Return To Capitol Reef

Sunday, October 1 (continued)
Two years ago we visited Capitol Reef and stayed at the Thousand Lake RV Park in nearby Torrey. At the time there was some question as to whether the area had any reliable cell service and we thought we might have to survive on park wifi. Well, I guess the AT&T tower must have been upgraded because we received a strong LTE signal. Good thing because the wifi at the park was pretty unreliable.

Capitol Reef National Park
Red rocks galore in this park

 While in the area we scouted around for boondocking spots and came upon Beas Lewis Flat Road. Located right outside of town and only a 10-minute drive to Capitol Reef, it seemed like a great spot. Since then, we have some friends who stayed on the road and reported good cell service, nice views, and little traffic. So this time we headed straight there.

Sometimes we’re very particular when choosing a boondocking spot. We’ll walk or drive all around looking for the perfect spot and then spend a long time maneuvering and leveling the Airstream into the optimum position. Other times, we simply park in the easiest, most level spot. This was one of those times. We did drive to the end of the road to see the spot we heard had the best view. It didn’t speak to us. Then we tried the spot off to the right where the view was awesome but the ground was ridiculously sloped. With a cold wind whipping, we quickly gave up and instead slipped into this very nice, mostly level pull thru spot just off the road. It will do.

Torrey, Utah
Not a bad spot

Monday, October 2
The wind picked up even more on Sunday night and we awoke in the morning to wet snow coming down. Really? Is this how we’re doing fall this year? 70 degrees one day and snowing the next. Ugh.

We also woke up to the terrible news about the shooting in Las Vegas which only added to the gloomy mood. The worst part is that this kind of senseless violence no longer shocks me. What does it say about the world that we live in that these mass murders have become a common occurrence? Definitely the kind of day when you count your blessings and vow to live every day to its fullest.

We stayed inside all day and didn’t leave the house until about 4 pm when we made a quick run to the store for bananas and yogurt.

Tuesday, October 3
Yesterday’s rain, snow & clouds cleared up overnight and the temperature dipped very low. I’m not sure how low, but there was frost covering the rocks when I peaked outside. Bright sunshine warmed things up throughout the day though, and by the time work was done we were ready for a hike.

Beas Lewis Flat Road
Tim gives the view out our side window a thumbs up

Weekday hikes generally need to be 5 miles or less and under a 30-minute drive for it to work. Especially this time of year when it gets cold and dark earlier and earlier every day. The Cassidy Arch Trail fit the bill at 3 miles round trip with only a 20-minute drive to get there.

Cassidy Arch Trail - Capitol Reef National Park
Love these signs made of rock

It was a short, steep hike that wound up the side of the canyon and over an expanse of slickrock ending at a spot overlooking the arch.

Cassidy Arch Trail - Capitol Reef National Park
Can you see the arch off in the distance?

Tim didn’t want to have his picture taken on top of the arch, but after looking to make sure it was safe he agreed to take my photo from up there. I guess it’s obvious which one of us has an issue with heights.

Cassidy Arch Trail - Capitol Reef National Park
The shadows make it hard to see, but I’m standing on top of a giant arch

Later, I made one of my current favorite easy meals for dinner. I call it crunchy peanut noodle salad. The basic recipe is purple cabbage, red peppers, green onions, pasta, and a spicy peanut sauce.

Crunchy Peanut Noodle Salad
Crunchy Peanut Noodle Salad

I used to always make it with long thin rice noodles, but then I discovered that a small shaped pasta actually works better with the roughly chopped cabbage and peppers. This time I used a penne chickpea pasta. It’s pretty good, but the red lentil pasta from Trader Joe’s that we had last time was even better.

Banza Chickpea Pasta
Pasta made from chickpeas? Not bad

Wednesday, October 4
It was early spring the last time we visited Capitol Reef and the fruit orchards were just starting to break out with tiny white flowers. These are the same orchards that were planted by the early pioneers who settled this fertile valley long ago. Today, the park service cares for the orchards and allows the public to pick the fruit. How cool is that?

Fruit orchard in Capitol Reef National Park
One of the many fruit orchards in Capitol Reef

I called the fruit hotline as soon as we arrived and learned that only one of the orchards was still open for pear and apple picking. I’ll be right over!

Fruit orchard in Capitol Reef National Park
The Chesnut Orchard is the last one open this season

It’s the very end of the fruit season here and the apple picking requires a bit of extra effort. At first, I didn’t even see any, but then I spotted them hiding high up in the trees — way too high for me to reach.

Fruit orchard in Capitol Reef National Park
I see them up there – now I just have to figure out how to get at them

I looked around and saw two ladders — both in use — and one person with a long-handled apple picker thingy. Thinking I would wait until she was done and then ask to use it I wandered around admiring the view and taking a few pictures of the resident deer who were busty “cleaning” the orchard floor.

Fruit orchard in Capitol Reef National Park
This guy was far too interested in the discarded apples to care about all the people milling about.

That’s how I stumbled upon the other entrance to the orchard where there were a whole pile of apple picker thingys (they must have a real name) free to use. With my new arm extension, my bag quickly filled with shiny red apples. I’m still not sure what kind they are, but my taste test says maybe Macintosh? They have a sharp tart flavor that reminds me of the apples I picked as a kid in Vermont.

Apple Picking in Capitol Reef National Park
Whoever invented this contraption was a genius

I ended up picking 10lbs of apples, but never found a single pear. Oh well, it was still an enjoyable and successful outing.

Apple Picking in Capitol Reef National Park
Apple haul

With plans to meet friends for dinner later, we skipped another hike in the park in favor of a bike ride on the road right outside our door. The red dirt road that spilts off from Beas Lewis Flat travels up and down for about 6 miles before ending in a wash. We rode roughly 5 miles and then turned around. Great views up this road and even a few boondocking spots. The two best were already occupied.

Torrey, Utah
The views helped distract from some of the steep uphill sections :)

Dinner was at the Diablo Cafe with fellow full-timers Jodee and Bill. While this was our first time meeting in person, Jodee and I already knew each from our blogs. They’ve been on the road for 2.5 years and for the past 4 or so years she has commented on every single one of my blog posts. As someone who reads an increasingly small amount of travel blogs and almost never comments, I find this very, very impressive.

So not only did I “know” Jodee from her blog (On the Road Abode), but I also knew her from years of comments. Needless to say, meeting them was like hanging out with old friends and we had some great conversations about life on the road and where we see it taking us in the future. I really hope we run into them again.

Diablo Cafe - Torrey, Utah
Bill & Jodee showing off their tasty blood orange margaritas

Also, the food at the Diablo Cafe was delicious and the bloody margaritas highly recommended!

Thursday, October 5
Returning to a national park is always more relaxing than the first time around. Instead of feeling like we have to see all the views and hike all the trails, we are free to explore at ease. And while it’s tempting to only explore new trails this second time around, a return visit often leads to repeats of favorites.

For us, that means another hike up to the Freemont Gorge Overlook. This is one of the least hiked trails in the park. I have no idea why as the views are amazing. Maybe its because the trailhead is not directly off the main scenic park road and instead is found at the bottom of an unassuming dirt track next to the historic blacksmith building.

Also, it’s one of the more strenuous — yet short — hikes in the park. That description alone immediately weeds out about 80% of national park visitors. The trail starts off strong with an uphill section that climbs to the top of a mesa.  The view looking down on the river valley is worth the climb alone. The contrast of red rock cliffs and a sea of green cottonwood trees is mesmerizing.

Capitol Reef National Park
Going up…
Capitol Reef National Park
Red rocks, green trees
Capitol Reef National Park
Looking down on the Fruita Campground
Capitol Reef National Park
The scenic park road stretches off into the distance.

We walked across the top of the mesa for more than a mile. The land here is scattered with volcanic rocks leftover from geologic events that happened millions of years ago.

Capitol Reef National Park
Volcanic rocks
Capitol Reef National Park
The easy section

After a brief reprieve of flat walking, we started to climb again. We hiked past a giant red rock jutting from the earth and then wove our way up and through a rocky section of twisted junipers all the way to the edge of the canyon.

Capitol Reef National Park
A variety of landscapes on the top of this mesa

Just like the last time we hiked this trail, we’re here at the wrong time of day for optimal canyon viewing.  With the sun in front of us, it’s hard to make out the details in the rock. Still a gorgeous canyon.

Capitol Reef National Park
Morning is probably the best time to view this canyon
Capitol Reef National Park
Heading down

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9 Responses to “Return To Capitol Reef”

Comments

  1. Becky Sidney

    I hope the resident turkeys were still around the orchard/campground. We were there 2 yrs ago.

    Reply
  2. Bill Bennett

    All I can say is: Thanks for the our armchair visits to all the places you have visited. Some, as Utah Color Country we have experienced. Almost at the ninety mark now, so don’t travel far nowadays. So your blog awakens memories of GOOD times on the road. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Amanda

      This comment makes me so happy! One of the reasons why I write this blog is so someday we can have “armchair visits” to all the places we once traveled. How wonderful that we can also provide this for you. Thanks so much for reading :)

      Reply
      • Kim

        I’m with Bill on this one, you do a great job describing your travels and all of the good/not so good, etc that happens “on the road”…keep it up!! Utah (and anywhere out West) is on my bucket list for sure, my son went there last year during college spring break and still raves about it.

        Reply
        • Amanda

          Thanks Kim! I’ll never forget my first visit to Utah. We went to Zion NP and I had never seen rocks as tall, colorful and interesting as what I found in that narrow canyon. It’s been true love ever since. I hope you get to cross Utah off your list someday.

          Reply
  3. Grace

    Thanks for sharing this amazing park with us. We should have been exploring it a few weeks ago but our trip got shortened. I was disappointed to miss Capital Reef. Maybe next time!

    Reply

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