June 6 – 10:
When Blake and I arrived in the Denver airport, we picked up his luggage and made a shuttle reservation to go back to the campground in Englewood where I had left the RV for the week-end. The sky was hazy and darkening as we took the shuttle into Denver, so he couldn’t see the mountains in the distance - a dramatic sight I had hoped he might enjoy on arriving in the west. Nonetheless, when we left the next morning for the westward trek to Dinosaur National Monument, we saw mountains, the Rockies, up close and personal, as the RV chugged its way up from mile-high Denver, to two miles above sea level in some of the mountain passes. We passed snow fields, and even saw a group of big-horn sheep not far from I-80 as we wound among the peaks. It was a shame we couldn’t stop for photos.
West of that stretch of Rockies, the terrain became dry and wind-swept, with humped, multicolored hills spreading to the horizon. At Dinosaur National Monument, the visitors’ area with its wall of Mesozoic bones was closed (apparently for the past six years), but a shuttle took visitors to a hillside with exposed bones. Blake climbed up the trail and was shown dinosaur bones by the rangers there; I chose not to make the steep climb because I was having trouble breathing, and because I had seen the wall of bones several years previously on a westward trip with my brother, Dick. For lunch, we stopped at a gas-station/restaurant that made a great chocolate milkshake, half of which we put in the RV freezer for a later dessert.
At the gift shop, we bought a couple of dinosaur videos for Blake and books for me, then drove into Vernal, Utah, and visited the museum there. It was informative and filled with good diagrams of geological formations and paleontology, which Blake followed with keen interest. A garden surrounding the museum exhibited statues of dinosaurs and other ancient life forms - great for kids. We spent that night at a KOA in Vernal.
Driving north from Vernal on Route 191, the scenery was awesome – broad, treeless skies, mountains and high plateaus ringing the horizon. We took Route 191 through Flaming Gorge National recreation area; brilliant red and orange sandstone formed cliffs above the winding highway. It was cold, the wind picked up, and by the time we reached Rock Springs,Wyoming, the wind was so fierce we could hardly get out of the RV without the door slamming back on us. We stopped there for gas and some lunch. A cold, sharp rain pelted us outside the truck stop, and the sky to the north looked ominous. I asked a gas station attendant what the weather was like further north. A trucker volunteered that he had just come south from Yellowstone. He said there was rain and some snow, “normal for this time of the year,” and “nothing to worry about.” So I decided to forge ahead, and we made it into Jackson, Wyoming, by which time the late afternoon sun had come out again. We stayed in an expensive campground (The Virginian, Good Sam endorsed) – cramped and cold – but I didn’t want to turn around and backtrack to a less expensive KOA.
The next morning we went through Jackson Hole, flanked by the magnificent Tetons with whisps of clouds coyly veiling their lower peaks, and then drove on to into Yellowstone National Park through the south entrance. Along the park road, trees were embedded in snow; snow cliffs, like layered geological formations, lined the plowed road. Blake was thrilled with the snow; I stopped at a pull-out and took a couple of photos of him and a snowbank.
We drove through Yellowstone to the western entrance, and from there to Dinah and Cledith’s cabin out 287, not far from the earthquake area near Hebgen Lake. Cledith met me at the end of their driveway and got into the RV, which gave me courage to drive up their steep, winding, shoulderless, two-rut driveway to the cabin. I hooked up to their electricity, and that’s where the RV stayed during our Yellowstone trip. They had just arrived in Montana a couple days previously and had hardly had time to open the cabin and unpack. But Dinah served a wonderful, hearty, chicken-and-rice soup for supper, which was a great way to end our long day driving. The next morning, they drove us to the airport in Bozeman, where we met the group that would be together for the next six days on the National Wildlife Federation’s tour of “Wolves, Bears and Geysers” in Yellowstone National Park.