Thursday, October 7, 2010


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.

A long drop Short drop, big pool

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

Grand Wash Trail, western trailhead Grand Wash, eastern trailhead

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.

Churning Fremont RiverAs 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!

On the Rim Overlook Trail - a "new" creek Short-lived puddles reflecting the early evening sky.

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!


  1. Mother Nature is one powerful woman! What a treat for you to see both "sides" of the park. Your description made me feel like I was hiking along with you. I even checked my pant legs for red mud. :)

  2. The forces of nature never cease to both amaze and humble me. The effects of the flash flood must have been something to behold, indeed.

  3. Laurie & Odel,

    Since finding your blod, we have enjoyed reading your entries but have thoroughly enjoyed your commentary and pictures about Capitol Reef. We spent two months there last summer, hiked just about all their trails, visited Fish Lake, did the Notom Road, Hell's Backbone and a couple of others that I'm sure had you had more time and weather permitting, you would have done. Thanks for bringing back some wonderful memories. Lu

  4. Wow! So glad to see your picturess! I'd been wondering about several of you that are out in that area of wild weather. Sure hope it gets settled down!

    Be safe!!

  5. What a wonderful descriptive post. I can smell the juniper trees now!

  6. What a wonderful stop. Utah is so beautiful. Can't wait to get there ourselves!

    Be safe with that weather.

  7. Have always wanted to see the results of heavy rain in the deserts, mountains & canyons. Nice that you were able to absorb the wonderment of Mother Nature without a gaggle of people around. You are truly fortunate to be in the land of wonderment. Say hello to Moab & the Arches from the Bayfield Bunch when you get there:))

  8. Wow! Thank you for that wonderfull post! Capitol Reef is on my to see list! I just love Utah! Cant wait to read about Moab! I just loved that place, we went twice and will be back!

    Take care

  9. We love reading your wonderful description of Capital Reef. Your before and after pictures are amazing. Enjoy your visit. We have been there before and your blog brings back alive to us our wonderful trip. Thanks you!

  10. Great photos and descriptions. Keep up the great work.