Category Archives: Capitol Reef National Park

Of Pictographs and Petroglyphs…

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah; Freemont petroglyphs 1

Freemont petroglyphs at Capitol Reef National Park, Utah; USA

We first heard of the Fremont people as we hiked to Lower Calf Creek Falls in the Grand Staircase Escalante region.The remains of their storage granaries perched at the edges of the high cliffs above us, and we were thrilled to spot their painted rock art, “pictographs,” on a distant canyon wall.

They also decorated many of the rock walls of Capitol Reef National Park to the east, but here the Freemont people carved into the cliff faces rather than painting upon them and created “petroglyphs.”*

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah; Freemont petroglyphs 4The Fremont culture farmed and hunted the Capitol Reef area from around 700 AD to 1250 AD. Their primitive art electrified our imaginations and created questions that can never be answered completely. Questions about ancient motivations and joys… about the death of a culture and the interpretation of its fragmented traces from centuries beyond.

*An easy way to remember the difference is to think: “paint a picture” for pictograph.

Updated from November 9, 2008.

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Wagon Trail

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah; Capitol Gorge spur road

 

The Capitol Gorge spur road revealed no more than its next winding turn, one intriguing twist at a time. The vistas were vertical. Rocky skyscrapers of Wingate sandstone towered dramatically, enclosing us in a one-way maze. The pitted gravel road offered few options but “forward” with measured care and speed.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah; Capitol Gorge near trailhead

Every so often I slammed into my sensory limit, shifted into park and cautioned the kids to watch for non-existent cars out the rear window while I snapped off a couple of pictures.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah; Capitol Gorge; into

Finally parked at the road’s dead end, we set off on foot down a Mormon pioneer trail. In the hush, it wasn’t hard to imagine the distant creaking of wagon wheels.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah; Capitol Gorge trail; sunburst petroglyph

Evening would soon sheath the canyon area in utter darkness, but we walked the first part of the trail -sadly noting petroglyphs marred by not-so-ancient vandals.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah; Capitol Gorge; view of trailhead

Further along the trail is a Pioneer Register with the scratched signatures of long ago passers-by. Approaching darkness would have prompted those turn-of-the-century travelers to set up their night’s camp but sent us on a reluctant trek back to our car and a slow winding drive in dimming light.

 

 

 
Updated from November 28, 2008.
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The Goosenecks at Capitol Reef National Park (Utah)

UTAH: Capitol Reef; setting sun at Goosenecks

Capitol Reef National Park Visitor Information and Map

Capitol Reef intrigued me. It’s a lesser known National Park, and an article on this beautifully desolate land is what first stirred my thoughts toward a western adventure with my kids in 2008. It would be the eastern edge of our driving loop, the point at which we would wistfully stare down the horizon, wishing for more time to explore it all.UTAH: Capitol Reef; road into Capitol Gorge

The drive from the Escalante region on to our next night’s stay was less than an hour but Torrey, Utah would be a much better base camp for exploring Capitol Reef National Park.

UTAH: Capitol Reef; sunset on cliffsThe Lodge at Red River Ranch did not disappoint. Once we’d checked in though, we shot right back out for a peek at our next park. We needed dinner, but no one felt like sitting in a restaurant. Sub sandwiches were our compromise, and we enjoyed the traveler’s version of “dinner and a movie” as we drove into Capitol Reef.

UTAH: Capitol Reef; cliff formationsWe were too late for the visitors’ center that first afternoon but not for the sunset. Our slow drive through the fiery landscape was a remarkable introduction to Capitol Reef. Every turn revealed something newly spectacular:

UTAH: Capitol Reef; rock sculpture

Absurd rock formations that sat like installed art at the edges of the road. Majestic pillared cliffs tinged into life by the low glow of a hot sun. And an endless enticing horizon, vacant of people and things, that made us feel like the privileged last few walking an emptied earth…

UTAH: Capitol Reef; Zach and Hannah at Goosenecks

Eventually, we made a reluctant turn back, intent on catching the sun’s final light at The Goosenecks Trail’s vista point. Once there, it was a short and easy ascent to yet another beautiful memory.

UTAH: Capitol Reef; gooseneck on sulphur river

Far below the fenced viewpoint, Sulphur Creek had steadfastly searched out a path of least resistance and carved out its twisting course of “goosenecks” through shale, sand and limestones. The wind whipped aggressively through the open spaces as the sun sank lower and shadows grew.UTAH: Capitol Reef; Goosenecks; sunset through juniper

Twisted junipers slipped into striking silhouette and the colors of the canyon below slipped through shades of warm before sliding toward inky blackness. We watched, and we waited. Reluctant to let it go but unable to hold it all except as a mind’s eye photograph.

Updated from September 23, 2008.

 
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Capitol Reef National Park: Visitor Information and Map

Capitol Reef National Park (Torrey, Utah) 378 miles of colorful canyons and ridges… Slot canyons, rock arches and monoliths Pick-your-own fruit (June – Oct) HC 70 Box 15; Torrey, UT 84775 435-425-3791 x 111 Park Website Park Hours: Open year-round; see website for details Entrance Fee: $3.00/individuals or $5.00/private vehicle Valid for 7 days. Annual pass available.

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