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Published: September 21st 2015
We've enjoyed many an American National Park/monument in previous trips (the most we saw I n one stretch was an impressive 17 when we did our American Southwest road trip awhile back (Zion was my favourite) and this time we're hoping to tackle 8, starting with Dinosaur National Monument
in Jensen, Utah. From Colorado Springs we had a gorgeous drive along the I-70W. Most of this leg was through Colorado and let me say this to you, CO - you are a shockingly gorgeous state. Pictures don't do it justice but it's going on my fav drives playlist.
We arrived at DNM late in the afternoon and the fossil site isn't open late (only until 5pm) so we hurried on over. The area is known for having an enormous amount of dinosaur fossils, and a number are displayed still buried in a protected cliff face about 30x80 feet in size. This part is really well done, but I was a little let down by the rest of the dinosaur history offerings. T has been to the Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada which she reports was amazing and to which DNM couldn't hold a candle.
The highlight for us
at DNM was a part of the monument area they didn't really promote well enough (in my opinion): an awesome drive along the fossil site where you can hike up at different places to see 1,000 year old petroglyphs. You can nab a pamphlet that explains (if memory serves) 14 different stops along the route. We picked up the little driving guide near the entry gate (there is a sign with a box and the DNM folks ask for a one dollar donation for the guide). The road is open even after the fossil site proper closes so we got to check it out in the very early evening and have the beautiful scenery, deer and rabbits all to ourselves. The petroglyphs were remarkable and our favourite bit of the drive. Well, we liked the critters, too. Critters is aweswome.
The next day we had another longish drive along scenic Hwy 191 and it was indeed replete with magnificent views (despite the rain). On the Utah part of the highway, which is prime dinosaur country, there are signs along the route with factoids like "stegosaurus roamed here" and "this area used to be an ocean". Loved this. The 191
took us into Wyoming to just outside the Grand Teton National Park
. We stayed at some swank digs in Teton Village (which is a resort area at the base of a ski zone). The village was basically inside the park - can't beat the location. Well, you could have an equally good location by staying in the town of Jackson which is very close to the park entrance as well.
The Grand Teton mountains were named by French Canadian fur trappers, and for my fellow FCs, oui, it means exactly what you think it does. Heh, heh. It was at the GTNP that we made the brilliant decision to rent a "Gaperguide" for our jaunts through this park and into Yellowstone. The guide is a GPS device that gives you snippets of information based on exactly where you are in the park. You pick it up at any one of a number of locations around either park and return it to any other site when you are done. We loved it. Our first full day in the park was plagued by rain, but we trekked on. The only thing the rain kept us from was a boat ride across
Jennie Lake with a wee hike after (it was just too rainy and cold at that point). Otherwise, the Gaperguide steered us throughout the park, pointed out highlights, what we should get out an explore (which we did), where the best spots to see animals were (we sure tried to spot 'em), where the bathrooms were, information about geology, history...geez, too much to list. We ended up touring GTNP at least twice so learned a lot. One excursion was at dusk to try to scope out the wildlife. We saw elk and deer mostly. We were hoping for bears and drove painfully slowly through the prime bear zone in the hopes we'd come across one (and, yes, we adhered to the Park's safety guidelines - we're Canadian after all, we know how to follow the rules). The moose were equally elusive, and didn't once fall for T's siren song of "here, moosie, moosie, moosie". Tip for National Parks:
if you are seeing a few, think about getting the annual pass good for all of them. We picked one up for $80.A bargain considering how many we'll hit this trip. Also - when you enter any park they provide you
DNM - Our car looks so small!
We hiked up a bit to check out some petroglyphs. This was what we saw when we looked down.
with a map. always ask for a second. One inevitably gets crumpled, stepped on, falls in a puddle or may get torn in the excitement of seeing a bison. Maybe that happened.
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