Ranger Kathryn's Arches

June 4, 2011

Blown away (by) (at) Capitol Reef NP

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 1:58 pm
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The tent was flapping, whipping, and shimmying around us as we were trying to fall asleep from a tiring day. These late spring winds were not abating after sunset as we had hoped, but instead seemed to be picking up speed. In one exuberant moment, a 55-mph gust tore the tent stakes from the ground on one side and bent the poles, releasing them from their support pins. A parachute of nylon engulfed Nicole and me in our sleeping bags as we laughed until we cried.

The other tent’s occupants had already begun disassembling their poles in an attempt to avert damage. Our fifth member was ensconced in the back seat of the Subaru in his bag, being the wisest of all. We were miles out in the desert on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land, far far from any alternatives for sleeping that night.  Driving fifteen miles to the ghost motel (deserted Rodeway Inn) came up as an option, but we elected to sleep ON our tents instead, and burrow as deeply into the sleeping bag as possible in order to avoid massive exfoliation from the stinging airborne grains. I wanted to at least peek at the Milky Way spanning the dark skies above, but that was also a hopeless prospect. Let us say simply that nobody slept much that night, and Nicole’s pillow blew away.

Enjoy the Capitol Reef Album I created for Facebook!

September 23, 2010

Capitol Reef National Park

A huge piece of Navajo sandstone

It’s not often that a polygamists’ enclave morphs into a national park, but somewhere between the historic Mormon fruit orchards and the thousand feet of Navajo sandstone and the geologically famous Waterpocket Fold, legislators found Capitol Reef worthy of protection. I am so glad they did, as I went on an Explore on my days off with two co-workers. Risking life and limb on a rainy afternoon in a flash-flood-prone canyon, roasting marshmallows over a camp stove, and facing off against a marauding raccoon in the campsite made it all the more memorable.

Climbed about 1700 feet to Rim Overlook; orchards below

Always when I go to a place new to me, I am struck by the differences-that-are-similar. Most of the rock layers in Capitol Reef are also present in either Arches or Canyonlands or both, but they are of different colors and thicknesses farther west. The green oasis that is Moab is watered by the Colorado River, and fruit trees of many types thrive in the Moab Valley; the Fremont River runs right through Capitol Reef, prompting the ancestral people to dig irrigation ditches for their gardens. The early Mormon settlers found these ditches and planted numerous fruit orchards in this oasis.

This is the only national park I know of in which visitors can walk through the orchards and pick any fruit that is in season and eat it on the spot. (If you remove fruit from the orchard, you weigh and pay for it on the honor system.) Apples, peaches, pears, plums… whatever your heart desires is yours for the picking, if you can get it before the mule deer do.

"The Castle." Wingate sandstone is far more pink-and-salmon in Capitol Reef than in Canyonlands.

Majestic sandstone monoliths are indescribably beautiful, especially when thunderclouds frame them. Our 1.5 days in the park were woefully inadequate to explore much; the National Weather Service phoned the park to notify them of the high risk of flash floods, which kept us out of some of the exceptionally scenic low areas.

We’ll save those for next time. There will be a next time. Those Mormons sure know how to make hot-from-the-oven pies worth driving hours to get.

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