Day 4: Bryce Canyon NP to Capitol Reef NP

Trip Start Nov 14, 2008
Trip End Nov 23, 2008

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Where I stayed

Flag of United States  , Utah
Monday, November 17, 2008

Day 4 began early as well. No one slept well at all. The temperature during the night dipped very low and everyone's feet were freezing. I never wore so many clothes to bed and was still cold!

Donna and Lindsay told me that the noise I heard during the night was a stampede of mule deer walking all around our camp site. They were both afraid to go outside or make alot of noise because there were quite a few of them.....I guess that's who all the scat belonged to!

We ate breakfast, cleaned up our little bit of dishes and trash from the night before. Went to the bathroom to wash up and change and then we began to pack up camp. While we were doing that the rangers came around. They always check on the registered sites and look to see if anyone is camping without paying. The ranger who came to our site was actually from Allentown, about an hour away from where we all live, he saw the PA plates on Lindsay's dad's SUV and wanted to check it out.....its truly a small world!

After we got done packing we went to the Visitor's center to get some maps and I got my passport stamped. The night before we looked at our guide books and decided to do one of the most challenging hikes in the park. I went inside to ask the ranger's about how difficult the trail was and if it was still open because there was snow on the ground in some places. He assured me that it was open but did warn that the trail was the most difficult in the park and went through multiple elevation changes. He gave me some maps and also told me the best route to get to Capitol Reef later on in the day. He urged me to take alot of water with me. I went back to the cars and told Donna and Lindsay about what the ranger said and we all filled up our Camelbaks and bottles and brought some extra granola bars and trail mix along.

We drove up to the parking lot at Fairyland Point and the sign read 7,758 elevation. That's the highest I've ever been for sure and my lungs told me that was true. The view at Fairyland Point is can see hundreds of these twisted rock forms called Hoodoos, the way the sun hits them they seem to glow within w/ a life force of their own, its magical!

I was captivated by the Hoodoos, each one seems to resemble a person or other object. Its fun to look at it and guess what you see....sort of like mother nature's warshak test. We took quite a few pictures of the great vista below us and some of ourselves before setting off on the hike.

The map told us that the Fairyland Canyon hike was a strenuous 8 mile roundtrip hike, lasting 4-5 hours through multiple elevation changes the most significant being a change of 2309 feet. When we started the hike I was in my snowboard jacket, a fleece underneath and a long sleeve t-shirt. As the day progressed it got much hotter and we were sweating so I ended up tying my jacket and fleece to my Camelbak. I believe we started our hike backwards. It seems most people begin this hike at Sunrise point and hike counterclockwise. We started at Fairyland Point and hiked clockwise.

The first portion of our hike was fairly level and we took pictures of all the neat hoodoos, then we began to descend into the valley below. The trail switch-backs many times and we came across a really cool hoodoo that looked like the Easter Bunny. We got close enough to touch a few of the hoodoos and surprisingly they are cold not hot! I was also surprised by the amount of pine trees we came across, they are not something I associate with a desert climate at all yet they are there.

At Tower Bridge is when we reached the bottom of the valley, we stopped here for a break and to eat a little something since we were only half way and we were already a bit tired and winded. Along the way we took many pictures and saw only about 4 other people hiking the trail. It was neat to be out there pretty much alone experiencing this beautiful and bizarre place.

After lunch we started the ascent to Fairyland Point....I have never felt so much burning in my lungs. I do have a lung condition that keeps me from breathing deeply but even Donna and Lindsay were having some trouble so I knew it wasn't just me. The trail really begins to switchback on the ascent and thankfully the view is so wonderful it helps to keep your mind off your lungs. We stopped several times just to catch our breathe. I found drinking some water seemed to help some. We stopped at Sunset Point to take a few more pictures before carrying on.

When we got back to the car we were all exhausted and I drank every bit of water in my 3 liter Camelbak. I really loved Bryce Canyon National Park. If I ever find my way back to Utah I'd love to explore more of this park, there is a drive you can do to scenic points and also a few other day hikes that sound wonderful.

Since it was late in the afternoon we decided to head out to Capitol Reef National Park to find somewhere to camp for the night. It takes about three hours to get to Capitol Reef National Park from Bryce Canyon National Park.

We drove up Scenic Route 12 to get there. Scenic Highway 12 encompasses 124 miles of road in Utah along which you can find Dixie National Forest, Red Canyon, Tropic Reservoir, Bryce Canyon National Park, Pine Lake/Powell Point, Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument, Kodachrome Basin State Park, The Blues, Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, Smokey Mountain Road, Posey Lake, Hell's Backbone, Hole-in-the-Rock Road, Head of the Rocks, Calf Creek Recreation Area, The Hogback, Burr Trail, Anasazi State Park Museum, and Capitol Reef National Park.

Along the way we stopped at view points of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the Dixie National Forest to take some pictures and stretch our legs. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument encompasses a huge area in Utah, there are several drives and hikes of various lengths available to do in Escalante.

We opted not to explore Escalante and continue on to Capitol Reef which was closer to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. As we got closer to Capitol Reef we came across a truck stop in Torrey that had a Subway. Donna is a vegetarian and this was the closest restaurant we found that we knew she could eat at so we stopped there. We sat down in the restaurant to eat before continuing on our way.

Our guide books said that there was one campground inside the boundary of Capitol Reef National park that was still open this late in the season. It was called the Fruita Campground and it was located near the Visitor's center.

We pulled in at dark and set up camp. Once again there was alot of animal scat around but we set up camp anyway. The showers at this campground were also closed for the season.....yuck! So we sat around w/ out a fire in the freezing cold talking about what we would do the next day before we all went to bed cold and exhausted.

I could hear the sound of a river nearby that lulled me off to sleep right before I made a mental note to find it in the morning.

Things learned on Day 4 out west:

1. Bryce Canyon National Park web site

2. Scenic Highway 12 website

3. Escalante National Park website

4. A Camelback is a great way to carry the water you need when doing long hikes in the National Park system.

5. You need 1 qt. of water for every 2-3 hours of hiking.

6. The Red Rock and Hoodoos look like they would be hot to the touch yet they are cold.

7. Its great to eat something salty like trail mix with peanuts to keep your energy up on long hikes.

8. Wear proper footwear and watch your step when hiking on tough trails. I had hiking boots on and even slipped a few times.

 9. Dixie National Forest website
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