Thursday, November 5, 2015

Here We Are Kids! Capitol Reef National Park

HI Kids! It's us, your vagabond parents;

Here We Are Kids!
Capitol Reef NP!
We are at Capitol Reef National Park

The weather is beautiful right now.  Low 70's and sunny, unseasonably nice.  We missed all of the fruit in the historic orchards of this park (park visitors are welcome to partake of the 2700 fruit trees) but other than that, we feel we hit this one just right.  We took advantage of the extremely clean and well-cared for RV park near Fruita Homestead, only $20/night.  There are no hookups, but as I say over and over, we don't need them at all.  There is a dump station and fresh water access so we will be able to "refresh ourselves" before moving on to the next stop, which will be Canyonlands National Park.

Hiking Cohab Canyon.
Yes, Dad ran like a thief
after he put the camera on a tripod.
After we arrived at the visitor's center, we got our passport cancellation and I bought a new T-shirt. I love having National Park T-shirts from parks that we visit.  It never fails I end up meeting great people who comment about it when I wear it: They have either been there, or want to go there and it's always fun sharing our stories.  Then we got settled in at the campground and decided to do the approximately 3.5 mile hike into Cohab Canyon which was right across the road from our site.  The first 1/3 mile of the hike, as our guidebook said, truly is grueling, especially if it is your first hike of the trip in new hiking boots!  Very much climbing up, up, up and then you get to the entrance to the beautiful canyon.  Well worth the effort.

It was quite eery to be so alone. Not another person did we see on the entire hike, and we could almost feel wild life eyes upon us.  It was a little disconcerting to see fresh tracks where we were walking-is that a coyote or a mountain lion??-we were unarmed (unusual for us).  A scary thought, but we would be completely helpless if something of that nature happened.

Don't try this with your "Big Rig"!!
We got back to the camper, and relaxed a bit and then Todd decided we needed to drive up the road and see some of the scenic drive.  So, up we jumped, put our hiking boots back on and pulled the slides back in on the Lance.  We drove down the road for several miles and enjoyed the views as the sun was beginning to get low in the sky.  The light playing off of the red, black and tan canyon walls and hills around us was breathtaking.  We got to the end of the road and a couple was grilling in a small shelter there in the parking area.  He shared that we could keep going down the dirt track and into the canyon, where there would be a small parking area and then we could hike even further into the canyon.  Well, Todd put the truck in 4 wheel drive, and down the track we went.

This is what is called a "wash" where flash floods
rage through after a storm.
Wow, it was gorgeous.  Clearly there had been torrential rain in the not-too-distant past, and the road had been re-graded.  The National Parks do a great job of making everything accessible. It made me shudder to think of being in the canyon during a rain storm and flash floods.  Clearly it would be perilous.  But on this evening is was gloriously beautiful and hardly anyone about.  We traveled deep into the canyon and got to the end of the dirt road.  We decided to hike in a ways and see some petroglyphs and whatever treasures the canyon might offer.  We walked for some time up what is obviously a dry river bed that probably flows in the winter.  We came to a sign indicating that "the tanks" were nearby, up the side of the canyon. It was quite a scramble getting up there, and somehow we got off of the trail.  We tried and tried but could not find the Tanks (large holes in the rock filled with water in which entire ecosystems exist).  We traversed the rocks and climbed, but to no avail.

Having A Blast!
Suddenly, we noticed that it had gotten quite late and that the sun had set some time before.  Todd said, "We better get outta here, it's getting dark!"  Yes, we were "those people" who got off the trail and then it started to get dark.  I commented that the park ranger was probably going to come back here and cuss us out for being on the trail after dark.  This was better than talking about what I was really thinking about, which was, once the sky goes dark, we will not be able to see anything and might get lost in this canyon!  There are mountain lions out here! But, you know how brave I am, so I just toughed it out.  So we hiked back at a brisk pace, expecting any moment for something to punish us for being out here in the wilderness as late as it was: either eaten by a mountain lion or berated by an annoyed park ranger.

Really, it was just gorgeous and surreal.
Neither happened, and we got safely back to the truck.  It was now completely inky dark outside and we had to drive back to the campground with the bright lights on.  It was such an adventure though, and we saw some jaw-dropping sights.  We were so tired that dinner only consisted of two grilled steaks and some potato chips!  I had a big, painful blister on my right heel. I know better than to head out in new hiking boots on such a strenuous hike, but hopefully, my supply of thick band-aids will hold out.  Our warm bed felt good, for sure!

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