Capitol Reef National Park is just a few miles from Torrey, UT and is best described as a giant buckling in the Earth's crust that stretches across central Utah. Its exterior appears rough with the many cliffs, canyons and colorful arches that are seen along the eight miles of scenic road that leads through the park. Dirt spurs, Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge are both suitable for driving for the first 2 miles before it's time to don the hiking gear. There are also trails that offer more spectacular views of soaring spikes, massive domes and graceful arches that jut above the water-carved canyons along the twisting and sheer cliffs...all breathtaking, all beautiful. White sandstone domes and jagged ridges that look like underwater reefs (hence its name) overlook valleys filled with activity. Though most of the animals have adapted to living in the desert and only come out at night, being there in August and just after a rain storm, we were able to see a flurry of activity...the jays, jackrabbits, deer and lizards scurried about the flowering desert floor as if memorizing every branch, burrow, plant and stream. The dark green junipers against the faded leaves of sagebrush and the brightly colored columbine towering over the prickly pear cactus brought depth and character to the otherwise barren and warped rock that was created over 65 million years ago.
It wasn't until I rode through the park and along highway 24(east - west) that I understood why so many artist, photographers and writers were inspired by the unaltered beauty and uncomparable solitude along the region of the Waterpocket Fold. The recent rains and flashfloods filled the Freemont River with mud-colored waters that twisted along the Fold - drawing big horn sheep, deer and their young to it's lush green banks and to the many orchards throughout the scenic byway and in the small, historic community of Fruita.
The best trail to hike was the Cohab Canyon Trail; it was a hidden canyon with spur trails that took you deeper into even more narrow canyons and overlooks. The trail started from inside the park and continued for 2 miles before connecting to highway 24, east of the park. It was strenuous for the first quarter mile as we climbed up 350 feet along the narrow and rocky switchbacks but then it became more of a moderate trail as we descended 450 feet on a more gradual trail. The silence, beauty, and the resilience of everything that lives there was like an inspiring story that needed to be told...the richness of plant and animal life in what appreared to be an inhospitiable desert was flourshing with life. For me, exploring the life along the river, in the canyons, across the valley and in the backcountry was a day of growth, inspiration and appreciation for yet another piece of God's gift to the Earth.