“Capitol Reef is filled with geology that takes shape, color, and dimension to a level beyond comprehension.” (Stefanie Payne, A Year in the National Parks: The Greatest American Road Trip)
Upon leaving snowy Steamboat Springs as week three of our roadtrip began, Ruth and I veered southwest into the barren canyon lands of Southern Utah. While the village of Moab would have made an ideal location off the Interstate Highway to plan suitable hikes in popular Arches- Canyonlands National Park, we instead opted for a high desert path along smaller roads for a two day stay in tiny Torrey, the gateway town for Capitol Reef National Park- Goblin Valley State Park further west. Amidst this visually captivating land of towering cliffs, massive domes/arches and twisting canyons, an amazing showcase of photographic images would soon unfold from our motel location and on day hike adventures.
Stepping out into the frigid, 27 degrees air, to begin our 1st day explorations, a massive line of red rock mesas gained my immediate attention. Crossing the street for breakfast, a pair of wooly llamas invited me closer for a friendly pet on the neck.
Entering the west entrance to Capitol Reef National Park, the aptly named attractions of Chimney/Cathedral Rocks soon caught our attention.
At the Castle landmark, Ruth and I climbed a steep hill for a panoramic view of our rugged surrounding. At the top, we posed proudly by a lonely tree stump.
Entering the long abandoned village of Fruita, restored remnants of an 1880s Mormon Community living there along the Fremont River remained at the one room schoolhouse and Gifford House store.
Further east, intricate petroglyph carvings of ancient Indian settlements along steep canyon walls caught our attention. Opposite these cliffs, a herd of mule deer grazed cautiously nearby our human presence.
In the 1st day afternoon, an eight mile scenic drive offered a breathtaking backcountry view of the park. Alongside this well appreciated paved road, multilayered walls surrounding us drew eerily closer. At Capitol Gorge, we then envisioned how the original pioneers in the late 1800s crossed through these narrows under more austere conditions.
On day two of our southern Utah visit, Goblin Valley State Park provided a strange encounter with mushroom gnome, rock formations providing visions of a childish playground in this harsh desert environment.
Having fun here would not happen easily here,however, as we hiked the Carmel Canyon Trail, a steeply narrow maze of directional confusion for our east coast, “life of ease” mindset.