Thursday, June 3, 2010

Under the Sun’s Anvil

After a half mile it was obvious I’d find no water here. The desert wind was howling and a fine red dust covered everything I owned. I peered one last time into the trench below but alas there was no water. I shrugged, sighed, turned and began walking back to the campsite, holding my cowboy hat with my hand so the wind wouldn’t take it. Our campsite was 30 miles from the closest water pump so it was clear we’d need to get back to that there pump if we were to survive.

We were in Capitol Reef National Park approximately 4 hours southeast of Salt Lake City, Utah. The 360 degree views were unbelievable; red rock, slot canyons, buttes, monoliths, arches and Navajo sandstone. Words can’t describe and pictures and video can only attempt to.

After a hearty breakfast in Torrey, UT, our band of 6 arrived in the park on Friday morning. And after noticing that all the car camp spots were taken, we asked a park ranger where we could go. He gave us a few suggestions, but it was clear he favored Cedar Messa, a campground some 30 miles away. “It’s spooky out there”, he said. We giggled in glee. Then he said “watch out for Jimmy Big Gun. Don’t go on his property”. We swallowed hard and proceeded out the door. The adventure was about to begin.

We set up camp at Cedar Messa then began a hike up towards Navajo Knob that afternoon. The going was tough, but beautiful.

Though it wasn''t considerably hot, the sun beat down on us as we trekked our way up...and up...and up. Looking more like the Desert Fox in (khaki garb) than the Red Fox, I forced the party forward. There was no shade and we sank our teeth into our water bottles...until they were half gone. Time to turn around we all agreed, but not before be treated with some magnificent views (see pic).

After quenching our thirst at the water pump following the hike, we headed back to camp to make a hearty dinner of hamburgers. Though, when we arrived at our site, we were greeted with a fine layer of dust that covered everything; our sleeping bags, tents, food etc. The sand storm was still kicking up dust and it was wicked. After dinner we ignored the sand between our teeth and crashed into our sleeping bags. The next day our hike would be brutal.

And it was. We drove our SUV another 17 miles into the desert bush. We ascended a steep, switch backing gravel road that brought us up over the ridge line. Then we drove in 4WD down an arduous road (actually a dry river bed) filled with boulders and pot holes. We finally began our march and after a few miles we were hiking on top of the famous Waterpocket Fold which defines Capitol Reef Park (see picture - we walked along the ridge to the left between the red stone and the white stone)

We stopped for lunch and stared endlessly into the horizon. We cautiously negotiated the ridgle line which dropped hundreds of feet on either side of us. It was marvelous. After 5 or 6 miles we began back down into the dry river bed, which at this point was a slot canyon with walls jutting a hundred feet high.

Smooth boulders carved by thousands of years of water and wind made the going tricky at times, but we all made it down safely. We sucked down water while negotiating the warm slot canyon until we finally reached our SUV. The 10 mile hike had taken us 7 hours.

There is much more to tell...but that is all I have for now.

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