In which there is a Capitol Reef/Arches addendum

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Capitol Reef panorama

Clay lies still, but blood’s a rover; 
Breath’s a ware that will not keep. 
Up, now: when the journey’s over,
There’ll be time enough to sleep. 

{A.E. Housman, Reveille from A Shropshire Lad}

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Delicate Arch hike

Six National Parks in as many days – I am holding exhaustion and contentment close together tonight and finding so much comfort in both.

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In which we visit Capitol Reef and Arches National Parks

This trip reminds me of an eight-course meal at a fancy restaurant. You don’t get a large portion of each dish, but you get enough to peak your interest, enough to taste its subtle nuance, and enough to want more.

We started the morning off at Capitol Reef National Park. Since I had trouble finding much information on this obscure park we settled for the scenic drive portion and were not disappointed in the views:

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National Park #4!

Another outtake. I was struggling before coffee.

Another outtake. I was struggling before coffee. Also excuse the fog – I had cleaned my filter with a solvent and replaced it before realizing it wasn’t fully dry. Fortunately fixed this before taking the rest of the day’s pictures. But it’s kinda dreamy, isn’t it?

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Unbelievable rock faces in stunning red and browns punctuated with green.

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Rising in a slanted direction into the distance.

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We stopped by a restored early Mormon settlement and bought cherry pie, cinnamon rolls and coffee from the general store. The national park service maintains the orchards early pioneers planted and it remains the largest fruit tree area maintained by NPS.

We stopped by a restored early Mormon settlement and bought cherry pie, cinnamon rolls and coffee from the general store. The national park service maintains the historic orchards early pioneers planted and it remains the largest fruit tree area maintained by them. You can even pick fruit in season for a nominal fee. The cinnamon rolls were perfect. The coffee made by Mormons, not so great.

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Jeep is still going strong!

Jeep is still going strong!

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Loved these sedimentary rock formations

Grand Wash canyon. We headed the flash flood warnings not to enter when a storm was imminent.

Grand Wash canyon. We heeded the flash flood warnings not to enter when a storm was imminent (also we were on a time crunch).

Grand Wash

Grand Wash – Called a wash because it was not a stream or creek or river yet. Not until it rains. Signs of road damage could be seen all along the drive from previous flash floods.

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The red color was spectacular - I couldn't get enough.

The red color was spectacular – I couldn’t get enough.

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For only having the morning to explore, the scenic drive was perfect.

For only having the morning to explore, the scenic drive was perfect and because we started early, we had it mostly to ourselves.

We stopped and saw some early petroglyphs - these reminded me of the stickers people put on the back of their vans.

We stopped and saw some early petroglyphs – these reminded me of the stickers people put on the back of their vans.

Capitol Dome from which Capitol Reef takes its name. It's supposed to resemble the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

The white Capitol Dome towering above the Fremont River. This is from which Capitol Reef takes its name as it’s supposed to resemble the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

We headed out of the park towards Arches and kept being greeted by awesome canyon and rock formation views. It seemed otherworldly:

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We stopped for iced tea and directions at a gas station carved into the rock:

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And finally made it to Moab, UT where we grabbed lunch at the Moab Brewery:

Jeff had the Dead Horse Amber and I had the Moab Especial - both helped wash down chicken sandwiches.

Jeff had the Dead Horse Amber and I had the Moab Especial – both helped wash down delicious chicken sandwiches.

Today was ambitious: I had planned two parks in one day! But at the last minute I almost added a third. I didn’t realize Canyonlands was so close to Arches – they’re 20 miles apart which is a minute speck in national park distance terms. I really didn’t even know until we hit the exit for Arches and it said “One Exit: Two National Parks” and my heart immediately sank. What is wrong with me?! This whole trip was carefully mapped out, researched, planned. It was tight already. I spent lunch going over our itinerary – do we stay the night here and try to do both? Do we nix another one in favor of Canyonlands? And do we try to squeeze this one in without any preparation? Do we just drive to the gate, get the map and leave to say we’d done it?

In the end, I let it be. This trip is already pushing the quantity limit of quality. Not that we could just nix four parks and spend two days exploring each instead – it’s a lot of distance to cover and our stops are spaced so that we can achieve that distance. If we had driven straight to Minneapolis from Seattle it would have been 24 hours of driving. Our current concocted plan works out to around 52, so it would not have allowed extra time to linger. We need to be there on time so we can get settled and Jeff can work. No, I had to let this trip be what it is: a marathon taste-test. We’ll be back.

National Park #5

National Park #5!

Driving in past the Three Gossips - perhaps my favorite name for a rock formation.

Driving in past the Three Gossips – perhaps my favorite name for a rock formation.

And the gorgeous scenery continues.

And the gorgeous scenery continues.

Right before we saw the sign for what this was, I commented to Jeff that the rock appeared to be balancing on top of the other one. I should be a formation namer: it's called Balancing Rock.

Right before we saw the sign for what this was, I commented to Jeff that the rock appeared to be balancing on top of the other one. I should be a formation namer: it’s called Balancing Rock.

Like I alluded to earlier: I’ve carefully planned our experiences in most of the parks. Fern Canyon in Redwoods, Bumpass Hell in Lassenvisiting the bristlecone pines in Great Basin, etc. Each excursion was chosen to represent the character of the park and give us the maximum effect in our limited time. That’s why I ultimately couldn’t just add Canyonlands – I had no idea what to do there. A quick glance said there would be too many cool things, so I let it go. We’ll save it for another time. As for Arches, I picked the famous Delicate Arch (which also happens to be currently gracing the Utah license plate):

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It was hot - 97 degrees. Rangers at the beginning on the trail checked to see that we had adequate water (we did).

It was hot – 97 degrees. Rangers at the beginning on the trail checked to see that we had adequate water (we did).

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Queen of the world!

Queen of the world!

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I am adding this to the growing collection of pictures of my boots in different environs. I’ve had these since sixth grade.

Stone piles marked the trail in some areas.

Stone piles marked the trail in some areas.

Almost at the top

Almost at the top

Worth the climb!

Worth the climb!

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Delicate Arch!

Going back down was so much easier.

Going back down was so much easier.

We detoured to see a few more petroglyphs. These, like the previous ones, were carved by the mysterious Fremont people before they disappeared from the record.

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I would love to come back and see the 2,473 other arches we didn’t see, but, the sun was high and we needed to move on.

State #6!

State #6!

We checked for places to stay near our next stop, Black Canyon, but came up empty. Our original plan to camp along the way has been thwarted by the tiredness we’ve been feeling as a result of the long drives with no AC. We’re not the twenty year old explorers we used to be.

The closest place we could find was an hour and a half away in Grand Junction, CO, so we’re bunkered down here for the night. I’m beginning to believe we might actually make this crazy itinerary of eight parks, eight states in eight days, work.

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An easy 261 miles today, but we completed two parks, so I’ll take it.

In which we visited Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park lies about an hour east of Ely, NV. I wasn’t sure exactly what this basin was before we found the visitor’s center, but it now know it describes the depression between the Sierra Nevada and Wastach mountains (amongst other geographical things) and looks like this (thanks Wikipedia!):

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(and thanks Great Basin visitor’s center!). This national park not only preserves important landmarks, it also celebrates the unique culture of this desolately beautiful place.

If anyone wonders how we get photos of the two of us - I have a remote for my Nikon D3300. Sometimes it works great. Sometimes you get silly outtakes like this one.

If anyone wonders how we get photos of the two of us – I have a remote for my Nikon D3300. Sometimes it works great. Sometimes you get silly outtakes like this one.

Never mind the previous outtake. This is the real sign at the entrance to the park.

National Park #3! Never mind the previous outtake – that was the visitor’s center. This is the real sign at the entrance to the park. Wheeler Peak is in the background.

I wasn’t planning on hiking in this park, but the main thing I came to see required a short, out-and-back jaunt.

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Bristlecone pines are the longest living non-clonal organisms on Earth and this park is home to several rare groves of them. They can live up to 5,000 years!! You have to specify non-clonal because there is a group of quaking aspens in Utah that is believed to be over 80,000 years old – though the individual trees are only 130 years or so.

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Even when they die, the trees are so hardy that they can last another 1,000 years in the same spot without rotting.

Hiking up to the grove - we wore plenty of sunscreen since the sun was out and we were above 10,000 feet!

Hiking up to the grove – we wore plenty of sunscreen since the sun was out and we were above 10,000 feet!

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At 1.6 miles past the trailhead there was a lovely exhibit teaching you about different trees in the grove.

At 1.6 miles past the trailhead there was a lovely exhibit teaching you about different trees in the grove.

Many had great informative plaques like this one. Hard to believe that some of these trees are contemporaries of the pyramids of Egypt.

Many had great informative plaques like this one. Hard to believe that some of these trees are contemporaries of the pyramids of Egypt.

Jeff pointing out the living part of this tree.

Jeff pointing out the living part of this tree.

View of Wheeler peak from the grove.

View of Wheeler peak (highest summit in the Snake Range: 13,065 ft) from the grove.

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I know they look dead – but I promise they are not. Many had green needles sprouting from their branches that just get lost in these photos.

Beautiful, smooth bark

Beautiful patterns in the smooth bark

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Thankful that someone will indulge my not-so-inner biology nerd.

On the way down we made a small detour to Teresa Lake (in honor of you, Aunt T!):

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Beautiful little alpine lake.

Beautiful little alpine lake.

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It was an unplanned, but lovely 3.2 mile hike. I would definitely love to come back and do more glacier hikes and explore the Lehman Caves. After this we headed down Wheeler Peak, on to Utah:

View of Wheeler Peak

View of Wheeler Peak

State #5!

State #5!

This stretch of road began a long series of beautiful views. I'm convinced there isn't a bad site in Utah.

This stretch of road began a long series of beautiful views. I’m convinced there isn’t a bad site in Utah.

Great Salt Flat in the distance

Great Salt Flat in the distance – you can follow this all the way to the Great Salt Lake

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More Utah through the front windshield

Look at the scenery behind Jeff - it's just breathtaking.

Look at the scenery behind Jeff – it’s just breathtaking.

Better view of that exact spot. This road trip is mostly about seeing national parks, but it has the lovely residual side effect of taking us through some of the prettiest, most unique places in the US.

Better view of that exact spot. This road trip is mostly about seeing national parks, but it has the lovely residual side effect of taking us through some of the prettiest, most remote places in the US.

Our first glimpse of Rim Rock, right outside Capitol Reef National Park and our home for the night.

Our first glimpse of Rim Rock, right outside Capitol Reef National Park and our home for the night.

It looks like we're driving into a painting. Just amazing!

It looks like we’re driving into a painting. Just amazing!

I wasn’t sure what Capitol Reef was going to be like and with this preview I can’t wait to see it tomorrow. We’re settled in for the night in Torrey with Mexican food in our bellies and wi-fi for our devices.

301 miles

Short driving day: 301 miles