Bones and Bootleggers

The drive between Grand Teton and Rocky Mountain National Parks is a long one, so we decided to add a stop in between to visit Dinosaur National Monument. We thought this would be a nice change of pace for the kids, swapping miles long hikes for something more their speed.

The monument didn’t disappoint. To give you a little point of reference Dinosaur National Monument is located in two states, Utah and Colorado. We entered from the Utah side, where you can visit the Carnegie Dinosaur Quarry. The Quarry is what remains of the original dig and is enclosed in a beautiful modern building. Inside you can comfortably enjoy looking at and learning about the nearly 1,500 dinosaur bones still partially buried in the quarry walls. You can even TOUCH dinosaur fossils that are 149 million years old! Some of the dinosaurs include Stegosaurus, Allosaurus and Diplodicus. For Liam and CJ who are big dino fans, this was a pretty amazing experience.

Dinosaur fossils aren’t all the Monument has to offer though. Later in the day we popped the canoe in on the Green River, aptly named for the deep green hue of the water. We took a short paddle meandering past thousand-foot-high canyon walls. The exposed rock layers tell a geological history millions of years old and are painted the most vibrant hues of pink and orange. The kids enjoyed playing on a sandy beach at the takeout while we waited for Rick to ride his bike back to retrieve the car – this was one of the last warm days we would spend out west and it was nice to relax by the water.

Before heading back to camp we made one final stop at Josie Bassett Morris’s homestead, a woman who is the very definition of a “Bad Ass.” Accounts of Josie describe her as charming, independent and strong willed. After divorcing four men during a time when divorce was unheard of, Josie struck out on her own building a cabin on Cub Creek and homesteading the surrounding land where she lived for nearly 50 years. During Prohibition she brewed up brandy and chokecherry wine. A local resident regaled us with a story about a Prohibition agent who thought he’d make a name for himself by busting up Josie’s liquor business. What he didn’t realize was that the townsfolk were unwaveringly loyal to Josie. After the agent announced his intentions and demanded help from the town, a resident offered to show him the way to Josie’s liquor stills. Unbeknownst to the agent, he was being taken the scenic route while another citizen mounted his horse and made a beeline to Josie’s and helped her empty and destroy the stills. When the agent finally arrived at Josie’s he found her innocently knitting on her front porch. If you’d like to read more about this amazing woman check out the NPS site here.

We only stayed in Dinosaur for two days and barely had a chance to scratch the surface. If you happen to be traveling in the area I STRONGLY recommend checking out Dinosaur, it has plenty to offer to visitors both young and old.

Cousins, Cousins, Cousins


After leaving Sante Fe we headed north to Los Alamos to visit my cousin David and his family. We arrived and were immediately struck by the roving mob of kids that were playing on their street. We parked and introduced ourselves to David’s wife, Jessie and their three children, Maren, Charlie, and Ollie. Within minutes, Liam and CJ had joined the gaggle of kids while we went inside for a drink.

Los Alamos is largely composed of scientists who work at the National Laboratory and is the kind of place where people don’t lock their doors. Accordingly, its citizens appear, in a throwback to an earlier time, to be more comfortable giving their children much more freedom than most modern parents. During our stay with David, our kids spent the majority of the time on their own playing at the neighboring park or at a neighbor’s house. After 3 months in close proximity, the separation was good for all of us.

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After spending a couple of days with David and Jessie at their home, we all decided to go camping in nearby Bandalier National Monument which was established in 1916 to preserve the ancient cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Pubelo people. Liam and CJ really enjoyed exploring Bandalier with Maren and Charlie and we enjoyed sharing our lifestyle with David and Jessie who had recently purchased a camper van of their own.

Liam and Maren regularly disappeared from the campsite, exploring the woods or playing games on their own, while CJ and Charlie enjoyed listening to CJ’s library of audio books snuggled in bed together. Maggie thoroughly enjoyed bedtime when the four older kids piled into bed with her for storybook time.

On our final day in Bandalier we did one last hike and began the four hour drive to Durango, CO. About an hour or so into the drive we came across a random, but idyllic picnic table on the side of Hwy 84 and decided to pull over for a rest. The kids were asleep so Maggie and I decided to enjoy a glass of wine and rare quiet moment. A bottle of wine later, we decided to spend the night. On a totally unrelated note, I woke up at 6am with a pounding headache. Unable to sleep, I decided to clean up the area surrounding the pull off which was littered with an obscene amount of trash. I was able to get everything picked up except the big screen TV that was lying in the pastureland (Maggie refused to help me lift it over the barbed wire).