Capitol Reef National Park May 21-23rd 2015

 

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We decamped from SLC on the evening of Thursday May 21st en-route to Capitol Reef National Park near the town of Torrey, UT. This would be our second trip to this park in the 8 years we’ve lived in Utah. We hoped this trip would be better than the last which has drifted into our collective memories as being too hot and too much sun, some orchards but not much else.

We rolled into the Fruita campground too late to get a spot (site C was closed too, leaving us with 30 fewer campsite than we expected.) There is a lot of BLM land surrounding the park so we ventured out in that area to see what we could snag, we ended up on the banks of Pleasant Creek.

On Friday we ventured back into the park and stopped in at Fruita for some cinnamon rolls and coffee. By 10am we were on the Cassidy Arch trail, it was a very beautiful morning, cool with no rain in site. The Cassidy in the trail name refers to Butch Cassidy, the outlaw, who supposedly would hide out around these parts after a heist.

By 1:30 we had made it back to the Jeep and traveled to the Capitol Gorge trailhead, by 2pm we were on the Pioneer Register trail. The register is a rock wall that many Mormon pioneers had carved their names into in the 1800s. There were a few petroglyphs nearby as well.

On the way out of the Registry trail we were flagged down by an older couple as we rounded the bend exiting the trailhead. We were warned that an RV had attempted to turn around in a wash and had gotten stuck, perfectly blocking the only road in or out of the Capitol Gorge area. We were stuck in other words, miles from civilization in the desert. Too far to walk to alert anyone to our predicament, but luckily just as we stopped a man on a motorcycle came through and was able to get around the RV and alert the park rangers.

It took about an hour for a ranger  to appear, by this time the line for egress of the area was backed up a long ways. I tried to lend a hand in the interim in digging this guy out along with other various assorted Europeans and desert rats. No beuno, even with about 10-12 guys pushing and digging this RV was embedded deep in the washes bank. Rear wheel drive with the back right wheel spinning in the air.

Let’s just say the ranger had an R-rate talk with the operator of this recreational vehicle when he arrived on the scene. It was another 3 hours waiting on a tow truck to *back down* the 5 mile one-lane road to the site. It still took another 45 minutes to free the RV and start the exodus back to our hotels rooms, Torrey restaurants and tents out in BLM land.

I do not want to see what this guy had to pay at the end of this: towing fees, damage to a rental RV and any park fines for breaking the law (the entrance to Capitol Gorge road says no vehicles over 20 ft long — this RV was at least 30 ft.)

We did get a great view of 3-4 Big Horn sheep (our second sighting of the year!) while exiting the area, but the line of cars behind was so long (we were the 3rd vehicle to get out) we dared not stop for fear of being ran over. So no pictures unfortunately. Some more photos around the park, in the museum and orchards.

The next day (Saturday) we were rained out of our plans of heading to Cathedral Valley (a 40 mile off-road drive — not good to try in inclement weather.)

We made the best of it by driving the full length of Scenic UT-12, one of the prettiest roads in America (so the sign says.)

It was right.

My new future life goal is to become a National Forest ranger in the Boulder Mountain system and stay in the adorable cabin as seen below. We were treated to biscuits and trail maps by the current proprietors and stay a bit to warm ourselves by the fire and watch the snow fall. Yes, snow — when we left Capitol Reef it was 80* and raining, at the top of Boulder Mountain the weather was a bit more on the chillier side.

We also drove by Escalante National Monument and the towns of Boulder, UT and Escalante, UT. Future destinations for this summer.

 

Zion National Park January 23-25 2015

I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve visited Zion, it must be the 5th or 6th time in the 8 years I’ve lived in the Beehive State.

The weekend started by heading down to Springdale Friday night. We stopped in at the Zion Brew Pub — which is remarkable in itself. You can have a pint at the bar and take a few steps to enter one of the most beautiful places on earth. What could be better than this?

I would suggest the burger if you just need to get fueled up for the trails. The Zion Pale Ale is excellent, though the Jamaican Lager not so much. I used to really enjoy that brew but it’s appeal has waned on me in the ensuing years.

It was a fun atmosphere at the pub, including a pair of musicians from Georgia who were entertaining the small crowd of Springdale locals. “Brandy is a fine girl” by Looking Glass is now a certified inside-joke between S and I.

The next morning, S and I got up and ventured into the park around 8am (after some espresso naturally — which is easily acquired before entrance). We stopped in the visitors center and had the place pretty much to ourselves. We took a walk by the Virgin river and found some good pictures in the morning sun.

Next we ventured up the canyon in our adventure Prius. This was a treat as typically you cannot drive in the canyon on your own and must rely on the park shuttle (not a bad thing).

We stopped at the Angel’s Landing trail head and noticed that several other people had the same idea. On the spur of the moment we decided we should give the trail another go and we were not disappointed. It was probably the most pleasant time to make the hike. The temps never got much above 60 and the sun was not as oppressive as it can be on that trail during the warmer months. It was really a photographers dream but we handled ourselves fine with just a Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5.

I decided not to do the full hike out to Angel’s Landing when we reached Lookout point. Instead S stayed there I continued on the West Rim trail for about another hour. I found some really nice spots up in the Navajo sandstone, including a wooded area off the trail a bit hidden in the afternoon shade. Found a lot of wildlife evidence, deer scat, moutain lion tracks (including kitten!) and such but no actual wildlife. The full West Rim trail is on my todo list for a future visit. Hopefully that comes soon.

After coming back down from that trail we had just enough time to drive up to the head of the canyon and walk the riverside Temple of Sinawava trail. It was mostly shaded at this time of day and a bit chilly. Many of the canyon walls were still weeping from the heat of the day.

Sunday morning we took the scenic route out of the park through the old WPA tunnel. On the far side of the tunnel we stopped and did the canyon overlook trail. I foolishly did this in my daily wear boots while holding a coffee but it all worked out. On this trail the biggest view was actually a herd of bighorn sheep lazily grazing in the morning sun. That was a first for us and amazing to watch for roughly a half an hour.

Bonus: On the way back to SLC we stopped in at Bryce Canyon NPS and was delighted to find it decorated in a soft tapestry of snow (but not covered).