We checked out of the Quality Inn in Rock Springs, Wyoming. They had a huge complimentary breakfast available there and a big dining room and patio seating. They even had a lady who would deliver your waffle to your table for you. We took US191 South from Rock Springs to Vernal, Utah.
The town of Vernal is not shy when it comes to promoting their connection to the beloved dinosaur. This statue at the eastern edge of Vernal along US40 isn't understated in the least.
We stopped for lunch in Vernal at the combination KFC/A&W on the west side of town. Chris had a cheeseburger and Steven had a hamburger; Katherine and Andrew both had fried chicken. We all had A&W root beer to drink, which was delicious.
We decided to stop at the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum in Vernal, Utah. This museum basically consisted of a short film, after which you progressed through the exhibits. Some were interactive, like this area where the kids are seen brushing off "dirt" from some fossils. Unlike many museums, many of the fossils shown here were actual fossils from the nearby area instead of replica casts.
One of the dinosaur skeletons in the museum.
While the brief witticisms that this small dinosaur skull uttered were amusing, we can all see that Chris's ventriloquist act needs a little polishing.
The museum also had an outdoor dinosaur garden with many skin-on dinosaurs.
We went to the nearby Dinosaur National Monument and were quite disappointed that the main attraction of the park--the fossil bone quarry building--had just been structurally condemned the previous week. Apparently this building had been there for half a century and had continually been shifting and moving--and they picked just before our visit to decide that it wasn't safe enough for the public to go into it. The building actually encased a cliff face on which many dinosaur fossils were exposed and still embedded in the rock. We were a little disappointed not to be able to see it.
The other attractions of Dinosaur National Monument are the petroglyphs that are carved onto some of the cliff faces in the park, which they have dated to be about a thousand years old. This petroglyph was of a lizard, eerily similar to some that Katherine saw running across the road. The temperature was 105 Fahrenheit in the park this day, and it was pretty miserable to be outside since there was not a lot of shade.
This is another petroglyph of a flute player. There were many other petroglyphs in the park that could be seen, and it was fun to look for patches of "desert varnish" on the rocks and scan them for possible carvings. Most of them were too far away to make out--and the weather was too forbidding to hike closer--but it was a good exercise of imagination. A good conversation starter, too: what makes old graffiti worth saving, but modern graffiti illegal?
As we followed along US40 eastward from Vernal, we came into Colorado and into the town of Dinosaur, Colorado. We went to the Colorado welcome center there, got some gasoline, and mailed some post cards from their post office (all of the boys' postcards from today mentioned that it was HOT!!). The town has named several of the different streets after different dinosaurs, and had silhouettes of them affixed to the top of their street signs.
From Dinosaur, we followed Colorado 64 east, Colorado 13 south to Rifle, Colorado, and then took I-70 east to New Castle, Colorado. We checked in at the Elk Creek Campground just north of New Castle and were assigned cabin K9. This is a former KOA campground that had recently gone independent.
We went back into New Castle for dinner and ate at the Elk Creek Mining Company Bar and Grill. It was a nicer place on the main street of New Castle. They had a Reuben on the menu, but Chris decided to give it a break and ordered their steak fajitas instead. Katherine had sundried tomato linguine with some kind of lime chicken alfredo sauce. Steven had a hamburger and Andrew had macaroni and cheese.