It was raining when I woke up, and it would occasionally rain heavily enough that you could hear it quite loudly. This part of the ride had been planned carefully. We had been told that the drive on Utah Route 12 to Torrey and Capital Reef was especially beautiful, and that we should drive this stretch in the morning. It seemed that all this planning was going to come to naught. It did not look like a promising start to the day.
I took some more pictures of the Grand Staircase Inn before we departed Cannonville. It was raining as I crossed the highway to take a few pictures.
In a short while we began to see snow on the mountains in front of us.As we climbed into the mountains, the temperatures began to drop, until they were below freezing, and the rain also changed to a steady snowfall. The snow continued for a while. We even passed a snow plow.After a while, as we were driving through a valley between mountains next to a dry desert wash, the snowfall stopped. We could even see the sky brightening up in the distance.
All this while our drive had been alternating between the lands of the Dixie National Forest and the Grand-Escalante National Monument.
In a short while we arrived at the town of Escalante and the offices of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a division of the US Department of the Interior that runs Grand-Escalante National Monument. They had a museum dedicated to the National Monument. Although it was a small museum, there was a lot of interesting information to be found. The mission of the BLM is to preserve the land and the environment of the National Monument, and to do research and learn more about the land. There are scientists of all kinds who go out looking for, and cataloging, the natural wonders, and the plants and the animals of that region. They study the geology of the land, and do archeological studies. The Hopi and the Paiute Indians used to live on this land. Ancients artifacts of life from their times are discovered and catalogued. And then they look for fossils. They are finding fossils of animals from really old times, including that of dinosaurs, some of them new types of dinosaurs, and some of them of really huge animals.
I thought that the movie that they showed in this museum was the best we had seen so far during this entire trip.We drove through the town to Escalante. It seems to be a developed place with a lot of amenities of modern life, but it also felt like we had stepped back in time when one looked at the setup of the town, its buildings, and its decor. We even passed a motel called the Prospector Inn.
It also looked like the place where people who are interested in the outdoors use as a base for activities like hiking and biking. I wonder if this is a place we would think about coming to for an extended period of time some day in the future.
It did not take too long to drive through the town. It was still raining as we drove into the wilderness again. We arrived at an overlook into a valley where we, once again, saw clearing skies in the distance.Below us, we could see the road that we were about to take into the valley.As we crossed another mountain range you could see the green trees below us where the Escalante river was flowing. We are going to get to the road you see in the valley!The road dropped to the level of the river before starting to climb again.Soon the road was running on a high mountain ridge with steep drop-offs on both sides. It was a little scary. Fortunately, there were pullouts where one could stop to take pictures like this. The skies had cleared by this point.The presence of the trees between the mountains showed that there was water flowing at the bottom between these mountains. One of these flows is of the Escalante river.We descended from the mountains into a lower area where Boulder was located.
And then the road started to climb once again. We started to see cows wandering beside the roadside. Apparently, they are free to graze in the open in these parts. I think this was mamma cowwaiting for her little one in the picture below to cross the road and join her.And then we saw the cowboys herding the cattle on both sides of the road. We slowed down to let them pass.It is quite clear that we are in a part of the west that was captured in the western movies of a time gone by. This is John Wayne country! The towns that we are passing through, the local hotels that we are staying in, the food, and the way of life here is from another time and place. Wow!
The road continued to climb until we reached a point where we began to see snow on the roadside. It had snowed recently.We crossed the summit of the road at an altitude of 9600 feet.We then started descending through a winter wonderland.That was when we encountered this cow that looked lost. I wonder if the cowboys had lost one of their cows.The cow actually crossed the road in front of us to the side with a drop-off that looked somewhat steep.We think the cowboys lost one of their cows. Hope it made it home safely!
There was more snow on the way down.In a while we dropped below the snow level. As we approached the town of Torrey near the Capitol Reef National Park, we could see the distant mountain cliffs with sections lit up by sunlight.We ended our unexpectedly eventful and exciting drive on route 12 at this point and turned east on to Utah Route 24 to head into the park. This part of the drive had taken much longer than I had anticipated, but we had thoroughly enjoyed the experience. In fact, one is tempted to dedicate an entire blog to that topic.
Capitol Reef is quite close to Torrey. It was afternoon by the time we arrivedand it was raining as we went to the visitor center.We drove to a picnic area for lunch after watching the movie at the visitor Center.
Because of the weather, we were not sure what we were going to do the rest of the day. With all the water on the ground, the red sandstone mud was becoming sticky and slippery. It stuck to your shoes and tracked into the car, and any other place you walked into.
We decided to drive to the end of the scenic road in the park, and follow the dirt road at the end of this paved road for a couple of miles to a trail called the Capital Gorge Trail. The unpaved road ran through a narrow canyon between two mountains. The trail was into a deep canyon.
It started raining somewhat heavily as we were driving on the paved road. An interesting aspect of this road was that it crosses a large number of desert washes that fill with water when there is flash flooding, and that the roads did not use bridges to cross these washes. You essentially forded the washes. You had to keep off the road if there was flooding.
It was raining somewhat heavily when we got to the end of the paved section of the road. There was some nervousness about entering the canyon under these conditions.So we turned to head back towards the Visitor Center. There was nothing to do but to take it easy the rest of the day. On the way back, we crossed another dirt road that led to the trail head for a different canyon walk.The vehicle in the picture below sped its way past us on to the dirt road, splashing through the red muddy water that was already pooling on its surface.This park seems to be a somewhat laid-back place. At the center of the park is what used to be the town of Fruita, a place that was occupied by the Mormons in the first half of the 20th century. They used to farm the land. Some of the artifacts of life from those days are still around, and some of them are still used. They still have fruit tree farms and produce canned goods like jams and jellies, and have other items for sale. You can buy some of this stuff at the Gifford House. We consumed some locally made ice cream while sitting in our car. It was too damp ans cold to sit outside.
The barn in the picture below is what you will see in a lot of articles about Capitol Reef National Park.We were going to leave the park and check into our hotel early because of the weather. We decided to stop at the Goosenecks Overlook, and also take the Sunset Point Trail at this location, on our way back.
This turned out to be a good decision. The skies actually began to clear up in the distance as we approached the viewpoints.The next picture is from Goosenecks viewpoint. You can see why this name was chosen. The Sulphur Creek flows at the bottom of this canyon.These are pictures of the canyon from the Sunset Point trail. I thought the green layer running through the mountain range was striking.Here are more pictures of the mountain range that dominates Capitol Reef National Park. These are also taken from the Sunset Trail. (Click on the picture!)This is a close up of one section of the range.The sun had popped out of the clouds by the time we arrived at the Broken Spur Inn and Steakhouse, the place that we were staying.The property also includes a section where you can spend the night in a covered wagon. We did not do that!It was an early dinner at the steakhouse. The place was quite busy. Beef dominates the menu list here. For dietary reasons, we generally do not eat beet. We were able to find something else. The food was top-notch!
I have to note that I have been drinking only the local beers during this trip. Many of them seem to come from Salt Lake City. They are pretty good.
We plan to spend the morning today in the park if the weather holds up. We then head east towards Colorado. We are headed towards the tail end of our trip!