Five years ago, almost to the day, we visited Dinosaur National Monument near Vernal, Utah, and promised ourselves that someday we would return and take the ranger led hike from the Quarry Exhibit Hall back to the Visitor’s Center and that’s exactly what we did today. Like the last time, we took the free narrated shuttle up to the quarry and marveled at the incredible assemblage of dinosaur fossils that have remained in situ since their discovery more than a century ago. Then we assembled at the benches outside the exhibit hall and listened as Ranger Nick Paxson oriented us to the details of the hike and then the geology of the area that was revealed with the formation of the Uintas Mountains more than 700 million years ago before we headed out on the 1.5 mile hike hoping our sunscreen and water supply were adequate. Ranger Nick stopped us, usually in the shade, several times along the path to discuss various aspects of geology and natural history, such as the history of the Stump Formation as a sandy beach or the Morrison Formation as the location of the Jurassic dinosaur remains. We noted more mineral oxidation in the Dakota Sandstone and got to see fossils of small marine animals that died in volcano ash as evidenced by the presence of sulfur in the Mancos Shale. The most recent prehistoric artifacts that we Ranger Nick pointed out was the petroglyphs left by the Fremont peoples. Back at the Visitors Center another ranger suggested we visit the Utah Field House of Natural History in Vernal. So after a little siesta at the Vernal KOA we headed to that amazing repository of the geology and natural history of the area. Besides some great artifacts and quality interpretive materials they have some cool hands on opportunities, some impressive life sized models of extinct huge animals, and an area where the public can watch paleontologists at work in the lab although all was quiet when we were there.

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