The trip from Hanksville to Capitol Reef was beautiful.. We just can’t get over how fortunate we are to be here this time of year when the aspens, ashes, and cottonwoods are all bright yellow. The weather has been excellent as well. During the day it’s warm but not hot and at night it cools down into the 50s making it great for sleeping but minimizing furnace run-time.
After we entered the park, the first place we saw to stop was a pioneer cabin.
The Behunin family were early Mormon pioneers who settled in this lush bottomland to farm and raise a family. This cabin, which we estimate at about 150 square feet after subtracting the thickness of the stone walls, probably housed mom and dad and two (of their eventual 13) kids. They only stayed here a year or two before moving deeper into the valley and into a, hopefully, larger house. The Fremont River cuts through the canyon and, since it floods occasionally, creates a very fertile environment. The early pioneers who settled here planted mostly orchards, both fruit and nut trees, for personal use as well as to sell in the more arid areas to the west. The park has restored and/or maintained some of the old buildings. Must have been an interesting place to live. The settled area was eventually named Fruita.
The Fruita Schoolhouse:
The blacksmith shop:
When I refer to “early” pioneers, I’m talking about the late 1800s, maybe 1880 or so. They continued to live basically the same life, though, until around 1940 when the area was recognized as a national monument. In 1940, one of the area farmers bought the first tractor to be used here. It was operated like a mule team in that, instead of riding on it, the farmer walked along behind just as if he were plowing with mules or horses.
The Gilbert house museum and gift shop, adjacent to the campground, sells fresh-made pies and cinnamon rolls as well as jams, pickled goodies, and souvenirs. On our walk we came across this building which, naturally, intrigued me:
The first day we were at Capitol Reef, after securing our campsite, we drove and hiked to a few lookout spots, notably Hendrick’s Natural Bridge and the petroglyphs:
We also took the 10 miles (one way) scenic drive including two dirt sideroads limited to vehicles under 27′ in length. The first was the Grand Wash road.
The other off-shoot was the Capitol Gorge Road:
On our second day, we left Flipper parked and did everything on foot. All of the buildings in the photos above are near the campground. Once we’d walked around and checked them out, we decided to take the Cohab Canyon trail (1.7 miles one-way) with the offshoots to the north and south lookouts (0.1 and 0.3 miles one-way). The trail starts at the campground and quickly gains elevation. That tree’d area is the campground:
Once we reached the top, we had a choice: turn around and retrace our steps or hike down to the highway and follow it back to the campground. We chose the latter mainly because we’d cover some new ground. Turns out we’re glad we did because otherwise we wouldn’t have seen these guys (Desert Bighorns):
We were so struck by Capitol Reef when we first drove through some 10 years or so ago on our way to a Todd Snider concert in Texas. Of course, it was the first and only example of Utah’s amazing architecture we’d ever seen until this trip. I was a little concerned that, now that we’ve seen Arches, etc, Capitol Reef would not seem nearly as awesome as it had on that first trip. No need for worry as it turned out. Capitol Reef is still awesome. And when I say “awesome”, I mean awe-inspiring, not “awesome” as in “Oh your new shoes are so awesome!”.
Later today, we’re headed out towards Escalante National Park. Never heard of this place until I read the name on the map. But, escalante means staircase so we might be in for something pretty cool. After all, the National Park Service thought it worthy of protection for some reason. Before we get there, we’ll be stopping in Layton at the Capitol Reef Cafe for an early lunch. It’s one of the first places we’ve come across on this trip so far that is listed in Jane and Michael Stern’s book, Road Food.
No idea where we’ll be staying tonight.
Hanksville to Capitol Reef NP, including driving around in the park: 67 miles
Total to-date: 3,818 miles