Camping in Moab: A Land Before Time

After taking his sisters out for a camping trip the prior month, it was now my son's turn for a camping trip.  Since he loves dinosaurs so much, I took him down to the Moab area where we enjoyed a dinosaur-themed trip, visiting some dinosaur fossil and track sites, a dinosaur museum and park, in addition to a few other points of interest in the area.

- Day 1 -
Monday - February 19, 2018

Since I had to work over the weekends in February, I did not get the typical three day weekend for Presidents Day as so many others did.  Instead, I have Tuesdays and Wednesdays off for the month.  So after discussing it over with my wife, we agreed that my son Lennox would be ok to miss a day of kindergarten to come out on a trip with me.  He had been so excited to go camping, especially since his sisters got to go the previous month.

On Monday afternoon of Presidents Day, we made the drive down toward Moab where we pulled over just north of town and found a site on some BLM land that appeared to be OK for camping (other spots along nearby roads had camping restrictions).  Nobody else was around and we settled in for the night.

The weather had been less than ideal on the drive down and lingered around when we arrived at our campsite.  A light frozen rain/snow mix with a lot of blustery wind.  Fortunately, not long after pulling in, it lightened up enough for me to get the tent up, where we took shelter playing some games waiting out the rest of the storm to pass on.  Not long into the evening it had finally passed and the winds calmed down, allowing us to build a campfire to warm up to and eat some dinner, before calling it a night.

- Day 2 -
Tuesday - February 20, 2018

We awoke at sunrise and rather than going straight into breakfast, we chose to get our blood going by wandering around our camp a bit to do some exploring.  There was supposed to be an arch nearby according to the map, that I think we found, but it wasn't anything dramatic and impressive when compared to so many other more well-known arches through out the Moab area.

We returned to camp to enjoy some hot chocolate and a Mountain House meal of raspberry crumble for breakfast.  Once packed up, we drove down to check out the ruins of a nearby old historic pioneer rest stop that was known as Halfway Station.

On the way into it, we drove through a small herd of cattle drinking up at Courthouse Spring.

Halfway Station served as a rest stop for travelers halfway between Moab and the railroad station in the small community of Thompson to the north in the late 1800's into the early 1900's.

There were a scattering for old relics at the structure, including some old shoe soles.

After a quick stop at Halfway Station, we carried on over to the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail where it makes a short loop passing by a number of fossilized dinosaur bones embedded and exposed in some rocks at the mouth of Mill Canyon.  We had actually come here with the rest of the family during a past spring break trip a few years before, but I don't think Lennox was old enough to even walk well then so he certainly had no memory of it.  It was as good as new to him.

Along the path, Lennox actually discovered what at first looked like a rock partially embedded in some loose soil on the path itself, only to pick it right up and see that it appeared to be another fossilized bone, or perhaps it was just a chunk of petrified wood that looked like it could have been a bone fragment.  Nevertheless, he was pretty excited about the find and being able to hold it in his hand to see all around it.  As tempting as it would have been to keep it, we did the more ethical thing to do at such a site and placed it back where it was found, doing what we could to make it look it was never removed.  Still, because it was sitting right in some looser soil right in the path, it's probably only a matter of time before someone unintentionally kicks it out with their foot if their observant eyes don't find it first.

Just before dropping back down to the wash and closing out the loop, the trail passed by an impressive petrified log buried within the sandstone cliff.

Once back at the car, we broke out a snack and drove back up the road to pull over at another nearby site, the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Track Site.  This small site featured an ancient fossilized mud bank where various dinosaur tracks had been preserved.

When studying out the area map the night before, I observed that we were close to a place called Tusher Tunnel than I would have thought.  I knew little about it beyond a few pictures I had seen of it on the Internet and that it was popular cave like geological feature that Jeeping and other other off-road enthusiasts liked to visit when recreating in the area.  We put my 4Runner to work and drove the sandy road out to it.

I had no knowledge that it was a true tunnel like feature that went all the way through the rock to a splendid view.  It felt like we walked through a portal into another world.  Needless to say, we were both very impressed by it.  For those who recreate in the area during the hotter summer months, I'm sure this site sees far more people seeking a refuge from the searing sun.  It also probably sees plentiful crowds during spring and fall breaks and weekends.

We surveyed the faces of the rock on the other side for any good rock art, but nothing noteworthy of the prehistoric variety was observed.  Just a lot of the contemporary variety, aka, graffiti.  Back out to the other side we returned.

From Tusher Tunnel, we made our way back out to the highway and followed it for a few miles to the relatively new Moab Giants Dinosaur Park and Museum for a break from our backcountry-ish adventures.  It charges quite a bit for admission which would make it pretty expensive for a large family, but since it was just the two of us on this trip, I splurged for us to have some educational fun there.  We had lunch at their cafe and then made some good memories exploring all the outdoor exhibits before moving on with all the technology enhanced indoor exhibits.  I took plenty of pictures outdoors but didn't bother to take many photos of anything indoors, mostly because much of the features relied on 3D screens.

The outdoor exhibits, particularly the Dinosaur Trail featuring literally dozens upon dozens of life-size replications of various dinosaur species that have been found in the greater Moab area and throughout the Colorado Plateau, were pretty impressive in their detail and lifelike appearances.  Between the cost it must have been to produce all the figures in addition to the high-tech indoor exhibits and displays, it's no wonder the admission to get in cost so much.  It was obvious that quite an investment was made into the development and construction of the place.

With the afternoon now mostly spent, we had just enough time to slip out to Willow Springs Road where we tracked down one more dinosaur track site.

I also let Lennox test out a toy I spoiled him with from the gift shop back at the museum in some nearby loose soil for a short time.

And with that, it was time to wrap up our trip and get back on the road for the three hour drive back home.

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