The Great Southwest Trip 2017


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Sunday, September 24

Yup, it rained and HAILED last night. So (since we had a very short drive planned) Kelly and I took our time packing up, so that she could dry her tent and the stuff that got wet in Colorado and never dried out. We had breakfast, talked to people in the KOA at Green River, and then drove to Capitol Reef National Park.

Kelly's stuff is hanging on the fence drying; her tent was behind there, and my truck was parked by that corner during the night; I moved it so the sun could shine inside it and dry my (still wet from Saturday night) bedding out.

And Harley, the KOA dog, who thought everyone's breakfast should include some for him.

There was a guy staying at the KOA with this handsome fella. The human was wheeling a cart around and his macaw was getting some sun; the morning was lovely and warm, and we were all enjoying it.
We drove east on the 70 from Green River to a smaller road that went south to Hanksville, which is where we turned for Capitol Reef. Here's what it looked like around us; notice the clouds blowing away, and the hills getting more and more interesting...

A bit of rainbow, on the right.

Then we got to Hanksville, UT, which I had driven through two years ago when I left Capitol Reef...and I swear I never saw this place. It's the Desert Inn Motel, and the whole frontage along Highway 24 (which is just a two-lane road there) is full of wacky metal and rebar dinosaur and animal sculptures. We spent a long time taking pictures, it was so much fun!
When I was making this page, I kept showing my husband pictures of the motel's resident cat, Chuck. Who was a big ol' lovey boy. My husband just wrote this:

CHUCK

In Utah thereís a cat whose name is Chuck.
They say he runs the Desert Inn Motel.
If so the people there may thank their luck
Because their lives are not unceasing hell.
He knows the Desert Inn is home to monsters
Constructed of metallic odds and ends,
And if it werenít for Chuckís unceasing saunters
Among them, they and all their scary friends
Would wake at night and terrorize the people
Asleep in quiet homes on silent streets
But they fear mighty Chuck, whose lethal leapíll
Bring any metal monster to defeat.
Sleep on, O, Hanksville, Utah; fear no hurt,
For Chuck the cat is always on alert.

This is one of the reasons I'm always happy to come home to him.

And after taking WAAAAY too many pictures, we left Hanksville and Chuck behind, and got back on the road. And drove through more amazing scenery til we reached Capitol Reef National Park.

Factory Butte

This is the scenery driving into CRNP. It is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been, and at this point that's really saying something. I had been here in 2015, and wanted to see more of it.
We got there around noon, and went to the Visitor's Center to talk to the rangers about camping. There are a few spaces, they said, but we've been filling up. So we skedaddled out of there and got a space right away. By that evening there were no more, and they were full up til we left. On the left you can see our space, and I'm eating a tortilla full of delicious hummus. I'm also wearing my pink thermal hat, because it's DAMN COLD AND WINDY. It stayed cold and windy all day long, and got worse towards nightfall...
Here's a map of Capitol Reef, which is the Waterpocket Fold, a rock formation of many layers that was bent and then eroded so you can see the layers of rock as it wears away. It's a hundred miles long, the longest monocline in the world. Highway 24 goes through an opening in the formation, and there is a 'scenic road' that goes about 10 miles south of the visitor's center...and the rest you just have to hike to see.
Over lunch, we talked about what we wanted to do today; we had our campsite for two nights, so we had lots of time to hike and see stuff. I said that the last time I was here I had driven down the scenic road, but not had time to hike the Capitol Gorge, and wanted to do that; since she had never been here, she was perfectly happy to do that...so we did. First you drive ten miles down a narrow but paved road...

The Grand Wash. We'll come back to this...

And they mean it. This whole place is full of water and flood warnings; when it rains, water pours through every available wash and crack in the rocks.
At first we thought we were at the trailhead, at the big parking lot at the end of the road, and we started walking down the next part...then we realized that it was five more miles down a dirt road to the ACTUAL trailhead, so we came back to the truck and drove there.
Here is the beautiful road to the trailhead; you can see that we are not the only ones on the road. Capitol Reef was PACKED with people, the rangers said there's always a week or two like this between summer and when it gets cold (which, today's weather notwithstanding, is mid-October.)
So this is the trail to all these things. We knew what the petroglyphs and narrows were, and the 'tanks' were water-filled (at least for some time after rains) potholes in the rock. These are the eponymous 'waterpockets' that this formation was named after, and John Wesley Powell was the one who coined the term.
Although the canyon was too wide to be considered a true 'narrows', the rocks were beautiful. The trail to the tanks was two miles, out and back. on an easy wash. And the high cliffs broke the wind, which we both appreciated.
Here are some of the petroglyphs; for being so easy to get to, they weren't bad. The sunburst is pretty. And waaay up on that rock is a list of names and a date-1911. This is the 'pioneer register', and I saw more of this on the way back.
We got to the 'tanks' and decided not to climb up to them, so we turned around and started back. A nice couple with whom we had been talking on the trail took our picture, so you can see that Kelly and I are really both here!
Above are more pictures of the 'pioneer register', which makes this sign, which was by every single place you could park and walk out on a trail or to see rocks, extremly amusing. I do understand the difference, just pointing out the irony...

Some kind of paintbrush

We went back to the parking lot. There was a brick and concrete patio-kind-of-thing at the trailhead, I was amused to see the bootprints in the concrete lintel.

The whitetail chimpmunks were all over the edges of the parking lot!

And the road out is just as pretty as it was on the way in.

Then we drove to the Grand Wash and decided to go hiking there. I had hiked most of it from the other end (it's 2 1/4 miles, it's the hypoteneuse between the 24 and the scenic road) and the Narrows is really pretty. When we got to the parking lot, it was 4:30, the sun was starting to get lower, and it was cold and windy. We decided to hike up the canyon for half an hour then back, to get back to the car by 5:30 and back to the campground by 6 so we could make dinner and clean up before dark.

And I have my thermal hat on again...because it's COLD in that canyon...

Going into the Narrows. This is where I got caught in a rainstorm in 2015, and waterfalls came down the rocks out of nowhere...

And now we're heading back through them and hustling back to the car.

An old uranium mine. No joke, one of the layers here has uranium in it.
We headed back to the campground and Kelly made dinner. I don't remember what she made, because as soon as the sun really started going down, the wind got worse, and it got SO COLD. It was probably about 45 degrees by the time dinner was over. I was grateful it was my night to do the dishes because MY HANDS IN HOT WATER. Kelly didn't mind the cold as much as I did and went off to a ranger program.
After doing dishes, I took pictures of the adorable deer in the apple and pear orchard next to our campsite (we were on the edge of the campground). The Mormons settled the center of Capitol Reef, where the ground is flat and there are two year-round rivers. There are orchards all over the area, and whatever is in season is free to eat- you can walk into the orchards, pick fruit and eat it there, or you can take it home if you pay for it. There were apples and pears when we were there at the end of September, and the deer were there every morning and evening. Smart little animals. As soon as the dishes were done I went to bed where it was WARM.

It got down to 38 degrees that night...