Back from Utah

Nina and have returned from our week in the Southwest.  A fun, hard, dramatic and relaxing trip all at the same time.  I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the landscape, and being a former geologist and avid photographer, in complete nirvana.  We got a lot of exercise hiking all over the place almost always in excess of 6,000 feet.

I will write a couple of entries about our trip as I plow through and post the myriad of photographs I took along the way.

We started out arriving in Capital Reef National Park after our drive down from Salt Lake City.  This was not the plan.  We planned to arrive in Escalante, camp in a local campground for the night and then take a 3-day back-country hike down Coyote Gulch in a very remote part of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.  But, as they say all great plans…

Weather had turned sour a few days before we arrived and sure enough the entire Southwest was getting hammered by rain and thunderstorms the day we got there.  Even the locals were saying they couldn’t remember a September that was like this.  So, all non-paved roads were impassible (all of our plans involved non-paved roads) – and hiking in slot canyons was strongly discouraged.  So we decided to swing by Capital Reef and see what we could see. We ended up staying in a campground in the National Park for the night and spent the next day hiking in some high-country.

This shot is an example of what was going on there.  That’s the Fremont River below, normally flowing low enough that you can drive across it to access a big part of the park, but not today.  It was blood-red and angry.

So we hiked in a narrow, but high canyon and kept watch on the weather (a theme for the whole trip).  This was my first up-close contact with Southwest Geology and it was amazing.  Cross-bedded standstone, hoodoos, slot canyons and even strange things like big basaltic boulders laying around on the groud like they had been placed there as part of an exhibit.  Turns out their source has been studied a lot and are believed to be transported by glaciers and then moved into these gulches by flash floods.  They were everywhere in the park.

Nina was a trouper on the entire trip putting up with my photography, helping me change lenses and laughing at how excited I got everytime I saw something new.  Mid-way through the hike we suprised a Bighorn Sheep that hung around close enough to us that I was able to change lenses and get a few great close-up shots of it.  Good thing because it helped break up the endless shots of rocks and mountains in my photos.

We hiked all morning, then finally headed out of the park by noon with no idea where we would be sleeping that night.  With the weather still ugly, Coyote Gulch was definitely cancelled and we were desperate for a place to camp in the wilderness away from all the retired people in RVs that descend on the National Parks after Labor Day (the people-watching of the National Park croud was a topic of ongoing conversation between Nina and I).

More about that afternoon and evening in the next post.  For now, here is the link to the Capital Reef shots: http://andysimonds.smugmug.com/Vacation/Southwest/Southwest-2011-Capital-Reef/19153216_J47DNs

I definitely want to go back to this park.  Unlike the other parks, most of it is very remote, only accessible via 4-wheel drive or hiking.  The Cathedral Valley loop is a must- see 4-wheel drive adventure that I really want to take.  Will need good weather for that – maybe next time.

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