They call the area around Vernal Dinosaurland. It seems plenty of those giant lizards used to roam this area and the locals are mighty proud of them. I spent last night at the Motel Dine-a-ville. In front of this modest little inn stands a 40-foot tall pink brontasaurus, sitting on its haunches. Right across the street is a life-size, if not life-like, Tyrannasaurus Rex that serves to welcome visitors to Vernal. Down the road a piece stands the Best Western Dinosaur Inn and Gift Shoppe. Many of the local businesses have a dinosaur somewhere on the property - on a sign or painted in the window. I even passed a house, a private residence, that had a dinosaur, a brontasaurus some five feet long, in its front yard, like many homes might feature a pink flamingo or a jockey.
I visited the Utah Field House of Natural History, where they have many displays that examine the history of dinosaurs- how they evolved, how they lived. That's fine if you're a science teacher but I wanted to see models, life-size, scary, they-might-come-to-life-any-minute-and-eat-you-alive models and The Field House doesn't disappoint.
In front of the building is a concrete sculpture depicting a really scary T-Rex, a triceratops and a baby brontasaurus. In the garden behind the museum are many life-like models, the best I've seen so far on this American Odyssey. This place is worth a visit.
Twenty miles east of Vernal is the Dinosaur Monument National Park. On the way there, I stopped at a little rock shop along the highway. I purchased a rock that contained an excellent example of a petrified trilobite, some 555,000,000 years old and another rock with the outline of a tiny prehistoric fish preserved in it. I also purchased some petrified dinosaur feces, but that will be a gift.
If you were lucky enough to visit the 1964 World's Fair in New York City, then you might see a familiar face when visiting the Dinosaur Quarry at Dinosaur Monument. A triceratops sculpture that was featured in the Sinclair Oil Company-sponsored exhibit, Dinoland, back in '64 has been donated to the park. The Quarry is a pretty impressive exhibit. It's an ongoing dino dig; they're still finding fossils a-plenty here but they leave many of them in the side of the cliff, partially exposed. It allows civilians like us to see how fossils are situated in the ground and how they are uncovered.
Further into the park are ancient petroglyphs, carved into the side of the mountains by the Fremonts. No, the Fremonts weren't a family of six that vacationed here in '73; they were early native Americans that lived in this area in the first centuries A.D. The landscapes in this national park are stunning in their variety and majesty; it's quite a place, worth a detour from Salt Lake or the Colorado Rockies.
Continue on the American Odyssey.
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