Poking around Dinosaur National Monument

Springtime in the Desert, off the Rivers

June 2022

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Friends of mine from Scotland, Chris and Eve, were visiting the U.S. and traveling around Colorado. I met them when I was going to grad school at the University of Virginia, and we spent a lot of weekends climbing at Sceneca Rocks in West Virginia. They had rented a small RV in Denver and driven out to Dinosaur National Monument, so I drove down to meet up with them. We hadn't seen each other for almost fifty years, so it was a treat.

We had a relaxing first day, touring the Visitor's Center at the Monument which is pretty cool. It's built out of a dinosaur dig in the side of an uplifted rock, with a lot of fossilized bones left in-situ, so you get a good feel for what it would be like to be there when things were being excavated. Some of those guys were real monsters.

Chris and I took a couple of short hikes up Box Canyon and Hog Canyon near Josie's Cabin. The weather was warm, but it was cool(er) in the shade of the canyon. We climbed up a ways but didn't follow it all the way back. Maybe we should have...

Hog Canyon
Hog Canyon

The next day we drove out to hike to the end of Ruple's Ridge. On the way to the trailhead, we ran into a boatload of Mormon Crickets crossing the road. They aren't really crickets, but rather a flightless Katydid. They were squished all over the road, and it was a bit slippery.


Mormon Crickets

The crickets are omnivores, and seem to be perfectly happy to eat their bretheren who were squished in the road. We got to thinking... if there were that many in the road, there must be a lot of them on the sides of the road. So I stopped the car and we got out to take a look. On closer inspection, we decided we did not want to go for a hike along the bar ditch.

On thinking about it some more, I decided I really did not want to be sleeping on my tarp out in the open when they came marching along. However, a little research says they only travel during the warmth of the day, so I guess one would be safe if you didn't oversleep.

Cricket Devouring a Squished Cricket
Crickets in the Bar Ditch

It was interesting that a cattle guard in the road seemed to at least slow them down from spreading up the road. Apparently they travel in a pretty straight line, so don't spread out sideways a lot.

Mormon Crickets Mostly Stopped at a Cattle Guard

We got to the trailhead and headed out, enjoying the wildflowers blooming everywhere. There were a lot of Arrowleaf Balsamroot, but they had already bloomed and died out. However, we had an abundance of others.

Flower Xxx Purple
Flower Xxx Purple
Flower Xxx Yellow
Flower Xxx Yellow

Flower Paintbrush Lupine
Paintbrush and Lupine
Flower Desert Paintbrush
Desert Paintbrush
Flower Sego Lily
Sego Lily

Dinosaur Monument from Ruple Ridge

After a few hours' hiking we reached the end of the ridge, from where we had a great view of the Green River as it made its way through Split Mountain. Looking down I could see the rapids I ran many times when living in Colorado.

Ruple Ridge20220625
Near the End of Ruple Ridge

Ruple Ridge Green R Split Mt
Ruple Ridge Green R

Green River and Split Mountain from Ruple Ridge

Ruple Ridge Green R
Ruple Ridge Green R

We came upon a few lizards along the way. I always think of the Short-Horned Lizard as a short-tailed lizard, since I notice its short tail long before I can see the short "horns" on its head.

Xxx Lizard
Xxx Lizard
Short Horned Lizard
Short Horned Lizard

Ruple Ridge Chris Eve Gilmore
Ruple Ridge Eve Gilmore

We were a bit tired after our hike along Ruple Ridge, but we hopped in the car and drove out to the end of the road, where we had another short hike to Harper's Corner where we had a great view of the river and Steamboat Rock.

I noticed a slot in the far canyon wall which I don't remember from my time on the river... something to explore further.

Harpers Corner Green R
Green R. from Harpers Corner
Harpers Corner Slot
Slot in the Canyon Wall

Harpers Corner Steamboat Rk
Steamboat Rock from Harpers Corner

Harpers Corner Eve Gilmore

The next day we were all a bit slow, so we decided to take the car and drive the unimproved road across the bench south of the Yampa River. It was something Chris and Eve couldn't do with their rented RV, but was ok with my Subaru. We had a couple of nice views of the Yampa River and the surrounding canyonlands. I'd hiked part-way up many of these canyons in earlier years from campsites on the river.

Yampa R Castle Park
Yampa River at Castle Park

Yampa R Harding Hole
Yampa River at Harding Hole

Dinosaur above the Yampa River

I needed to get back home, and Chris and Eve had to head to Colorado National Monument outside of Grand Junction where they were to meet up with another old climbing buddy. So the next day I headed home by some non-interstate routes. Heading north from Vernal, I had to get past the Vernal Phosphate Mine before I was able to enjoy the Uinta Mountains. I came down at Flaming Gorge Reservoir, which looked really low for this time of year.

Flaming Gorge Res
Flaming Gorge Reservoir

It was a lot of miles in a short week, but I was glad to have a good visit and some good times with Chris and Eve, and see parts of Dinosaur National Monument I hadn't seen before.