Jensen, Utah and Kaylynn Visit

Next up was Jensen Utah! We arrived at our campsite only to find it not to our liking. Mom quickly called the KOA in town and we rerouted to a better location and campsite. It was a a blessing in disguise. We were closer to where Kaylynn lives too. I met Kaylynn on a Disney cruise last year and vowed to visit if we ever passed through. It was a great week of laughs and adventure. We started out at the Flaming Gorge Dam Tour.  I am trying to check off all the major dams in North America! The tour was great and we learned a lot about hydroelectric power, fish populations and ecology of the area. On the lower platform of the damn we saw massive bass in the water. Who knows what this is about with Emmerson. He is silly! Kaylynn is part mountain goat! We hiked and scrambled all over. We turned over ever rock in our path. We found several of these little scorpions. They were small and fast. The view was amazing! This was from the visitors center window! We drove out to Red Canyon and also did the Sheeps Creek Geological loop. The geological loop was pretty but could have used more interpretation signs or even a brochure. The next day we visited Dinosaur National Monument, part of the Morrison Formation. We saw all the bones in-situ. It was quite impressive!  E was back at it with the camera off and on. We hiked a few trails and E got exhausted and needed carried. We could have taken the shuttle back from the top of the mountain but we opted to hike out.  I found this little guy near the river at the Josie Morris Cabin. We also visited the Utah Field House. It was a much smaller display that we thought but we still had fun reading nd exploring the fossils. There were these silly dinosaurs all over the grounds as well, reminded me of Dinosaur World in Plant City. Back at the campground for a day of fun and games. We played on the playground, rented peddle cars and went swimming in the rain. I am going to miss Kaylynn and family! Until we meet again!

Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP

We arrived at Black Canyon of the Gunnison and it was like a cloud was sitting at the top on the canyon. We went into the visitors center and watched a 20 minute video and came out to snow on the ground. And the car!!! More snow, seriously?It was really coming down. We drove the roads of the park to get the lay of the land. Along the drive we sang Christmas songs, it was very fitting. The snow was coming down pretty fast now and the roads were getting covered. Thankfully the jeep is a 4×4 and has a snow setting so we were all good. We pulled off at some of the scenic overlooks but didn’t want to walk out if we weren’t sure where the ground actually was. The spring wildflowers were all covered in a blanket of snow. 
Mom hopped out to clean beneath the wiper blades and said the front of the car was frozen. Sure enough, it was a giant sheet of ice! We called it a day and headed to the campground, which had ZERO snow due to the lower elevation. The next morning we took another crack at Black Canyon of the Gunnison. We have declared that it is our new favorite National Park! The geology and geography was stunning. Two billion years ago the Gunnison River carved the canyon through precambrian metamorphic and igneous rocks. We went on a geology hike with a ranger. He used to be a college geology professor and was impressed with my knowledge of rocks and ecology. We saw gneiss, schist and pegmatite intrusions in the rocks on the hike. We learned about the layers of the canyon, depth and and composition. If you listened really carefully you could hear the Gunnison River raging below. Much calmed than in the past due to the dams up river. E and I were chosen to demonstration the mountain building events in the area and how the rivers carved the canyon. The views were absolutely spectacular! We hiked out to every viewpoint. Most were relatively short walks but some were near a mile. We had a blast looking in all the “potholes”. These areas in the rocks above provide a water source for local animals. Don’t tell anyone that E and I were being super nice to each other. The nature brings out the best in us. Emmerson went crazy taking photographs! Mom too!
What an amazing time we had at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison!
We got our Jr Ranger badges and sadly had to say goodbye to the canyon! We did stop down at the river for some hiking but the water had washed out the trail. We started to forge a new path over rocks hoping to find the trail but no luck. We did find this cute little garter snake hiding amongst the rocks. The river was running green. We didn’t get a clear answer as to why but assume it was something in the rocks breaking down with the melting snow. Maybe similar to why some of the lakes in Canada were a greenish blue. 

Great Sand Dunes

Mostly clear skies with a few blotchy looking storms are what the weather called for today. Suddenly we were in the midst of a nasty hail storm. It was coming down so hard the motorhome shook. The hail was only dime to nickel sized but it was like driving marbles on the road. Dad did an amazing job of getting us through it safely. We arrived in the desert at our “lush” campground. It was dry and barren. Thankful to be out of the snow and in the desert we went tobed looking forward to off road jeep adventures, hiking and exploring in the morning. We woke up to this! You have got to be kidding me!?We had some snowball fights. You can see the depth on the hood of the jeep. The ground was so warm it was melting quickly. We figures it was around 3-4 inches total overnight. Even Luna had icicles! We loaded up and headed into see the sand dunes. We couldn’t find them! They were blanketed with snow! A LOT of snow! Ugh! We took the off road jeep trail anyway. We slid around in the snow but the jeep handled it all very well. Dad was a great driver. Normally Mom drives the jeep but wasn’t feeling like she needed to drive this today! We forded a few smaller rivers but got to one we felt was a but deep and backed out and turned around. Glad we did because apparently the snowmelt caused the pass to be closed the next day. We sniffed the trees, they smelled like butterscotch. We walked out to see if we could get to the dues but the river was running a bit high for such a frigid day. More hiking and exploring needed to be done. It is so strange to see all the cacti blanketed with snow. Emmerson loved throwing snowballs at us, constantly! Dad and I hiked a longer trail back to the visitor center and Mom and E took the jeep, they saw a LOT of mule deer on the road. We earned our Jr Ranger badges and called it a day. The weather warmed up a little and the snow melted away. We could see the dunes in the morning. Dad had to work but we explored anyway without him. We hiked all over the dunes. The wind was quite strong and then temps were still in the low 50s. You have to go barefoot across the river to get to the dunes. We slid down, ran down, ran up and rolled down the dunes for hours. Mom almost lost sight of us once or twice!We left our shoes empty and 5 minutes later they were being burried and full of sand. The wind was whipping around a lot. We finsihed up and had to fact the river again, which was now a few inches higher. The water was near freezing and would come in pulses. You had to cross between the pulses or else the current was very strong for shallow water. Exhausted yet hungry for more we drove up to another hike but E got something in his eye and we had to reroute to town to get to the eye doctor!

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Colorado Springs was not on the plan for this trip but since the weather in Wyoming was getting sketchy we headed south through a massive hail storm, pelting rain and snow. We landed at Cheyenne Mountain State park. We managed to get a campsite for a few nights, normally this place is booked solid all summer! Someone was looking out for us! Little did we know the mountain behind us is where NORAD is located! So in that mountain is a huge bunker!

Our campsite was beyond amazing! Emmerson was promoted to fire tender for this trip and was happy to start his first fire. We hung our and enjoyed the cool evening with the campfire. I took to the rocks looking for insects. Mom and Emmerson looked for rocks. We had a fun evening after a long day of driving. On the way into town E said he say a sign for Gardens of the Gods. We both remembered it from the Percy Jackson books. Mom looked it up and it was close by so the next day we went exploring. We saw lots of balanced rocks. The sandstone formations were striking against the lush flora. We climbed as much as we could! We were hiking the flats and saw tons of deer. We popped into the visitors center and earned out Jr Ranger badges for their state park system. Up next we raced up the road a few hours to Florissant Fossil Beds. They have the claim of the most invert fossils! I had to see this! We learned all about the formation and layers present in the area.  I was lost in the fossils for hours! Fossils and insects at the same time, my head was going to explode! As we were getting out Jr Ranger badges, Mom was talking tot he staff member about our weird weather vacation. She asked if we knew we were under a winter storm warning! WHAT! Mom popped online and sure enough we were. We hightailed it out since the roads back to ColoradoSprings were in the direct path of the storm. 
We started off okay for the first 30 minutes then hit the wall of white. No blizzard but pretty close. The snow certainly was coming down quickly. 

We made if safely back to Dad at Cheyenne Mountain, hitched up and hit to road towards the Great Sand Dunes. Happy to be away from the snow and heading into warmer areas and dunes of sand!

Devil’s Tower in Wyoming

We had a long drive to Devil’s Tower but arrived early enough to head on over and check things out. I am really glad we did. We have been before and we were looking forward to rock scrambling. The tower stands out amongst the prairie landscape. The tower is made of a rare igneous rock, phonolite porphyry. It is the largest example of columnar jointing in the world.  The rocks erode off and gave rise to some spectacular rock climbing. The weather had other ideas about our trip. It was rainy when we arrived.

All checked in and settled at our camping spot. What a great view of the tower from the front of the coach! For those readers that have seen Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind, this was the filming site for most of the movie, now a KOAWe headed over to poke around in the rain. We got a few photos and it started to rain more. We scrambled for a while until we were all exhausted. As we were leaving we overhead a ranger talking about the weather warnings. Ugh. More bad weather? We woke up to slight snow stuck to everything. We did some laundry, made a quick drive back into South Dakota for a part for the jeep and some engine coolant. Then we decided that we would pack up and leave first thing in the morning, 2 days ahead of schedule. We were really glad we did because the snow storms were coming. After we left if dropped 4-6 inches of snow at Devil’s Tower.