The Utah journey continues – Capital Reef & Bryce Canyon National Parks

CAPITAL REEF NATIONAL PARK – After leaving the hot desert of Moab, Utah we headed southwest to the town of Torrey to continue with our Utah adventure of the “Mighty 5”.    With Arches and Canyonlands behind us, Capitol Reef is our third to visit.

The geological feature of Capitol Reef is a wrinkle in the earth’s crust. This wrinkle extends about 100 miles from Thousand Lake Mountain to Lake Powell and has been shaped and formed over millions of years by 3 gradual but powerful geological forces: deposition, uplift and erosion.  Water and the pull of gravity is the primary erosive force which has sculpted and carved the landscape of towering cliffs, domes, arches, bridges and twisting canyons that make up Capitol Reef.   Capitol Reef was established in 1937 and became a National Park in 1971.

Click on any of the pictures below to look at them in full size pictures.

The uniqueness of this park to the others is the many orchards in the little town of Fruita.  Fruita enters the park from the east and was established in the 1880’s by the Mormons at the confluence of the Fremont River and Sulphuric Creek.  From these bodies of water, irrigation systems were built to water the orchards and pastures.  These orchards continue to produce to this day, and depending on the time of the year, visitors are permitted to enter the orchards to freely pick the fruit.  Unfortunately we were a few months early to partake of this tasty activity.

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It was also in this area where we were able to get a good look at some well preserved petroglyphs and pictographs on the rock walls.  Inhabitants from a time called the Common Era(300-1300) used this as their form of communication and story telling.  Fascinated and mesmerized, I stood in awe and tried to imagine life during this time period.  It was during a hike through the canyon that we were able to view another form of rock writing communication.  Preserving their place in time, the early settlers of the 1800’s wrote the names of their families and the date in time.

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I would say that Capitol Reef ranks right up there as one of my favorite National parks.

 

BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK – From Torrey we traveled southwest to Panguitch, Utah.  Panguitch is a small town within a 20 minute drive to Bryce Canyon.  I must say that our drive from Torrey to Panguitch was one of the most  beautiful drives we’ve traveled so far.  With a large truck and RV, aside from an occasional state road, we travel mostly interstate.  A very kind gentleman at the Torrey visitors center let us in on this little known drive and said that we would have no problem with the size of our truck and RV.  So we went for it and are very glad we did.  We drove miles and miles without seeing another car and got to take in beauty that painted the times of the “old west.”   A welcoming and relaxing change from driving  the interstates.

Here’s a video Kevin put together of one of our favorite hikes at Bryce.  TURN UP THE SOUND!

Bryce Canyon is my favorite of the Utah national parks. The geology of Bryce Canyon is a result of millions of years of weathering and erosion.  The formed rock figures which make up Bryce are called Hoodoos.  Hoodoos are a result of snow and ice melt.  This is a process called frost-wedging which as the water refreezes, it expands and cracks the rock around it.  Temperatures are extreme here swinging between freezing nights and warm afternoons.  Before hoodoos, this area was full of water.

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Because of it’s high elevation, clean dry air and lack of light pollution, Bryce Canyon is known for it’s very dark sky and is an attraction for star gazers.  However, during our time at Bryce there was still a bright moon, so star gazing in the park was not an option during our visit.  We will have to revisit to do just that, and I would have no problem with returning to this most beautiful place.

I take the responsibility to research activities for us to do in the areas we visit. We both enjoy hiking. The National parks are some of the best places to hike, so I researched some Bryce Canyon hikes and thought I had chosen, based on my TripAdvisor reading, the best hikes for us. The first hike was around the rim of Bryce Canyon looking down into the canyon viewing a myriad of hoodoos.  Gorgeous 2.5 mile hike with varying declines and inclines looking down into the breathtaking beauty of the canyon. The next day we hiked down in the canyon looking up at the hoodoos.  When I researched the best possible way to take this hike I wanted a longer hike, one about 5 miles long and knowing we would have some incline to get back out of the canyon, I wanted one with the least amount of incline. I’m not afraid of incline, but it’s hot (90+)and we already are sucking wind because of altitude. So based on my research I found the right one.  Well, I either need an eye exam or I read a totally different hike review because let me tell you, the incline to get out of this canyon was straight up for approximately 2 miles and that was NOT what I read!  And as i said before it’s not exactly cool during a summer day in Bryce Canyon.  However, it was all very well worth it in the end and I didn’t die!

Speaking of hot.  We never made it to the last of the Mighty 5 which would have been Zion National Park.  Yes, it was on our agenda and yes we had reservations in a most beautiful state park, but for the 4 days we were to be there the temperature range was to be between 105-111.  I don’t mind hot, but this is beyond even my temperature gauge.  Needless to say, we cancelled our reservations.  We will save Zion for another time, more than likely during a fall season, and yes even winter would work in this case.

We are coming up on our 1 year anniversary of the day we left home on this wonderful journey.  Can’t believe it?  Neither can I.  We’ve traveled through many different states to date.  Some we’ve been to before, some we have not.  Utah is a state that I’ve never been to and Kevin has been only twice.  I must say that so far Utah takes the #1 spot on my favorite list.  It is safe to say that we will be traveling back to Utah sometime in the very near future!

 Stay tuned for more blog entries on our travels through Idaho(including a visit from Ted & Dawn Thompson), Montana, and Canada.

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