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Published: April 29th 2013
View from just west of Hanksville at park boundary
We woke to leaden skies and a frosty 25 degree morning. It gave us a chance to break out the cold weather gear that we had pulled out of mothballs back in Florida. We've had the same winter clothing for 20-years now and in that time we've probably worn them all of 6 weeks. I know; Poor us. We headed westward through broad canyons and striated escarpments. Huge mesas appeared, their tops intricately carved by erosion into fantastic shapes. We passed one called 'The Factory' but to my eyes it looked like Monte Cassino before the bombings of 1944 had reduced it to rubble. Once again we were the only people on the highway though we did see one RV that had pulled off onto a gravel park service road in the distance. They had one helluva view going for em' out there.
We drove alongside the fast flowing Fremont River. Mule deer drank from cold eddys between boulders. A number of Mormon settlers tried to make a go of it here. Most failed. Some of them planted fruit orchards which still exist today as the town of Fruita, inside Capitol Reef Park. The town was purchased for the park
Capitol Reek Park HQ
Great place to stock up on pies, preserves and prairie dogs. But inexplicably; No Prairie Dog Pie!
in 1955. There are 2,500 trees all tended to by the Park Service. At harvest-time park visitors are invited to forage. People who take fruit with them are expected to pay a nominal charge. Among the offerings at Fruita are cherries, apricots, peaches, pears, and apples, with some plum, mulberry, almond, and walnut trees as well. Only a couple of buildings are left of the old settlement. The one-room schoolhouse as well as the Gifford family home and barn are open to visitors.
The Park HQ is a small place. We were never asked to pay any fees for visiting the park nor are there any gates marking the park boundaries. There is a 16-mile scenic loop road which charges a small fee. In the HQ they push a lot of fruit pies and jams made from the local produce. There is a small campground next to the HQ. There were few campers there but a multitude of Prairie Dogs made their presence known as they popped up and down out of their tunnels with frantic Whack-A-Mole enthusiasm. There are quite a few trails in the park offering something for all regardless of your level of fitness or lack
Layers of history exposed by the Waterpocket Fold.
thereof. The terrain is tough but rewarding. Panoramic views and slit canyons abound. The air is thin and crystal clear. A decent pair of binoculars are a definite plus. Luckily our Brit friends; Dina and Zuby had given us a very nice pair back in Bali which have taken up permanent residence in our car.
The formations in Capitol Reef are part of the 'Waterpocket Fold' which is geologically classified as a 'Monocline' or a wrinkle in the Earth's crust. 50 to 70 Million years ago the west side of the pocket lifted more than 7,000 feet. Waterpocket refers to the natural basins that form in the soft sandstone and hold water. 10,000 feet of sedimentary strata are exposed as well as 200 Million years of geological history. It's called 'Capitol' because of some Navajo sandstone (white) domes that can be seen along the Fremont. The cliffs are called reefs because they were considered an impediment to travel back in the day. The first scouts out here had their work cut out for them. There must be hundreds of dead-end box canyons that one would have had to deal with. The condition of the roadway here is impeccable. It
Family of Ten
That's right. Mom, Dad and 2 babies slept inside. The boys slept in a cliff face and the girls got the wagon.
would be something to see the trails as they originally existed. While we were able to pull off of the road at will to take photos and snoop around I would think that the situation during summer would be quite different as a flood of tourists would test the two-laner to its limits.
We headed west towards the Escalante.
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