Capitol Reef NP, 2011

One of my friends had called me up and needed to use a free plane ticket before it expired and was interested in going backpacking. While there were lots of places I was interested in going, much of Utah was still snowed in. However I kept calling Capitol Reef and they said there was no snow and the weather was beautiful. So after I picked up my friend in Vegas it was off to Capitol Reef we went. I had been here maybe 9 years ago but only driven through on the main highway. We were late getting there as, of course, I forgot time zones change and got lost finding the airport, but as I drove my friend researched online and the ranger agreed to leave a backcountry pass for us if they were closed.

We settled on Upper Muley Twist Canyon and got to the Visitor's Center just in time to stop in and get a leaflet about the trail. Who would have thought that little piece of paper would become an invaluable tool...

The roads to get to the trailhead were a dirt road turnoff winding along the bottom of the Waterpocket Fold. I had thought the rock formations by the highway were pretty but driving along the roads really shows why this really is a breathtaking place. From the sandstone canyons to the snowcapped mountains living off on the horizon it was phenomenal.

The next day we went up the dirt road switchbacks and in maybe only a mile traveled up nearly a thousand feet. Each turn brought us closer to gorgeous sandstone formations and just spectacular views across the fold. Then we got to the trail. The canyon was spectacular. Just walking intothe start there were beautiful arches and sheer sandstone cliffs, nearly perfectly vertical, one side a burnished red, the other a sandstone white. It was as if Zion and Canyonlands had merged. Then, at the base of the gorgeous Saddle Arch, we took the Rim Trail. The paper said it was "a little tricky" with a pack. It wound up being the most technical trail I'd ever been on, with or without a pack. From scrambling up nearly 700 feet in maybe only a third of a mile to slickrock ridge crossings where there was nearly nothing to grab onto, looking out to perhaps a thousand foot drop, parts of it were truly scary. But I have my friend to thank not only for keeping me calm but also helping by grabbing my pack at the times I was the most afraid. However, the views were simply phenomenal. Turning your head to the right revealed complete panoramas of the Waterpocket Fold and the gorgeous snowcapped mountains beyond, and turning to the left the gorgeous red sandstone arches and narrows of the canyon below. So strange the combination of beauty and danger.

After a very tricky dusk hike of a twisting up and down route following cairns, we finally reached the base of the narrows and found a wonderful campsite by the river. Truly exhausted, I got perhaps one of the deepest sleeps I'd ever had when backcountry camping. Waking up, we had a beautiful hike out passing by lovely arches, seeing the walls of the canyon from the bottom instead of the top. I bet just a day before I would have thought it difficult, but even scrambling around sandstone water pools was relaxing. Someday I shall bet back in there, but definitely not back up on the rim, especially with a pack!

The drive out took us throuth the Escalante Canyons, a quick stop off at a beautiful snow covered Bryce Canyon, and the pass by Cedar Breaks where the snowbanks at the side of the road were still nearly 7 feet tall. Even from the road Utah was beautiful and just reminded me that I need to get back here more. I think one could spend an entire life traveling through Utah and the west and still find new beautiful things to see every day.

The Photographs

This was my first trip in a long time without Kodachrome, so I was forced to try out and learn some new films. I started off with a roll of Ektachrome E200, followed by Velvia 100, and closing out with a second roll of E200. It really does seem that E200 I need to underexpose by a half stop and Velvia 100 a full stop, particularly in bright sun. I really wish I still had my Kodachrome I loved so much!

Click "Next" in the upper right to begin.