Dearest blog readers (you know who you are),
Last summer Louie and I took a 3 week road trip. Then I got home and tried to blog about it, but as you know, life got in the way. And then I started blogging about other stuff, and doing other stuff, and leaving things behind. And here, I’m looking at a 4 day home vacation, and I thought to myself, can I still recap this trip from last August? I have notes, pictures, itinerary, some memories…so I’m going to try.
So we left off in Moab, Utah, where Louie and I had visited both Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. This whole trip plan came about because I got this crazy (yes, actually maybe a little crazy) idea of seeing all 5 parks in Utah. Maybe that wasn’t actually crazy, but then adding in a few more things and making the whole trip only 3 weeks, and camping…it turned out to be pretty crazy, especially because it started with a bear attack on our car.
It seems so long ago. Last August. Pre-election nightmare. But here we are. Leaving Moab, Utah, heading the 2 to 2 1/2 hour drive to Capitol Reef National Park. Capitol Reef was one of those places that I researched a bit but really couldn’t figure it out. It had history, natural beauty, and we would come to find out, pie.
We drove through very desolate land on our way to the park. This part of Utah (like many parts of Utah) is really desolate.
We got to Capitol Reef Park in the early afternoon. There was a welcome sign and some vault toilets at a small parking area. And nothing else. This would be a smaller, less visited park than many, and though at first we were a little confused and not sure what to do, we grew to love it.
Louie and I have a default traveling method (which I doubt is unique) where we simply try to dive into what is in front of us. So we started taking pictures, looking around, and of course doing all the pull-offs. The first pull off was a cabin that a Mormon family who lived in the area lived. It was a small cabin for a family of like, 15-20, and honestly, I don’t know how people did it back then.
The scenery was interesting. It wasn’t beautiful in a conventional sense, but it was different than anything really had been, and it was awe-inspiring.
You can faintly see some petroglyphs in this picture. The area was a mixture of Mormon pioneer and Native American history.
And strange but amazing natural features. What a weird place to live, and a weird National park, but of course it has to be a National park (for now, right? until the current administration destroys it…)
A one room schoolhouse.
We finally got to the heart of the park where there was a visitor’s center. And then drove down another road, the “Scenic Drive” which charged admission (our pass got us through of course).
I was worried about the storm though. And what I’d forgotten until this moment is that I was really, truly afraid of it. I was going through these really strong emotions about storms, after the storm at Dead Horse that looked like it could have washed us away, the crazy wind and rain at Arches that could have done the same and actually made us move our tent…I was stressed about the idea of getting washed away for real, either in our car, tent, or while hiking. So we didn’t go down a trail or anything and I kept a good eye on it all.
We passed by a place called the Gifford House and noticed it advertised pie. We went in and indeed they were selling small homemade pies. We bought a strawberry rhubarb one to have later.
I’d made a reservation at a tiny cabin for the night—it was $45 and just outside the Park in the town of Torrey, Utah. We also needed to do laundry and that was advertised as on sight.
The town of Torrey was cute and tiny and seemed only for visitors to the Park. We found our location and checked in. A little girl was working the shop when we showed up—it was a family business for sure. The place was a little bit weird but very cute. The original reason I’d made the reservation was that the Park campground was walk-in only, no reservations, and I wanted a guaranteed sleeping place. It turned out the campground had room, but I’m glad we decided to be inside for a night—the cabin was tiny and the bathrooms were across a parking lot, but it had a bed, electricity, lights, and a television which was insane! We ended up having to go across the street to another motel/store area to do laundry, but we did our laundry, used the internet, watched tv (the Olympics!) and generally relaxed. Oh, and SHOWERED. It had been awhile and the showers were great.
After awhile, we decided to have dinner in Torrey and went to a place called Diablo Café that I’d read about both on Trip Advisor and in the guidebook.
We did of course get the rattlesnake cakes. The restaurant was enjoyable and very good for the middle of practically nowhere! The chef seemed to be a creative type with a good sense of humor and the presentation of everything was over-the-top. I had tuna as well.
After dinner we went back and ate the pie outside of our cabin by a picnic table, which was maybe a little weird because the family who owned the cabins was doing work, the kids were running around, and one of the men was trying to get them to help and also kinda yelling at them…while we sat there eating pie and trying to watch the sunset.
Early the next morning, Louie got up and went to the bathroom. I suppose we had noticed that the door handle was a little funny but hadn’t given it too much thought. Until then he couldn’t get back into the cabin! It was maybe 6:30 or so, and there was a small window and we were trying to decide what to do–Louie wanted to crawl in the window and worry about it a little later, but I thought we should wake somebody up to help since they’d said to let them know of any problems—I guess we were making a bit of noise, because the man from the night before stuck his head out the window of the house and asked if we needed help. We did, so he was out a few minutes later. He jiggled the door and tried a few things, but he realized the handle was just totally messed up, so eventually Louie crawled in the window with a screwdriver and the two of them took the handle off entirely. We were leaving that morning anyway so the guy said just leave it for now and they’d deal with it later. So the door didn’t totally shut, but that was okay. Since we were pretty much up at this point, we decided to just pack up and leave.
We had plans to go hiking, but first we got breakfast at a nearby restaurant called the Capitol Reef Inn and Grill. It was very cute and also advertised places to stay for $45—that seemed to be the rate in town!.
After a filling breakfast, it was hiking time. I had two short hikes planned for the day. The first was called the Chimney Rock Trail and was about 3.6 miles and then I wanted to hike at least part of the Grand Wash Trail.
We were among the first to get to the Chimney Rock Trailhead, though oddly it seemed several cars arrived at once. The hike started with a nice big climb and had some great views, but took awhile to get out of sight of the road.
There were a few places along the trail that we could have taken a much longer hike, but that wasn’t in the cards for us. The hike was very nice and after we got apart from the other hikers we didn’t see anybody else until we were nearly back. We saw some petrified wood along the trail as well, which was pretty neat.
After that hike we drove back towards the Visitor’s Center and down the Scenic Drive to the Grand Wash. The sun was rising and the day was heating up, but we wanted to keep going, as usual! We planned to hike in a couple of miles and then back. This trail was a point to point, but we didn’t have a shuttle or a second car, so we just wanted to get an idea of it. The whole trail was in a “wash” which is basically where water goes when it floods, but otherwise is pretty flat.
After awhile, we weren’t sure how far we’d gone. We’d planned to go to the “narrows” and then turn around, but we didn’t realize at first that we had definitely already gone that far. The sun was getting pretty hot and I probably wasn’t drinking enough water so it was hard. I think we estimated we hiked 4 miles RT and then…we went to go eat lunch, and get coffee, pie (mixed berry) and ice cream.
The Gifford House is in what seems like an oasis! I don’t believe I mentioned that the reason there is pie is that there is a fruit orchard, which was (I think) started by the Mormon pioneers and now kept up by the park service. The campground we didn’t stay at is called the Fruita campground and evidently you can pick and eat the fruit from the trees around, if you like.
Overall, Capitol Reef was really unique and fascinating. Our next stop would be Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, after a short but continually scenic drive—basically on Highway 12, which is an amazing drive! Along the way we got coffee at an adorable place in Boulder. The thing about Utah is also: we passed by so many trailheads. We were now in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument—amazing stuff, really. I know I keep saying that, but it’s true.
Next Stop: Escalante Petrified Forest State Park (then Bryce and Zion)
Nights Camping: 8
Miles Hiked (estimate): 54