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  1. #41

    Default Rocky Mountain National Park and into Utah

    Saturday, September 19
    Start: Fort Collins, CO
    End: Green River campground (NPS), Dinosaur NM, Jensen, UT

    A quick breakfast in camp and then we headed up to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. On the way through town EVERY motel, lodge, bed & breakfast had a No Vacancy sign posted. We later learned this time of year is very popular because of Fall leaf color and Elk in the park.

    Moraine Park

    We spent the day visiting the Visitor Centers, enjoying the views and receiving my Junior Ranger badge up at Alpine Center, the highest visitor center in the NPS at 11,796 FT.

    Alpine Visitor Center

    Receiving my Junior Ranger Badge at this place was special. It was here, several years ago, when I saw a ranger giving the pledge to 3 twenty-plus year old males that made me realize adults could do the Junior Ranger programs. And so the adventure began! And no, not every park has you take the pledge, most ask if you want to take the pledge. I usually do, as I believe it is a way to show others that adults are welcome to participate.

    Junior Ranger pledge

    We have noticed that the higher elevations do bother us more these days; we take it very slow, reduce our caffeine intake in the AM and drink lots of water. The driving was much easier than Yellowstone, even though it was as busy. People did not stop in the middle of the road to view or take pictures of the animals. Of course there are fewer animals, we only saw a couple of herds of elk.

    Alpine Beaver Ponds - west side

    Once over to the west side we decided to continue driving across Colorado and end the day at Dinosaur National Monument. We followed US 40 through Steamboat Springs and into Utah. It was easy driving, a lot less traffic than along the Front Range of the Rockies and through the park. We were in camp by 6 PM and enjoyed a nice evening. While driving in we saw our first flock of Sandhill Cranes, and heard them flying over the campground into the evening. There was a flock of turkeys across the river from our site and we even saw a small frog jumping under our van.

    Sandhill Cranes

    Passport Stamps
    Rocky Mtn Nat'l Park
    - Beaver Meadows Visitor Ctr.
    - Fall River Visitor Ctr.
    - Moraine Park Visitor Ctr.
    - 100 Centennial 1915 - 2015
    Rocky Mountain National Park
    - Estes Park, CO
    - Grand Lake, CO
    Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park - Continental Divide Trail
    RMNP - Alpine Visitor Ctr, Elevation 11,796 FT.

    Wildlife Sightings
    Least Chipmunk
    Yellow-bellied Marmot
    Mule Deer

    Clark's Nutcracker
    Common Raven
    Black-billed Magpie
    American Crow
    Brewer's Blackbird
    Canada Geese
    Mourning Dove
    Sandhill Crane
    Northern Flicker
    Wild Turkey

  2. #42

    Default Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area

    Sunday, September 20
    Start & End: Dinosaur National Monument

    After a very late start from camp, almost 11:00 AM we drove through Vernal, then north on US 191 to Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area (USFS). Two years ago we came through this area at the same time of year and ran into snow and ice as we drove across this area. It was gorgeous today, probably mid 60s. On the road up, the Ashley National Forest has put up geologic signs. These give the formation and the significant plants and animals of that time period.

    Geologic signs - US 191, north of Vernal, UT

    We stopped at the Flaming Gorge Dam visitor center for their stamps and to eat our picnic lunch. From there we went back up the road and over to the Red Canyon Visitor Center. Even though the website indicates the visitor center is closed after Labor Day it was open. The posted hours showed it open Tues - Sunday, at least for now. No end date was given. The views from here were spectacular. My photos were taken through the window in the visitor center. I have no desire to get close to the edge. We spent several hours up on the rim letterboxing.

    Flaming Gorge - Red Canyon

    On our way back to camp we stopped in Vernal for groceries, then enjoyed another wonderful evening in camp. The evening light at this campground is special.

    Green River Campground - Dinosaur National Monument

    Passport Stamps
    Dinosaur National Monument - Jensen, UT
    Dinosaur National Monument - 100th Anniversary 1915 - 2015

    Bonus stamp
    Dinosaur skull - pictorial
    Flaming Gorge Dam - date - Dutch John, UT
    Flaming Gorge Recreation Area - date - Dutch John, Utah
    Flaming Gorge Area - Ashley National Forest
    Flaming Gorge Recreation Area - date - Red Canyon, Utah

    Wildlife Sightings
    White-tailed Prairie Dog
    Cottontail Rabbit
    Mule Deer

    Sandhill Crane
    Lesser Nighthawk
    Red-tailed Hawk
    Mountain Bluebird
    Black-billed Magpie
    Mourning Dove
    Great Blue Heron
    Turkey Vulture
    Clark's Nutcracker
    Peregrine Falcon
    Northern Flicker
    American Coot
    Common Raven
    Canada Geese
    Owl - heard
    Last edited by Pmount; 11-05-2015 at 09:07 PM.

  3. #43

    Default Colorado - National Monument & the River

    Monday, September 21
    Start: Dinosaur National Monument
    End: Dewey Bridge campground (BLM), UT 128, along the Colorado River

    Before leaving Dinosaur National Monument we went up to the Quarry Exhibit Hall; I had some additional research to do for the Junior Ranger booklet. On our last visit here I had completed the Junior Paleontologist booklet. Back at the visitor center a ranger checked my work and issued their Junior Ranger oath and gave me the badge.

    Dinosaur NM - Quarry wall & newest Sr/Jr Ranger

    We headed back into Colorado on US 40 and stopped at the Canyon visitor center for Dinosaur NM in Dinosaur, CO. In town we headed south on CO 64, then CO 139, new road for us, to Grand Junction, CO. This was the quickest route to Moab, UT and Arches National Park. While in Grand Junction we went to the BLM office for the Old Spanish NHT stamp and up to the Colorado National Monument visitor center for their stamp, then found the local post offices for my husband to get the cancellation with the passport stamp on the outside of an envelope. Luckily we saw a couple of bighorn sheep on the way to the visitor center.

    Colorado National Monument

    Bighorn sheep

    Back to I-70, heading west back into Utah; we took UT 128 which follows the Colorado River into Moab. We stopped at the first BLM campground along this stretch as it was late afternoon. It was the warmest weather of the trip, but the river provided a cooling breeze.

    Colorado River sunflower

    Colorado River sunset

    Passport Stamps
    Dinosaur National Monument - Dinosaur, CO
    Old Spanish NHT - BLM Grand Junction Field Office, CO
    Old Spanish NHT - Colorado National Monument, CO
    Colorado National Monument - Fruita, CO

    Wildlife Sightings
    Cottontail Rabbit
    White-tailed Prairie Dog
    Rock Squirrel
    Bighorn Sheep
    Least Chipmunk

    Northern Flicker
    Black-billed Magpie
    Common Raven
    Wild Turkey
    Sandhill crane
    Turkey Vulture
    American Robin
    Common Poorwill - (heard)
    Last edited by Pmount; 11-06-2015 at 03:59 PM. Reason: url, photo edit

  4. #44
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Real??/

    Those sheep look like they are in a diorama!


  5. #45


    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Sedenquist View Post
    Those sheep look like they are in a diorama!

    Yep, for real.
    The original butt shot just before the tunnel heading up to the visitor center


  6. #46

    Default Moab, UT

    Tuesday, September 22
    Start: Dewey Bridge Campground, 28 miles E of Moab, UT
    End: Pack Creek Campground, Moab, UT

    Surprised to not be greeted with a clear, blue sky in the morning. Woke up to an overcast sky which made the drive along the Colorado River into Moab a different and pleasant experience. Our first stop was at the Arches National Park visitor center. We got the passport stamps, at 2 different locations inside, picked up the Junior Ranger booklet and watched the 15 minute film. I was amazed to learn that there are over 2000 arches within the park, the largest concentration in the world.

    We went into town to get a campsite and showers. The park campground is always full and quite a drive, if you want to explore outside the park. They take reservations from March 1 through October 31, with peak times booking fast. As we went into town we noticed lots of 'No Vacancy' signs. For fun I checked to see what Motel 6 was charging, they had no rooms for tonight, but the next night their cheapest room was $149.99!!!! I have never, or would, pay more than $85. Campgrounds along US 191 also had 'Full' signs out, except for tent sites. We went back to a place, off of US 191, that we have been to before, a bit rough around the edges, but adequate. We got a tent space for $22.04; the showers are clean and with plenty of hot water. There are lots of long-term tenants, but they welcome overnighters with RVs or tents. When selecting the campsite the manager kept trying to have me select a site along the back edge. I wanted one with a larger, single parking area on the side. I finally asked him why he didn't want us to have the site I chose. He told me it had no ambiance - I can assure you the other sites were not much stronger on ambiance. My husband and I continue to have a good laugh and use the line, "but it has no ambiance"!

    Campground - short term camping area

    After showers and lunch we went back into town for passport stamps at the NPS and BLM offices and the in-town visitor center. Glad we saw these dinosaur tracks in town at the BLM office. The next day we tried to drive out to a set of tracks north of town, but the road became too rough for our van.

    Dinosaur Tracks outside BLM office

    Moab Visitor Center

    After that we headed out to Canyonlands National Park to Islands in the Sky. It had stayed overcast and mid-70s, very pretty and comfortable. We did a short hike just past the visitor center.

    Canyonlands NP

    Into the Maze - Shafer Trail Road

    Back into town we enjoyed dinner at the Moab Brewery. On this trip we learned that to get stronger beer in Utah you order it in the can or bottle. They serve it to you, at your table. All beer on tap is 3.2% alcohol. To get 7% ABV (Alcohol By Volume) you order it in a can, our waiter told us it had just been canned within the past hour. We've had many discussions with waitstaff in Utah about their alcohol laws. To us it tasted like good, local brewed IPA.

    Moab Brewery

    We finished the day with some letterboxing in the area. The only disappointed of the day was the lack of wildlife sightings.

    Passport Stamps
    Arches National Park - Moab, UT
    Old Spanish NHT
    - Arches National Park, UT
    - Moab Information Center, UT
    Old Spanish National Historic Trail - Moab, UT
    Canyonlands NP - 1986-2011 - Passport 25th Anniversary
    Canyonlands National Park
    -Moab, UT
    -Moab, Utah
    -Island District, UT

    Bonus stamps
    Arches National Park -Moab, Utah (pictorial with date)

    Wildlife Sightings

    Common Raven
    House Finch
    Turkey Vulture
    Great Blue Heron

  7. #47

    Default Arches & Canyonland National Parks

    Wednesday, September 23
    First day of Autumn

    Start: Moab, UT
    End: Hamburger Rock campground (BLM), east of Canyonlands NP, Needles District

    Quiet night in camp, until construction vehicles started up shortly after 7 AM in the lot next to the campground. Went into town for breakfast at McDonalds, gas, then a couple of letterboxes on our way back to Arches NP. The line was even longer at the entrance station than yesterday, but it moved quickly.

    Besides working on the Junior Ranger activities I was also working on an objective for Quest Scouts (adult-oriented scout-style web based program). The objective was to photograph patterns. Wow- to be in Arches National Park and looking for patterns, I definitely went into overload!


    Besides hiking in the Windows area I hiked up to the rock art panel in the Delicate Arch area to complete activities for the Junior Ranger program. Back at the visitor center a ranger reviewed my booklet; we discussed several of the activities and then he gave the Junior Ranger pledge and badge.

    Balanced Rock

    Turret Arch - Arches NP

    Before leaving the area we started to hunt for a couple of letterboxes; however the placers neglected to indicate the roads were more suitable for 4-wheel drive. Our Chevy Cargo van has good clearance, but part way in on these roads it became evident that continuing wasn't a good idea.

    We headed south on US 191 and stopped at the rest area next to Hole in the Wall for a couple more letterboxes, hidden on trails behind the rest area. It was getting quite hot, especially when walking along slick rock. At the turn off to the Needles District of Canyonlands NP we headed west and stopped outside the park at a BLM campground, Hamburger Rock. It was gorgeous and remote. It was nice after being in and around Moab for the past couple of days. A handful of rocks had been collected and left on our picnic table, mainly agate and jasper. Eight of the 10 campsites were taken by the time we went to bed.

    Hamburger Rock Camping area

    Rocks collected

    Evening light

    Wildlife Sightings
    Cottontail Rabbit
    Mourning Dove
    Last edited by Pmount; 11-08-2015 at 05:21 PM.

  8. #48

    Default Southeast Utah - Natural Bridges NM & Glen Canyon NRA

    Thursday, September 24
    Start: Hamburger Rock campground
    End: Hite campground, Glen Canyon NRA, Hite, UT

    After breakfast in camp we continued west into Canyonlands National Park, Needles District. We stopped at the visitor center to watch the film and fill up with water. Further into the area we drove the road part way to Elephant Hill for a good view of the Needles.

    Needles of Canyonlands National Park

    On the way back out we stopped and did a short hike to an archaeological site for grain storage. Before leaving the area I went back to the visitor center to have my Junior Ranger booklet reviewed and to receive the standard badge.

    Ancestral Puebloan Granary

    In Monticello, further south on US 191, we stopped for groceries and a stamp at the BLM office. Further south we turned west towards Natural Bridges National Monument on UT 95. At 1 PM the campground was Full, had been since mid-morning. We stopped in the visitor center to pick up the Junior Ranger booklet, passport stamp and to watch the film.

    We continued west on UT 95 down to the Colorado River to Hite, UT, a part of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Because of drought the reservoir has receded so that there is no longer a marina at Hite. There is fairly primitive camping; a few tables scattered on a slope towards the river and a set of vault toilets. We set up camp and started fixing dinner when a ranger came driving up. We asked him if the ranger station would be open in the AM to get the passport stamp. He told us it was doubtful, then offered to bring the stamp to our campsite that evening, after he made a few stops. That is Customer Service. When he returned we had a delightful, extended conversation with Ranger Jones.

    Ranger Jones & passport stamp at campsite.

    Passport Stamps
    Canyonlands National Park - Needles District, UT
    Natural Bridges NM - Lake Powell, UT
    Glen Canyon National Recreation Area - Hite, UT
    Rainbow Bridge National Monument - Hite, UT

    Wildlife Sightings
    Rock Squirrel
    Cottontail Rabbit

    Mourning Dove
    Common Raven
    American Coot

  9. #49

    Default Hovenweep National Monument

    Friday, September 25
    Start: Hite, UT
    End: Hovenweep National Monument campground (NPS)

    As the morning light hit the cliffs on the west side of the Colorado River we realized there was a Great Blue Heron rookery, a number of white smears down the cliff (not seen in the picture), and the sounds led us to figure this out. While eating breakfast we spotted several down along the river.

    Colorado River cliffs

    We drove back up UT 95 and stopped at a unique historical roadside marker for The Battle of Paiute Pass on the north side of the highway. As you can see from the picture below the sign was made by creating letters out of metal, then welded onto the sign. It was a bit difficult to read, but we enjoyed the folk-art nature of the sign. Nearby was a memorial marker for the two who died in this battle.

    Battle of Paiute Pass

    From there we went back to the visitor center at Natural Bridges National Monument where I completed the Junior Ranger program. As we continued back along UT 95 we stopped at Butler Wash Ruins, a BLM site. The hike back to the ruins was about 1/2 mile, better to do in the morning when the predicted temperature was in the 90s. The trail had several benches along the way and some slick rock to walk across to get to the view of the ruins.

    Baker Wash Ruins

    We went into Blanding to get lunch and ran into a detour off of US 191. If you have been through Blanding you realize a detour isn't a big deal, and in a few blocks we were back on 191 heading to our restaurant at the north edge of town. After ordering the Navajo Taco, a road trip favorite, we inquired about the detour. At noon the Homecoming Parade was held, and over by the time we finished lunch.

    We headed out across a series of roads to the southeast arriving at Hovenweep National Monument. As it was Friday we immediately went to the campground and settled into a very nice space, with plenty of shade. We spent a relaxing afternoon reading and enjoying the quietness of Hovenweep. I realize Hovenweep is not on everyone's SW travel agenda, but I think it is one of the best archeological sites. It is a good stop in between Mesa Verde National Park and the Moab area. There are no services in the area, at least 1 hour to most of the basic services, so plan accordingly. There was full cell reception in the campground. I hadn't planned to even try, but I saw a ranger drive up to the restroom building, get out of the car and start using his phone. Not sure where the tower was, but it was a strong signal.

    Passport Stamps
    Hovenweep NM - Colorado-Utah

    Wildlife Sightings
    Tarantula Hawk (insect)
    Cottontail rabbit

    Mourning Dove
    Scrub Jay
    Canada Geese
    Common Raven
    Great Blue Heron
    Turkey Vulture
    Last edited by Pmount; 11-10-2015 at 06:18 PM.

  10. #50


    Wow! You have me completely hooked. I have spent the entire afternoon reading your trip journal. You really get a lot done in a day, and the junior ranger and letterbox activities seem like great ways to enhance your trips.

    My wife and I visited six national parks in eight days back in June, and I thought we did good until I read your journal. You really 'get around' in your travels. You have certainly given us some new destinations to see, and your photography is superb!

    Thanks for sharing this trip. I look forward to the rest of it.

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