich handed over his credit card and the manager came back a little later to say that he had given us the discount anyway.  What a nice surprise!  What a nice guy!  So if you ever go to Vernal, UT, stop in at the Brewing Co. and give them some business!


Next stop, Jackson Hole, to see family and friends and attend my niece  Ellie’s wedding.



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