Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Capital Reef Calls to Me

Spooky, surreal, mystical, magical, wondrous, captivating, isolated, meditative come to mind as the experience of Capitol Reef, one of the truly glorious places in the U.S. It is unlike any place visited and I haven’t encountered anyone who has heard of it. That’s strange for outback-savvy Taos where folks travel the 4 Corners area and Utah with some regularity. Perhaps they are captured by other glories in the area such as Zion National Park, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Glen Canyon and Monument Valley .

I’m unable to find much written about Capital Reef with the exception of the ’96 Rose Houk book that is out of print: “Capitol Reef, Canyon Country Eden”. I own this book and will share some of the information regarding geology and history of this paradise.

Capitol Reef takes its’ first name from the rounded white sandstone that caps Waterpocket Fold. The domes look like the U.S. Capitol building. Early pioneers found the Fold reminded them of barrier reefs in the ocean and so the name was born. It is said Capitol Reef attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. The 3 times I visited – in November each time – I never saw a soul. as you can see from the photos included.

Navaho Sandstone is the backbone of Capitol Reef. This nearly pure quartz once existed as dunes in a deep sea that covered SE Utah and NE Arizona. Hiking the area one has a sense of being near or in the bowels of the earth or on a great ocean floor. The rocks are unimaginably fantastic. Be sure to look for the very round larva rock that dot the western approach along the Fold going toward Capitol Reef. They are scattered all over the area and look like bowling balls of giants.

We camped at Fruita. And what a wind blew up when setting up the tent. It was ferocious and quite cold. The moon was resting above the towering red cliffs as we rushed out to hike what we could before nightfall. Thrilling days and nights were experienced here.

The diversity is extreme with forbidding badland areas of hoodoos parallel with the Fremont River Valley full of lush green and rushing water falls. As seen in the included photos – one needs a reliable truck or SUV to make it through the narrow, rocky, mountainous terrain. In my travels I was always a tad nervous the SUV would get a flat or develop some other problem and there would be no help available for endless outback miles.

If you are headed to Grand Canyon be sure to cross over into Utah and see it all. Share with us your experiences in Capitol Reef and vicinity.