After two days of almost non-stop and frequently heavy rain – including thunderstorms – the National Weather Service issued a Flash Flood Warning, a Flood Warning, and a Tornado Watch. We sat inside and watched the sometimes-exciting but mostly dreary weather roll over us.
Cabin fever hit me hard on Wednesday afternoon, and I asked Odel if he wanted to come along on a driving tour of Capitol Reef National Park. It seemed likely that the Scenic Drive south through the park was closed (it crosses several washes, including Grand Wash, where we hiked on our first day in the park), but I wanted to see the effect of 48 hours of rain on the Fremont River.
As we headed east into the park, the rain turned to a sprinkle, and stopped by the time we passed the visitor center. Along Highway 24, we were surprised to see waterfalls pouring off the sides of the cliffs. WOW! The waterfall on the left is a pour-off from the high wash through Cohab Canyon, where we hiked through dry sand just a days ago.
Along side the highway, we could see the Fremont River churning it way to the east. We continued to the Grand Wash turnoff, to see how the trail looked. Scary, that’s how!
Grand Wash, western end, September 29
Grand Wash, eastern end, October 6
The sign in the “dry” photo says: “Grand Wash. Do not enter if storm threatening.” 10-4 that!
After watching the water race through the wash, we headed back to the parking lot for the Hickman Natural Bridge trail. We had hiked there earlier in the week (I had left my camera battery in the charger, so no photos that day!) and knew the parking lot afforded a good view of the Fremont River.
Again, WOW! Unlike the placid waters we had admired in days past, the Fremont was a churning mass of red mud, inundating its low banks, carrying away mud and grasses.
As I took photos, Odel socialized with a couple near the trailhead, discovering that the Scenic Drive was indeed closed, just past the campground. I can only imagine the mud and water flowing across the road.
As we chatted with the other bystanders watching the river, the sky lightened and the clouds began to break apart, finally! We grabbed our water bottles and rain jackets out of the Jeep and took off up the Hickman Natural Bridge trail.
It felt SO good to stretch our legs and lungs! Instead of heading to the impressive natural bridge, we turned right at the trail junction on the Rim Overlook trail. Only one set of footprints marked the wet sand of the trail ahead of us. Twice we forded a small creek that was not there a few days ago, and eventually found ourselves high on the canyon rim, looking down once again onto Fruita, the campground, and the visitor center – even down on to the high view point we had enjoyed a few days earlier on the other side of the canyon.
No hikers followed us up the rim trail. The quiet, the views, the scent of dry rock and soil now awash with water, the perfume from the bruised leaves of desert brush and juniper trees… the burbling song of small, short-lived creeks dropping into pools, the drip of water off a rock… the welcome warmth of sunshine on our faces and arms. Oh, how we savored it all!
We started too late in the afternoon to stay on the trail as long as we would have liked, so reluctantly retraced our steps as clouds hid the sun once again. Without rain feeding it for the past couple of hours, the creek we forded heading out was already smaller heading back – but as we neared the edge of the canyon, we could hear the roar of the still very mighty Fremont River. We climbed back into the Jeep, shoes and pant legs painted with red clay mud.
That was our last hike in Capitol Reef National Park for this year. Today we head off to Moab to hike the trails of Arches National Park. I’m SO GLAD we stopped here in Torrey… and I know we’ll be back!