Dinosaur Journal #1: First Impressions.
We drove past the periphery of Park City through the Ute Reservation and into Vernal, Utah in a slushy blizzard. Stopped somewhere in the middle for greasy-spoon food: buttery grilled cheese and spicy French fries.
(Did I say Utah? I meant Siberia).
Everything in Vernal appears to be dinosaur themed. There is even an ad for “dinosaur rodeo” which is probably not what I wish it were…there is another ad for Mary Poppins (not dinosaur-themed, unfortunately). I would love to see a stegosaurus with an umbrella singing show tunes about a spoonful of sugar.
(I imagine the people in the town get so burnt out on dinosaur-everything…like Glacier and huckleberry-everything). But still. Mary Poppins and the Chimney Sweep Guy and…Dinosaurs?! That would be a hit.
BBQ brontosaurus? Not cool.
Woke up early the next morning to sunshine (mostly). Ryan went off to work. I went exploring (of course).
(Switching tense. Switching mood).
There is no wind. So even the brisk temperatures and sometimes overcast sky feels mild. There are no people. Anywhere. I see the visitor center and the window paneled quarry building. But these stand still, cleverly blending-in with the tanned rock and sagebrush in a modern fashion.
In fact, everything stands still…
The black pavement is damp. I skid my feet along the asphalt to check for ice. None.
I start running. I have no i-pod, no distractions, no company. Things move.
There are cottontails hopping madly and quaint little tracks indenting the white ground. Walls of sandstone on my left. Fields of big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), and later farmland on my right. I hear bird chirps (dinosaur-relation chirps) but I see nothing in the sky but strips of cobalt pressing through the thick grey.
I have come to the “Swelter Shelter.” The rock is tanned with crimson streaks of color. I realize these are human shapes with wild springs of hair living on the surface of the rock. (Petroglyphs are apparently chipped or carved into the rock, whereas pictographs are painted onto the rock).
According to park literature, the Fremont Culture came about around the year 450. (450! Depending on the resource…) The culture shrank after 1250 and people of this culture were forced to adapt. Some peoples of the Ute tribes are descendants of the Fremont Culture. (Info. from Petroglyphs and Pictographs).
The dwellings, the paintings, the carvings…the life left behind. It is eerie and peaceful and…quiet. Until a bird chirps and I startle. I walk back down the short path and the snow crunches underfoot in a half-damp, half-brittle manner. It makes me thirsty.
I start running again. I even sprint (maybe because there is a slight decline).
I run to the “Sound of Silence” trailhead. I can see Split Mountain. I see other mountains covered in lines of sagebrush and snow, making a clean pattern of zigzag lines from a distance. The blacktop continues with that double yellow line, even brighter from the contrast. My sunglasses fog and I take them off.
And yes, the valley is…silent.
This place is one of the quietest places in the US. I am here now and I know it to be true.
Then I realize something. I am incredibly, incredibly alone. The visitor center can’t be more than a mile? Mile and half? Maybe two miles away.
I don’t have my phone. I don’t have water. I don’t have…anything. I’m on a road, for crying out loud! A road. I’ve been in far more remote places.
Are there bobcats? Mountain lions? Serial killers?
When I go to a wild place, I go home. So…where did I learn this absurd fear?
But now I’m worried about all sorts of scenarios…a face-off with a lion, breaking an ankle, realizing I’m actually the tall blonde lady in Jurassic Park going on a jog…nobody goes jogging in Jurassic Park!
I laugh. But I also run back towards the visitor center. I actually sprint wildly. Now I am home.