Gorgeous site at the end of loop B
Capitol Reef is ridiculous. It is over the top, too much. I mean, come on. Stop it already. There are too many breathtaking views to describe and not enough words in the thesaurus to write anything reasonable about this place. There must be poetry dedicated to this wonder of the world, but I am neither a poet, nor a photographer, so all you’ll get here are a bajillion iPhone pictures and a log of what we did while here.
And first off, I will end the suspense of the wind advisory travel. Short version: Honda Passports rock. I think this was about as intense as the wind storm I drove through with the Acura several years ago. I think the Passport handled better. And given we were driving into headwinds a lot of the time, getting 15.5 mpg is not too bad. I wonder if it’s the higher ground clearance or wider stance, but all I know is that we didn’t get pushed around at all. Winning in wind.
Highway 24 is just beautiful here
The drive along highway 24 was spectacular, even while windy. The previously flat stretches of landscape slowly begin to rise as you continue west, until you come into the last few miles of canyon before the park. Then you’re driving through gorgeous gorges all the way there.
Richard has been excited about Fruita campground since we started planning this. In fact, every time he has said the word, he’s done a squeee face and flapped a little. It has lived up to every expectation and then some. Our site is spacious and sits at the foot of the loop so you can stare right at the canyon wall while you chill in your Nemo chairs in the shade. Right there the journey is worth the price of admission.
Looking down on Fruita from the first lookout
After getting set up, we did the Fremont River trail, but I only made it to the first of two overlooks. It starts out pleasantly, following the river with periods of shade. Once you get to the gate though, it climbs up the side of the canyon wall and is very sun exposed and up up up. Once we made it to the overlook, I told Richard I was tapping out and cut him loose to go check out the second one. It was only another quarter mile or so, but I was done. Plus, it was still super windy and I was ready to be on the ground. We had a great Blue Apron dinner and watched “Galaxy Quest” so that we could be excited when the crew went to Goblin Valley.
Hard to get any more scenic
Friday Richard rode the Scenic Road and I drove it. I thought we’d already seen the scenic road and had a hard time believing the extent of how freaking scenic that drive is. It’s just crazy. At the end, we caught the unpaved road that leads to the Capitol Gorge Trail. Again I love the off roadiness of Bruce2, although I did see plenty of minivans and sedans doing the same drive. I just feel we “looked” better out there.
At the trailhead, there is a vault toilet and a shaded sitting area. The trail itself goes about a mile down the canyon wash, with one spur trail taking you to “The Tanks.” That’s a .2 mile climb up to some natural rock basins that usually hold water. They are dry now, but the park rangers will tell you not to walk through them because there are species of fairy shrimp whose eggs can sit there dried out for ten years and still survive.
Family of Bighorn Sheep
The rest of the trail only continues another maybe quarter mile past that spur and I’m glad we did it because we spotted a family of bighorn sheep with the most adorable baby. Dad was just standing in the middle of the trail ahead of us when I saw him. He then bounded up to the rock wall and stared at us disapprovingly until we passed by and left his family in peace. That was cool.
Richard rode the scenic road the other direction and we gaped in awe again as we viewed the landscape from the other side. We went to a ranger talk that afternoon so we could learn a little more about the geography. The ranger had some nice visual aids to help explain the tectonic forces at work that caused all this. It gets its name “Reef” from the fact that it acted as a barrier to travel, much like a barrier reef would do in the ocean. The “Capitol” part comes from one of the sandstone domes that early explorers decided looked like a Capitol building. And the layers of multicolored exposed rock are the result the great subduction and uplift caused by the “Laramide Orogeny,” which happened between 75 and 35 million years ago. Capitol Reef is called a Waterpocket Fold, which is a kind of “Monocline,” and the west side has been lifted over 7,000 feet higher than corresponding layers to the east.
Lastly on Friday, after nappy time for me, I made a makeshift Blue Apron. You can’t always get kale or red grapes or shallots on the road, so I’m learning how to make substitutions with things like green beans, green onions, and red pears. Then we took in the sunset at a place called Sunset Point. That seemed like something I would be interested in. Pictures don’t do it justice, with the enormous rock pillars casting shadows on the multicolored reef wall as the sun went down. It was just beautiful. Also, it had 2 bars of LTE at Panorama Point. Sweet.
View from Cohab Canyon Trail
Our last day was Saturday and Richard hiked the Cohab Canyon overlook trail in the morning. I had zero interest in that one because it starts with a straight up vertical climb. That was a great one for him to do solo and he did an excellent job not getting lost. Meanwhile, I showered and washed my pants using the Scrubba and a clothes line idea I wanted to try out. He also did great adhering to his ETR and we headed out to nearby Torrey for a food shopping day and to get out of the heat. He didn’t get enough exercise hiking a vertical trail, so he biked the 11 miles while I drove and tried to upload photos when I got into service. That was successful (though slow) enough that I was able to get caught up on the blog. The shopping adventure was both a fail and a triumph in that I had forgotten all of the recipe cards I use to create a shopping list. Also, the tiny store in Torrey didn’t have a lot so we pressed on to the “big city” of Loa where there was a good food market. I recreated the last four recipes I’d done from memory and just shopped for those. I don’t know, I was impressed with myself for that.
Road to the Grand Wash trailhead
After dinner, we went out for our last hike in this beautiful place. The Grand Wash trail is perfect to do around 7pm on a hot summer night because the sun will have gone down enough to put the whole place in shade. You get to do a bit of off roading before you get to the trailhead and from there it is a gentle walk down the wash. We made it most of the way and got through the “Narrows,” which was what I was interested in. If you keep going another half mile, you’ll hit the other side of it, which is on highway 24. Instead, we turned around and walked back, getting to the car just after sunset with plenty of light. What a perfect hike to round out a perfect trip.
What a totally gorgeous place!
This was one of our all time favorite national parks, and favorite campground. It is deep in the middle of spectacular scenery, with lush green grass and a running stream nearby. There was plenty of shade from the trees and you can even buy pies and cinnamon rolls from a little building in the campground called “Giffords Farm.” You can pick fruit when it is available from the orchard too. I guess the only downside is the lack of cell service, but that can be an upside too. It was just awesome and we were sad to leave.
Total miles: 70.6, 15.5. Site B 27. Nice site. No hookups but good solar with afternoon shade. Great views, plenty of space between sites. Good dump with potable water. No cell service unless you go to Panorama Point. Good fast WiFi at the visitor center. Grey water/rinse sink at the bathroom. Pies and baked goods available at the Giffords Farm building, but they sell out fast!