Friday, October 25, 2013

Utah's Capitol is a Reef?? Sept. 20 -22

 Before leaving Moab I had to get one more classic slickrock ride in the bag. The Klondike trail was one of the original trails in the area and lately there has been a lot added to it so I thought I'd be remiss if I didn't explore there. The old Klondike trail is actually a 4x4 jeep route, but it's still a worthy bike route too. A little sandy at the very beginning, but then it alternates between dirt and slickrock. 

Holy Crow, actually a Ravine
Unfortunately, it's not the smooth red kind of "hardtail friendly" slickrock, but the hard, bumpy white "full suspension friendly" kind. Great for anyone who thinks they are a real "hard ass" and wants to put that to the test! 

Anyway, if you take the trail all the way to the end you should definitely take a break, park your bike at the bike rack and take the short hike to peer into the northwestern corner of Arches National Park and get a beautiful view of the Klondike Bluffs. And don't forget to look for the cairns which in this case don't necessarily mark the trail, but actually mark the locations of petrified dinosaur footprints! You don't see that everyday!

After taking in the view, there are many newly added options for continuing your ride and I thoroughly enjoyed the parts I rode, but I just want to touch on one section I experienced. From Klondike you can hop on to the double black diamond trail called Baby Steps. It's named that because you have to take baby steps to survive it, not because it's baby friendly! To warm up you get a seriously technical, short steep climb and then the adventure begins with a super duper, stupendously technical and steep descent. So bad ass is this section that I had to pass a 4x4 Jeep that was hung up and very unsure about how to proceed. The angle of decent put's your butt higher than your head and it has millions of treacherous rocks, both fixed and loose, large and small. And  wouldn't you know it, one of those rocks had my name on it! No skin off of my chinny, chin chin, but I did lose a few layers of skin off of my thumby, thumb thumb! After that horror show the descent mellows to a nice double track and from there you can happily continue once your heart descends back down out of your throat!
Capitol Reef

Surviving that ride was enough for me so I traded two wheels for four and drove down to Capitol Reef National Park ( The whole drive down I was wondering what the deal was with the name? It wasn't the capitol of Utah. (Does Utah even have a Capitol? ;) And there sure as hell aren't any reefs in the desert, so what's up? Well the terrain has features resembling "Capitol Domes" so that's the first part explained. The other half of the name came from the first explorers to this rugged area who had a seafaring background and likened the treacherous land, which was nearly impossible to make your way through, to reefs in the sea which would often trap ships. In fact, this land is so rugged and remote that the nearby Henry Mountains and Escalante River were the last mountain and river to be surveyed in North America!
Fruta School for grades 1-8

On approach to the park I stopped to check out the Fruta school which belonged to the Mormons, housed grades 1-8 and measured about 20 feet by 20 feet! I guess things like crowded classrooms never change! Entering the park I found that  two of main scenic spurs were closed due to flood damage so it didn't take me long to get through the north end of the park. I spent the darker hours of twilight and evening in Dixie National Forest which has a rich green moistness to it which I found a welcome and pleasant contrast  to the predominately arid red desert climate of Utah. It was there that I welcomed the Autumn Solstice. 

The next morning, as if on cue, it really started to look and feel like Fall, at least at that higher altitude. There was a colder breeze blowing through the Aspen trees. This causing them to gently sway and seemingly  trigger the immediate release of their fall colors, bathing the forest in bright orange and yellows. 

Descending back in to "The Gulch" part of Capitol Reef the high canyon walls to each side which blocked the sun gave off alternating feelings of coziness and claustrophobia. The closed in feeling brought to mind an apocalyptic Hollywood type scene of trying to outrace a wall of flood waters as it rushed through the canyon lapping at Mage's bumper and threatening to envelop all in its path.

Road to Capitol Reef
Nearing safety from biblical type flood waters as you exit the canyon, your next obstacle is to carefully traverse the tight switchbacks which lead you into Strike Valley and the Waterpocket Fold which is the main geological feature here. It's also where the off road fun starts with a long romp through the east side of the park where you can view the giant buckle in the Earth's crust. Created 65 million years ago it also spawned the parks colorful cliffs, domes, soaring spires, monoliths, canyons and even an arch or two.

That evening I set up camp in the Studhorse Peaks with great views of Muley Twist Canyon, Strike Valley, the Waterpocket Fold and Henry Mountains off in the distance. There were also bonus views of two rainbows which was nice except that the rain which brought them forth also brought back nightmarish thoughts of rushing flood waters.

Bryce's sole arch
Exiting the park I made a short pit stop at the Anazazi State Museum before picking up a hitchhiking bicyclist and continuing on down to Bryce National Park ( The biker was younger (seems everyone is these days!) but we actually had a lot in common. For one thing he was pedaling around the country which is something I have thought about doing. But besides my wild fantasy of being able to pull that off, he also enjoyed writing , photography and was a musician to boot. The similarities ended there abruptly when I found out that his musical prowess was playing the bagpipes! I didn't see that one coming! I couldn't help asking if he was Scottish, to which he replied, "a little bit". And yes, although traveling lightly by bicycle, he did carry his instrument with him. After lugging my drumset around heaven only knows how many times over the years I always swear that in my next lifetime I'll play the flute or harmonica or something of the like just for convenience's sake!

Bryce is the famous home of the Hoodoos.

Hoodoo [hoo'doo] n. 1. A pinnacle or odd shaped rock left standing by the forces of erosion. 2. v. To cast a spell or cause bad luck. 3. Voodoo

I'm not sure if I was overly anxious to get to the next destination or just trying to avoid getting caught up in a spell, but Bryce National Park turned out to be a quick over-niter. It was one of those places which was undeniably special, picturesque and wonderful to visit, but at the same time didn't require a long stay. I was able to do the tour of the park, see everything and in lieu of camping for more than a night, continue on in search of other things.
Bryce Hoodoos
It's certainly worth the stop, but in the end, I did just that and then carried on......

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