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.

To Zion


Our trip to Zion marked 4 weeks in Utah and 8 in the desert. We were nearing our limit in the land without water, especially with the prospect of California beaches on the horizon. Despite our dwindling interest in this arid landscape, we were immediately captivated with Zion’s unique beauty.

The night we pulled in, the campground was full, so we boondocked in an empty parking lot nearby. The next morning – at 6AM to be exact – Rick drove the camper around to get in line for a campsite. I stayed in the rig to make sure the kids didn’t fall out of their bunks, since we didn’t bother to wake them up. Our eagerness paid off, and by 9am we were settled in our campsite with The Watchman towering above us and the Virgin River a short stroll away for afternoon dips.


Zion’s appearance differed from previous Utah parks we had visited – Arches and Canyonlands. The red rocks were there, but craggier and mountain-like than what we’d seen. And while still arid desert, there were more trees and plants to provide contrasting colors to the tall cliffs.

Zion was the busiest park we had visited so far. Luckily, since we were camping, we didn’t have to deal with the parking situation within the park, but we quickly learned that the shuttle buses that ferried visitors throughout the park filled up fast.

We filled our week with hikes on the numerous trails around the park. One of our favorites was Canyon Overlook trail where we saw bighorn sheep and breathtaking views of the valley. I will say, if you aren’t a fan of heights, this Zion may not be for you. I was constantly on edge (literally and figuratively) worrying one of the kids would tumble off the edge of the trail.


An additional highlight to our time in Zion was meeting up with our friends Michelle and John, whom we met at Guadalupe Mountains. Michelle treated us to another round of her world-class strawberry margaritas and (on a separate occasion) minded the kids for a morning so Rick and I could enjoy a more strenuous hike on our own. Of course Rick picked the most dangerous and hair raising hike, Angel’s Landing. I hiked about 90% and let him finish the peak by himself while I white knuckled a nearby juniper tree and tried not to look down.

We spent multiple evenings at Michelle and John’s campsite and were grateful for their fellowship and hospitality. Being on the road full-time we often miss our friends and family back home, they made us feel a little less homesick.

In addition to the vertigo inducing hikes, we enjoyed the Virgin River which has helped shape and bring life to the canyon. We swam in it daily and even hiked part-way into the Narrows with the kids (for those that don’t know about the Narrows, this is another famous Zion hike in which the trail IS the river bed). Without the river so close by to provide easy entertainment for the kids and cool us off, I’m not sure we would have enjoyed the park as much as we did.


Utah – Canyonlands, Arches and most importantly MOAB


Our first stop in Utah was Canyonlands NP, which while beautiful, wasn’t our best stop so far. On the advice of a fellow traveler, we headed to the remote Needles District of the park, thinking we’d be able to stay in a quieter area without all the crowds. Unfortunately, we found the reason it was quieter was because it offered little for families with young kids and was 1.5 hours from civilization – not great when I work on the road. We struggled to find a campsite, but ultimately settled on a picturesque spot in Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property just outside the park entrance. The campground was packed with rock climbers who all seemed to know each other, it was quintessential Utah.

After spending a few days in Canyonlands, exploring the handful of family-friendly trails, we headed back into Moab to figure out what our next step would be…what we didn’t realize was that we were about to fall in love.

Moab has been our favorite town so far on this trip. It is a small town located along the Colorado River in between Arches NP and Canyonlands NP. The town is full of outdoorsy people and tourists. It has one main street running through it, cute shops, plenty of restaurants and a great rec center/playground which we utilized to the fullest – and by that, I mean we camped there, showered there, took our kids to their daycare, swam, and worked out there. It was our second home.

After camping one night at the town park and rec center, we stumbled on an awesome BLM campground along the Colorado River. We hunkered down here for a week thanks to it’s convenience to town, proximity to outdoor activities, and overall beauty. If you’re planning a trip to Utah, I strongly suggest checking out Moab as a central location to all kinds of fun trips. Here’s a short list of what we did:

  • Multiple paddles down the Colorado River, covering about 20 miles, including a whitewater section. We had to dump the canoe once and bail water several times, but otherwise successfully navigated this beautiful and exciting portion of the Colorado with the kids in tow.
  • Family bike rides on a bike trail that followed the Colorado River.
  • Gorgeous hike along a crystal-clear stream through red rocks and canyons.
  • Visit to Arches National Park to see the famous Delicate Arch, Landscape Arch and others.
  • Family movie night at the library – next to the Moab Rec Center the Moab library was probably our favorite spot. We went to story time on CJ’s birthday and met Charlotte an amazingly kind librarian who gave the children several books to keep and loaned us some audiobooks to listen to on our car rides. We are almost done reading Charlotte’s Web together which has been a real treat.
  • Old school roller skating at the Moab’s Family Roller Skating Night, with the La Sal Mountains as our backdrop as we skidded and tumbled around their outdoor rink.

We also celebrated CJ’s and my birthday in Moab. Cora Jean requested a “Simba cake” so I worked with the kind bakery manager at the Moab grocery to track down some safari animals we could decorate the cake with. It was a little weird not being with family and friends and throwing a big birthday party, but we had fun eating cake in one of the Moab parks, unwrapping a few gifts and climbing on boulders after the festivities (totally Utah).