We left Capitol Reef National Park with the intention of stopping at the Capitol Reef Cafe for either a late breakfast or an early lunch. We had stopped there on our first time through the area back in 2005 or thereabouts. It was included in our old edition of Jan and Michael Stern’s book, “Road Food” and, since it was still in the new edition, we decided to give it another try since we couldn’t really remember the first visit all that vividly. The cafe wasn’t too hard to find although it didn’t look quite like either of us remembered it. Memory is a lousy way to keep track of things. Blogs or some other form of journal is much better.
Since it was only 10:30, a late breakfast it was going to be. Lulu had smoked trout with a bagel, cream cheese and a variety of fruit. I went for the Capitol Reef Omelet: an omelet loaded with sauteed vegetables (carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, onion, etc,) and pepper jack cheese. I had them add sausage to it as well. It was served with fried sliced spuds that were still hot, a rarity in our recent experience, and an English muffin. They even served us a dish holding a whole bunch of individually wrapped butter servings, which meant that my muffin could actually be properly buttered, another rarity as it seems that butter is where everyone chooses to cut costs so I usually get these almost dry muffins. Blech. The food was good but I doubt it warrants a return trip. I guess I wasn’t really sure what I was looking for. Since then, I’ve decided that, for road food, what I really want is either a really good down-home breakfast or, if eating a different meal, either some particular specialty of the house or a regional specialty of some kind. This was none of that. It was good but certainly not something I couldn’t have found somewhere in Salem or possibly even Silverton.
On with the trip. The drive started getting pretty spectacular 20 miles or so south of Torrey, UT, when the land started to fall away from the road, first on one side and then on both.
We had several places where we were essentially driving along the spine of a ridge with spectacular drop-offs on either side. We’d grind up one grade and then face a 14% downslope when we reached the top. It was very pretty but not particularly relaxing. Our highest pass was 9600′ which might be the highest pass we’ve crossed on this trip so far. The “altitude compensator” that Toyota put on the 22R engine must work as Flipper runs pretty much the same no matter where we are. Sure, she’s a little gutless climbing hills but that was he same when we were at sea level. Just the nature of a small 4-cylinder engine hauling around a loaded house. But, altitude doesn’t seem to be causing any problems. After 40 miles or so we pulled in to Boulder (or “Boulder Town” as many of the signs say), the home of the Anasazi Village State Park. The park is located at the site of an archaeologic dig that unearthed an ancient Anasazi village. They created a museum (arrowheads, potsherds, etc) with some of what they found, left a small portion of the village exposed for us to see, and then reburied the rest after doing research about the lives of these Native Americans. It was pretty cool but not, apparently, cool enough to take any photos of.
BTW: The park office had free wifi which is where I uploaded the previous batch of blogs and posted our FB status update. Wifi will be a rarity the next few days as we hit National Park after National Park. Even when we do find it, we’ll only be using it long enough to upload blogs and download e-mail. So, if you’re waiting for an answer to a comment, an answer to an e-mail, a response to a Facebook message, etc, hold off. We won’t be stopping at an RV park with wifi until after Zion NP which we should hit on Friday the 24th. So, probably be back in communication by Saturday or Sunday.
From this State Park, we headed to our stop for the night, Escalante Petrified Forest State Park just outside the town of Escalante. We’ve avoided staying in too many state parks on this trip as it doesn’t seem like they’re worth the money they charge: $35/night in California, $30 or so in Oregon, $24-$30 in Washington plus extra for showers, $30 in Idaho). However, we were told at the Anasazi SP that the Utah parks were only $16/night and many had showers. There really isn’t a good camping alternative near the petrified forest other than RV parks and then, we’d still have to pay the day-use charge if we wanted to hike around in the park, so we opted to spend the night at Escalante Petrified Forest State Park. Turned out to be a good decision although it was actually $19/night. The park is small and we got one of the last two sites that we would fit in (yeah, all 20′ of us).
Once Flipper was leveled, the fridge was running, and the welcome mat was out, we decided to just cool out and do our hiking tomorrow since check-out time wasn’t until 2:00 PM. We both enjoyed nice hot showers (although sounds like mine was hotter than Lulu’s) at no extra cost, and then just spent the rest of the day relaxing. At this point we weren’t really sure what this little park had to offer other than a pleasant place to spend the night. We found out the next day, on our morning hike.
We had a little scare that evening. We were done with dinner, dishes were washed, dried and stowed, and we were settling in for some shows. As soon as I plugged the computer charger into the 12V socket, the one light that was on, over the table, went out leaving us in darkness. I unplugged the charger and, as we waited, the light started to glow a bit and then finally, after what seemed like minutes, returned to full brightness. Something wrong with the charger? The solar charge controller was saying that the battery voltage was way low and then it slowly climbed to not-as-low and finally showed a full charge. Huh? Turned another light on and again we were plunged into darkness. Same scenario as before. Ditto with the water pump. I checked all the connections under the sink but everything was nice and tight. Thought about it and decided that, whatever was the cause, it had to be near the source since everything 12V was being affected. Opened the hood and checked the battery terminals for tightness. Everything was good and tight. I did, however, notice a tiny bit of corrosion on the negative terminal. Don’t have a wire brush or emery cloth aboard (yet) so I had to use a metallic pot scrubber and my pocketknife to clean things up. But, happily, that did it. Everything was back to normal. We had seen, for a brief few minutes, how screwed we’d be without a charged battery: no lights, no computer, no water pump, and no furnace )it’s gas but the fan is electric). The lights and the water pump are important but right now, loss of the furnace would suck big-time as it’s been getting downright chilly at night. But all’s well that ends well and another lesson learned.
The hike, if you choose to do it all (there’s an optional extra loop), is just under 2 miles long. It starts with a relatively steep climb that pulls you right up out of the campground.
There are markers along the trail that, if you brought the printed guide, point out various rock structures, plants and chunks of petrified wood along the way. It was all very pretty but not really that impressive until we took the optional extra loop, the Trail of Sleeping Rainbows. This trail descends very steeply down a ravine and then, 0.8 miles later ascends just as steeply. In between was more petrified wood than either of us have ever seen before. Everything from little chunks to big rounds of logs that have been turned to stone over the millennia as mineral-rich water slowly replaced the cellulose in these sunken logs. The wood surfaced when the area was lifted during the birth of the Rocky Mountains.
The hike took us a little over an hour and gave us both a nice aerobic workout. Keep in mind that we’re at around 6000′ elevation so the air is reportedly a bit thinner although we haven’t really noticed it. This was a good stop and we’re glad we did it. The scenery wasn’t as spectacular as some we’ve encountered recently, although the drive was pretty amazing, but the petrified wood was a new feature that we hadn’t seen before and it was great to see so much of it in one place.
Captiol Reef National Park to Escalante Petrified Forest State Park: 81 miles
Total to-date: 3,899 miles