06 September 2006

The Road is my Favorite Place: Day 4

(Days: one, two, three)

20/viii/04: Torrey, UT and Capitol Reef National Park
another 25 miles/40 km or so exploring the park for another day

view of Capitol ReefIf the road is my favorite place, then spectacular national parks are a very close second. This was the view of Capitol Reef from outside my motel room. After tracking down the one room post office in Torrey to mail some postcards, I headed back to the park.

Capitol Reef is a park of diverse terrain. After the desert rock formations and wash trails of the previous day, I checked out some of the orchards where I met this deer. (Later, I encountered a mama and two baby deer crossing the street in front of me.)

Deer in orchardWhen the fruit's in season, you're welcome to eat as much as you like on site for free. For a small amount of money, you can pick boxes or crates of fruit to take with you. I was there slightly off-season, but I ate most of a slightly under-ripe pear anyway just to engage the experience of being there as fully as possible.

Rain showers were still passing through the region intermittently, but they didn't keep me from checking out the Anasazi petroglyphs.

After that I drove to the trail that lead to Hickman bridge. Since this would be a longer, more difficult hike than what I'd been doing, I waited in my car for the rain shower to pass. There were lots of black volcanic rocks on the hillside by the trail. The sky looked clearer above, but the winds kept shifting.
Trail to Hickman bridge Volcanic Rocks
The trail descended into a rocky ravine with gnarled dry trees and sandy sections along the lowest parts. Sometimes the ground level trail markers were far apart, but I could usually tell from other people's foot prints which way to go. Only the wide stretches of flat rock caused me trouble since they sometimes held no traces that I could discern; other times small cairns suggested the path.

On the underside of a large rock overhanging the once again ascending trail, I noticed lots of dried handprints made from red mud. I would've taken a shot of it because they made me smile, but it was overcast and too dark to get a decent shot. After blowing through four rolls of film the previous day, I was trying to be more selective about my shots.

After a while, the trail started to become significantly more difficult. The national park system has a rating guide for their trails; I'd been on a "moderate" trail which had quickly become a "strenuous" one. Since the guide had been accurate up until then, I was pretty sure I was off the trail. In addition, the Hickman bridge formation was nowhere in sight, and I'd been walking long enough that I should've reached it by then.

I climbed back down the way I'd come and paused at a flat plateau with a wide view of the horizon and took a couple shots. I could hear running water from the Fremont River, and I was able to pick out Route 24 which I'd driven to get here. It was a long way down.
terrain gets roughThen a lightning bolt struck in the distance amidst massive storm clouds, and I started counting my Mississippis, waiting for the thunder and trying to remember how many seconds equaled a mile. I felt so screwed.

I hoofed back the way I'd come and encountered a cairn blocking the trail I was on that hadn't been there before. A family of voices drew my attention the direction I should've gone initially. And there it was: Hickman bridge.
Hickman Bridge masked
I'd looked at it before, but I hadn't seen it in my own Indiana Jones leap of faith moment. (For scale, the two small white dots on the lower left are people.)

It wasn't raining yet, and I couldn't pass up hiking the short distance left now that I realized it was so close. A couple with three young children were taking pictures by the arch, and they were completely unconcerned by the booming thunder. The son wore a t-shirt that read: Peace, Love, Carbs. The mom was friendly, a real hiker, hippyish but only my age, mid-thirties at the oldest; she loved the idea of a cross-country trek. I was getting kind of freaked out by how loud the thunder was, so I took my shots and then started back at a quick clip.
Hickman Bridge
Hickman Bridge panoramic
I passed one of the girls on the trail, told her to "be careful," and then hauled ass so I could get through the ravine and back to higher ground before any downpour and possible flash flooding. Luckily for me and my cameras, it was only sprinkling by the time I made it back to my car.


One year ago at TTaT: The Wedge
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  1. Wow! And I totally understand the leap of faith-reference.. Zebra mountain :)

  2. I am really enjoying the narrative about your trip, and the photos, as always, are amazing. I don't blame you for being spooked by the thunder and lightning - I would have been "counting my Mississippis"! I am not a hiker at all, and I would definitely be afraid of losing the trail - but I should give hiking a try some day.

  3. Scholiast: ah good! That shot was the best one I had to convey the idea.

    Elisabeth: Thank you very much for the kind words. They help keep me motivated. As you've no doubt noticed, this series is taking me a while to write (and there's quite a ways left to go); it's taking more discipline and patience to develop these posts from my 2 yr old notes than I'd anticipated.

    As for hiking, it's fun. You just have to know what to look for in terms of trail markers (which sometimes differ in different parks and terrains). Maps are good.

  4. Beautiful scenery. And you lucked out with a motel that had such a view!

  5. Well, Neil, it wasn't all luck. I didn't book the room until I was there. What was lucky was that this new motel was so reasonable, and I got a room on the right side of it for the view.