Hiking Capitol Reef

Heading to Capitol Reef for spring break wasn’t part of the plan. Originally, we had planned on going down to Zion National Park. However, our failure to plan ahead meant that getting a campsite for the weekend was fairly unlikely. So we adjusted our plans. Instead, we’d head down to Arches, and spend some time exploring Moab as well. Not really thinking that one through much either, we soon realized that Easter Jeep Safari was happening that same weekend, so we’d again have to adjust our plans.

We wanted to head south to try and escape some of the cold up in Salt Lake, so we eventually settled on heading to Capitol Reef National Park. Neither of us had been, so after getting a reservation at an RV park in Torrey, UT, we began planning the details of the trip.

When the day of the adventure arrived, we hit the road. Now, the Bronco isn’t really a big fan of driving fast, especially when pulling a trailer. Works for us though, as we prefer to take the scenic route. Rather than take I-15, we headed south down Redwood Road, then headed west on Highway 6 towards Delta, cruising through Eureka along the way.

Our first stop was in Delta for some lunch. Drove around back to park where there was a little more room for the trailer, and had a laugh, since we apparently parked in the “Broncos with Trailers” section. We had a quick lunch, then were back on the road. We wandered through a few more towns before we got to Holden, where we had planned on taking I-15 north for a bit up to Scipio before going south on Highway 50 again. However, when we got to I-15, there was a frontage road we were able to take, so we were able to continue puttering along at our slower place.

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We arrived in Torrey at the Thousand Oaks RV park around 5PM, and ended up with a pretty good spot along the back of the park. Our “backyard” for the next few days was going to be a great view of the red rocks of the area.

After setting up camp and getting situated, we got the kids some hot dogs, and then got to work on our foil dinners. As we ate, Cindy and I hung out around the fire, while the kids decided to hunker down in the trailer with the heater on. It was a pretty cold night, only around 40-45 degrees, but as long as we were around the fire, it wasn’t that bad. Turns out that our plan to escape the cold wasn’t going so well, as while there wasn’t any snow on the ground, it was still going to be chilly.

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For my birthday back in December, the family gave me the pie iron I’ve wanted for a while. I still hadn’t had a chance to season it, so I got it out so that I could season it as we sat around the fire. However, I at one point had forgotten about it sitting in the fire, and by the time I remembered it, it had gotten pretty hot – red hot. Literally glowing in the dark. There wasn’t a chance I was going to be able to do anything with it that night, so I had to move it to some rocks to cool down. I first tried setting it down on the railroad ties that marked the camp boundaries, but it was so hot that it started burning the tie. Once I got it to a safe spot for the night, we packed it in, and went to bed.

After waking up nice & toasty thanks to the trailer’s heater, we ate a big breakfast, then headed off for the day’s adventures. Our first stop was at the park visitor’s center to get our passports stamped. Then, rather than ease into things, we went big, and headed for Grand Wash to do some exploring. At first, hiking four miles at one go might have been a bit much for the little legs some of us had, but the kids did pretty good, with minimal complaints. Although, at one point, Drewski did start to complain of having tired feet. This he said, after we’d covered a mile with him on my shoulders.

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It’s been years since I’ve been in a canyon like this, and for being an easy, pretty flat hike, Grand Wash was actually pretty incredible. It’s one thing to hike up a mountain and feel like you’re on top of the world, but as we got deeper into the wash, it’s honestly a bit overwhelming to have the earth towering over you the way it does there. It took us a few hours to cover the ground we did, but a lot of that was just spent exploring the little nooks and crannies, yelling to hear the echoes, and taking time just to soak it all in. We didn’t explore the full wash, but there were enough alcoves and other things to look at, that it’ll take multiple visits just to see even half of it all.

We had worked up an appetite, so we piled back into the Bronco and headed back north up the Scenic Drive to the Gifford House. We made some some sandwiches, then got some ice cream for some dessert. Didn’t linger too long though, as there was still a bit of ground to cover.

Heading back down the Scenic Drive, we cruised pretty slowly, just taking in the views. I’m pretty sure the kids got tired of Cindy and I constantly pointing things out to look at, but nearly everywhere you turn, there’s an incredible view. We continued along to Capitol Gorge, where another easier hike awaited. The kids were a bit tired, but still willing, so we set off in search of petroglyphs and pioneer names.

Up until around 1962, when Highway 24 was constructed along the Fremont River, Capitol Gorge was one of the main routes through the area. Over the years, many of the travelers took a moment to leave their mark on the walls of the gorge. Most of the names we saw were fairly recent, from a historical perspective at least. The oldest names we saw carved were from the early 1880’s, but by far, the earliest carvings were some petroglyphs left by people of the Fremont culture, up to around 2,000 years ago. I loved checking out the various names, but one of my favorite parts was seeing how some folks carved their names in simple block letters, but others took the time to etch a nice, flowing script, adding a touch of elegance to their work.

Most of the carvings were near ground level, or at a height you could easily imagine reaching by standing on top of your vehicle. However, there was one set of names carved high up on one of the walls, easily 150 feet up. Just how they accomplished that, but mostly how they had the guts to do it, is hard to imagine.

By this time, the sun was starting to get low in the sky, and we were going to have to call it a day. There was still more on our clipboard of fun, but it’s always nice to have stuff you don’t get to, than to spend time wondering what to do next because you ran out of stuff.

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We took our sweet time heading back up to the highway, stopping pretty often to take photos, and play around with the video camera. Stopped at a diner in Torrey for some burgers, then headed back to relax around the campfire for the evening, and to get ready for the next day’s adventures.

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