Capitol Reef National Park - part 1

Torrey - our B&B was a renovated hundred year old schoolhouse

Last May Sandy and I had a trip planned to Capitol Reef National Park in Utah. It is a little known park in central Utah. Everyone has heard of Zion and Arches National Parks, but Capitol Reef is quite remote and for some reason has not gotten the visibility of other parks. But I had passed through the area briefly many years ago and been impressed. I had always wanted to return. Finally we had a trip planned. Dates were set and reservations were made. But then Tim called. He was on deployment in Afghanistan and was granted home leave. Was it ok if he came to visit for a week or so? This was great news so the park plans were instantly scuttled. We had a great visit and I even beat Tim at Proud Monster during that visit. There aren't many things better than beating Tim at an East Front game. It doesn't happen very often.

We had a nice room with a great view

So May 2011 was Capitol Reef National Park visit, Take 2. Sandy and I had a four day weekend and drove down to Torrey Utah. This is a small town which is just outside of the national park. We stayed at the Torrey Schoolhouse Bread and Breakfast. It was in the old schoolhouse building (from 1914) which had been completely renovated and converted to a B&B. A very cool old building that is on the national historic register. But the rooms were very nice and we had a great view from our third floor room. In keeping with the schoolhouse theme we had a bookcase in our room with quite a collection of books. It was pretty heavy on philosophy. So if we had any energy left in the evening after hiking, we could zip through Wittengenstein's "Philosophical Investigations". Yes, that really was one of the books in our room. And even more amazing, it was fairly typical. I actually did end up reading Bertrand Russel's "Essays on Skepticism" while we were there. Later I learned that the lady who ran the B&B did have a degree in philosophy, so that explained the nature of the collection. It was quite impressive. It could have kept me busy for six months solid just reading.

Sandy at the start of the trail to the Golden Throne

Torrey is a small town so we only had a few restaurants to chose from. We decided to try the Rim Rock Restaurant. What a great choice. It was in a rustic wooden building but that was fine. We were in a remote western wilderness. There was a great view of the escarpment of the waterpocket fold, the major geologic feature of Capitol Reef NP. The service was good and friendly. The food was awesome. We each had a good salad. I had a wonderful steak while Sandy had fresh trout. Dinner was only twenty dollars. Add a glass of wine and it was a terrific start to the weekend. We were now fueled up for some serious hiking. But just to make sure, we had a delicious breakfast the next morning. There were only two other couples staying at the schoolhouse. I think they had six or eight rooms. There was an older couple from Florida who was touring the Arizona and Utah national parks. They were moving on to Moab to visit Arches and Canyonlands National Parks that day. There was also a couple from Ogden who were there for some serious mountain biking.

I guess we're done

Capitol Reef National Park is very long (north/south) and narrow (east/west). It primarily includes the Waterpocket Fold, a geologic uplift with many scenic canyons cut through it. So many of the hikes are short. But there are often several trails that leave from the same trailhead. That makes hiking in Capitol Reef a little different. Instead of a single, long day hike, we planned to do two half-day hikes from the same trail head.

Our first hike was on the Golden Throne Trail. This climbs out of the canyon of Capitol Gorge up to the high country and a view of the Golden Throne. This is billed as the "iconic image of Capitol Reef National Park". Kind of gives you an idea of how obscure Capitol Reef is - I had never seen a picture of it. And I am a hiking afficianado. Not quite like some of the other iconic images that I can think of, like Half Dome in Yosemite, or the Great White Throne in Zion. But that meant that I was interested in doing the hike and getting a good view of the Golden Throne.

The Golden Throne from the end of the trail

It was a good hike. It was cool but pleasant in the moring. It's only about two miles and gains about eleven hundred feet climbing out of the canyon. The trail ended at the viewpoint and was a good place for a rest, drink and snack while enjoying the view. Then we hiked back to our starting point.

We took a break at the trailhead. There were some picnic tables in the shade so we sat and had a drink and a snack. We only saw about three parties on the Golden Throne Trail but there were a lot of families at the trailhead. And they had lots of young children. And they all had BYU tshirts. Oh well. Not quite paradise.

In the morning we had hiked up out of the canyon to a view of the Golden Throne. In the afternoon we hiked through Capitol Gorge. At one time this had been a major route between eastern and western Utah. Kind of hard to believe as at some points the canyon narrowed to only twenty feet. But it had been a major route for pioneer wagons and later an early auto road. Some distance down the canyon is the Pioneer Register. This is a narrow point in the canyon where people scratched their names on the canyon walls as they passed. If it was done now it would just be graffiti. But when it is 130 years old it is historic. It was fascinating to be there and read the names and dates from pioneer times. The oldest name we saw was from 1877. It was hard to imagine people traveling through this remote region so long ago.

Pioneer Register

We continued through the canyon to the trail junction for the "Tanks". These are a series of pools eroded in the rock by a side stream. Nowadays they usually are dry but a hundred years ago they were usually filled with water - important for pioneers using this route. We took the side trail that climbed up out of Capitol Gorge to the Tanks. It provided a spectacular view of the rock formations in this part of the Waterpocket Fold.

Although there had been very few hikers in the morning, the afternoon hike was a different story. There were lots of people, paticularly large families with kids. I felt a little funny. I seemed to be the only male hiking here who didn't have a baby carrier with a toddler in it. But still the scenery was spectacular and well worth it.

Steve at the Tanks

Although the canyon went on for a ways further we decided to head back. We had a long drive back on the dirt road that is the Scenic Drive of Capitol Reef National Park. It was still a nice day so we stopped at several roadside viewpoints on the way back. We got back to our hotel at about four oclock. The grounds were very nice so we headed out into the garden, found some chairs in the sun, and just relaxed for a while. We got to enjoy the warm sunshine. We felt tired, but not exhausted. A good day of hiking.

That evening we went out for pizza. It had been a really good day.

I'm really far behind so it is about a month later that I am posting this. But Sandy was on the ball and was putting photos from our hikes on Facebook in the evening after our hikes were done. She got an interesting response from one of our friends in Singapore, Nancy Loke. She commented on our pictures "Looks like a world of two." I can't think of a better way to sum it all up in one sentance.

Additional pictures

Torrey Schoolhouse B&B - yes, it's a sign shot