27 August 2006

The Road is my Favorite Place: Day 3

(Days: one, two)

19/viii/04: Nephi, UT to Torrey, UT and Capitol Reef National Park
158 miles/254 km

I woke up in Nephi feeling congested and puffy. After a shower, I felt much better and chalked it up to the motel's pillows, probably filled with allergy-inducing down. As usual, I was getting my start right around check-out time, so it was already noon when I drove into Salina.

When I stepped out of my car to pump gas, the air was permeated with acrid smoke. I looked around urgently to detect the source 'cuz really, fire and gas stations don't mix favorably. FireThen I spotted it; over the trees in the distance, a long plume of black smoke rising straight up. I wondered if there was a fire station nearby, but no one else looked the least bit concerned. Calling 911-- assuming my cell got reception and the town had 911 service-- wouldn't do much good because I couldn't even say where I was specifically at the moment; so with visions of fast-spreading wild fires in mind, I decided to just proceed carefully.

It wasn't long before I encountered the fire itself. And some town fire trucks, as well as a few onlookers talking to a couple of firemen who were just standing by. I pulled over and took a couple of pictures. firetruckAs far as I could tell, it was a controlled burn of a demolished property. Again, I was wishing I had a longer lens. I suppose I could've walked closer to the fire, but I didn't want to get yelled at, and I'd already snuck a close up shot of one of their trucks. One of the fire fighters looked over at me, so I said, "Hey," trying to look all casual with my SLR slung around my neck before walking back to my car.

A ways down the road, I stopped at Mom's Cafe for lunch. As I ate my turkey sandwich, I felt like I understood the country better (not meaning the rural bits, but rather all of it). Though I was in Utah, the clientele reminded me much of The South, minus the accents and plus more cowboy hats. Small town, sure but yeah - this is why the right wing is, I commented in my moleskine. Two years later, I'm not sure I can articulate it better than that; it just made sense to me in that moment.

I took I-70 out of town and picked up Rt. 24 for one of the most beautiful drives of my whole road trip.
Rt. 50

At 2:52 PM, I reached Capitol Reef National Park; it was raining, but the rock formations were still awe-inspiring.
Cap Reef Fern centerCap Reef Fern right

The weather cleared by the time I reached the visitor's center about a half hour later.
Cap Reef MS
There were numerous pull-outs along the 25 mile round trip Scenic Drive; I cruised slowly, stopping frequently for pictures and short hikes, trying to take it all in.
Cap Reef Rock canted Cap Reef Stria
I learned to be wary of the dirt roads in the park. They were narrow and more than once vehicles whipped round corners heading straight at me; my car shook in ways I was certain wasn't good for it; and signs warned of flash floods by gullies still covered in water of indeterminate depth from the rain earlier.
Cap Reef Rock
The park wasn't very busy, so when I walked through the Grand Wash Trail and later hiked through Capitol Gorge, I was alone most of the time; I loved the quiet of it.
Cap Reef Rocks
The terrain reminded me of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and then I encountered a sign which said that Butch supposedly did have a hideout somewhere around there.

At 8:07 PM, I finished off my fourth roll of film with some sunset shots on my way out of the park.sunset

I booked a room for that night and the next at the Go West Lodge in adjacent Torrey, Utah. The desk clerk "Sylvia" (it was in quotations on her name tag) was from Romania (it said that on her name tag too). "Lucy" from Bulgaria passed by and went into a back room. A new motel in a tiny town outside of a national park in Utah seemed like a really strange place for two young foreign women to have ended up, but I decided the mystery was probably more intriguing than the truth, so I didn't ask. I thought of asking "Sylvia" if she'd been watching the Olympics, but then I couldn't remember how the Romanians had done in gymnastics the night before, so I just took my key and drove around to the side of the building to park.

As I walked up the exterior stairs, I was totally stoked to find that she'd given me a room with a view of the park. I dropped off some gear in my room, washed up, and then drove over to the Rim Rock Restaurant, arriving 10 minutes before the kitchen closed. Considering the previous night, I feared I was out of luck, but instead I was met with a kind waiter and a tasty gourmet dinner.


One year ago at TTaT: Return to status quo
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  1. Man, your photos sure capture the beauty of this country. I am totally astounded every time I see pictures of scenery like this. Can you believe that I was in total awe during the entire duration of my first trip to the Southwest last January?

  2. Scholiast: It's an amazingly diverse park. There's more to come...

    Elisabeth: Thank you, and I can totally believe it. The terrain is stunning. I'd been to other parts of the Southwest before, but I always find something new and incredible to me each new place I visit out there.

  3. Capitol Reef was great for me too. Crazy dirt roads...

  4. Dan: It's a sweet park. Such diverse terrain and less busy than Bryce and Arches.

    And yeah, dirt roads. Red mud sticks to your car something awful; I was just happy I never got stuck though.

  5. Fab images of Capitol Reef! They bring me back to my own x-country camping trip (oh, so many years ago) with my grandmother and aunt in a Datsun B210 hatchback. No, not pretty, but a great experience. I think I'll try to find some of those pictures...

  6. Thank you very much, Liz! Sounds like you had quite an adventure as well. Let me know if you post pics of your trip.