So arriving at Capitol Reef we learned that what we had been fearing all along was going to eventuate - the first really cold snap of our trip.  A big storm was scheduled to arrive within a few days of our getting to Cap Reef, so we had better hit the highlights and be decisive about what we wanted to achieve while we were there. First decision was to hit the outdoor hot tub at the Best Western and enjoy a cold brew while the sun set golden on the mountain cliffs surrounding us. BTW its an interesting experience buying liquor in Utah - need to find a state run facility which just feels weird to walk in to. Does Uncle Sam pay attention to whether I prefer an ale or a lager? After four nights of camping and roughing it it was blissful to be able to ponder over these questions while eagerly anticipating a real bed for the night and the ham steak and egg breakfast that was to follow.
Next day we checked out the local scene. Awesome valley with the Fremont River flowing through it. The sound of rushing water seemed so foreign. Not sure why the river was up but it was running red. Rained somewhere. They also had what was the best petroglyphs of the trip (as opposed to pictographs which are painted onto the rock). Lots of bighorn sheep and people camping carved into the rock face 1000 years ago by Fremont Indians who also irrigated the valley. Unfortunately a rockfall took out some of them at some unknown moment lost in history - but lots of good ones still exist. The consistent flow of the Fremont also attracted many early settlers to this part of the valley, mostly Mormon. They found it suitable to all sorts of stone fruit as still evidenced today by apricots, pears and apples. Turns out when they are in season it is free to pick as many as you can eat on the spot. Another trip to the area is starting to write itself. The fall colors were really prevalent in the area as well.
We got off the beaten track on a 30-odd mile dirt road headed to the trail head we had picked for an overnight out-and-back. Pretty cool to go through some cattle farms and see the locals working the stock on horseback. Ollie handled the road admirably despite the lack of experience by the driver. We followed the waterfold, which is one of the big draw cards of the national park and a major reason why the park exists today. It runs something like 90 miles north to south and is really hard to describe. Its not so much that the earth has folded over itself. More that all of the layers are very evident. My impression is that it was a really big fold in the earth (think bump) in the center of a techtonic plate that was then eroded over time to expose layers in shades of red, green, orange, white and purples.
Our hike was a 15-miler with the out trip being to a narrows, and the return trip along a ridge overlooking the waterfold. Unfortunately for our feet six miles of the 15 were along a 4wd road that doubled as a dry creekbed. On the tail end of 50 miles in 5 days this was brutal. It improved once we left the 4WD trail. Highlights were the unmarked petroglyphs we stumbled upon on the canyon wall, the yellow agate spearhead that seemed really out of place amongst the sedimentary stones around it, a few arches (after Arches NP... yawn) and the narrows, which was a pretty cool scramble through some 3-4 wide sections of the river that were maybe 20 feet to 50 feet high before they opened up into the 400 foot high canyon we had been following. We had a hard scramble up some unstable cliff to reach our camping site, but it was worth it. 400 foot view on one side into the canyon, 1000+ feet on the other looking down onto the waterfold. Very neat. Another evening of spotting a multitude of planes and the odd shooting star or constellation. Next day we had a tough hike out. Major highlight was our snack break when we spotted a golden eagle soaring just 50 feet away from us. We watched this thing for maybe 10 minutes as it worked its way along the canyon hunting. It flapped its wings possibly a half dozen times. Awesome. Very happy to mark down this sighting. When we finally reached the car we opted to
 





Leave a Reply.