Capitol Reef Nat'l Park
Tropic Travel Blog› entry 10 of 20 › view all entries
After filling up our tank at Hollow Mountain, we hooked up with Utah Hiway 24 towards Torrey, where we would pick up Hiway 12. The landscape around us was barren and ugly. The sun was high overhead. If it hadn't been for the wind on our faces and backs, the heat would have been unbearable.
There was a riverbank next to the road with just a trickle of water in places. In other spots, the water was deeper and more plentiful. This was the Fremont River, although it didn't really resemble a river; it was more like a creek. We had learned from our travel in the West, that a river in Utah or Arizona isn't the same as a river in Alabama or Tennessee.
We followed Highway 24 as it twisted deeper into the desert, convinced that we had to be the only people traveling on this road to nowhere. There were cottonwoods and willows on the riverbank beside the road. This was a dramatic contrast to the overhanging 1,000-foot pink sandstone cliffs that were molded by erosion into domes, buttes, pillows, and knobs. Interesting. It was the hottest part of the day and the bright sun bleached all of the color from the walls. If we had been traveling late in the evening, it might have been a different story. As it was, we weren't interested in stopping for pictures.
Around one of the bends in the road, there was a well-built brick building on our left. The brick sign by the road read, Visitor Center. Okay, visitor center to what?? We didn't stop. After several more miles, we came upon a Comfort Inn AND another chain motel, maybe a Hampton or a Holiday Inn Express. Were we ever surprised. Who in their right mind would come HERE for a vacation?
We didn't know we were right smack dab in the middle of the most remote National Park in the entire country: Capitol Reef National Park. Brother. You mean to tell me that people actually visit this part of Utah?? We had been riding inside the Park for miles and didn't even realize it.
The northern section of the Waterpocket Fold, a massive warp in the earth's crust, is in Capitol Reef. This movement along an ancient buried fault pushed rocks 7,000 feet higher on the west than on the east. The violent seismic episode occured between 50 and 70 million years ago. Today the enormous buckled landform stands as a testament to the earth's past. It is called "waterpocket" because of the pockets in the rocks that fill with life-giving water during rainstorms.
The town of Fruita once supplied settlers all over south-central Utah with a wide variety of fruit from their orchards. These historic orchards have survived the years of floods and droughts and contain roughly 3,000 fruit trees, the most extensive in the National Park System. One of these "settlers" that came to Fruita to buy fruit was Robert Parker, alias Butch Cassidy. He traveled here frequently from his hideout at Robbers Roost, east of the Park. Proof that he was in the area is carved on a canyon wall. His signature along with many other early explorers and miners can be seen today at Pioneer Register, a narrow side canyon that served as the main road through the Fold in the days before Hiway 24.
Capitol Reef has much, much more but we didn't stop. Actually, we only learned of this fascinating place days later when I was flippping through a book, National Parks of Utah. I told Jerry that it would be a good trip for the cooler months; summer temperatures are unmerciful. Maybe sometime before we have to stop our travels, we will be able to come back for a visit. Next time we will slow down and enjoy!