Just when it seems like we have found the most perfect, most gorgeous, most relaxing spot, someone has to come along and ruin it. Or rather several someones. Several small, furry, poop dropping, wire chewing, disgusting little…mice. Unfortunately, mice invading the Airstream is nothing new for us. In fact, we have been dealing with mice on and off since arriving in New Mexico this spring. We’ve tried nearly everything to keep them out. From steel wool, to horrid smelling dryer sheets, to so much peppermint oil that it smelled like a candy cane factory exploded inside the trailer, nothing seems to deter the little buggers. And before you even suggest it, we are NOT getting a cat (I’m severely allergic to those fur balls).
Up until this week the mice issue was annoying but manageable. We had two traps under the sink where they would come in, get caught, and we (Tim) would empty the trap in the morning. Not an ideal situation, but at least they weren’t coming into our living space. But then for some reason last week that all changed. All of a sudden they were crawling out of our heater vents, scratching under the bed, scurrying across the couch cushions, and leaving droppings on our kitchen table. It all came to a head on Friday morning when I awoke to find mouse crap on my kitchen counter, in the food cupboard, and even inside my purse!!!! Ahhhhhh! Needless to say, I had a bit of mini break down and declared that I was ready to sell the Airstream and move into a concrete bunker that no mouse could penetrate. Eventually I calmed down and agreed that a better plan was to just move from our current spot to one a bit less mouse friendly. Which is exactly what we did.
Friday after work we headed down the mountain into Steamboat Springs where we parked overnight at the Halverson Hill Park. Before leaving the boondocking spot Tim discovered a small nest in one of our outside hatches – the one that is directly underneath our bed. Which explains the night time scratching that we were hearing. He removed the nest and placed two traps in there hoping to catch the left over mice. That evening we caught a total of 11 mice. Seven from the outside hatch, and four more from inside the trailer. It seems really doubtful that we had any new mice join us once we got to the paved parking lot, which means that all 11 of those mice hitched a ride with us down into town. Disgusting is not a strong enough word for how I feel about this. The good news is that as of right now we have no more mice in residence, and this week we’re in a bigger town where we can up our defenses in the form of more steel wool and a sonic device that is supposed to keep them away. Let’s hope it works.
Enough about those gross little creatures though, let’s talk about fun stuff. For the first time in a long time we had ourselves a spontaneous adventure on Saturday. An adventure that involved a night outside of Colorado, and trip back in time to see some ancient beasts. Let me explain. The original plan was to drive up to Steamboat lake, take a hike, and then find a place to overnight before heading down to Grand Junction where we had a reservations at the state park on Sunday. But it was raining when we woke up, and according to the Weatherbug app it was going to rain on and off all day. So we decided to do what any smart person with a home on wheels would do – drive until we find the sun. So we headed west, leaving the rain behind, with the Dinosaur National Monument as our intended destination.
When we were first planning our route through Colorado I dismissed the Dinosaur NM because there appeared to be little cell service in the area. But for a Saturday overnight cell service didn’t matter, so away we went. The national monument straddles the border of Colorado and Utah. There are several entrances, but the main visitor center, exhibit hall, and campground are all on the Utah side. You know what that means. We’re going to Utah!
We spent several months in Utah during the spring of 2013 and fell in love with this spectacular state. It was great to be back, even if it was only for one night. The entrance to the park is only about 20 miles over the border, and before we knew it we were getting up close and personal with our very first dinosaur.
The way the park is set up you hop on a shuttle at the visitor center for a short ride up to the Quarry Exhibit Hall.
The exhibit hall is basically a tall building built over the Carnegie Quarry allowing visitors to view over 1,500 ancient dinosaur bones. This area was originally excavated in the early 1900s when a paleontologist from the Carnegie Museum, Earl Douglas, discovered several large dinosaur tailbones sticking out of the ground. Since then, fossils from nearly 400 different dinosaurs have been collected here. Some are now on display in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburg, PA, but many others are still here for the public to see.
This giant pile of dinosaur bones is the result of a prolonged drought which killed off many dinosaurs, followed by a massive flood that swept all the bones into a pile and then covered them with layers and layers of mud and silt. What a discovery this must have been!
The downstairs of the exhibit hall has more fossils on display, including a 149 million year old Allosaurous skull. There are also a bunch of fossil casts (the originals are at the Carnegie Museum). My favorites were the tiny alligator and the giant Allosaurus skeleton posing next to his picture.
After making two trips around the the exhibit hall we elected to skip the shuttle ride and instead followed a short trail back to the visitor center. Along the way we got to see a few more fossils.
By the time we retuned to the visitors center it was late in the afternoon so we headed over to the campground to find a site. Since I hadn’t done any research prior to this visit (which is very rare for me) we had no idea what to expect from the campground. Turns out there was no need to worry. This is Utah remember? Beautiful scenery is practically guaranteed around here.
The campground was only half full, and we snagged what we thought was one of the best sites with a view of the cliffs and the Green River rushing past our bedroom window.
Combine that with a $12 per night fee, a fresh water spigot a few steps from our site, and a giant front yard, and we were happy campers. Oh, and it turns out that we did get a cell signal there. 3-4 bars (without the booster) of AT&T 4G was the definite icing on the cake. I had a moment of regret when I realized had we planned better (filled up on propane, food, and emptied out tanks) we could have stayed longer. But then I decided to just be happy with the one night we had there.
While the national monument is quite large, covering over 210,000 acres of land, much of it is designated wilderness land. Which means there is no central road that travels through the park. To visit the other areas of the park you must drive around the outskirts, entering at one of three access points on the Colorado side. We briefly considered driving up the Harpers Corner road on Sunday morning for a better view of the canyon, but when I learned it was 32 miles one way we decided to skip it this time around. Instead we drove just a few miles past the campground to the Josie Morris Cabin site.
Josie Morris lived here, by herself, for 50 years until shortly before her death at the age of 90 in 1964. She had no plumbing or electricity, and also no neighbors. Josie did all the work needed to survive, including raising cattle and growing fruits and veggies. She made herself a nice home with braided rugs on the floors and flower gardens outside her windows. Today all the that’s left is the cabin, but walking around this beautiful piece of land it’s easy to understand what kept her here for so many years.
On the way from the cabin back to the campground we stopped to see more signs of human inhabitation in this land of ancient dinosaurs. Long after the dinosaurs went extinct, and long before Josie settled here, the Fremont Indians lived in this area. And lucky for us, they left behind some ancient art for us to enjoy.
We’ve seen a lot of petroglyphs as we’ve traveled around the southwest these past two years, and I never tire of it. I think it’s the mystery behind this rock art that fascinates me the most. The fact that we really can only make educated guesses at what these drawings mean, and we have no idea if they were significant or simply doodles, makes this sometimes crude art akin to a masterpiece in my mind.
We made it back to the campground just in time for 11:00 check out, and soon we were back on the road and back in Colorado.
In the end, our weekend that started with a mouse invasion and a rainy day was salvaged by an amazing journey to one of our favorite states where we got to see giant fossils and ancient art. Weekend saved!