Monday, May 12, 2014

Capital Reef National Park

May 5 - 11, 2014:

We departed the Burr Trail campsite at 9:30 AM continuing on scenic route 12 climbing uphill to the summit of Boulder Mountain at 9,700 foot elevation.  It was an overcast morning, but the views were huge.  Also the forest was a beautiful mix of Pine and Aspen trees with pockets of snow.  The road was steep up and down with winding curves and it was a challenge to watch the scenery and to keep it between the lines. Then there was the added thrill when two deer decided to cross the road right in front of me, it was really close.  Route 12 ends at the town of Torrey, Utah where you then take route 24 east into Capital Reef National Park.  Route 24 goes for 11 miles with more 8% downhill to get to the Fruita Campground. 

View going up Bolder Mountain

Fruita was a pioneer mormon settlement of about ten families, very self reliant, hard working, motivated, God fearing souls.  It is a sort of oasis in the valley between the towering peaks. They tilled the soil for crops and pasture land, dug irrigation ditches to water their fields and most notably developed large fruit tree orchards.  The town ultimately became part of the Capital Reef National Park and the town is now a National Historic Site.  The park service continues to maintain the orchard and in the summer and fall you can pick fruit from the orchard when visiting the park, how cool is that ? 

View of Fruita from the Cohab Canyon Trail

This was home to a family of 10 in Fruita

A view of the mule deer in the Fruita Orchard

The original Fruita schoolhouse

We arrived around 11 AM to find many available campsites, but by 3 PM the campground was filled.  You need to get to these places early as it is first come, first served, no reservations.  Also no hookups, but has potable water, dump station and toilet facilities.  Also has a great gift shop with coffee and fresh baked goods.  Not bad for $5 a day (senior park pass), we plan to do it for a full week.  

Tuesday, we took a hike on the "Cohab Canyon Trail" across from the campground, it's sure nice not having to drive.  The initial part was rough going, up 22 switchbacks, but then we descended into a wash in the Cohab canyon.  The walls of the canyon were beautifully colored Wingate sandstone sculpted by the wind and water.  There were very unique eroded pockets in the sandstone called solution cavities formed by Calcite deposits in the rocks that mix with water and dissolve the stone. It was a 3 mile hike, but we took a couple of side trips and a jaunt on the "Frying Pan" trail which more than doubled our mileage.  It was a great hike by any standards.  Afterwards I read that the "Cohab" Canyon got it's name as a hideout for the Mormon Polygamists who practiced Cohabitation, not sure if I believe that, but it's a good story ?

Solution cavities in the sandstone look like swiss cheese

A Hoodoo formation on the Frying Pan trail

A trail view

Another trail view
A view in the canyon

The camera was level, it's the landscape that is sloped.  In the distance
on the right is a peak called Ferns Nipple.

Wednesday was a cool, cloudy day that deteriorated into light rain and even snow showers at times.  We started off going to the 10 AM geology talk at the visitors center.  It was done by a very enthusiastic, cute, young woman and I was thinking; this geology thing is pretty cool, why didn't I do this.  Of course, I can't complain, everything has worked out pretty good for me.  

In the interest of scheduling another mail delivery, picking up a few things at the "Chuck Wagon General Store" and getting a phone signal we took a ride to the nearby town of Torrey.  Torrey is a small town, of around 200 people that I would call quaint.  The general store is fairly well stocked, like a real general store should be.  We then stopped at a bookstore/coffee shop, Roberts Roost, that was very cool, good coffee, deserts, books, photos, gift items and guitars.  The temperature had dropped to the high 30's and it started to snow.  That was exciting, but I'm glad it didn't last.

Chuck Wagon general store has it all

Robert's Roost 

Beautifully built old church in Torrey

The sun returned on Thursday and we took the "Scenic Road" to the turnoff for the Grand Wash Trailhead.  It is a 2 1/2 mile trail that follows a wash into a narrows with towering rock walls on both sides and amazing views everywhere.  After that we drove to the end of the Scenic Road, (that's what they call it), as though the other roads are just normal ! There were beautiful big puffy white cumulous clouds today that were really accentuating the views.

Road to the Grand Wash trailhead

For perspective, that's Twinkles in the background

I'm standing under a huge overhang

Twinkles on the trail

I believe it was called the Temple

Can you find me standing in the center of this ?

I'm getting a better view

Friday's hike was to Hickman's Bridge with lots of wildflowers along the trail.  Natural Bridges are mainly formed by stream erosion, this one has a wash running undernealth.   The Bridge is huge, 133 feet long and 125 feet above the wash.  We then took the connecting "Rim Overlook trail", even though it is rated as strenuous.  We usually avoid those, but Twinkles is getting really strong.  This trail was pretty much an all uphill climb for 2 1/4 miles to the rim where a spectacular 360 degree view unfolded.  Also much wind, it felt like being in a wind tunnell.  It also felt like we were up really high (we were) as we could see snow straight out on the distant peaks on the horizon.  No doubt about though, we were dragging ass on the way back even being all downhill.

The Hickman Bridge

A rock that was signed by many people in the 1930's

Another Bridge view

Twinkles on a pedestal

Another great trail view

Everything is on such an immense scale

Saturday as Twinkles recuperates from yesterdays hike, I go on a 3 1/2 mile hike to the Cassidy Arch.  The Cassidy Arch was supposedly a hide out of Butch Cassidy.  It is a steep hike in the early going then levels off with some interesting slick rock terrain at the end.

It was a scary viewpoint

Beautifully eroded and colored sandstone

Beautiful Lichens on the slickrock

Trail view, this rock was just about balanced on the edge

Front view of Cassidy Arch

Trails end upper view of Cassidy Arch

The weather forecast for Saturday night and Sunday really took a dramatic turn for the worse, rain, snow and a high temperature in the mid 40's for Sunday.  This did prove accurate although in the Fruita campground, down in the valley, we only saw rain, ice cold rain !   You only had to drive a couple of miles uphill from the campground to hit the snow. 

Wildflowers were iced up

Snow on the mountains in the park
Capital Reef National Park is a well kept secret, I never heard of it until recently and it's another amazing Utah area comparable to Zion, Bryce, Arches and the others stars.  The Fruita campground is most scenic, convienent, cheap, but very busy with a high daily turnover.  We have also seen several excellent boondock sites on route 24 on the west side of the park and on Norton road on the east side for a more solitary camping experience.

Next stop is the town of Price, Utah for a short stay at a full hookup campground with fairly negative reviews, but there isn't much else in the area.  I don't really go much on the reviews, it seems that there are many negative minded people out there who just delight in writing bad reviews.

Back to civilization for a spell,
Twinkles and Slick

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