Last year I started adding the day to the top of each posts for our long trips because it’s hard to keep track of the days when you have no real schedule. Sure enough, we were about halfway through the day before Nick reminded me it was Saturday and not Friday!
We left Lowry Campground this morning around 8:30am after a quick breakfast of cinnamon rolls and fruit. Today was the shortest drive since our first night at 327 miles. Those miles might have been the shortest so far, but they were the most diverse. When we left the campground it was a brisk 55 degrees and drizzling rain. On and off throughout Colorado it was raining or overcast. I’d rather our driving days be like this instead of our exploring days.
We noted the initial descent was pretty quick leaving the Rockies and thought we might have reached our cruising altitude. We were wrong…we were on a consistent decline for around 2.5 hours!
The book we read on Colorado taught us there were three major landscapes in the state. So far, we had experienced the plains, the Rockies and today we entered the plateaus. The plateaus are distinctly different from the Rockies in that the tops are flat with canyons carved out from the wind and rivers. Rather than sloped sides, the drops are more straight up and down. The plateaus also have less vegetation which allows for the multitude of colors to show. Bands of deep reds, golds and browns could be seen.
Although it wasn’t the quickest route, we took I-70 to Fruita, CO (near Grand Junction) to visit a dinosaur museum called Dinosaur Journey. We arrived around lunchtime so we had a picnic lunch in the parking lot before going in. So far on this trip we’ve had a picnic lunch in a random gravel lot, Cabellas parking lot, just off the on/off-ramp of an interstate in the middle of nowhere and now the parking lot of Dinosaur Journey. Who needs a fancy restaurant when Colorado National Monument is in the background?
Emmitt LOVES dinosaurs! He knows so many details about them, talks about them constantly and swears he is going to be an archeologist when he grows up to study them! Although this museum wasn’t huge, he throughly enjoyed it.
When we left the museum, we headed north on Highway 139. From the Grand Junction area to our next stop near Vernal, UT, Highway 139 is the only option – unless of course you are brave enough to venture on the unimproved roads. (We probably would have done that in the Jeep, but not the best idea with a one-ton truck and fifth wheel camper.)
I thought this highway was just going to get us from Point A to Point B…boy was I wrong! This drive was GORGEOUS! A few miles outside of town our drive turned into a two-lane highway surrounded by plateaus of beautiful colors and hardly a sole in sight.
The route also included Douglas Pass with a peak elevation of 8,240 feet. Since we had spent the last few days at 9,500 feet, this didn’t seem like it would be a big deal. This trek ended up being much curvier than others we had been on so far. Thankfully, we aren’t prone to car sickness.
The views were spectacular! Seriously, can I just build a cabin right here?
At the start of the pass, we guessed the elevation was around 4,500 feet. The pass is approximately 4 miles up to the 8,240 feet and 4 miles back down. That’s a whole lot of climbing (and descent) in a short period of time. At the bottom we stopped for a quick bathroom break (another perk of having a camper) and Nick used his temperature gun to check the breaks. They were a scorching 494 degrees!!! Holy cow that’s hot!
Speaking of cows, we passed several ranches along the way.
The last town on Highway 40 in Colorado before crossing into Utah is called Dinosaur. Of course, we had to grab a picture for Emmitt. The town is pretty small, but one of the cool features is that the streets are named after various types of dinosaurs.
Side note…this part of the country has a lot of dinosaur sites which is right up Emmitt’s alley. Last year, we spent a lot of time exploring NASCAR sites which is Levi’s interest so this year is Emmitt’s turn.
After a full day, this finally brings us to the title of this blog post…A New State for All. We crossed into Utah this afternoon and headed for our campsite at Steinaker State Park. This is the farthest west any of us have traveled by road and added the 17th state we have visited as a family of four!
(Levi has been to 19 states. He only has Nevada and Arizona up on Emmitt. We aren’t 100% sure on our counts, but I think Nick has been to 23 or 24 states and I’ve been to 26 or 27.)
Steinaker State Park is a small campground with just 31 sites. We have a nice pull-through site with a covered patio. (This was a draw when choosing this site as we thought it may be hot.). When we arrived the temperature was in the 80s but not at all humid.
After dinner we went on a bike ride to check out the boat ramp. We can see the lake from our campsite but the ramp has a much bigger view. Plus it was nice to stretch our legs after driving most of the day.
Around 9pm the state park guide stopped by to let us know there was going to be a scorpion night walk at 9:30pm. We were intrigued. On the night hike we learned that Steinaker State Park is one of Utah’s dark sky parks. It is also home to many tiny scorpions. This particular species is not lethal and mimics a bee sting. The insects mostly stay in the mounds during the day to conserve water and avoid the heat then venture out at night. You can see them under black light due to their glow. Interestingly, baby scorpions do not glow as the glow doesn’t occur until after their first molting.
The night hike was interesting, but we did miss our friends, the Fox Family, and our usual tour guide for night hikes, Jason. They are traveling through some of the same states we are as well! We can’t wait to hang out after our trips to catch up on all the adventures. For now, we are sharing details via blogs and texts.