On the Road, Again: Capitol Reef

Overlooking the Waterpocket Fold

One of the things I love most about being on the road with the Teardrop in tow is that I have no destination, no direction in mind. I can go anywhere on any whim. In Utah, land of little internet, I’ve been getting off beat travel tips the old fashioned way: by talking to people. Two days ago, camped on free public land near the Glen Canyon dam, I got a tip from a master: Edward Abbey.

Reading the Down the River chapter of Desert Solitaire, in which Ed and a friend float through Glen Canyon’s doomed paradise, weeks before it was flooded to create Lake Powell, Abbey mentions glimpsing a “weird” geologic wonder to the west: the Waterpocket Fold.

Monster Men near my public land campsite. I was just wandering along the base of a wall and found a whole panel of petroglyphs. Utah is amazing.

“Sure to be, someday, another National Park, complete with police, administrators, paved highways, automobile nature trails, official scenic viewpoints, designated campgrounds, laundromats, cafeterias, Coke machines, flush toilets and admission fees,” he wrote, “If you wish to see it as it should be seen, don’t wait– there’s little time. How do you get there? Well, I couldn’t tell you.”

Waterpocket Fold via the Strike Valley Overlook. No dogs, no bikes.

Ed was right about most things, including this. Looking up Waterpocket Fold in my handy guide “Hiking the Southwest’s Geology: Four Corners Region” I find that it’s now part of Capitol Reef National Park. A detour is in order.

The next morning, I drove to the visitor center and asked the park ranger on duty the best way to see the Waterpocket Fold. He listed a few nearby viewpoints and then said, “If you want a real adventure and the best possible view, you’re going to want to head down to Cedar Mesa.”

The Raven & the Rattler in Capitol Reef

I asked a bunch of questions about the road – graded gravel – and the best approach with a travel trailer. He suggested I leave the trailer 20 miles in at a backcountry campsite, drive the next 30 miles, park before the ruts get truly rugged and hike the last 4 miles to the Strike Valley overlook. Sounds like a plan to me!

Road into the Waterpocket Fold. Glad I left the trailer at the bottom! The Teardrop is proving a godsend for the dogs in hot weather; it doesn't get hot the way the car does so I can leave them in the trailer. They've taken quite quickly to their new home on the road.

Trail to Strike Valley Overlook

Waterpocket Fold Self Portrait

Waterpocket Fold: an upturned sandstone ridge that forms the backbone of Capitol Reef National Park

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in western Colorado. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at www.marycapertonmorton.com.
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12 Responses to On the Road, Again: Capitol Reef

  1. Bill Chance says:

    Nice entry with great photos. I miss the desert, need to plan a trip to Big Bend soon.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Paula says:

    Great photography, wish I was there:)
    Love your blog.

  3. Matt says:

    Awesome! This is exactly the type of trip I crave. I am very jealous of the teardrop 🙂 Your piçs and choice of authors are top notch, great post!

  4. I would love to do this type of traveling! What a fantastic way to see the U.S. Thanks for sharing your adventures! 🙂

  5. Dan Beideck says:

    Has the trailer been officially christened?

  6. Pingback: On the Road, Again: Little Horse Canyon & Goblin Valley « Travels with the Blonde Coyote

  7. Ok…I get why you named the car, the raven…but why is the teardrop named the rattler? It doesn’t look like a rattlesnake. Did you find a rattlesnake inside or under it? Does it rattle a lot when you drive? lol! I bet I’m not the only one who wants to know more. hehe!

    Cool photos. Reminds me of the Devil’s Backbone out here in eastern New Mexico.


    • Yep, it rattles a bit, especially on dirt roads, though it’s generally a dream to tow. The name comes in part from finding that rattlesnake in my house in New Mexico; it was the catalyst to getting my own snake-free place and getting out of New Mexico before snake season really heated up!

      • Aha! It all makes sense now. lol! Well good for you. I know how fun and exciting it is to be on the road traveling, but there is much to be said for being able to come home and be surrounded by all your own familiar things in that place we all call home. And you have the best of both worlds…you can take your home with you 🙂 And be snake-free! ;-D

        Tijeras, NM

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