Thursday, December 22, 2011

Capitol Reef National Park, Where the Rangers Have an Inferiority Complex

Have you ever been to Capitol Reef National Park?  Yeah, Lindsey and I hadn't, either.  It turns out there is a reason a lot of people don't go there-- it is in the stinkin' middle of nowhere.

When you have time, though, and this is the view for the drive in, why not?

Hello, black speck, so glad you popped out again.  This was supposed to be about the cool moon above the rock formation, but all I can see now is the spot.

We saw these same striations for 70+ miles.  It looked like sand, but it wasn't sifting around like sand.  Very interesting looking.

We drove through more desolate country than I have ever been through in my life.  There were no signs for the park, either, so we started to wonder if we had somehow found a wormhole into another world.

Just as our laughter was beginning to get a little nervous, we finally found The Official Sign.  Hallelujah!

Rocks!  I have to admit, by this point in the trip, I was getting a little blasé about rocks.  At this point in writing about rocks, I'm sort of running out of words to describe them.  Capitol Reef was amply endowed with amazing rocks, though.

And it had some of the most beautiful tree color we'd seen, helped by the gorgeous sunlight that day.

Rocks + Trees + Sun = Beauteous. 

Capitol Reef is named for a fold in the earth's crust.  It is an amazing example of its kind, we were told.  Unfortunately, we never went on any of the hikes that took you to a view of that fold.  Here's a link to the geology, which might explain all those pits in the rocks above.  I've got lots of pictures of them coming up, so if you want a real explanation, rely on the National Park Service, not me.

This white rock was really white.  Blindingly so, in the sun.

This national park had a twist-- remnants of a former Mormon settlement and fruit orchard.  Here's the Fruita school.  Isn't it adorable?  It's also the only national park with a working fruit orchard.  When the fruit is in season (not November, unfortunately), each visitor is allowed to pick one bushel of fruit.  Kind of a fun thing to do with kids, I would think!

I wonder if the teacher ever worried about landslides.

More bee-you-ti-ful trees.  Maybe I was getting a little homesick for NY at that point, because I was in love with the trees.

A farming relic!  I mostly took this picture for my dad.  This picture was snapped before my husband became a de facto old tractor nut by buying TWO old tractors during his Black Friday shopping!  (Details coming up soon!  In my Thanksgiving post!  Which I'm hoping to get up before Christmas!)

We stopped into the visitor's center, right as a huge tour bus pulled in.  We made a mad dash for the restrooms, hoping to beat the rush-- but there was no rush!  The tourists got out, took a picture of the sign in FRONT of the visitor's center, and got back in the bus.  Not one of them set foot inside the visitor's center.  This is where the rangers' inferiority complexes come into play.  They were deeply disappointed that the only happening group of visitors was going to ignore them completely.  One of the rangers started on a huge rant about how they had probably got out at ARCHES!  And ZION!  And all those other places with their "one trick attractions" and on and on!  I am prepared to admit the coolness of Capitol Reef... but Arches does have a few things happening, too!  I think NPS needs to rotate their employees more so the Capitol Reef rangers don't die choking on all their unspoken Fascinating Lectures.  Anyway, they were happy to answer all our questions!  :-)

We decided to hike into the Hickman Bridge, a natural bridge.  We started off beside this beautiful river.

Nice wall to keep you out of the river!

We started seeing these huge black rocks, seeming to have no relevance to the landscape around them.

They were quite warm, soaking up the sun.

There were LOTS of them.  Lindsey and I trotted out several plausible (in our mind) theories about how they came to be.  The answer, according to the visitor center later?  Volcanic rocks from about 60 miles away.  The real mind-blowing part is that geologists think they rolled 60 miles in one day.  I have no idea what they base this on, but it's a crazy thought!

A little tiny land bridge!  If there wasn't the possibilities of snakes, and I was about 100 pounds smaller, it looks like a fun place to crawl through!


See, more water-eroded holes!

And more!

This is Capitol Dome.  Any idea why?


Beautiful color in this rock, just like honey!

This one looks vaguely obscene.

Lindsey in her snazzy running skirt, and running leggings, and her Camelbak.

Me?  The wardrobe was a little depleted by this point.  I had only brought a couple of t-shirts (I was still in late fall/winter mindset, and packed lots of turtlenecks), so I ended up wearing pajama shirts most days.  (My "pajama" shirts are just old t-shirts, so this wasn't too much of a stretch.)  I only own three pairs of pants, one vaguely sporty (see: Zion, Arches pictures); one in a peach color I wouldn't be caught dead in, but took for being warm while sleeping in the van; and these only marginally better sweatpants.  I suppose if I had ever bothered running a half marathon like Lindsey, I could justify cooler sport clothes.  Maybe if I buy the cool exercise clothes, I will magically be able to run a half marathon, hmm?

First sight of the bridge!  Kind of hard to pick out in this picture, actually.

Getting closer!

Up under the bridge, looking back towards Capitol Dome.

These rocks at the base had Lindsey a little skeptical about the engineering soundness of the bridge.

Hmm, a might sketch.

It was a great day for taking pictures of bridge silhouettes against the sky.  So we did.

Lots of them.

Lindsey went WAY off the trail (tsk, tsk!) for some cool shots.

It looks like it has chisel marks.

But we already knew it was sculpted by an amazing creator, right?

Then, we took another trail back down.

I loved this little bush, with its waxy leaves.  I wonder if it would suit the climate here?  I mean, 7" inches of rain annually sure sounds like the weather around here!

Lindsey striking off the path (AGAIN!) for a view.

So then I had to go join her.  And it was quite pretty.

And, we're back to the river!

Then, off on the sixteen mile scenic drive.  (I think it was 16 miles?  The mileage for all the Scenic Drives is starting to blur.)

More of the sand-that-isn't-sand stuff.

And... here's where the day took a down turn.  Lindsey decided to go on the dirt scenic drive at the END of the scenic drive.  Despite the fact that we were driving a rental minivan that had the clearance of your Granny's Lincoln.

Lindsey was the one renting the car, though, so I couldn't put my foot down.  Off we went.  And it was pretty cool.

And then, I started to feel really sick.  Like, I-want-to-die sick.

But, Lindsey was enjoying every minute of these amazing rocks.

Once we got back to the visitor's center and walked around in the cool air for a while, I felt absolutely fine.  I don't know why I hadn't figured out I was carsick.  I could have got out for a minute or two and saved Lindsey an enormous amount of whining.  :-)  In retrospect, it was a cool ride!

Then, it was time for our traditional dash-around-the-park-at-sunset trip!  For once, though, sunset made sense!  Except sunset was almost over by this point, so we literally ran the 1/3 of a mile uphill.  Bet that would have garnered some hits on YouTube!

It was worth it, though.

I love the etching on this rock.  It looks very purposeful, but the visitor's center had closed, so I couldn't go back and ask them what had caused this.
Lindsey, defying death by standing on a projecting rock!

Nice play to defy death, though.

See that bench, there?  We sat on it for a while.  It was pretty awesome.

The last light fading.

Then, an interesting evening.  We were both desperately hungry, as food for the day had consisted of some trail mix and pepperoni.  Maybe it was time to treat ourselves to a steak dinner.  Ha, ha, ha.  Remember how southern Utah shuts down on the off season?  Our first "town" on our drive on Scenic Route 12 was Torrey, Utah.  The only dining there was Subway, which wasn't that appealing after the disastrous Bryce Subway experience.  Never mind, I'm sure there's lots more!  Yeah, there wasn't.  We went over mountain passes with names like "Hogback", and while we didn't drive this specific portion, one of the byways of Route 12 is named "Hell's Backbone Byway."  We are talking seriously twisty, steep, nerve-racking road.  I'm sure it was gorgeous in the daylight, but when the temperature is just under freezing and you can't see anything except the occasional amazingly steep drop-off, it is wearying.  We finally got supper around 8:00 in Escalante.  Other than being an obvious drag on our waitress's social life, it was a lovely hamburger dinner.  Then, soldiering onward.  Our intended goal was Cedar City, Utah, about 4 1/2 hours from Capitol Reef.  Around 9:45, I was nodding off and Lindsey was getting sick of driving twisty roads.  Or maybe she was getting sick of my "silent" panics.  Either way, we stopped in a little mom-and-pop motel just east of Bryce.  Only the "mom" in the picture was nuttier than a fruitcake.  We went into the hotel office, and used the provided phone to summon the night clerk.  Pretty soon, we heard a four-wheeler swish in the gravel outside, and this giant of a woman comes running inside.  She had some sort of neurological tic, and she was never still.  Head twitching, eyes winking, dancing-- she had a whole repertoire.  After realizing she wasn't an extra in a horror film, I mostly felt amazed that she managed to run a hotel with this disorder, and impressed with her.  We asked to see a room, and they were spotless, odorless and huge.  Sold!  My generous understanding of her disorder only went so far, though.  I was so tired and it was so freaky, I did make sure the deadbolt was put in, and that I sent a text to Evan with our address.  Just in case.  Of course, nothing happened and we had a lovely night of sleep.  Then, up in the morning to clean the van out and somehow manage to cram all our stuff back into our meager suitcases.

Another gorgeous drive that morning.  This is Cedar Breaks National Monument.

The yurt Lindsey will live in, once she becomes so rich she can give up her career and become a NPS employee.

Even higher than the night before!  The road we had intended on taking to Cedar City had an abrupt road block and detour halfway through it, adding at least a half hour to our trip.  It was a beautiful detour, but I'm quite glad we didn't have to do it in the dark, while tired!

Thus, we detoured through Brian's Head, which I guess is a huge ski resort.  I have no idea if this rock is Brian's Head, but we can pretend it is.

And that concludes the pictorial journey.  Lindsey flew out from Las Vegas at 4:30 (she managed to check in 48 minutes before the flight, 3 minutes before she would have been turned away), and then I spent a lovely seven hours hanging out in the airport, waiting for my flight.  I considered hopping on a bus to see the sights, but having a large backpack and carry-on suitcase sort of takes the fun out of that plan.  I slept a bit, and read The Elegance of the Hedgehog, hoping nobody saw me crying at the end of the book.  (HIGHLY recommend that book, by the way!)  Very uneventful flights home, and then getting off the plane to four wildly enthusiastic children, which was one of the best parts of the whole trip!

Whew, now I just need to put up pictures of our lovely Thanksgiving, and Cheyenne's 8th birthday, and all the points in between!

1 comment:

Virginia said...

Every time I'm in some crazy impressive, but unfriendly for habitiation, place, I'm always amazed once again at the pioneers. What a crazy group of people! And can I tell you, I've applied for NPS jobs oh, approximately 10+ times. I want to live in a yurt!