Saturday, May 25, 2019

Burro Wash Hike

Off the Beaten Path

Capitol Reef National Park

A pattern has developed during my travels:  The need for solitude after several days of touring.  The truth is, this need has spilled over into everyday life.  I can only take people in very small doses.  Whether at home or in a national park where a popular hiking trail can be as crowded as a street corner in Tokyo.

My travel buddy recognizes the signs.  I become sullen and my speech, combative.  I can become so lethargic that I can barely move.  Leave me alone, I want to scream.  At him.  And everyone else.

Thank goodness for those unloved, unknown, wide open spaces in the world that no one seems to want to visit.  These are the places that I seek.  These are the places that become the highlights of my travels.  A pattern has definitely emerged.

And so I found myself walking down a dry streambed called Burro Wash, on the eastern side of that magnificent 100-mile Waterpocket Fold in Utah.  Don't even ask me how we found this place.  The important thing was that no one else had found it either!

We left our rental car by the highway and began to walk down a long, sandy trail into the Fold.  With every mile I walked, I became more and more energetic.  The air was so cool and clean that my lungs filled with an elixir of happiness.  I  could breathe again. 

Best of all, we didn't see another soul. 

Bootprints in the sand, as well as stacked rocks marking the trail, were evidence that other solitary-seeking people had come this way before.  I appreciated the assurances I was going the right way, but didn't worry too much about getting lost. The massive reef of rocks to the east and the snow-capped mountains to the west were directional landmarks, as good as any compass.

It was a thrill to reach the boundary of Capitol Reef National Park way out here in the middle of nowhere.  A simple sign and gate marked its entry.  The wide open spaces would soon become a narrow hike through the canyons of the fold.

The sandy trail turned into a rocky one.  Fields of  juniper and sage were replaced by walls of stratified sandstone.  There were crumbly overhangs that we walked quickly through, fearful that they might collapse at any moment.

When we reached a point where the dry streambed was choked with boulders, I knew I had reached my destination.  My travel buddy wanted to push on, but I held my ground.  I had learned my lesson on the Devil's Garden trail back in Arches.  There had been a few people around on that strenuous hike to help me in case of an emergency (like a broken leg or worse).  But out here?  Not a single person in sight.  And no cell phone reception to boot!

We were truly alone.  Best to be prudent.

And so we turned around and headed back.  I can say with all candor that hiking this deserted trail revived my energy.  Is it an oxymoron to say that "I need more space" when I'm in a national park as big as this one?  

  My travel buddy often calls me a misanthrope.  But I'm not.  I don't dislike my fellow human beings.  I enjoy their company when I feel rested and refreshed.  Whereas sleep revives my body; solitude revives my soul.

The Burro Wash trailhead is about eight miles south on the Notom-Bullfrog Road off State Highway 24.  It's about three miles to the narrow slots of the Waterpocket Fold, but you can go in as deep as you dare.  Just make sure it's not about to rain!  Take lots of water and food.  Make sure your car is full of gas.  There are no facilities out here.

And that's exactly why I loved it.

I got my space.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Pioneer Register Hike

Capitol Reef National Park

If you only have time for one hike in Capitol Reef National Park, this is the one to take.  It is an easy stroll through a dry streambed that unbelievably used to be the main state highway through this part of Utah for 80 years.  Determined pioneers cleared this path of rocks, allowing wagons to safely roll through.  Later, even cars had to slowly wind their way through this canyon until 1962, when  Highway 24 finally opened.  Crazy!

Fortunately, a wooden post marks the spot where you find prehistoric Native American petroglyphs; otherwise, you might walk right by them.  They blend into the red rock and have been eroded by wind and water.  And time.

More prominent and more interesting is the Pioneer Register further down.  Walls of graffiti cover the rock faces--names and dates of the those hardy settlers who bounced their way down this road.

There are many opportunities for rock scrambling along the way.  The ledges, niches and boulders tempted both of us as we walked through the narrow canyon.  A steep spur trail takes you up up to some holes filled with water, called "The Tanks".  The trail was hard to follow and several of us hikers fanned out to try to find them.  Finally, my travel buddy succeeded and waved us all over.

This is a very fun hike with lots of interesting things to see.  It's only a two-mile round trip walk.  The trailhead is located at the end of the Scenic Road, 10.7 miles south of the Visitor's Center.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Hiking the Grand Wash Trail

Capitol Reef National Park

The Grand Wash Trail is an easy walk, but a fascinating one.  You follow a dry streambed through a deep canyon with massive sandstone walls on either side.  It's about a 4-mile round trip hike, but the prettiest part is the Narrows, only a mile in.  Be forewarned that the wind can be gusty through here.  I had to cover my nose and mouth with a bandana.  Goggles would have been nice.

The patterns in the rock resembled modern abstracts.  Nature creates the best art!


Saturday, May 18, 2019

A Scenic Drive through Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef National Park

All of the national parks in Utah are spectacular, but the Waterpocket Fold topped with dome-shaped rocks kept me in a state of awe the entire three days we were there.  The folding and tilting of 23 clearly defined layers of rock, dating back 280 million years ago, is a compilation of our earth's geologic history.  Be sure to go to the Visitor's Center for the lecture and to study the museum's exhibits before heading out.

We stayed at the Rim Rock Inn near the west entrance of the park for easy access (and for its excellent restaurant).  The first day we focused on the beautiful overlooks,  Goosenecks and Sunset Point, and on the aptly named "Scenic Drive".  On the other days we stopped at the petroglyphs and various settlements of the early pioneers, and then finally drove down the Notom-Bullfrog road which parallels the fold.