Let’s see, I believe I left you all stranded in Torrey, Utah, as I went in for heart surgery to repair my leaky mitral valve. Four weeks later, as I write this, I’m still in recovery but finally feeling well enough to hit the keyboard and get back to my blog posts.
Without further delay, enjoy a few other sites we took in while in Torrey, Utah, during August 2018.
Drive to Hanksville
After spending a morning hiking in the heat, we cooled off in the air-conditioned cab of the truck driving to Hanksville, Utah. The 40-minute drive crossed through land that looked like something from another planet, like perhaps Mars.
That’s probably why the Mars Society Desert Research Station located their facility in Hanksville. Owned and operated by the Mars Society, the facility is used for research during an eight-month field season where professional scientists, engineers, and college students train for human operations specifically on Mars.
I wished we had had more time to explore this place. I find it interesting that volunteers sign up each year to simulate life on Mars. We also ran across this abandoned building next to the road. Was this someone’s home, or a store of some kind? Wouldn’t it be great if it was restored and its story lived on?
We hadn’t packed a lunch and I didn’t hold out much promise for decent food in the little town of Hanksville. How wrong I was when we pulled up outside of Dukes Slickrock Grill.
What was not to like with its rustic decor, great food, the cleanest and largest bathroom I’ve ever encountered, and free WiFi. It was a good thing that we split our pulled pork sandwich and fries and a bowl of hearty beef vegetable soup, otherwise, we would have had to roll out of the restaurant.
Highway 12 to Anasazi State Park
The drive from Torrey, Utah, to the Anasazi State Park in Boulder, was advertised as scenic. Scenic was an understatement and unfortunately, the photo fails to capture the beauty of the east side of Boulder Mountain and the Dixie Forest.
Thick stands of ponderosa and aspen groves lined the road. This route is also an open range requiring drivers to be alert for cattle that might pop up on the road. We checked out a few campgrounds on the drive that would be perfect for tents or small trailers, but none that could accommodate our rig. With all of the aspen, this drive is one I’d like to take during the fall.
Anasazi State Park
The Anasazi State Park and Museum include plenty of parking and large shade trees with picnic tables. It was a good thing we had packed a lunch because the food bus was not serving the day we visited.
Inside the museum, visitors can watch a movie, view artifacts uncovered during the excavation of the site, and imagine what it would have been like to live life at this ancient site.
A life-sized replica of a six-room ancient dwelling starts off the tour outside. Jon would have had trouble living in these quarters. The dwelling definitely was not made for a human who stands 6′ 2″ tall.
A short trail leads visitors to a portion of the original ancient site. It is believed that the Anasazi, who occupied this site from A.D 1050 to 1200, was one of the largest communities west of the Colorado River.
Back on the road, we went a little way into Escalante National Monument where miles and miles of ancient sand dunes roll across the horizon. One day we’ll have to come back and explore this area more.
Up next we enter Colorado and hang out in Fruita, Colorado, near Grand Junction for a few days.
On Monday, August 6, 2018, we had one more stop in Utah before crossing into the State of Colorado. We couldn’t have been happier when we pulled into our space at Wonderland RV Park in Torrey, Utah. Under large shade trees and backed up against a fence, our view each morning out of our rear window featured cows and horses grazing. The apple and peach trees strategically placed around the park showed signs that harvest was soon near. The only drawback was smoke in the sky. Again.
We ventured out to the information center across the street and then drove into Capitol Reef National Park for maps and pamphlets to help plan our stay.
Capitol Reef National Park
The known history of Capitol Reef and surrounding area dates back to the Fremont Culture. Settling in the area around 500 CE, the Fremont grew corn, beans, and squash. Petroglyphs and pictographs on nearby rock walls tell the story of these ancient people. If only there was a translation of each panel, we could read and understand the meaning of the stories. Instead, we must use our imaginations to figure out what the art depicts. Is the picture below a family portrait, or does it represent an encounter with alien beings?
Mormon pioneers arrived in the 1800s settling in the Fruita Rural Historic District of the national park. They planted apple, pear, and peach orchards, fruit trees that still produce fruit, which is available to pick free when in season.
Ephraim Portman Pectol, a Mormon Bishop in Torrey, Utah, and his brother-in-law, Joseph S. Hickman campaigned to have the geologically sensitive area protected from development. President Roosevelt set aside 37,711 acres of the Capitol Reef as a national monument in 1937 and in December 1972, the monument became a national park.
The main attraction at Capitol Reef is the varied layered cliffs that rise from the valley floor and the different rock formations. Geological events occurring between 50 and 70 million years ago created the warp in the Earth’s crust. The warp, referred to as the Waterpocket Fold, or monocline, runs approximately 100 miles from Boulder Mountain to Lake Powell.
Slickrock Divide is a hill that separates Grand Wash to the north and Capitol Gorge to the south. Streambeds channel rain runoff and debris to the respective drainages.
The Waterpocket Fold is the result of the rock layers on the west side of the fold lifting more than 7,000 feet higher than the layers on the east side. Within the last 15 to 20 million years, erosion has exposed the fold at the surface.
Erosion gets the credit for creating the colorful cliffs, massive domes, soaring spires, stark monoliths, twisting canyons, and graceful arches that are present today. These formations reveal the geological history from 65 to 290 million years ago. [source: nps.gov/care/learn/nature/geology.htm]
Only the 7-mile drive requires a fee in Capitol Reef National Park: $15.00 per vehicle, $10.00 for motorcycles, and $7.00 for bicyclists and pedestrians, with the typical passes accepted. Fees for commercial tours depend on seating capacity.
Developed campsites run $20.00 per night or $10 for senior and access pass holders. During the summer the majority of the 71 sites are offered through reservations, however, a few are offered on a first come, first served, basis. A few primitive campsites, which are first come, first served, no fee sites, are also available.
Having seen the sign for pies at the Gifford Homestead while driving the 7-mile road, we started the next day with a small pie each and a cup of coffee. Then we drove out to the petroglyph panel. Some of the petroglyphs were so faint we would have missed them if it hadn’t been for a woman who pointed them out to us.
Next up was a hike to the Hickman Bridge. Rated moderate, .9 mile one way, and an elevation gain of 400 ft. A piece of cake, we naively thought. The heat, thin layer of smoke, and a 6,000-foot elevation conspired to hold us back as we trudged up the hill. Good thing we had the handy trail guide with us. It gave us an excuse to stop, catch our breath, and learn about what we saw on the trail.
Capitol Dome is made of Navajo sandstone, which consists of ancient sand dunes. The boulders in the foreground of the photo below are composed of andesite lava. Debris flows from melting glaciers deposited the boulders here from the west side of the park.
I’m always on the lookout for General Land Office spikes. Jon pointed out this one from 1947. Check out the hefty penalty of $250. That would be $2,867 in 2018.
Shown in the photo below the small bumps on this hard surface are erosion resistant accumulations of iron.
The rock wall in the photo below is composed of sandstone grains cemented by calcite. Acidic groundwater dissolved the calcite and created the holes called solution cavities.
Our respite was spoiled, when twenty to thirty college students descended on the slick rock near the bridge, chasing other hikers away, and taking up all the space. While they waited for the rest of their group to arrive, they took turns climbing on a boulder and having their photos taken. We worked our way through the crowd and continued on our walk.
Finally, the parking lot, fresh water, and air conditioning. Outa my way, coming through.
I was so glad we pushed ourselves to the end. The shade was refreshing, the views wonderful, and the bridge unique in that the trail looped around underneath the arch and behind the cliff. It would have been a shame if we had missed it.
Other stops in the park
Panorama Point, Sunset Point trail, and Goosenecks Overlook are other sites in the park. The Sunset Point Trail was .4 mile one way. Although it was 2:30 p.m. and hot on the day we were there, the short hike wasn’t too bad, mostly flat.
There are plenty of interesting formations outside of the fee area for visitors to see. The Castle is one of these.
JT waited in the truck while I investigated Goosenecks Overlook. The views of the canyon were spectacular, but I feared the little kids running around would somehow slip through the railing and drop to their death. Parents, please hold on to your precious children when near canyon cliffs and don’t let them run around playing tag.
Panorama Point was truly a 360-degree panoramic view of the park. If a person could only see one thing in the park, I would suggest they check out Panorama Point to get a great overview of the canyons, the colors, and the cliffs.
Whoa, we saw a lot in Capitol Reef National Park and still didn’t see it all. A visit to the park in cooler weather someday may be in order. Next up are a few other places we visited while staying in Torrey, Utah, before making it into Colorado.
Unfortunately, I have to take a break from the blog posts for a few weeks. When this post publishes at 6:00 a.m. on Thursday, October 11, I’ll be in heart surgery for a mitral valve repair. When I’m feeling up to it, I’ll continue with our Summer 2018 Tour.
It was a good day to leave Ely, Nevada, on Saturday, August 4, 2018. After three days of clear skies, we woke up to hazy smoke that blocked the view of the hills only a quarter mile away. We continued on our easterly route stopping in Fillmore, Utah, for two nights, giving us one full day for exploring.
Territorial Statehouse State Park Museum
Brigham Young designated Fillmore as the first Utah Capitol on September 8, 1851. Construction of the south wing of the building started in 1852. Grand plans called for a much larger facility than the one that still stands today. The fifth territorial legislature used the building on October 10, 1855, then in 1856 Salt Lake City became the home of the state government, eliminating the need for the larger building in Fillmore.
The building served as a courthouse and county headquarters and housed a Presbyterian Mission School for several years after the Civil War. The primary goal of the school was eliminating polygamy and educating children. The education part worked out fine, eliminating polygamy, not so much. Although the discontinuance of the plural marriages practice was approved by the church’s general conference in 1890, existing marriages continued until the 1940s and 1950s.
Restored in 1928, The Territorial Statehouse was dedicated as a state museum on July 24, 1930, for visitors to enjoy, except on Sundays and major holidays when it is closed.
The park setting also includes a rock schoolhouse and a few cabins. Informational signs outside of the buildings explain their origin and use.
The first public school in Fillmore, the Old Rock schoolhouse built in 1870, was used by the school district until 1971 when it became part of the state park in 1972.
If our timing had been different, we could have seen inside the museum where artifacts include military weapons, pioneer-era tools, a jail cell, musical instruments, and antique china, pottery, and textile displays. Instead, I had to be content to take photos through the windows of the inside of the schoolhouse, which worked out better than I thought when I clicked the shutter button.
Our next stop was Cove Fort, an interesting historical site run by the LDS church. Elder Ray Turley was our guide and a wealth of historical information and stories. Elder Turley gave us a personal tour of the fort, walking us in and out of each of the rooms, leading us to the garden and the barn, all the while explaining how the fort was built, and telling stories about the family who occupied the property.
The fort, constructed with four-feet thick walls made of volcanic rock found nearby, housed the Hinckley family who moved to the area to develop a waypoint between Salt Lake City and St. George, Utah. It provided a place for travelers to rest and have a hot meal.
He also told stories that brought the site to life, even a personal anecdote about bringing his wife to the fort before its restoration for a romantic camping adventure. He thought himself clever when he set up their newly purchased tent under a tree at the corner of the fort walls, shielded from the wind. When they returned home, his wife showed him what she thought of the trip by burning the tent. They travel in an air-conditioned RV these days.
Elder Turley hinted that the sister wives were not always happy with the plural marriage arrangement when he told about Ira Hinckley, the patriarch. Ira was married to four women, but no more than three at any one time. He took over the church-owned ranch and built the fort with the help of his brother and other men in 7 months during 1867.
Living quarters included a room for the traveling men, a room for the Hinckley boys, and another for the girls.
Ira’s wife Adelaide, their five children, and Ira’s oldest daughter from a previous marriage moved in during 1868, followed by Ira’s wife Angeline (also Adelaide’s sister) and her four children the following month. I sure wouldn’t be happy about sharing a husband with my sister so I could imagine the cold stares and arguments that might have ensued while everyone was busy with their household chores.
Although the fort was built to protect against attacks from American Indians, interaction with the neighboring Ute tribe produced only peaceful meetings. The Indians sometimes came to the fort to trade with Ira and were treated as guests often enjoying a good meal during their visit.
By 1872 stagecoaches stopped at the fort twice a day requiring the preparation of food as well as taking care of the horses. The railroads arrived by 1881, reducing the need for the fort and by 1890 the Hinckley family left the area. The church leased the property to other ranchers and eventually sold out to free up funds for other projects. Unfortunately, the fort was left in ruins by the time descendants of the Hinckley family formed the Cove Fort Acquisition and Restoration Foundation and deeded the property back to the church. After restoring the fort to its earlier glory, including furnishing the rooms in the period similar to when the Hinckley’s lived there, the church reopened Cove Fort as a historic site in 1994.
The original barn had long since deteriorated by the time the renovations began, however, plans were located. Those in charge of the renovations were interested in having the barn built using the same tongue and groove construction from the 1800s so they contracted with an Amish group to build the barn using wooden dowel rods rather than metal plates and nails. Once built, the barn was disassembled and trucked across the country to its new home at Cove Fort.
I commented to Elder Turley that I had seen the handcarts at the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City the year before and was amazed that families would carry all of their possessions in a handcart as they traveled across the plains on their way to Utah. He replied that the handcarts were actually the fastest mode of transportation at that time traveling up to 3 miles per hour, compared to horses at 2 miles per hour and oxen at 1-1/2 miles per hour. Hearing that, I think I would have chosen the handcarts too had it been me. Thankfully, these days we travel up to 70 miles per hour and pull our bathroom, kitchen, living area, and bedroom behind us. I’m not sure I would have traveled at all if I’d have to do it with a handcart.
We enjoyed learning about the history of Fillmore, Utah, and Cove Fort during our short stay, although we missed out on the museum. It was time, however, to continue our drive east. Next stop is Torrey, Utah, and Capital Reef National Park.
With no reservations or idea where we would stop, we left Zion on October 9, 2017, taking Highway 89 south from Mt. Carmel Junction. Kanab looked like a nice little city as we drove into town, and it would be a good jumping off point for North Rim Grand Canyon. All we had to do was find a place to set up the fifth wheel.
The first park we tried was booked solid for the month. Back toward town, we passed Hitch-N-Post. Although a sign on the street said they had no RV sites, we stopped and asked anyway. Good luck was shining on us that day. A cancellation had come through a few minutes before.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes
After situating the rig beside one of the cabins, a short drive to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park was in order. The Dunes became a state park in 1963 providing off-road enthusiasts a place to play. On the look out for the dunes, we drove through areas where juniper, pinyon pine, and Gambel oak were rooted in a soil of beige to pink sand. At an elevation of nearly 6,000 feet, even ponderosa pines are found within the park boundaries.
The dunes, formed by wind carrying away eroded Navajo sandstone, are believed to be 10,000 to 15,000 years old. The grains of sand have to be the right size to travel the distance from the mountains or plateaus, not too large and not too small.
We walked out onto the observation boardwalk near the visitor center and watched hikers trekking across the ridge and ATVs roaming around with their whip flags flying. It looked like fun, if not a bit dangerous. I would sure hate to see an ATV crest a dune ridge and encounter one of the hikers.
The park includes a campground with 22 spaces, each with a loop drive to provide plenty of parking for RVs and trailers loaded with off-highway vehicles (OHVs). With the convenience of trails leading from the campsites to the dunes and restrooms and showers for the campers to rinse sand off after a day of riding, this campground has it all for avid off-road adventurers.
North Rim – Grand Canyon
The next day we drove 80 miles south of Kanab to North Rim Grand Canyon National Park. We were lucky to have arrived when we did because the lodge and campground were set to close for the winter in four days.
We drove through beautiful forests and meadows noting the aspen had already lost their leaves.
Although North Rim is advertised as the quieter side of the canyon, a campground-full sign sat outside the check-in kiosk and the visitor center and the lodge was teeming with tourists.
We walked around the visitor center and lodge gawking at the view through the panes of glass. On the patio, visitors gathered around a ranger who gave a talk about the Grand Canyon geology.
Then we ventured out along Bright Angel Point Trail for some spectacular views.
I squinted to see if I could make out any of the facilities along the south rim. Even with my 300 mm zoom lens, I could not see anything. I guess the 11.5-mile distance from rim to rim was too far to see such details.
The skies were clear enough, however, to see the San Francisco Peaks popping their heads up across the canyon 64 miles away.
Sitting on the ledge with feet dangling seemed to be a favorite pastime for some visitors. I guess they wanted some alone time.
It seemed as though I could see the depth of the canyon better from the north vantage point. The views from the South Rim are also spectacular, but I think I like the views from the North rim better. They seemed more dramatic somehow. Perhaps the angle of the light created a sense of depth that I never experienced from the perspective of the South Rim.
The North Rim is a place I would like to return to someday to spend more time, assuming we could manage to obtain a reservation. I’d like to hike down into the canyon on the North Kaibab Trail.
On our way back to Kanab, the Vermillion Cliffs came into view. Another place we will need to return to. There are several photos on the internet of swirling rock formations at the monument I’d love to see in person.
Join us next week as we hang out in Flagstaff, Arizona, for a few days.