I’ve had a busy June. 5 days in bears ears. A week back at work, then Capitol Reef with the whole family then one day at home, then bear lake with the youth in my area where I broke my knee.
A. That will probably be the last of my camping for the year
B. I don’t have a personal blog that I post to anymore
C. Purty pictures
You are getting my Capitol Reef summary here. You’re welcome.
So Utah has 5 national parks. The mighty 5 they call them
And up until recently at least one of the 5 has been off everybodies radar. People know about Zion, even if they have a hard time with the pronunciation (pronounced like Lion), and Arches for sure as they are both so crowded it makes them nearly impossible to visit. Bryce is 3rd, because of the guided mule rides through the hoodoos. While canyonlands is still relatively unloved on account of so much of it being backcountry, it’s bustling compared to Capitol reef. Or used to be as the secret it out I guess. (Capitol Reef is represented with the pointy monolith on the left which is only BARELY in the park and doesn’t really represent the park at all)
I’ve been going to capitol reef for a long time, starting as a kid with my cousins. It was actually on a trip to Cap reef, that my now wife planned, that I decided I really liked this person, I should probably do something about that.
(Pictured: Not me. Im taking the picture per the norm)
And it was the first place we took our kids camping. (as well as the cruiser’s first towing trips)
I’ve camped here, either in the park in near it, at least a dozen times and it holds a lot of meaning for me personally.
This year I wanted to get back to my roots and plan a camping trip for the whole family (my side) and let our kids play and build the kinds of memories I had as a kid. This would have been tricky since the campground sites were getting hard and harder to get walk-in but just this year they started a reservation system that, while regrettable for locals in the mood for a quick trip, took all of the anxiety out of site planning.
Before our adventure began we had to make one stop. Sorry. It’s here we met up with my sister and my brother families to caravan down. I convinced my camp averse (for a Utahn) sister to rent a trailer. I think they were very happy with money spent. I should say she isn’t so much averse to camping, just tenting with a big young family. I get it.
The campground is exactly as awesome as I expect, but future note, the group site is excellent and should be reserved for big groups if possible, though it doesn’t give as good of access to the river.
Night one we eat in Torrey at a burger place that was...okay. I had a “steak” burger which is a sirloin ground into chuck and grilled. Meh. It also rained and given my past adventures in the area...it didn’t bode well. Thankfully it was short lived and the rest of the trip was idyllic weather.
From there it was setting up camp and settling in. A short walk up the Cohab canyon trail just across from the campsite reveals probably one of the best view to work ratios around.
Capitol reef is named because a prominent feature is called the capitol dome, which as you can guess looks like a capitol dome.
And because its “reef” like in nature. being a very narrow but LONG park following the waterpocket fold which is a 100 mile monocline fold going from the high mountains of fishlake to the north down to lake powell in the south. However, the “family friendly” part of the park is probably only about 10x10 miles square.
It’s an oddly lush valley in the canyons that follow the Freemont river allowing for the cultivation of fruit orchards by settlers of the church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints which orchards today are thriving and are pick and eat orchards assuming you come in a time of harvest. We were early for cherries on account of an unusually wet spring however. The good news is that a wet spring meant for a desert vacation with a lot of time spent in swimsuits as the river forms a sort of beach at the campsite
The freemont is cold and flowing high but not dangerously so. The kids didn’t mind the cold so long as they got to throw moss at each other. When we were kids we used to dunk our heads in to get a “head freeze”. Probably pretty bad for the body...
Set up chairs and pull out a book because the shade from the GIGANTIC cottonwoods along this stretch of the river makes for a great beach.
Before we let them relax though we had to work em’. The first real hike of the trip was hickman bridge. It’s not long and it’s not hard (per-se) but it is pretty.
Perfect for the sassy pants crowd.
Great time of year for the prickly pear blossoms too. In fact the whole place was poppin.
It’s a fun hike, but one I can pass on next time as the crowds are making it less enjoyable and I’ve done it a dozen times.
Every night we would have a fire near our site and cook up tasty meals and roast mallows. Tonight I was making dutch oven cornbread and brownies to compliment the excellent stew my wife made to celebrate my daughters and my birthdays. So freaking good, but way too much food, we gave away about half of our cornbread to the scout group here to ride 50 miles on their mountain bikes (presumably along the waterpocket fold...which would be a very boring drive, terrain wise)
We camped in a sort of “circle the wagons” way which left us the use of the center field for evening funtimes. The hammock is always a big hit.
The next day we got a slow, let’s say casual, start to the day with a big breakfast while we let the kids rip around the campsite on their bikes. I remember doing this as a kid and I was excited to pass that along to the kids who were just getting good enough to ride. It ended badly for my youngest who took a big dive into some gravel but she’s back on the horse so to speak and healed up nicely.
After breakfast cleanup we packed up and went down the scenic drive (the only part of the park you have to pay to access except camping. The rest of the park has no entrance fee) down to grand wash which is just a giant wash. Pretty though.
The kids had fun literally bouncing off the walls and playing in the scoured sandstone.
At the end of the hike (though not the end of the wash) you head up to the water tanks. I used to think these were literally water storage for early settlers and was less than excited, but it turned out to be very cool.
The kids were loving it too, catching tadpoles...until one of them fell in and had to be rescued. he was pretty mad.
Not someplace I’d go swimming, but cool.
After that we went back to camp for lunch, to turn on the generator to charge my batteries as the battery in the GX wouldn’t take a charge and my fridge could only be powered for a couple of hours at a time. I should have replaced it before we left, but didn’t. oh well. Post lunch it was back into swimsuits.
...because why wouldn’t you when going into sulphur creek?
It’s much cooler than the name suggests including some neat history along the way
The hike (for us) terminates in a natural water slide that on last years visit was empty
Not so much this year.
Oh well, the kids got to slide to their heart’s content in the surprisingly warm water. Just keep your mouths shut as this creek has been shown to have traces of e.coli.
After this hike they were pretty burned out and so they just chilled at camp. Until ranger program time!
My kids love the ranger programs, or at least one does. She and her cousins wanted to make sure they got good seats at the amphitheater for the biodiversity lecture so they showed up an HOUR early...and waited.
Probably unnecessary. The ranger kept them entertained though.
The last and final morning the kids were hard at work scrambling to fill out their junior ranger booklets for their badges. My kids already have one but they could always use more plastic crap, right?
The ranger swore them in as junior rangers at the visitors center. I always like when the rangers take it seriously because the kids feel way more proud of their achievement. This one was grillin em. Good.
A few more lizards to chase down and we were out.
The way the knee goes is going to determine if we are going to be camping again this year but I’m hoping to get surgery right away. I would still love to get back here one more time this year. It’s a magic place I’m stoked to be able to share with my family.