Capitol Reef National Park, November

I returned to Capitol Reef on a splendid November day. A recent early snow storm had left the distant Henry Mountains with a fresh coat of snow. An excellent backdrop to the fantastic bare rock forms down below.

Capitol Reef National Park, from west entrance.

Capitol Reef National Park and the Henry Mountains, from the west entrance.

The name Capitol Reef came about because the first European and American explorers and pioneers found the upthrust cliffs to be a serious barrier to their travel, like an ocean reef dangerously in the way. But they were also grand and stately, towering overhead and reminded them of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. Okay.

Capitol Reef National Park west entrance.

Capitol Reef National Park west entrance.

I was entering the park from the west, on Highway 24. I was looking forward to finally getting into the Visitor Center, because on my previous visits I had arrived too late for their winter hours. But I’d forgotten that this day was a national holiday — Veterans Day — so it was closed anyway. Next time.

Capitol Reef's Visitor Center and fall colors.

Capitol Reef’s fall colors, from the Visitor Center parking area.

The park campground was glowing in the last fall colors of the cottonwood trees in the late afternoon sunlight. Only a few sites were taken. I would have loved to camp there, but it was not my destination for the night.

The lovely campground at Capitol Reef.

The lovely campground at Capitol Reef.

So I spent the rest of the late fall daylight doing the parks’s Scenic Drive, which is 10 miles to the end of the pavement. It’s not a loop drive, so you come back out the way you went in.

The cliffs near Capitol Gorge, late afternoon.

The cliffs near Capitol Gorge, late afternoon.

Unlike my other visits to the park, the two unpaved roads were still open: Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge. I had enough daylight left, so I drove both, enjoying more of the fantastic cliffs.

Capitol Reef cliffs panorama - click for much larger.

Capitol Reef cliffs panorama – click on image for much larger version.

But then it was time to travel on to my evening’s destination. So it was back to Highway 24, and east to Hanksville. But before leaving the park’s confines I once again enjoyed the sunset lighting up the highest layers of almost white sandstone.

The highest layers at sunset time, from Highway 24.

The highest layers at sunset time, from Highway 24.

There is much more to this incredible park than this quick visit sampled. I have been to some parts of it, and others I have yet to explore. I am looking forward to both revisiting the familiar, and investigating what’s new for me there.

Photo location: Capitol Reef National Park, Utah.

© Copyright 2015 Stephen J. Krieg

 

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