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Friday, July 21, 2017

Dinosaur National Monument: Hiking the Desert Voices and Sound of Silence Trails

Beautiful desert views, lots of geological diversity, 100+ lizard sightings, and the most philosophical trail plaques I've ever seen await you at Dinosaur National Monument...

These two trails can be done separately, but the Sound of Silence Trail links up with the Desert Voices Nature Trail in Dinosaur National Monument for a beautiful morning or evening desert hike. For its length you get to really enjoy the topography of the area as the hike takes you through a wash bed and up into the red hills and you even end with some slick rock scrambling. The trails also include informational and education plaques and, personally, I have never seen more reflective and intentional trail narration - kudos to Dinosaur for actually making people think.

To get to the Sound of Silence trail head from the entrance of Dinosaur National Monument in Jensen, UT stay on US 149 past the visitor center and you will see parking parallel to the road in about 2 miles on your left. The views are amazing as soon as you get on 149 driving into the park as you follow the Green River and get closer to the beautifully colored desert sandstone cliffs and hills. The vegetation is mostly sagebrush and cotton wood trees, so you really get the stark desert contrasts of green, grey, and red.

The Trails:
We hiked the Sound of Silence Trail clockwise and the first section follows a wash bed through low-lying scrubs. As the trail cuts west, you find yourself at the bottom of a twisty-turning little canyon where the wash has really cut away and you get to look up at all the rock formations including the largest, Split Mountain. This section has some pretty tight sections where two people definitely cannot hike side-by-side. As the trail turns east you come out of the wash and gain some elevation and great views of the geological features. As I mentioned in the overview section up top, the trail is marked with numerous informational and educational plaques so our rock-geek-selves really enjoyed learning about the different layers exposed and how much the landscape has changed (this whole area is sedimentary).

About 2-miles into the hike a 1/4-mile connector links the Sound of Silence Trail to the Desert Voices Trail which adds another 1.5 miles and loops back to the connector so you can finish Sound of Silence. The Desert Voices Trail takes you up the side of the canyon to the east and gives you some more height (you continue looping south and then west back to Sound of Silence). The trail markers on this section are the ones I really want to highlight. They not only include interesting information on the flora, fauna, and natural formations, but they took it to a whole new level and included on-going questioning about local economical and ecological issues, water use, land rights, ranching, and invasive species. My husband and I usually get into philosophical conversations when we hike, but we have never had the trail markers start prompting discussions. It was quite the unexpected treat and we kept talking about things long after the hike was over.

When you connect back to the Sound of Silence Trail the last section takes you to the south and you get a taste of what they mean by "slick rock." We hike with poles (I have Leki trekking poles) so we did not have to scramble much, but there were some steep sections. You leave the sandstone and drop down back into the wash area from the beginning and into the sagebrush to end out your hike.

The elevation gains on this hike were not very extreme for us, but this is desert hiking, so bring plenty of water. We did this hike in the summer, so we would recommend an early start or wait until the evening as the majority of the trail is exposed. The trail is open year-round though. While the rocks and colors were enough for us, I did want to note that we did not see much wildlife (unless you count lizards).

Pack List

  • CamelBak w/ water (I have a 2-liter pack and my husband has a 3-liter pack and we were both almost out by the end)
  • hiking shoes or boots (I prefer to hike in my trail running shoes, but this hike involves uneven rocky surfaces and slick sections, so wear what you need to be comfortable and safe)
  • breathable clothing (it was hot in the summer even though we started early)
  • trekking poles (I never hike without mine)
  • hat (it's a very exposed trail)
  • sunglasses
  • sunscreen
Skill Level:
Moderate+ (due to terrain and exposure)

Year Round

Trail Type:

4.7 Miles

Elev. Gain:
340 Feet

The different colors really made this hike interesting.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

I Make Some Damn Good Pies #3: Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie Recipe Inside!

It's already been established that I love pie, so here are some fun pie facts before my next recipe:
  1. Pies have (apparently) been around since the time of the ancient Egyptians.
  2. Traditionally, pies were made predominately of meat. 
  3. Queen Elizabeth I (apparently) loved cherry pies.
  4. Pumpkin pie made it's appearance at the second Thanksgiving.
  5. In the 1800s fruit pies were actually a popular BREAKFAST.
You're welcome. So, as a thank you for bearing with my pie trivia, below is the recipe for my Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie - enjoy!

3 eggs
1 C canned pumpkin
1 C apple butter
1/2 C sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg
3/4 half and half

pie crust of your choice

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Prepare your pie crust in a pie pan and set aside
  3. In a large bowl whisk eggs, pumpkin, apple butter, sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and then stir in half and half until smooth
  4. Pour mixture into pie shell and place in oven
  5. After 10 minutes reduce temperature to 350 degrees
  6. Bake until the center of the pie is set, about 35 to 40 minutes
  7. Serve hot or cold with whipped cream!

I decided to top this beauty with pecan halves!

PS - If you are in Virginia in May, you should definitely check out the Gordonsville Fried Chicken Festival and try my award-winning pies!