Thursday, July 19, 2012

2012-23 Flaming Gorge UTAH


Flaming Gorge NRA (PART 2)

Vernal Utah

Utah Field House of Natural History

Campground:  Lucerne Valley (Flaming Gorge NRA) campground.  $15 per night senior rate. 50 Amp Elect.  Next to the Lucerne Marina.  New campsites, fully paved.  Restrooms, water and dump station available.  Good DTV signal, Verizon signal.

I left off last week describing the Mountain pass with 8% grades and ten switch backs just to get to the top.  On my way up the mountain pass I stopped at a viewing area for a quick break and when I got out of the camper, a biker was calling to me from the other side of the camper.  He’d tipped over his motorcycle accidentally while trying to take too sharp of a turn upon leaving.  He asked if I would mind helping him right his cycle.  Of course I did.  Boy those choppers are heavy dudes aren’t they?  I do wonder that that sort of thing doesn’t happen more often than it does.  The biker said he was on his way to Idaho to go biking with his brother.  Said his wife no longer liked riding with him.  Didn’t feel safe on the back of the Harley.

Well after settling into my campsite at Flaming Gorge I was ready to head back to Vernal the next day.  They have a most wonderful museum I wanted to check out.  Besides, the very small town of Manila (the only town in the county of Daggett) has very limited resources.  To be expected with a population of only 340 farmers and cattle ranchers.  And I needed to get some laundry done as well as do my usual touring.  Speaking of Laundromats, it is the first one I’ve been in that had specific washers and dryers for “greasy” clothing.  These really heavy duty machines are designed to help get out all that oil from the workers in the oil and gas fields and miners around here as well as for use for cleaning horse blankets etc.  And it keeps the other washers in good shape for us folks with regular laundry.

Then it was off to the Utah Field House of Natural History.  This is a state park museum and is perhaps the best natural history museum I’ve been in in quite some time.  I would highly recommend it for anyone passing through this fairly remote NE corner of Utah.  They start you off with a good film on the geology of the area, then the lights come up and a door off to the side opens automatically and one enters a series of rooms with some great exhibits on the dinosaur, fossils found in the area and some of the best time lines describing our planets history and geology.  Excellent descriptions for each display that were printed large enough to actually be able to read them.  I learned so much and just know I would learn even more on a second visit.  It appears they are in the process of expanding an already new and fine museum so if I come back in a couple of years, I know I’ll have much more to see.  Another note, all of this information relates to the local geological formations.  As I drive around, there are many signs along the highways describing the various rock formations and what the sea levels were like and what fossils or dinosaurs are associated with each layer.

Oh and I love how the town has a pink dinosaur as it’s mascot upon entering the town. Along with a few others throughout town as part of hotel signs etc.  Vernal also has a profusion of flowers everywhere.  Huge containers spilling over with red and white petunias.  Most impressive.  Vernal is a pretty good size town and has all the conveniences one could want.

On my drive back to the small town of Manila, I was again amazed at all the large vehicles traveling this mountain pass.  Huge oversized vehicles carrying tanks lying on end with multiple escort vehicles with flashing lights.  A building being towed that was way over sized, requiring some careful maneuvering to permit passing vehicles.  I can’t imagine what they had to do to get around those 10 switchbacks along hwy 191.  I figure if those huge commercial vehicles can travel this route, any Rv can traverse this mountain pass with ease and a bit of caution or course.

There are multiple campgrounds all along the Flaming Gorge region with many high up in the Alpine region with those huge groves of aspen, Ponderosa pine and Rocky Mountain juniper.  Oh and I can’t forget the Douglas Fir.  Who knew I had such a popular name.  Many of the camping sites are what’s called dispersed camping.  Where one drives along a dirt road into the woods and just pulls off anywhere and sets up camp.  Others along the Ashley National Forest are developed campsites with limited services like picnic tables, pit toilets, some with water available and the occasional dump station.  I must admit the high tree covered plateaus (8,000 ft) and large Alpine meadows are most tempting for camping, even without the convenience of electricity.  The only thing I’d be concerned about with the dispersed camping sites is that the roads are mainly dirt and dirt becomes mud with a little bit of rain and towing a big rig in and out of such situations could be fraught with peril.  But it’s still tempting and I’m sure I’ll plan an adventure into the forest one of these days.

I did stop at the visitor center at Red Canyon.  A most impressive building hanging on the steep cliff edge of Flaming Gorge.  Standing at the floor to ceiling windows, I was able to look straight down into the Red Canyon and Flaming Gorge as it meandered through those steep, twisting canyon walls.  Outside the overlooks were just as breathtaking, except for having to step over large cracks in the stone and seeing where the cliff has separated from the canyon walls.  Leaving huge cracks that go who knows how far down.  I know it was silly, but I did walk very lightly as I approached the various lookouts.  Back at the visitor center I watched a really good film on the making of the Flaming Gorge Dam.  Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson inaugurated the dam.  Ten years later, President Kennedy would Flip the switch to turn on the first generator making electricity.  Imagine, it took ten years to fill the dam before they could start the first generator.

At the campground I happened to see a most unique site as another camper drove in.  Now many of the campers have a travel trailer or 5th wheel plus a boat being towed behind it all.  Now a truck, trailer and boat has got to be over 60 feet long.  What I saw today was a large Motor home towing a two level trailer with just about every toy imaginable on it.  I guess if one has lots of toys and doesn’t want to have them taking up all the space in a Toy-hauler this is the way to go.  They have everything from a Jeep, ATV’s, bikes, and motorbikes on that double decker trailer.  Quite a site to see.

Also at the campground there is a small herd of Pronghorn Antelope.   They quite often come hoofing it through the campground as it has some of the best watered grasses and weeds.  I’ve really enjoyed watching them as they make their rounds, grazing along the way.  There are two young ones in the group and the other day they got caught behind the boat storage area fence.  Mama on one side of the fence following them as they on the opposite side kept looking at her in total bewilderment trying to figure out how to get out of the situation.  It took a while, but they finally figured it out.

On one of my last days in the area, I took the Sheep Creek Loop scenic tour.  This is a National Geological area.  What does that mean?  It has many layers of geological history that have been thrust upward over millions of years.  For me that means tons of pictures of some really awesome colorful rock formations.  The various types of rocks, the colors and just the dramatic scenery was well worth this side adventure.  It starts out in the Sheep Creek canyon which is thick with trees and shrubs fed by a spring fed creek.  The walls on either side of the canyon are quite different in rock formation and many are shear walls rising so high, they blot out the sun.  I was stopping it seemed like every 20 feet to get out and take more pictures.  Eventually the road loops around and up the side of the mountain range.  This is a scenic route that many of my friends who are afraid of heights could easily do.  As the first half one drives on the canyon floor and then continuing the loop up the  mountain range, the road traverses a sloping grade that I found easy and comfortable to drive.  Though slowly, since the road deteriorates with many pot holes to maneuver around.  This is slow driving, designed to enjoy the scenery, not get to the next destination quickly.

Since the Sheep Creek loop didn’t take all that long to do, I headed out to the Flaming Gorge Dam for a tour.  This dam is all business.  It has none of the style or design that larger dams like the Hoover Dam has.  It’s a dam that stores water and has three generators for creating hydro-power.  The tour brought us down into the dam itself to view the generators that are spotlessly clean and painted light blues, yellows and orange.  Someone must have really liked color when they painted this area. Then it was outside to see the dam from the bottom up.  Not a view one usually gets on these tours.  Tons of fish were at the base of the dam and they tell me the most recent survey of fish along the river indicates there are 20,000 fish per mile.  How do they know that you ask?  Well they shock the fish along a particular area of the river and then count them as they float on by.

Verizon Phone update:  As you may remember, I updated my cell phone to a new Motorola Razor smart phone.  I was having trouble downloading the latest PDA-Net software which gives me the ability to tether my phone to the laptop for internet service.  That way I don’t have to pay the extra fee Verizon wants to charge for this feature.  Come to find out I only need to download the PDA-Net software to the cell phone.  I then connect using the wi-fi feature instead of actually connecting the phone to the computer with the USB wire. Well, that worked all of the two or three days, then a notice indicated I couldn't use it anymore,,, hmmm did Verizon figure out I was going in the backdoor with the PDA-Net software?  I then had the message to use the BlueTooth link.  Unfortunately I don't have bluetooth on my laptop, so now it's run around and find a place that sells the bluetooth adapter.  If not, I'll be forced into paying Verizon the $30 extra to connect my laptop to the Smart phone.  The saga continues....

Well the weeks not nearly over but I think I’ll wrap up this report.  My next destination will be right across the boarder someplace in Wyoming.  Just haven’t figured out where yet.

More pictures on PICASA

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