Thursday, October 14, 2010 Sunny and 38 early, then sunny and 68
Meteorologic note: The Colorado Plateau has the purest, clearest air in the Lower 48.
It took us an hour and a half to go six miles this morning because we stopped to view rock formations and walk out to overlooks on our way to the Visitor Center. Twin Rocks are two mushroom-shaped boulders, each perched on its own pedestal. Nearby was Chimney Rock which is just what it says, standing near a cliff. Just before the V.C. is The Castle. We called it that when we first saw it so it must be aptly named.
Along the way we also walked two trails. Goosenecks Trail overlooks the Sulphur Creek Canyon where the river twists and meanders upon itself 800 feet below. Trapped between the resistant rock of the steep canyon walls, it creates loops that look like goosenecks. Then we headed on to Sunset Point Trail. This offers panoramic views of cliffs and domes to the east. And that was the problem. We were there at 9:00, and the sun was so low that we had trouble seeing anything. We had to look over our shoulders at the cliffs behind us to get an idea of what we were missing.
At the V.C. we viewed a film and picked up a Self-Guided Driving Tour brochure and a trail map. We were fortunate to be able to take the driving tour. Two roads were reopened today after being cleared of sandstone mud which had washed across them during a recent flash flood.
Several of the stops on the tour discussed the geology of Capitol Reef. The various formations are created by differential erosion, meaning rocks erode at different rates. One feature unique to this park is Cassidy Arch, perched high on a cliff in Grand Wash. It is named for Butch Cassidy who is said to have used this wash to hide from lawmen. Nearby is Oyler Mine. In the early 1900's uranium was mined here for medicinal purposes. Later it was used for atomic energy.
What interested us most was found in Capitol Gorge. A short hike into the gorge brought us to petroglyphs scratched into the canyon walls. These were left behind by the Fremont people who farmed along the streams in Capitol Reef until about 1300 A.D. Some were pictures of people wearing headdresses; others were of a sun and a bighorn sheep. It's amazing that they are unscathed after all of these centuries.
A little further down the gorge we came to Pioneer Register. About 1870 pioneers moved rocks and debris from the gorge bed so they could drive their wagons through the canyon. To record their presence in the area, they carved their names high on the sides of the canyon walls. These names date from as early as 1871. These remarkable people overcame extremely difficult circumstances to fulfill their dreams so it seems fitting that their names should be memorialized here. Looking up at the tall, smooth walls of rocks, we could experience a little of what they must have seen and felt.
The Tanks was the last destination in Capitol Gorge. These are pocket-like formations that collect and hold gallons of rain which provide water for birds and a place for tadpoles and insects to hatch.
We hiked about 2/3 of the way when we decided that we had climbed, clawed, and clung to too many slippery, rocky surfaces so we left the trail to more agile folks.
Leaving the park along UT 24, we encountered more unique rock formations such as silos, grain elevators, temples, bugs climbing rock walls, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Acropolis to name a few. This drive reminded us of Monument Valley since some of these features were dropped randomly in the wide, open spaces of the high desert.
We also decided to name UT 24 Recreation Alley. Heading south were numerous RV's, camping trailers, ATV's, boats, and watercraft. On our last trip we couldn't figure out what boats were doing in the middle of the desert. This time we knew that they are headed to Lake Powell located behind Glen Canyon Dam. Nonetheless we still find it amazing that people purchase a boat when it has to be trailered so far to be used. A case of "to each his own."
TODAY'S ROUTE: from Torrey, UT, UT 24N to I 70E to UT 191S to Moab, UT