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Capitol Reef National Park

September 28, 2013

Utah – Wednesday, September 18

After I packed up the campsite, I started my morning with a breakfast at Duke’s Slickrock Cafe, which was the little restaurant that the campground was behind. With a name like that, I had to get a good egg and hashbrown breakfast! And then I drove the 30 miles or so to the one other national park that I wanted to visit before heading toward Salt Lake City. This one was Capitol Reef National Park – another park I’d never heard of before! Just inside the park boundaries was a hike through a gorge called The Grand Wash, and visitors were told not to begin the hike if rain was in the forecast, because this is an area where flash floods occur. But the sky was clear and blue and other hikers were out and about, so I headed into the canyon. I took a wonderful 3 1/2 mile walk alongside immense red rock walls, some with little “caves” going deep into the rock, and cracks and holes and all – Mother Nature’s work is never done! The walls got so close together that the sun was blocked out for a good bit of the walk. I ran across a couple of local ladies who were also out walking, just because they wanted to see if there was anything new and unusual in the canyon that might have surfaced after the recent heavy rains, and sure enough, they picked up (but did not keep) a piece of petrified wood. I was able to hold it and get a picture too. (And that reminds me of a news report I heard that panning for gold in Colorado is experiencing a surge with all the recent rain and flooding that has knocked loose rocks and other debris where gold can now be found.)

When I was finished with that walk, I drove a little farther to an area where there are some petroglyphs on the rock walls. Visitors can walk along a boardwalk along the side of the cliffs, but can’t get close enough to touch, which is the point! By now I was in a little valley that the early (mostly Mormon) settlers had turned into an orchard. The area was called Fruita, and there were lots of groves of fruit trees, many of which still produce fruit today. There was also a one room house still standing – it was home to a family of 10 (parents and youngest kids slept inside; girls slept in wagon bed outside; and boys slept in a hollowed out depression in rock wall). And there was an old one-room schoolhouse too, complete with old desks and ink wells and all.

Then I stopped at the visitor center, and found out there was a river trail that dogs could go on, so Tula and I set off for a nearly 2 mile walk along the river, past still more orchards, picnic areas and the campground. Then I headed out for the scenic drive up to see the main feature of the park, called Waterpocket Fold, which is a “warp” in the earth’s crust where new and old layers of the earth are folded over each other. It’s such a big gouge in the earth that they say it’s visible from space. But sadly, about 7-8 miles into the drive, the road was closed – parts of it had washed out due to the heavy recent rains, so I was unable to get to a good vantage point to see the fold. I will have to come back!

I had also missed the white dome-shaped rock on my way in called Capitol Rock because it looks like the shape of the US Capitol building. It sounds like there are numerous other white dome shaped rocks back in the part of the park I couldn’t get to. The ranger told me that particular rock wasn’t visible from the direction I came from, so I backtracked a mile or so to get a picture. There were other people taking pictures (there always are!) so I waited for them to get out of my way. There were a couple photographers, and they called everyone over for a group photo – I just figured it was some tour group. Then one of the photographers told me to go get in the picture, but I told him I wasn’t with that group. And he told me that’s alright – if I wanted my picture taken with the governor, I could just go get in the picture. But I wasn’t with them, so I didn’t. It turns out Utah’s governor, Gary Herbert, was visiting the area, and while they were getting some more pictures of him with some commissioners, one of the ladies on his staff came up and asked me where I was from and why I was visiting this part of Utah (I was the only other person there at the moment besides the governor’s group), so I gave her a short version of what I was doing, and then she called over the press secretary, who thought it was interesting, so then he thought I should tell the governor about it, so I did! Then he proceeded to tell me that Michigan’s governor had visited Utah to attend some meetings, and in the end, Michigan’s governor “stole” Utah’s budget director. What does one say to that ?!? It was an interesting chance encounter.

And then it was really time to start driving back into civilization. A good part of the day had slipped by, and I had lots of miles still to cover. I had been texting with the owner of a farm rescue facility, where I was going to make another donation, and if it was still daylight when I came through, she was going to give me a tour. But in the end, it was getting dark when I got near, so we decided to postpone the visit until Monday after I got back from the wedding. I got back into Salt Lake City late, and tried to get organized for the upcoming weekend.

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