Friday, February 26, 2016

Winter Journey Through Capitol Reef National Park - Part Two

Our journey continued further into historic Fruita and the Capitol Reef Visitor Center, just off Route 24.  There is another scenic road that leads to historic buildings/shops (Gifford House, Blacksmith) and other trails, but we're saving that for our return trip.  The Visitor Center has a movie theatre, topographic diorama, displays and gift shop (Gifford House canned goods and kitchen ware available for sale....try the apple butter!).  The gift shop also has DVDs, CDs (we got the Western Themes CD of all the old television westerns); maps, guide books, historical books, postcards, plenty for the children, and lots more.  You can even adopt a Marmot for $25, receiving a certificate and stuffed animal.  The rangers are very informative and helpful, so don't be shy about asking questions...intelligent questions, not ones like, "Why is the desert hot?"  If you don't already know why, you shouldn't be traveling in it in the first place.

Continuing west on Route 24, next stop is The Castle; a craggy peak of ochre-colored Wingate sandstone, sitting atop gray-green Chinle formation, atop red Moenkopi formation.  This featured site of the park is not simply fascinating because of the craggy peak, but of the layers of colored stone formations.

By the way, I forgot to mention how Capitol Reef got its name; many of the pioneers that had come through had been sailors of the sea.  The rugged terrain of the Waterpocket Fold reminded them so much of the reefs the sailing ships had to avoid.  Capitol came from the resemblance of the Navajo dome to D.C.'s Capitol building; hence Capitol Reef.  Which brings me to pioneers themselves; ALL pioneers had to go through treacherous terrain; deal with hostile wildlife and/or people; illnesses and/or injury.  So, if you happen to believe that one group of pioneers *cough, cough....Hole in the Rockers* is so much better than the next because of what hardships they endured....surprise!!!...they weren't the only special ones, they all were!!!  Now back to our regularly scheduled tour...

Panorama Point was our lunch stop for this day; good thing we did bring a picnic lunch as the only stores open between Hanksville and Bicknell were gas/convenience or a Subway shop in Torrey.  At Panorama Point, you can basically see from one end of the park to the other; absolutely gorgeous landscapes.  There is a short road to the Goosenecks Trail, then a 600 foot hike to see Sulphur Creek as it snakes along the valley below, creating a "gooseneck".  This is a natural trail and was too snow laden for us to walk that day, but, and you guessed it, on the to-do list for next time.  So, as we enjoyed munching on homemade chicken salad on croissants, and chunky potato salad, we sat  in our vehicle (heat on of course) and admired Capitol Reef's glorious scenery around us.

Chimney Rock looks like its name; a pinnacle of Moenkopi Shale which has a 3.6 mile easy hiking trail that loops behind it.

View westward from Chimney Rock.

There is a pull-in area where you can view Twin Rocks, two knobs of Shinarump sandstone.

...and then we were off to spy out Torrey and Bicknell.  Unfortunately, as I stated above, the only places open were gas/convenience stores and a Subway shop in Torrey.  All those lovely gift shops along the way will have to wait until our return in a warmer month. 

Oh, there were two beautiful white Mountain Herding Sheep Dogs who graciously agreed to pose for us with their herd.

On our way out of Capitol Reef, the junction at the beginning was now cloud free, sun shining and beautiful; so we went up the Notom Road a bit and I photographed the snow covered Waterfold Pocket.

As I have repeated, we do intend on returning and checking out Capitol Reef National Park in a warmer season.

Consider yourselves warned....(best Terminator voice) we'll be back!

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Winter Journey Through Capitol Reef National Park - Part One.

There we were, the crossroads of Capitol Reef National Park; one road leading upward towards Notom, upward into the clouds that is.  Route 24 leading straight on through the park, eventually to the small towns of Torrey (and Scenic Byway 12), Bicknell and beyond.  Frosted bushes, tall grass and tree limbs gave a starkness to the landscape resembling black and white photos.  We stopped at the restroom area and got our bearings at the map/informational board outside.  Decision was, keep going and make the best of it; have fun and enjoyment no matter what!

Even with the snow, frost and cloud cover; our heads swiveled side to side as we tried to capture the beauty of the rock formations on either side of the roadway. We took advantage of every pull-in area (there are many) to get out, take photos and breathe in the clean, crisp air.  Route 24 does have many twists and turns, as any roadway in Utah; the roads are formed around the landscape, the landscape is not destroyed just to make a straight road.  It was around one turn that we suddenly saw it....a patch of blue sky peeking through the clouds.  As we continued on, the clouds were disappearing as blue sky took over, and sunlight, 14 degrees Fahrenheit, no wind, and glorious sunlight.  Mother Nature decided to put on a fabulous day for us after all; we had passed her tests, shown resilience and were rewarded!!!

The park service put up informational signs and boards at major points of interest; while the paved areas were snow free, the hiking trails were not, the snow either coming halfway up our hiking boots, if not almost topping them.  A plan of coming back in the warmer months has already taken hold, walking all the missed trails are a must!  Our first stop of interest was the Behunin Cabin; Elijah Cutler Behunin and his family lived in the cabin from 1883 to 1884.  After one year, they moved to Fruita after flooding threatened to destroy the cabin and fields.  Originally, he and his family were one of the pioneer families to settle Cainesville in 1882, but were forced to move out in 1883 due to rampant illness in the town, and flooding.

Paralleling Route 24 is the Fremont River; beginning at the Johnson Valley Reservoir, which is located on the Wasatch Plateau near Fish Lake, the river flows southeast through Capitol Reef to meet the Muddy Creek near Hanksville.  These two rivers combine to form the Dirty Devil River, a tributary of the Colorado River.  All in all, the Fremont River is, itself, 95 miles long.  The river was named for explorer, John C. Fremont, and strangely enough, the culture (an offshoot of the Anasazi culture) that had resided in the area was named after the river; the Fremont Culture.

Grand Wash was one of those trails where the snow was just too much to go hiking through; there is a scenic drive road that can be accessed at the Visitors Center which leads to a short driving trail into Grand Wash (Cassidy Arch is nearby). Definitely on the to-do list for next trip to Capitol Reef!

Capitol, aka Navajo, Dome is another beautiful area; the dome was sculpted by nature's wind and rain.  The resemblance to the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, to the early settlers, gave it the name of "Capitol Dome"; Navajo Dome refers to the Navajo sandstone it is formed of.

Capitol (Navajo) Dome
We skipped the Hickman Bridge trail which leads to ruins and a natural bridge due to the snow. It's a one mile trail leading upwards 400 feet, sliding down wasn't on the to-do list for today....definitely on the list for the next time though!

Now the Petroglyph walls are a must do!  These rock wall writings have been traced back to the Fremont Culture; the same culture which resided in Nine Mile Canyon outside Wellington, Utah.  On one of the informational boards is a copy of a painting by artist, Joseph Venus; who happens to be a friend of ours.  Hi Joe!!!  He has done extensive artwork regarding the Fremont Culture, especially in the Nine Mile Canyon area.

Informational Board featuring artist, Joseph Venus.

Horned Headdress.

Mountain Sheep.


Just down the road is the original Fruita School House; built in 1896, it acted as the church meeting house as well.  It closed its door in 1941due to the diminishing population of Fruita; any school aged children are now bussed to other schools Wayne County.

In the same parking area as the school is a small petroglyph area; the writings are very faded, so might be difficult to make out at first.  As with any ruin or rock art site, do NOT touch, do NOT deface, do NOT leave any trace of yourself. 

...and this is where part one will end. Part Two will begin with a tour of the Visitor Center; another one of those must dos when at Capitol Reef.

Mary Cokenour