August Exploration

Rangely - Harper's Corner - Echo Park - Haystack Rock - Crouse Canyon - Jenson Sinclair


September 1, 2001
I started work in late May and all summer long I told Andra what a great place it was, and that she should visit. Problem was, I was too busy with work to be able to show her around if she did come out. Thus, it wasnít until the first week of August that she finally was able to drive the 5 hours west to Dinosaur and see the place I had been hyping it up for two months. She arrived in a downpour, complete with heavy lightening and rolling thunder. I met her in the parking lot of the visitor center with a Maxís pizza I picked up in Rangely. My original plan was to picnic outside under a cool, evening sunset, then drive up the road and camp on BLM land. What we ended up doing was eating at the Resource Center and driving back to my crummy apartment in Rangely to sleep. 

Iron Springs BenchThe next morning we slept pretty late, then had a Subway brunch on the way out of town. We drove into the park along the Harperís Corner Rd, and stopped at Plug Hat Butte and Island Park Overlook on the way to Harperís Corner. We hiked the short trail out to the precipice in a short time. The day was hot and sunny, and we were a little ragged by the time we got back to the AC of the car. Andra napped while I drove down the dugway into Sand Canyon and down into Echo Park. We got out at Whispering Cave and enjoyed the cool 50'F breeze flowing from unseen crevices deep within. The cave is not a tunnel, as most people picture a cave, but instead a relic of a geologic event in which a layer of sedimentary red sandstone, tipped vertical by eons of pressure, had fractured off and slid down the wall to land with a thud only a few yards out from its former base. This creates a long, shallow crack - very thin but very tall, where one layer leans against the original wall. I had a flashlight with me, and we took turns walking back between the two massive walls into the darkness beyond. I went back about 30 feet or so before I became claustrophobic in the 18 inch passage and had to back out. At Echo Park we walked along the river and I showed her the petroglyphs high up the cliff face that Steve had pointed out months earlier. We sat by the river in the shade of the cliffs and relaxed for a bit. 

Steamboat RockWe camped on the Yampa Bench, although we were not supposed to, and I wonít say where exactly we bedded down. Needless to say, it was a scenic place, right on the rim looking 2000 feet down to a graceful bend in the muddy Yampa. It was late by the time we reached that point, so we went to bed soon after. We were planning on sleeping out under the stars, but the sky clouded over just around dusk, so we decided to play it safe (lest another thunderstorm roll through in the night) and pitched the tent. 

The next morning was perfectly clear. Where do clouds go in the night? We got up and I made a breakfast of oatmeal. Andra sat on the rim and read her book while I tried to do the same, but became too distracted by the magnificent view from our perch to concentrate on the text. I ended up spending most of that time just watching the rocks on the canyon walls all around. Near mid-morning, we drove on up to Haystack Rock and hiked out to the edge of the rock, looking down over the river. It was a nice little jaunt. I related the story of the man who killed his girlfriend and her sister and tried to dump the bodies off into the canyon at this point, but was caught in the act by a park avian researcher who was checking on peregrine falcon nests near Haystack Rock. In broad daylight, the story had little creepy effect. 

Echo Park

Haystack Rock

We motored back to HWY40, and drove west into UT, speeding on the open stretches, and stopped at the Jenson Sinclair to get a milkshake. To my horror, I discovered that the Sinclair didnít serve milkshakes on Sunday. What kind of blue law is that?! I showed Andra the Quarry, which is the only admission fee area of the park. The quarry is also the most boring part of the park, but one most families want to take their little brats to see. A funky 60's building is built around a rock formation that houses one of the highest dinosaur bone concentrations in the US (that we know of anyway). Most of the bones have been taken away and put in museums, but for the last decade, all fossils have been left in situ, exposed on the rock wall for anyone to see. That is the big attraction. Here is where creationists don't like to go. In fact, one of my friends who was a tour guide there said she once was heckled by a creationist who was convinced that the government had planted all the bones in a great conspiracy. Probably true. That wacky government.

We drove down along Brush Creek and turned north onto the road to Joneís Hole. Before long we turned north again and entered Crouse Canyon. This is my favorite vehicle-accessible place near the park. It has massive sedimentary rock walls surrounding a nice, cool stream. Plenty of green cottonwoods and box elders line the creek and the entire drive is in the shade. We stopped just this side of the river crossing and camped out under a full moon, so full, in fact, it woke me up quite a lot shining in my face. There was also the bug issue. The idea of sleeping out under the stars is nice and romantic, but seldom works in practice.

Crouse Canyon

The next day Andra had to head back to the Fort, so we began the drive back to the visitor center where her car had remained parked all weekend. The drive was slow and leisurely with frequent stops to get out and enjoy the creek and trees in Crouse Canyon. A brief sidetrip was called for to go wade in the river by Split Mt. The water was pretty warm, and it was a fun little detour. We stopped in Jenson for a club sandwich and a chocolate shake, because, really, there is no better place to eat for a hundred miles. She left at 2:00 for home. I went back to work, that is if spending all day driving and hiking through a national monument can be called "work". 

Brown's Park

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Page created August 25, 2002