2010.07.09 Capitol Reef National Park


This morning, we visited yet another National Park I knew nothing about before we planned this vacation – Capitol Reef National Park.  Our motel was only a few miles down the road from the Park, so we wasted no time getting started.

Capitol Reef National Park’s defining characteristic is the Waterpocket Fold.  This is a nearly 100-mile long warp in the Earth’s crust.  We did not see much of this formation during our stay, but we still fed our rock addiction with some new sights we had not seen yet during this trip.

The Waterpocket Fold was referred to as a “reef” because seamen would refer to any obstacle to travel as a reef.  The “capitol” reference was due to the Navajo Sandstone domes that are prevalent in the area, which resembled capitol domes.  The Capitol Reef was a huge deterrent to East-West travel, and there was no highway that crossed the formation until 1962.

As we drove into the Park, there were several prominent formations, complete with scenic overlooks.  We stopped at most of them before we made our way to the Visitor’s Center.


Chimney Rock at Capitol Reef National Park.


We started our stay at the Visitor’s Center with a 20 minute video of the cultural and geological history of the area.  Afterwards, we listened to a 20 minute Ranger talk about the geology and history of the Park.  The Ranger was from Brooklyn and had only been at this Park for a few weeks.  KK told him afterward that he gave a good presentation “for a Yankee”.

Our intention was to drive the 20 mile scenic drive of the Park.  But we got sidetracked at the very first stop, which was the Gifford Farm.  Here, they sell fresh-baked pies made from the fruit orchards located in the National Park.  These orchards were first planted by the early Mormon settlers.  The pies were fantastic!  We bought 4 of the mini-pies and split them amongst ourselves.


Eating pie at Capitol Reef.


We took our time on the scenic drive, pulling over at every scenic turnout, and getting out for short hikes when the opportunity presented itself.  The Park was not very crowded, and I learned that it only receives about 400,000 visitors per year.

Part of the tour took us to some abandoned uranium mines.  In the 1950s, mining for uranium became popular for a short time, until it was determined there was none to be found.  There are warnings present advising tourists to not spend more than 1 day near the mines.  We only stayed long enough to check it out, and to get a photo.  The good news is that now my kids now have a healthy glow, and can be their own  night light.


Mallory and Marissa at the Uranium Mine.


At several of the stops, the kids got to climb around on the rocks, and we generally just took our time.  Dad and I especially enjoyed the various rock formations and colors.  Everybody was having a great time until mid-afternoon when Miles proclaimed that “this was boring”.  Yikes!  For a vacation built around seeing as many rocks as possible, this was a troubling development.


These red canyon walls are made of Wingate Sandstone.


Cliff Walls with these holes were common in the Park.


A small segment of the Waterpocket Fold.


A feature known as Desert Varnish.


Mallory and Marissa are getting along very well.  So well in fact, that whatever Mallory wants to do, Marissa is right behind her.  Miles is now referring to Marissa as “Mallory’s faithful companion”.

After the conclusion of our drive, we stopped back by the Visitor’s Center so that the girls could complete their Junior Ranger.  This is their 4th Junior Ranger badge on the trip.  This is such a neat program.  There is no doubt that any Junior Ranger graduate will know more about the park than half the adults who visit a National Park.


Park Ranger visiting with Mallory and Marissa about their Junior Ranger. PK and Steve look on.


As has been our custom, we spent about twice as much time at this Park than we had budgeted.  We stopped to look at some petroglyphs on the way out of the Park, and hit the road for our next stop around 3:00 in the afternoon.


Petroglyphs at Capitol Reef National Park.


We were headed to Moab.  We decided to take a southerly, scenic route, per the advice of several people.  This route followed Highways 24, 95 and 191.  This was a very interesting drive, and it kept us off the Interstate.  Score!


An interesting formation we passed on our scenic drive.


A desolate Highway 95.


The downside was that we were looking for a place to have a picnic, but you might guess that good picnic stops while driving through the desert are few & far between.  We ultimately drove all the way to Moab, and ate when we got there, 4 hours later.

One of the highlights of the drive was a stop in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, where Highway 95 crosses the Colorado River at Hite, Utah.  This was a huge canyon, and while the water below was technically the Colorado River, it was considered part of Lake Powell, which is predominantly, located about 50 miles to the south.  The views were gorgeous.  We were there on a Friday afternoon, and we did find it interesting that we saw only one single boat on the lake the entire time we were there.


At the Colorado River in Hite, Utah.


The lack of boats coincides nicely with the lack of traffic on this route.  At times, we could drive 10 to 15 minutes without meeting another car.  Yes, this road is scenic, but it is out of the way, and it drives through some desolate (yet beautiful) countryside.

During the drive, Miles continued his practice of keeping us entertained with his recorder.  He plays some traditional favorites, such as the Jaws theme and Funkytown, and he has also come up with his own original songs, such as haunting Indian-style music.  This  music has come in handy as we have passed through Indian Reservations.

On today’s trip, Stephanie was driving the van and as the van would pick up speed, Miles would play his recorder faster and faster.  I was sitting in the middle row and I was begging him to play slower.  Unfortunately, the faster Miles played, the faster Steph drove, and the cycle repeated itself.


Miles playing his recorder.


We did not make too many stops on this entire trip, but we did take a break in Blanding, Utah, at the Blanding Visitors Center.  I feel that we may have stumbled upon some utopian society that the rest of the world does not know about yet.

The Visitor Center’s bathrooms were huge and very clean.  And not only that, but the bathrooms were open 24 hours.  There was not a single mark of graffiti in the bathroom. The Visitors Center had a small, but nice museum that we spent a few minutes looking through.

My phone was also excited to be in Blanding.  For the first time in about 5 days, I was able to check my email by using my phone, while in Blanding.  On the way out of town, we passed several mini-storage businesses that had no fence around them at all.  Life appears to be a little bit simpler in Blanding.

When we pulled into Moab, we checked into the hotel, and decided to go straight to dinner.  We visited the Moab Brewery and ate pretty well.  Miles got the hot wings, and his evening consisted of eating one bite of hot wing, and then taking one drink of water.  He said they were HOT.

By the end of the day, everybody was pretty worn out.  We plan to get an early start tomorrow, as we will visit Arches National park.

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