Having so much to offer Utah is remarkably off the normal young tourist trail, though we’re stumped as to why. Yeah there’s the 4% beer law (though some establishment can serve stronger), right to carry a concealed weapon, the whole conservativeness of it and not to mention some strange laws, but it has more than enough natural beauty to compensate.
Utah, Life Elevated
Shifting on from the antics of Boulder and Chuck and Di’s trailer home, we made our way over the mountains north along scenic byway 12. Screaming at Sarah to get up (the lazy girl was still asleep in the back) she dove into the front seat just in time to catch site of a mother bobcat with two cub happily playing in the road. Speaking to people later turns out this was a super rare sighting as bobcats are rarely seen in the wild, let alone three at once.
Capitol Reef became the third National Park of the Utah jaunt, making a trip through the Slickrock Divide with its magnificent cliff face jutting majestically skyward. Entering Capitol Reef at the Western entrance, we made our way to Fruita, with it’s fruit orchards that you’re encouraged to pick from (for free!). Unfortunately for us, no fruit was ripe for the picking at this time of year. Lucky though fortunes change, and after a quick dash into one of the Gifford Farm Houses we secured a cheese scone to ward off the hangover hunger pains (albeit not free).
Deciding that we didn’t need to be spending too much time travelling the slim profile of Capitol Reef, we only stopped to briefly check out the roadside petroglyphs, attributed to the ancient Fremont culture, and to hike Hickman Bridge, a 2 mile drive from the Visitors Center. A moderate walk to the bridge, which spans 133ft, is best done in either the morning or late afternoon to avoid the scorching sun as there’s no shade until you get to the bridge itself.
This wasn’t a planned stop as such and wouldn’t warrant a blog entry, yet we still feel the need to mention a couple of thing about Hanksville. Lunchtime had arrived and we wanted somewhere shaded for lunch. Being in the geographical location the we found ourselves in (the desert), places like this were few and far between. Pulling off the number 24 north of Capitol Reef down a dirt road and driving for 10min in an ever drying harsh landscape, we realised that we had no chance of ever finding the shaded nirvana we craved. Deciding to cut our losses and head back to the main road, whilst looking for a convenient turning place we were dumb struck to find that in this desolate part of central Utah a ship builder, storage and maintenance yard exists!!!
Yeah as you can see boats in the desert!! Just weird.
Later it came to our attention that Lake Powell is in the near vicinity of the shipyard and it’s existence isn’t as stupid as us idiots first believed. Needing to pin point the location of Goblin Valley State Park, the one place in Hanksville with the best WiFi in the area was Stan’s Burger Shack at the Chevron petrol station. Pulling in and filling with gas we perched up in the restaurant ordering a coffee milkshake. OH MY GOD this creamy delight eventually arrived at the table.
Savouring every drop of its goodness, we found our way and soon hit the tarmac, bearings set for Goblin Valley State Park though not before entering the gas station raffle for an 8mm hand gun they were offering for 1st prize.
Wanting to stay in the campsite at Goblin Canyon for the night so we could scrub up after hiking into Little Wild Horse Canyon the following day, we arrived to a fully booked situation. So much so that the ranger at the office wouldn’t let us pay to use the showers as the camps water resources need to be carefully managed in the high season. With the only option in the area full for the night, he was kind enough to point out that the road to Little Wild Horse Canyon has carparks that you can happily sleep in and chill around a fire.
You’ll also notice that there are loads of campers pulled off the main road finding their own little nooks below the mountains to park, however we didn’t want to punish Porkchop with any off road driving today. Heading to the trailhead we found we had the carpark, in the middle of nowhere on a creek bed, all to ourselves. As there was a firepit already made out of stones, obviously the only thing to do was to whip out the marshmallows.
Early the next morning to beat the heat, we set off into the riverbed and soon arrived in the canyon itself. Negotiating the twists and turns, at some points Matt having to remove the pack just to squeeze through sideways, we were confronted with a pool of water covering the path leading around the corner. Knowing that this place can have the tendency to flashflood (check out these pics and story from 1992, crazy!) we had been mindful of checking the weather for the week before we planned to be there and for the day itself.
Warily trying to gauge the depth of the pool with the biggest branch to hand, the pool quickly took care of the 6ft length with ease, leaving us to think of the next course of action. Back tracking and looking for a route up the canyon walls, we discovered that others had been here before and in the same predicament. Following the cairns up the left hand side of the canyon wall (look for these as you will need them on this hike more than once) we diverted around the body of water and happily descended back to the canyon floor.
You can either choose to go up the canyon and return on the same route or you can add Bell Canyon to complete a loop back to the trail head. We chose the latter. As we were coming down Bell canyon we were again surprised to bump into a couple from Michigan for the 3rd time in Utah, the first two being Angle’s Landing and then Bryce Canyon. As we approached we overhead him deliberately saying ‘we’ll never see them again out here’…what are the odds.
Back in the carpark we were glad to complete a canyon walk like this as we had previously missed out two days in a row for the Wave hike in Arizona, and hadn’t wanted to pay over $50 each to visit Antelope Canyon. Although you wouldn’t see this canyon on as many advertisements and gloss wall hangings, we still found it a satisfying and adventurous hike, only running into a single person for the first few hours. Not being able to shower at the nearby campgrounds we packed up and drove to try our luck in Moab, stinking the van out in the process.