Sunday, June 17, 2012

Capitol Reef National Park (Torrey, Utah)

We moved from the North Rim to Torrey, UT on Saturday. We are about 10 miles from Capitol Reef National Park. We'll be here a week. The drive carried us through some beautifully remote areas. We got settled in at the Thousand Lakes RV Park,

Nice site with a red rock view

We normally wouldn't be excited about a campground gift shop, but this one is so unique.
We'll be coming home with a few "trinkets' for sure.

and then the weather declined.  Initially it was breezy but then it picked up terrific momentum. A cold front spent most of the night blowing through.  It rocked the camper (15,000lbs) and we "enjoyed" temperatures in the high 30's. I'd guess the winds were in the 30 mile per hour range or more, who knows.  But I'm saying mighty windy. Now a side bar to our location.  As we approached Torrey we realized there was a wildfire of significant size in the mountains to the south.  We can see the glow at night.  I''m sure the wind was a set back.

Sunday was clear, cool and sunny.  We spent much of the day getting acquainted with the park.  We drove much of the park and did a few short hikes and enjoyed some "sure enough" breathtaking views along the park's scenic drive.  Lets say the "rocks" are the most beautiful blend of earth tones.  The area is huge, ruggedly majestic and mighty unique.  I can only babble about the beauty.  The pictures will have to do the talking.

We were just wondering why it is called Capitol Reef when we came upon this explanation

We hadn't been in the park but a few minutes when we came upon Duane's first chance to explore.

Off he goes to explore the Twin Rocks

Made it!

Another climbing opportunity quickly presented itself

Duane....this means you!!!

Along the Scenic Drive

More Scenic Drive

And More

It was awesome!!  Nothing more to say, just ride along with us

Aside from the beauty, there is an interesting history within the ragged canyons of the area. Back in the 1880s some Mormons settled an area where the Fremont River and Sulphur Creek join producing a fertile valley . Their response to this unique resource located in the mist of an arid mountainous area (now called Fruita) was to plant orchards of cherries, apricots, peaches, pears and apples. Visitors today are encouraged to pick (when in season) fruit produced from these or relatives of these original trees. Pretty cool!  The historic Gifford Homestead is also found in the Fruita area and is typical of rural Utah farmhouses of the early 1900s.

You can visit an old farmhouse and buy crafts and homemade pies at the gift shop.  We resisted the pies but just had to have a small cup of ice cream that we ate with a small wooden spoon.  Haven't done that in awhile.

Gifford Homestead Museum and Store

We had cherry ice cream.  Yum!

Monday we returned to the park.  I have to tell you right now that I normally review Debbie's pictures before I start blogging.  It helps to jog my pitiful memory.  Her pictures are great.  I think you will agree.  But it's an understatement and a bit of a cliche to say that the pictures don't do the scenery justice.  But it's so true.  I think the beauty of the area is significantly unique due to the enormity of the space.  I guess I just wish you all could be here, or maybe you have, to enjoy the place first hand.  But I'll continue.  Primarily our priority here is to hike. Today we picked up the pace some.  We started with the Capitol Gorge trail which is in the far SE corner of the park. The drive down the rough road to the trail head was impressive.

Driving to the trail head at Capitol Gorge

The trail itself is 2.5 miles round trip. The route follows a wash with enormous canyon walls on each side.


Half way down the wash we come to some interesting Petroglyphs,

and the "Pioneer Register." It's an area where people from as far back as 1888 have etched their names in the rock. Today we would call it graffiti, this is called historic.

The final destination of the hike was to be some "tanks" (rock depressions that hold water).  The tanks were dry but I still felt like it was a notable destination.

After completing our round trip we had some lunch and then started our second hike of the day on the Golden Throne Trail. Both trailheads were accessed from the same parking area. This hike was to be 4 miles round trip.  According to the hike description we received from the Visitor's Center the hike was to have 700 feet of elevation gain. As you can see the sign says 1100 feet.  To me it felt more like 700, but Debbie is convinced it was 1100  (psst... our own GPS indicated 700 feet).  The trail took us up rock face, along cliffs and climbed steadily. 

You can't really reach the "Throne".  That's it in the background.

The ultimate destination was primarily panoramic views. Again the scenery was spectacular!  Have you noticed the BLUE sky? BEAUTIFUL!!

On the way out of the park we came to a picnic area with a gaggle of mule deer. They are obviously local residents of the park and have no fear of us humanoids.

After we returned to the campground I found that we had a flat rear tire, on the outside of the dually. I was surprised that I experienced nothing while driving the truck that would indicate a flat tire. I said darn and got busy changing the tire.  I've never changed a dually so I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  Further, it's a new truck so I have to find the tire tools, jack and figure out access to the spare tire.  Then there's the challenge of whether the sorry little jack will lift the truck.  When the dust settled (quite literally) the whole process went quite smoothly.  It was a good learning experience.

The next morning I take the tire to a repair place that's maybe 500 yards away and is somehow hooked up with the campground folks.  This will feel like a lot of talk about a tire but soon you will understand why I'm giving the subject so much air time. The tire repair guy's name is Biggi.  We can't find any leak and Biggi concludes the valve must have stuck open allowing a slow leak. I returned to the campground and prepare to put that tire back on the truck to ensure the tire didn't go flat as a spare.  As I slide under the truck to position the jack I find that one of the tires on the other set of duallys is also flat, compliments of a hole in the sidewall about the size of my fist.  Torn by a rock on the rough wash road. (I now know to reduce the tire pressure if we plan to be on really rough roads.) So instead of riding on six tires we were riding on four.  $340 later we have a new tire.  So now for the icing on the cake.  Three days later we're on a scenic drive, no rocks but plenty of wash board surface.  While stopped at a scenic spot I just casually check the tires.  ANOTHER FLAT TIRE!!!! This one a torn valve stem.  I made the change there in the middle of the road.  Hello Biggi.  The only blessing of this scenario is that I am now a dually tire changing fool!!

Back to Capitol Reef.  On Tuesday we hiked the Grand Wash Trail, 5 miles round trip.  Early into the hike I thought we'd slipped into the town of Bedrock. I was looking for Barney Rubble and Fred
Flintstone. The vertical walls (as opposed to horizontal walls) of the canyon had these huge holes washed/eroded out that resembled apartments.

 If you study these unique formations hard enough and use your imagination you can "find" all kinds of things.

What do you see here?

A face?

Maybe a bear claw?

Very cool! But then the canyon walls grew to (my estimate) 300 to 500 feet tall on each side. You just had to be there.

We wrapped up the day chilling back at the camper.

Wednesday we did a short 2 mile hike to the very spectacular Hickman Bridge.

The "natural" bridge.

I took a little side trip to get on top of the bridge.  I  made it, but I scared Debbie to death doing it.  Sorry sweetie!!

Do you see Duane?

He's at the top!

Thursday was mostly a down day.  I did spend a couple hours riding on the Great Western Trail.  It's a huge system of trails in the red rock canyons you saw earlier behind our camper.  Very challenging and a great work out. Friday we drove a 124 mile scenic drive (Notom Rd to Burr Trail to Hwy 12).

The beginning of Notom Rd was paved

and scenic.

Quickly it is no longer paved.

But still scenic

The "boys" came along for the ride.  Bo helped with the driving,

while Laska was content to enjoy the comfy backseat.

The beginning of the Burr Trail.  It reminded us of our Canyonlands jeep trip. 

On to Hwy 12...and totally different scenery. 

You just gotta love southern Utah! After we returned to the campground I got back on my bike and returned to the red canyons.  I was only 3-4 miles into my ride when I came upon a couple walking.  It was quickly apparent that there was a problem.  The blood running down the man's face was the first give away.  They had rolled their ATV and asked that I go for help. They had been walking for two hours. I did and returned with their family members to get them back to the campground. They were quickly picked up by an ambulance. The next day I learned that the woman was ONLY beaten up a bit but the fellow got 10 stitches in his face and shattered his wrist.  Surgery is in his future.

That evening we returned to Capitol Reef to try to catch some sunset photos....the sun didn't entirely cooperate...but we still took a few shots.

Saturday morning we tried to buy out the campground Gift Store that we loved so much and then we moved to our volunteer job at the Red Canyon Visitor's Center over by Bryce Canyon.  Our campsite is in a Forest Service admin/service yard.  It's got to be the ugliest site known to man.  Regardless, it's going to be great spending the summer in this area and everyone we've met so far today has been delightful.

Happy Summer!



  1. WOW...What awesome scenery. Thanks for sharing your pictures with us! Keep on havin' fun.

  2. How wonderful!!! Brings back the BEST MEMORIES! I just wish we had hiked experienced some amazing sites that we missed! Maybe next time!!!

  3. Great pictures!! Thank you for sharing them. This is where we had planned to be starting in the spring of this year but we had to postpone. Really enjoyed your tour!! And I would have had heart failure if Charley had climbed on top of those rock formations like Duane did!!