Capitol Reef National Park is really big

We visited Capitol Reef National Park as our first big rock canyon. 

We had originally planned to go to Moab this year with Dennis and Carol and some of their friends, but one Dan Stephens got sick.  Get well Dan. We’ll save Moab, Arches and Canyonland National Parks for next year with all of you. 

Given our great experience with Utah State Parks so far we looked South and opted to stay at Fremont Indian State Park at Sam Stowe Campground. It’s more or less centrally located to see Capitol Reef, Bryce, and Zion.  The bonus is we wouldn’t have to move every day.

Being our first visit to this area we were really impressed with all there was to see not only at the state park but on the drive to the National Parks.

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Capital Reef, like all the other national parks, the word amazing doesn’t do it justice.  In the Pacific Northwest we have some pretty exceptional terrain but this just seems so much more stark and abrupt.  Trying to capture it in photos was unsatisfying but try we did.

One cool and unusual feature at this National Park is all the orchards in the  Fruita area, which is where the Park’s visitor center and main campground is located. Mormon pioneers were a little busy trying to stay alive 150 years ago, so they didn’t worry about creative names for places.  They lived here. They grew fruit. “OK, how about we call it Fruita?”  The cool part is that today the park rangers maintain the orchards…and park guests get to do the picking for their camping baskets. So we picked apples. 

Key learnings for next time…

  • We’ll stay closer to the park or in the park
  • We’ll visit more than one day to see more sites
  • We’ll do a hike or two and take more photos

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Fremont Indian State Park where we camped was created when they were building I-70 and as a result wiped out an old Indian village that had been there from the 300s to the 1300s on the hill above the freeway path.  The state DOT wanted the hill to use for fill and base.  It was also the early 1980s, and they made stupid decisions like that.  The penance was to build a great State Park and Museum, keeping the artifacts they did find in the canyon where they belong. 

It’s great to see the many petroglyphs and pictographs that are still in great condition.  Sadly, several of the best ones have been defaced in some manner or another…people are such idiots. 

The visitor center has a small museum of the known history of the Fremont Indians as well an outdoor re-creation of their home (half dug out and half covered with a ladder going down through the hole in the roof) that you can climb down into) and short canyon hike to some petroglyphs up close. 

Our campsite is a short drive from the visitor center and we have petroglyphs a few feet from our trailer.  Pretty cool.  The campground is well kept and have full services.  No cellular signal gets into the canyon though which after a week get a bit frustrating. 

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We were able to do some bicycling in the state park as well as a nice paved bike path that runs quite a distance along highway 89. 

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For our last day’s excitement we saw what we think was a baby Copper Back Rattlesnake (no rattle, maybe 12” long, ) by the public bathroom.  Coincidentally, I read a warning about these a few weeks ago in a camping guide..September is the season for babies to hatch.  I wouldn’t have seen it if I hadn’t stopped walking to turn and talk to Dan.  When I turned back, it moved so I wisely kept my distance.  Funny, when we got back from our ride two sheriffs deputies came by with a snake tool to move the little guy to more appropriate snake terrain.  Scary if you dwell on it. 

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