We made it Dinosaur National Monument and it was epic. The kids have been waiting for this one for months. I’ve coerced
good acceptable behavior for days by dangling Dinosaur National Monument in front of them. I mean, I have no idea what I would have done if they actually “lost” the privilege, as we did plan an entire road trip around this place. Thankfully the kids have been pretty good, all things considered.
We woke up in our tent yesterday morning (how was it just yesterday? It feels like 1,000 years ago) a little groggy and chilly, but mostly intact. I slept decently, and the kids swore they did too, so I was feeling pretty good about the whole camping thing. We survived! However…. by the time breakfast was served it was clear that the kids were seriously still tired. They both climbed into their seats in the van and rested while I took down the tent and packed up camp. When do my kids ever volunteer to sit down?
I was pretty exhausted by the whole solo parent camping experience too, to be totally honest. It went fine (ish) but it’s just a lot of work, and I’m the only one working. By the time I had camp mostly packed up the girls seemed to be in better spirits and had resumed their dinosaur games in the dirt. I do love that about camping, the fact that they will play for hours with whatever they find around them.
Scenic Drive from Colorado National Monument to Dinosaur National Monument
We left Colorado National Monument and headed north to Dinosaur National Monument. I knew this would be a short 2ish hour stretch, but other than that I really didn’t expect much. DAMN. Apparently, this is a scenic byway and I was geeking out the whole way. We drove up through Douglass Pass and down through Canyon Pintado. Even the rest stops were freaking amazing.
This is one of the things about road trips that are so awesome, the totally unexpected moments of scenery that blow your mind. Sure, driving 1700 miles in 5 days (with a toddler and preschooler in tow) isn’t for everyone, but I get to see so many things I would have otherwise missed. I have a bad case of wanderlust – which by the way is super convenient when you are a married mother of young kids living in the burbs.
And through this awe-inspiring slice of America… the kids slept. Deep.
As we got close, we passed through the town of Dinosaur. And there were dinosaur statues. Olivia lost her mind. We weren’t even to the monument yet, and already she loved this day.
Dinosaur National Monument Visitor Center
When we pulled into the parking lot, the kids immediately noticed the giant Stegosaurus statue. I could barely get any pictures of them because they were so excited! How perfect are these shirts btw? They are by Megan Lee Designs, and she very kindly custom printed them on pink shirts when the girls asked in the store. You can find them here.
We headed into the building to check out the visitor center and grab our Junior Ranger books. Of course, they had a gift shop, and I couldn’t not buy them each a dinosaur. All of our things in hand, we headed out to find the Fossil Quarry, which is basically a huge wall of fossils in the rock. I was actually super into this, even though I’m not *quite* as dino obsessed as the girls.
Fossil Exhibit Trail
I opted to take the fossil exhibit trail there, instead of driving up the half mile. The trail itself was only 3/4 mile, but you would have thought I asked the kids to walk the entire length of Death Valley. Seriously. I mean, the first 1/4 mile was fantastic. They found “fossils” everywhere on the trail, and they were definitely ready to burn off some energy.
They were hot (it was fine), they were tired (probably true), and Olivia decided to become Ms. Bossy Pants whenever Abby found a “fossil”. Liv kept trying to tell her it wasn’t what she thought it was, or that she couldn’t take it with her (true, but I’ll be the parent, k, thanks). Abby, in turn, got frustrated and spent a lot of time yelling “this is serious!” at Liv.
Fossil Quarry Exhibit
Ok. This was cool. The kids loved the building, and all the displays they had set up on one wall. But the other side, you know, the one with REAL ACTUAL FOSSILS IN THE ROCK. Nothing. I mean, they looked at it a bit, but I’m guessing the wow factor was lost on them. Olivia actually said “I thought there would be more statues”. Ummm. We specifically added a whole day detour just for this wall.
*Deep Breaths Megan*
Truthfully, even though the fossil wall was a bust for the kids, I thought it was stupid cool. And Dinosaur National Monument is a really gorgeous landscape to hike through as well.
Eventually, the kids found a little spot to settle down and play with their new dinosaurs, and I got to spend a few minutes soaking in the awesome views and much welcome sunshine. After a while, we wandered back to the visitors center (via the much shorter roadway path) and the kids were sworn in as Junior Rangers. It was all very exciting.
Then I had to break the news that we weren’t going to be camping there as originally promised. OH, THE TEARS. I was tempted to cave. So tempted. But I knew the kids needed a solid nights sleep, and so did I. I would have LOVED to stay here and picnic dinner even, but I really wasn’t sure where we were staying as we didn’t have reservations anywhere. We ended up heading into Vernal, Utah and grabbing a hotel room and “picnic” dinner there. The kids passed out early and I had time to blog and rest. It was heaven.
We woke up this morning super refreshed and ready to head into Salt Lake City!