Capitol Reef National Park

Monday, 19 June 2006, Bryce Canyon NP, UT
We liked the campground in Capitol Reef NP so much that we stayed 3 nights! So much for worrying about time running out...
On Friday we dropped by the visitor centre to collect maps and then headed back along the 24 to hike to the Hickman Bridge. Unlike the arches in the Arches, this is a Natural Bridge because most of its shaping was caused by rushing water beneath it. It was a bit of a hike but most worth it. The bridge is amazing and when we walked a bit further on we came to the rim of the canyon and could see the road and the Fremont River below us, as well as some amazing views into the distance. From the early parts of the trail you get a really good view of the Capitol Dome that the park is named for - it is believed to resemble the Capitol in Washington DC - personally I had problems picking one white dome from another as there were quite a few of them on show in this park.
After this moderately strenuous hike, we had lunch and then backtracked out of the park to try to get some shots of the moonscape we had driven through on Thursday afternoon. It had been raining the day before and we were tired and it just seemed too difficult to stop to take photos. So we went back and remedied the situation in the bright sunshine of Friday afternoon. It still looked particularly strange but perhaps not quite so eerie!
On our way back to camp we stopped to walk part of the Grand Wash Trail. This is a trail between steep canyon walls which follows a dry river bed. You don't want to try this when there is a threat of rain, as flash flooding is quite common around these parts. It was very pretty and there were once again some interesting eroded sandstone structures!
There is a scenic drive south into the Park that goes for about 12 miles on a fairly narrow paved road and then a couple of miles on dirt road, and we took this road on Saturday morning. The dirt road is part of the old highway 24, which was used until the 60's. It runs through Capitol Gorge and at the end of the dirt road you can then hike further through the gorge where the road actually continued. It must have been hard work maintaining a road on a river bed which was prone to flash flooding, and when the waters receded, they'd have to remove all the large boulders brought down by the water and try to make the road smooth enough to be passable again. The trail goes for about a mile and according to the information provided by the visitor centre it is an easy hike, going past The Pioneer Register (pioneer graffiti - they liked to scratch their names on the rocks, and the date of their visit) and on to 'The Tanks'. Unfortunately the information provided omitted to tell us that to get to these tanks one had to clamber up a very rocky incline, which was anything but easy. The tanks turned out to be huge naturally occurring holes in the rocks that catch and store rainwater for long periods between rain. They must have been a godsend to the early pioneers, but now they seem to be a godsend to the various frogs that use them to further the species.
This turned out to be not the pleasant stroll we had expected and left us both exhausted and Juergen with a twisted ankle that has continued to cause him trouble, preventing us from going on any longer walks for the present. We hadn't been over-impressed with the scenic drive on the way down to the Gorge, but were overwhelmed by the view on the drive back. The multitude of colours in this cliff-face - the impassable 'reef' which gives the park the rest of its name - are just magnificent, particularly in the afternoon and into the evening. We kept trying to capture them on photos, but somehow the image is only a poor imitation of this view.
After a well-deserved rest back at the 'oasis', we ventured out again in the early evening to the Goosenecks Overlook. This is a canyon rim view overlooking the 'goosenecks' in the Sulphur Creek far below. The scenery is once again breathtaking - and not just because the vertigo takes my breath away. This planet is really an amazing place. The views along this western part of highway 24 are also beautiful, with colours ranging from grey through blue through pink to red. We stopped several times on the way back again. And then we finished the day with a brilliant sunset on the red rocks beside the campground. We took over 150 photos in the Capitol Reef National Park - unfortunately we can only show you a small selection of them, but I hope it gives you some idea of this awe-inspiring landscape.
We set off Sunday morning to return to Bryce Canyon. Some of you may remember that our stay here was cut short by trouble with the truck. I had left that day feeling sad at missing seeing all of it and had hoped that our path would wind back this way. Well, it is a little detour, but not much of one. The trip down highway 12 was reward enough for deciding on the detour. Once again we drove through Dixie National Forest up to some 10000 feet, and into the pine and aspen forests with the lovely green meadows. Some more breathtaking views, particularly the part through the Escalante State Park, where we drove along a windy piece of road that had enormous drops BOTH sides of the road. Scary as hell, but definitely worth it.
We made a detour into Kodachrome Basin State Park, with the idea that if we liked it we might stay overnight. We had been interested in visiting it last time we were in Bryce, but of course had to go off in the opposite direction to the car doctor. Unfortunately, since then we have seen so many amazing sights that this little park didn't really impress us much. It is nice and has some interesting scenery, including the sandstone 'chimneys', and it also has a really excellent campground, complete with hot showers. For people who have a little time, it would be a nice place for a quiet couple of days away from the very busy Bryce and Zion National Parks.

Continuation on > Page 2 > !

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