June 16, 2014. Yep, rode to work today, National Ride to Work Day.
I was in northwest Colorado, working in the town of Rangely on a temporary assignment. I wasn't due at work till the afternoon so I went into the Dinosaur National Monument to see what there was to see. I skipped the portion of the monument where the dinosaur fossils are located though and went straight to the Canyon Area portion.
Bottom line: The monument is okay, perhaps I've been spoiled by the sights in other parts of Colorado, with majestic mountains in the distance and towering rock formations to pose my motorcycles in front of. The monument does have some nice spots and what it might lack in majestic scenery it makes up for in the availability of solitude.
I don't know if the sparseness of tourists if because of the time of the year or because it was a weekday, but most of the time I felt like I had the entire park to myself. The quiet would have been deafening except for the winds which were pleasant at first but grew to strong buffeting winds in the afternoon.
I entered the monument and rode along the main paved road in the monument: Harper's Corner Road. You have to drive almost to the end, and into Utah before the scenery is something worth mentioning.
Scarlett and I rode all the way to the end of the road, had crossed into Utah a few miles back and we decided to take Echo Park Road down to Echo Park to see Steamboat Rock. You pick up Echo Park Road about 2-3 miles south of the Echo Park Overlook, it starts rather steep and rocky but quite doable on Scarlett. The road is marked as impassable when its wet, apparently the mud is quite slippery.
We motored our way down the eight miles to the Y Junction where one takes a left to go to Echo Park or a right to go to Castle Park. We turned left and four miles later, we were entering an area with high rocky canyon walls.
Riding further long, I saw a small sign for the "Whispering Cave", sounds interesting doesn't it? I turned towards the cave and parked Scarlett alongside. I went inside, not really a cave but a shallow overhang and while it felt nice and cool under all that rock, I heard no whispers. Oh well.
So a quick circuit around the campsite loop near Steamboat Rock and I decided to head back the way I had come.
I didn't want to retrace my route back to Harper's Corner Road so at the Y Junction I turned towards Castle Park. At this point, I was thinking it was only perhaps 10 miles of dirt road before I got back on US40.
I liked Castle Park and it's overlook the best. I had the place all to myself and the only people I would see were folks in rafts paddling their way down the river.
It was close to 12:30PM by now and it was time to head back towards Rangely. I kept heading east on what turned out to be Yampa Bench Road, little did I know I'd be on this road for the next 90 minutes.
The road had portions strewn with small rocks and washboard dirt. Twists and turns, uphill and downhill portions that tested the limits of Scarlett's grip on the road, sandy portions that required 2WD, and seemingly endless stretches of loose gravel and fist-sized rocks.
Wow, Yampa Bench Road is a long road. Perhaps it was because I had an appointment before 3:00 PM in Rangely, or the fact that the road seemed endless but all kinds of breakdown scenarios worked their way into my brain.
Still, I finally reached Moffatt County Road 95 which would eventually take me south towards County Rd 16 which would take me back to the paved US40 highway. It was after 2:15 PM when I reached the pavement and it was a hurried ride back towards Dinosaur.
Just before Dinosaur, I spotted County Road 134 and a sign for Rangely, I took it and made it to the Rangely field office with 2 minutes to spare!
The solitude of the monument, I realize now it could cut both ways. Sure, you're alone with your thoughts but if something happens to your transportion......you see what I mean? Oh well, it's not an adventure without a little uncertainty right? Scarlett, as you are probably inferring, did great. Got me through all the challenging portions of the dirt roads with no complaints or issues.
Now that I've seen the canyon portion of this monument, I probably won't be coming back. I guess that's the criteria for a location isn't it? Would you return willingly?
Ride Safe. Ride Aware.