Sadly, it was time to bid farewell to our beautiful campsite at Dead Horse Point State Park and drive southwest to Torrey and Capitol Reef National Park. We made it six days with the water stored onboard and without having to dump, but of course we made sure to empty the grey and black water tanks before leaving. Jeff, you should know that Jackie declared the dump site “best ever” in her rating scale. So off we drove, north to I-70 and west to Green River, leaving the red sandstone cliffs for dry, dusty, grey sands that had little vegetation. Despite seeing signs for “Cows in Roadway” and “Open Range” there were no wildlife sightings or cattle. There was, however, gas in Green River, so we loaded up both vehicles.
The interstate was easy driving, flat and straight and uninteresting terrain, frankly. We made a turn off to the south and after a while dropped down from the desert into another lower scrubland, crossing the Dirty Devil River toward Hanksville and Caineville. There the terrain changed dramatically. Suddenly the road passed through grey and beige hills and what looked like huge piles of cement or gravel. Cones of grey stone and sand looked like you were in the gravel pit of a quarry – but all naturally occurring. A line of rough black ridges jutted upward like a line of giant teeth, giving the landscape an otherworldly look. Definitely the spot for a science fiction movie shoot.
We were soon on the approach to Capitol Reef and dropped into a rather fertile valley where there was hay and other crops being grown. We were now entering the historic town of Fruita, where Mormons once had a small town and extensive orchards. These orchards are maintained by the Park Service and are open for you to wander and pick in the harvest season (picked out now).
We drove another 10 miles or so to Torrey, a town with no stop lights, stop signs and little activity, though nicely tree-lined. Camp was a private spot, Sand Creek RV, with full hookups and a wonderful view of the scrub field and backdrop of sandstone cliffs.
It was such a nice day, temperatures in the 60’s, that we ate a quick lunch and set off back to the Visitor’s Center to explore Fruita and beyond. Once again, the colors of the sandstone cliffs and the eroded crags made for impressive, breathtaking views. I have taken so many pictures, but can’t help taking more, as each view seems better than the last. Capitol Reef got its name from a formation of white Navajo sandstone that looks like the Capitol dome in DC and the reef is a reference to the Waterpocket Fold that runs north to south and was long a travel barrier.
We still have not seen much wildlife, despite the many signs for deer crossing, cattle crossing and even this new one: Marmot crossing. Capitol Reef is supposed to be home to mountain lion, but the chances of seeing them are well, not likely.
At the Visitor’s Center we caught the forecast for rain the next day and decided to travel the Scenic Drive and Grand Wash before any flooding occurred. The Grand Wash was a gravel road that could require 4WD in wet conditions, but there were all sorts of cars and vans driving in to the trailhead. Several times you crossed or drove along the dry wash, even on the paved Scenic Drive, and it was evident there had been recent flooding. We hiked the wash into twisting, turning passages lined with sandstone that had huge pockets carved out – not quite a slot canyon, but a very cool hike that was relatively easy in and out with a cool breeze blowing up the wash.
Exploring Torrey didn’t take long – there are two gas stations, several places to eat that are closed or out of business, one gift shop and that’s about it. However, the campground has decent wifi, which has allowed me to upload pictures and post two blogs so far, and Jackie is going to clean some clothes in the camp laundry.
It was good that we drove the Grand Wash when we did, as rain began on day 2 and may continue for another day. There is too much possibility of flash floods and road closures around here to drive where you clearly see where the creeks cross the roadways. We are declaring this rainy day a recovery day, taking a hot shower, working on crochet, writing the blog and just relaxing a bit. Although, I would like to make a run to Fruita and buy a homemade pie at the historic Gifford House so we can enjoy a nice dessert as we cozy up with our comfy pants tonight.
Ah, but the Gifford House was closed for lunch as was the Visitor’s Center, so we drove back to town and stopped at the Chuckwagon for lunch. It is almost the only place in town open during the week. It was Taco Tuesday, so we had a nice hot plate of steak tacos and sides. Very busy, although the shopkeepers say they are closing at the end of October. Seems this is a big month for leaf peepers – the nearby Fishlake and Dixie forests have color. We walked across the street to the Trading Post and poked around a bit before going back to the motorhome and relaxing. This morning’s rain has stopped, but the temperature has dropped to almost 50 degrees. It is expected to drop to 39 degrees tomorrow night. Brrr.
It seems our decision to drive the Grand Wash yesterday was smart, since it is posted as closed until further notice due to the rain and flood potential. Not sure how the next few days will work out, but we plan to try for some overlooks and short hikes. The trail to Hickman Bridge warns of pesky, aggressive yellowjackets, so if we do that one I will definitely take my EpiPen.
Day three brought the predicted low of 39 degrees, with overnight rain, but the day started clear and bright, so we packed our hiking gear and water and headed the 12 miles back to the Visitor’s Center and Gifford House to get some of that darned pie! We had an early tip-off about it from “Adventures of A+K” that we had been following. The small house that served as museum about the Mormons who settled Fruita did indeed have pie. So I bought Cherry and Apple and an awesome cinnamon roll for breakfast. Yummmm. Next to the orchards were some huge cottonwood trees that dated to the early 1900’s.
Back to driving, we stopped to look at some of the Hopi and Pueblo petroglyphs scratched into the rock face and then on to find a parking spot at Hickman Natural Bridge trailhead. With water, snacks, trekking poles and camera we headed uphill once again on what was to be a 1 mile hike, 1 mile return. But we know how these distances go … always a lot longer than when you walk the same distance in your neighborhood. But it was turning partly cloudy and still on the cool side, so the uphill hike wasn’t too bad. It changed from steps to a sandy wash to more slickrock and sand, and finally there it was. A magnificent arch of stone overhead that was worth the hike. We paused at a rock overlooking the canyon below, drank water, and ate grapes before heading back down. Very cool.
We finished the afternoon with some more overlooks, we drove the dirt Goosenecks Road and Doug took a short hike to Sunset Point before we packed it in for the day and joined Kodi and Merlin back at camp. Dinner was a no-fuss meal of baked beans, burgers and salad. Doug picked up a pack of Wasatch Apricot Hefeweizen brewed in Salt Lake City (so only 4.2%) but it was cold and wet and had a nice tart snap to it.
On our last day in town we drove west a few miles to the towns of Bicknell and Loa. Filled the jeep with gas in Loa and stopped in Bicknell once the State Liquor Store was open. Tiny, itty bitty shop, but I picked up some Wasatch Beer and vodka. I learned that ABV less than 5.2% can be sold in grocery and convenience stores, but the higher ABV beers are sold in state stores. That helps explain some of the beer confusion in Utah.
On the way back to camp, in fact right next to camp, was a cidery we had not noticed. Of course we pulled in to Etta Place Cider and were soon very glad we did. Owners Robert and Ann were such friendly ciderists – we learned so much about the process of making hard ciders that were really wine quality and their effort to grow heritage varieties of apples, pears and other fruits. Ann called Robert in from picking the current crop of apples to host a tasting for us that was just wonderful. Robert shared a few slices of a red-fleshed apple that he had just picked – delicious. We bought several bottles of their hard ciders, including the Bourbon Barrel Aged cider that Jackie was very excited about. I can’t say enough about their place, which is only 5 months old, and encourage you to stop in if you are ever near Torrey.
We also mentioned the restaurant Hunt & Gather across the street. Well, Ann and Richard were headed there for dinner tonight and raved about it. Lucky for us it was Thursday and they were open through Monday before closing for the season. Jackie called in a reservation so we are prepared to have a great meal tonight. Just before we headed across the street we heard a clap of thunder and in the distance a storm was brewing. Never actually made it to the campsite though. For dinner we had a delicious Cabernet with beef tips marsala for Jackie and elk steak for Doug. What a delicious end to the first three weeks of our adventure and a toast to the next three.
Looking at the various maps we have, it looks like we will scrub one excursion we planned: Burr Trail Road and switchbacks. It is about 75 miles one way and we really have done our fair share of driving lately. We also changed plans not to take the Scenic Route through the Dixie Forest south to Tropic and our next stop, Kodachrome Basin State Park, since it looks like a 4,000 ft. elevation gain with 8 – 10% grades for a few miles and I just don’t care to drive 20 mph through the mountains again worried about overheating. So there is a slightly longer route that circles up and around to the west that should be just fine.
Kodachrome Basin State Park has no cell service, so we will likely be totally out of touch for almost a week. Thanks for joining us on this journey — and stop kicking the back of the seat, please.