Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Capitol Reef National Park

Yet another of Southern Utah's geological wonders. 

On the road from Moab, you traverse remote and mostly desolate Highway 24. Until, that is, you enter the Park. The drive suddenly takes on a jaw-dropping aspect.

Eponymous Capitol Dome

and impressive Chimney Rock.

I did some hiking within the Park but the intense heat, in the high-80s, greatly diminished the enjoyment.  On the Fremont River Trail, I simply turned back after finally admitting to myself I wasn’t enjoying all that sweating. 

One of the remarkable features of this semi-arid region is the oasis known as the Fruita District. It’s one of Nature’s ironies that a desert environment is so dominated by water.

How odd to find these lush orchards covered with fruit, ripe for the picking. 

The Fremont River provides irrigation for agriculture – a fact that many Mormon farmers duly noted as they settled the area.   

Fresh fruit pies are available at the historic Gifford House.

Mine was mixed berry. ;-)  Sorry no photos; it all happened so fast!

I particularly liked my boondocking spot about 8 miles outside the park. I was in ideal position to view Sunday's spectacular lunar eclipse.

It wasn't until I was going through the photos that I realized there were people on this far ridge, also observing.

If not for the heat, I would have stayed longer.  Instead, I opted for the altitude of Bryce Canyon National Park.  It was the right decision.   

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Delicate Arch and Canyonlands National Park

I’m currently outside Capitol Reef National Park in Torrey, Utah.  

With a population of 154, Torrey is the metropolis of this remote area.  No internet or services of any kind, really.  I’m writing this from the Wayne County Visitor Center – the only wi-fi in town.  And it’s taking enormous chunks of time and patience to upload these photos. 

But let me back up in time and document this amazing hike. 

Delicate Arch

The hike to Delicate Arch is magnificent! Completely worth the effort (even for those of us with vertigo).  I started early, but still the temperature rose over 20 degrees before the 2-hour hike was done.

The photo below shows the massive area of slick rock to traverse.  Note the ant-hill procession of people on the right.

Get through this narrowest part of the trail, round the bend, and a stunning sight awaits. 

Canyonlands Drive-By

Later that day, I visit nearby Canyonlands National Park, but with temps in the 90’s, I tour the park from the comfort of the GDB's air-conditioned driver’s seat.  It's all spectacular, but the view of Green River is particularly stunning.

The campground is full so there was no question of staying the night. But it works out well as I get a text from Jeanne that she is overnighting at Willow Springs Road with friend Lauralee. 

Capitol Reef National Park

Arrived at Capitol Reef yesterday and stayed the night at a fantastic boondock spot in Fishlake National Forest, just a mile from town and 10 miles from the Park entrance. 

If the skies are clear tonight, as they were last night, this will be an ideal site from which to view the lunar eclipse. 

My only neighbor.

Today I plan to do some hiking and visit the fruit orchards in the Fruita district of the Park.  Over the next week, I'll be moving ever deeper into this remote region.  It may be a while before the next post.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Arches National Park

There is a long line at the entrance.  I hardly mind, so happy am I to be here.

Once inside the Park, words failI won’t even try.

Balanced Rock

Double Arch

Perhaps Shakespeare could properly convey the silent drama of the erosive forces that form these geological wonders.

I spend the day hiking anywhere and everywhere, taking it all in. Along the way, I make another trail friend.

I pause in between hikes to reward myself in predictable ways.

Then it's back to work; though by mid-afternoon, the sun becomes merciless.

North Window

South Window

The Turret

My plan is to return early today to hike up to Delicate Arch. I want to get much closer than this photo taken from the Lower Viewpoint.  I'll hit the trail by 8 AM in order to avoid the worst of the heat. 

Not so fast. 

I'm so content later that evening with my quiet, starry boondock on Willow Springs Road.

Before bedtime, I stow my chair in the cargo area, situated above the propane tank, and notice the unmistakable smell of gas. Next I hear an ominous hissing coming from the tank.  I shut the propane off, grateful that I didn't wait till morning to put that chair away! 

I spend an endless morning online and on the phone working the problem.  And driving a total of 100 miles only to end up right back in Moab. Diagnosis: busted regulator.  I hope Delicate Arch will still be there.

As a veteran of many roadtrip break-downs, I've learned 3 things:

1. It's gonna happen
2. It sucks
3. It always works out

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Colorado National Monument

Monument Valley
A geological mish-mash of the most wondrous sort!  Everywhere one looks, a panorama of canyons, sheer-walled monoliths, valleys, and towering spires.

The CNM is a close cousin to the National Parks of Arches, Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, and Mesa Verde, as all are situated on the vast Colorado Plateau. (As I too will be for the next month or so).

Both the Visitor Center and the campground are located atop a 5-mile climb along the CCC-built engineering marvel that is Rim Rock Road.

The ranger at the entrance gate says to expect Desert Bighorns up near the first tunnel entrance. Finally, I get a good look at the elusive creatures.

Little Bighorns!

Mom and Dad keeping a close eye on the GDB, which is by accident between them and their young.

There are plenty of rewarding hiking trails in the Park. This one ends abruptly in a box canyon.

 All with pay-off views like Independence Monument.

On a quiet Monday afternoon, I encounter few people. However, I do meet several jackrabbits going about the business of gathering dinner.

Even in this semi-arid environment, Nature proves, yet again, She is the Master landscaper.

CNM's Saddlehorn Campground, home for the night, gets its name from this formation.

Close-up view.

Though the clouds do not dissipate late in the day as I had hoped, spoiling a chance for stargazing, we do have a stellar sunset.

Time to celebrate another great day on the road!

Next Up
Leaving Colorado after a 2-month stay, I’m off to tour Utah’s Grand Circle. Here’s a look at what’s on the agenda.  Except for Las Vegas, not this trip anyway.  Though it looks less like a circle and more like a polyhexagon to me.

The storied Parks of Southern Utah have long been a gaping hole in my travel resume.  Seeing them all will take some serious trip planning.

The End!