Capitol Reef National Park [December 29th, 2018]

The next morning we woke up and had another delicious breakfast at the Bryce Trails Bed & Breakfast:

It consisted of cream cheese stuffed crepes [I’m a sucker for anything with cream cheese flavor] covered with a berry compote, cherries, blueberries, another another delicious yogurt parfait. Crystal even made me my own batch of nut-free granola for my yogurt, which was delicious as well.

Today’s destination was Capitol Reef National Park. We knew that Capitol Reef was basically closed. The Visitor’s Center wouldn’t be open, the only bathrooms would be pit toilets, and we were kind of on our own there, but that was okay. We figured we could just hike a trail like we had done at Saguaro.

The drive from the Bed & Breakfast was only about an hour or so from the entrance sign.

Capitol Reef National Park was established in 1971 to preserve 241,904 acres of desert landscape within Utah. It was initially declared a national monument in 1937 by Franklin D. Roosevelt to protect the areas colorful canyons, ridges, buttes, and monoliths, however the area was not open to the public until 1950. State Route 24 was constructed in 1962 to help the public access the area better.

Like Guadalupe Mountains, Capitol Reef used to be underwater. Utah used to be on a continental shelf that was occasionally covered by a shallow arm of the Panthalassa Ocean. The erosion from the ocean and later the Kaibab Sea exposed the seabed that was once covered by water and that’s part of what created the different layers of minerals that create the cliffs of Capitol Reef.

Capitol Reef is defined by the waterpocket fold, which is a classic monocline, or a “step-up” in rock layers. It formed between 50 and 70 million years ago when a major mountain building event in western Northern America, the Laramide Orogeny, reactivated an ancient buried fault in the region. The movement along the fault caused the west side to shift upwards relative to the east side. The overlying sedimentary layers were draped in the fault and formed the monocline. The rock layers on the west side of the fold have been lifted more than 7000 feet higher than the layers of the east. The erosion that resulted from this exposed the fold and created the waterpockets. The waterpockets are small depressions that have formed throughout Capitol Reef in many of the sandstone layers, and the erosion is still shaping the park into the colorful cliffs, massive domes, soaring spires, monoliths, canyons, and arches that can be seen throughout the park today.

Capitol Reef has also been a homeland to people for thousands of years. Hunters and gatherers migrated through the canyons. The etched Petroglyphs in rock walls and painted pictographs that still remain today. Explorers and pioneers arrived in the 1800s and settled in the Fruita area of the park. They planted orchards of apples, pears, and peaches that still exist today. In fact, in summer and fall, you can actually visit these orchards and pick fruit that grow in them, however, that isn’t something we could have done in December.

We arrived at the park, stopped at the Panoramic overlook and took some pictures of the park:

After that we drove to the Visitor’s Center to see if we could find one of the trail maps, which we did. There was a scenic drive throughout the park, but the road was snowy and icy, and it wasn’t plowed or anything, and we couldn’t have done it even if we wanted to. We did see one couple putting chains on their tires so they could attempt the scenic drive, you would’ve needed snow tires to go on that road safely.

[The visitor’s center wasn’t open, so we couldn’t get our passports stamped, but they did have the stickers at Bryce, so we bought one]

Instead we decided to hike to Hickman’s Bridge:

Hickman’s Bridge is rated as a moderate hike. It has a 400 foot elevation gain and leads to a 133-foot natural bridge. It’s one of the most popular hiking trails at Capitol Reef. It’s about 2 miles round-trip.

The trail starts pretty easy, and it hikes along the Fremont River.

From there, the trip basically goes uphill, and it’s combination of stone-steps and uphill hiking. I will say that some of the steps are sort of high up. I have long legs, but I’m not very tall [I’m 5’4″ish], and some of them I really had to think of a good way to step onto, whereas Justin, who’s much taller than me could easily step from one step to another.

We had snow at Capitol Reef still when we did the hike. There wasn’t a lot of snow as we ascended up to the trail, but after we got to the trailhead, the snow was much deeper, and the trail was icier and required the use of our spikes.

The worst part of the trail was probably just ascending the trail. It wasn’t really difficult, especially compared to the switchbacks at Bryce, but as you climb higher, the air sometimes get thinner, and that can be a sort of tough adjustment. Once we passed the trail sign, we hiked through a snow-covered wash. A lot of the hikers, who also hiked the hike, had some fun in the snow.

Eventually you arrive the the loop that goes under and around the bridge.

Shortly after the bridge comes into view.

Climbing around the bridge was short of challenging? It’s probably less challenging when it’s not icy and snowy, but you basically climb, down, around, and over the rocks surrounding the bridge, and it was actually a lot of fun, but you really had to watch where you put your foot, one wrong move, and you would’ve been sliding to the bottom of the bridge.

After going around the bridge, the trail has a pretty nice lookout, where you can see the cliffs surrounding the park.

Going down was a lot easier than going up, and seemed to take half the time.

We both really liked the trail. I think I rank it higher than Zion just because the trail was an interesting trail and was challenging. We didn’t really do much at Zion due to road closures and the two trails we did there weren’t really anything special.

The trail was pretty empty. We saw people every so often, but we mostly had the trail to ourselves and just hiked at our speed.

Once we finished the trail, it was off to our lodging for the night, and here’s where things got interesting.

When I booked all the lodging for this trip, a long time ago, I had trouble finding lodging near Capitol Reef because it’s located in a rather remote area, and I’m just not very familiar with Utah. I did a google search, and found this place called The Mills Cabins and Lodge at Thousand Lake Mountain. It seemed pretty basic, but for one night, a bed was really all we needed. I booked a cabin. It was very affordable, and that was that.

In November, I heard from them. They told me that they had closed their cabins for the season, but they had room in their lodge, and was that okay. I told them that that was fine. But I had a weird feeling about it. That weird feeling never quite went away either.

Fast-forward to the present. We found them, and drove up to the lodge, the place was completely vacant and empty and devoid of any signs of life. It had recently snowed, the parking lot and road was still icy. Nothing had been plowed or anything, which isn’t really good, if you’re supposedly running a business. We knocked on the door of the lodge, it was locked, and there was no answer. I tried the doors of the rooms at the lodge and they were all locked. I looked into the windows, and it looked like nobody had even been there for months. So basically they took our money and scammed us.

I suppose, I could’ve called them and been like what the fuck, but I was tired and really didn’t want to deal with that, and the place was sort of creepy, and I would’ve of felt comfortable staying there, even if there was a room open, without anybody else there except us. So instead we quickly booked lodging online and stayed a Holiday Inn about an hour away, and it all worked out in the end.

The moral of this story though is thoroughly research places you intend to stay at and follow your instincts, I suppose, and other than that there’s not much else I can do about it, but I did write a negative review on trip advisor about them, so hopefully that helps other people avoid being scammed.

The next morning, we woke up, and headed towards Moab and Arches National Park.

 

 

 

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