Saturday, August 6, 2011

Capitol Reef - Don't rain on my parade

Hi everyone,

We made it home alive and in one piece.  I’m so tired, mostly due to my Dramamine cocktail, but I can’t seem to take a nap.  The kids are dutifully playing all the video games they’ve been missing and my husband is on his computer checking out the pictures from his 30th high school reunion weekend he had to miss because I planned this trip. He insists he didn’t care because he’d rather have the trip out West, but during our trip he would tell me what activities he was missing each day. Way to make me feel like c^*p, babe.

When last I posted – about 5 minutes ago – we had finished our full day at Bryce Canyon and my love of Bryce was reaffirmed. The next day we broke camp and headed to Capitol Reef. It’s a short 2 hour 45 minute drive from Bryce to Capitol Reef but it is one of the most spectacular. We drove through Escalante State Park.  I’m sorry I didn’t know of its existence before the trip.  Perhaps we could have scheduled a day here, too.  However, the highway does allow you to see lots of beautiful views.  We stopped several times to take pictures.

Right about lunchtime we pulled into Torrey, Utah and began looking for our campground.  We’re staying in a private campground, not the park, due to the only campground at the park being first come, first serve. (you know my rule about no reservations) We did arrive fairly early and Capitol Reef isn’t the most popular national park so we probably could have gotten a spot, but I really liked our private campground.  First of all, we were the only tent campers at our campground – only one RV was there and one family was renting the 2 cabins on site – so our lovely hostess gave us the group site. Second, they had the cleanest, nicest bathrooms with the best showers we’ve seen so far. Ah the showers we all took.  We felt almost human again this evening. Third, there’s nothing like renting from people who chase the chickens away and sneak into your tent to close your “windows” when they see rain approaching. I know this sounds super creepy, but while we were at lunch, some nasty clouds were coming through.  We had opened all our “windows” so that just mesh “screens” were there, not thinking that rain was on its way.  When we returned after our visit through the Park, mysteriously all of our “windows” were zipped closed. My husband learned that our host, Duane, concerned about our sleeping bags and cots getting wet, came into the tent and zipped all the openings shut for us.  We didn’t know whether to thank him or call the police.  In the end we decided that we’d rather sleep with dry gear than worry about the tent “breaking and entering” incident.

By the way we had a lovely lunch at the Capitol Reef Inn and Café.  This place was very laid back and relaxed with a lovely native garden and signs for a kiva in back.  I’m not sure what a kiva is except I think that’s where a bunch of people died a few years back when they overheated in one on a vision quest run by some nut. But I digress again. The restaurant was empty except for us and a pretty waitress named Cameo. She looked like a Cameo if you can picture it. I really can’t remember what I had for lunch but I do remember we all ordered the lemonade which was sweetened with honey instead of sugar.  It was good but needed more honey.  My husband had the ten vegetable salad but he swears he can only count nine. My son says he had a taco.  My daughter had smoked trout on a bagel with cream cheese. I think the owners might be Jews from Brooklyn.

After lunch we drove into Capitol Reef National Park to check out the sights.  We only have the rest of the day here since we leave tomorrow for Heber and a real house. The drive down the main road through the park is perfect for seeing most of the great rock formations, our favorite being Fern’s Nipple. I’m not sure who named these things but if I were Fern I’d be feeling pretty good about myself and what others thought of my nipple – nice and perky. As for the rest of the Park, there were so many other rock formations that could have used names.  Our family created a few, none of which I can repeat here.

We drove down to the farthest end of the Scenic Drive (yes, the scenic drive is called Scenic Drive.  Except for the Nipple, Capitol Reef does suffer from a serious lack of imagination in the naming department).  We wanted to drive down the unpaved Capitol Gorge road to the trail at the end.  We were warned not to make this hike if the weather looked severe since flash-flooding could occur. But this was a fairly short trail that fit in to our afternoon and gave us a chance to see the Tanks, which are supposed to be pretty pools of water.  Starting to sound familiar to any of you who read my Zion Emerald Pools blog?

The hike was about a mile into the rock formations.  The trail is the dried up bed of a river that forms when a storm occurs – hence the warning about the flash-flooding. There are some great spots along the way including some petroglyphs made by Native Americans from the Fremont Culture and can date anywhere from 600 – 1300 AD. We also saw pioneer graffiti.  Apparently writing your name on public property isn’t a new idea.  Pioneers who passed through Capitol Reef liked to carve their names and dates of visit on the rock walls.  Funny how when the graffiti is old enough it’s historical but when it’s from the past few decades, it’s just rude. 

We reached the end of our trail and saw the sign for the trail to go up to see The Tanks. I swear I didn’t push this hike.  I was perfectly happy to turn around and walk back to the car, especially since I saw some darker clouds starting to roll in and visions of flash flooding danced before my eyes. Either my husband or my son started walking up the trail and it wasn’t long before we completely lost our way.  Then my son noticed a stack of stones artificially standing up.  We had seen these in Bryce and thought it was some tourist’s idea of a joke, creating their own hoodoo or something. Turns out they’re trail markers.  So using them as our guides, we attempted to follow the trail.  I say attempt because we would climb a bit and then completely lose the trail.  Then, usually my son would find a trail marker in some out of the way spot that I would look at and say, out loud, “How the hell are we supposed to get there?”  At which point my son would admonish me for swearing and run up to the spot. Then the rest of us try to follow, me in the rear.  This went on for 2/10 of a mile, which on a flat surface isn’t very far.  Climbing up a cliff, however, seems endless.  We finally make it to The Tanks which turn out to be a few puddles of water.  Have we learned nothing from our hike to the Emerald pools? No, we have not.

The trip down is much easier and then we walk quickly to the car.  The clouds are rolling in and we’ve become so paranoid about being washed away in a flood that we’re practically running.  Meanwhile, perfectly sane and balanced people are calmly walking down the trail on their way into the formations. We think they’re nuts and are convinced they’re on their way to certain doom.

With a sigh of relief we reach the car and get the heck out of the park and back to the “safety” of our campsite.  After dealing with the weirdness of having our tent violated, we take nice hot showers, get dressed and go to dinner across the street.  Conveniently enough, Café Diablo, the designated restaurant for this evening, is, in fact, across the street.  However, we decide to drive there because the rain finally started and we’re still concerned about being washed away.

Café Diablo was very good and a great choice to eat good food in a relaxed atmosphere.  We tried the rattlesnake patties but we all agreed that the patties were too breaded and only tasted good when dipped in the accompanying sauce.  The rest of the dinner was much better. First, the presentation was fantastic.  I’m looking for any pictures I have of my dinner.  Dessert was the best part of the dinner.  The chocolate cake and Oreo Cheesecake we all shared were rich but not too sweet.

More tomorrow – return to civilization, sort of.

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