Expose yourself to too much of anything and you can become a bit jaded. Maybe that’s why Hollywood marriages sometimes last barely longer than a summer thunderstorm. Maybe that’s why we alternate Presidents between the red and the blue parties. Maybe that’s why I want only a couple Snickers after dinner.
Kat and I may have suffered National Park burnout. Maybe it’s just too much sandstone, but that’s what Utah has. Still, the Park Service does something different here: Capitol Reef doubles as a salute to pioneer Mormon settlers, and many of those old buildings, preserved so well, are open to the public. So are their vast groves of fruit trees – peaches, apples, pears, apricots, and mulberries. You are allowed to pick a bag of fruit for personal use, but only if the crop is ready. Nothing was ripe, so we ate no fruit.
Capitol Reef is home to the country’s largest monocline. That’s a situation where land folds over itself as a result of continental drift, tectonic plate action, and all that. Sometimes a monocline traps oil, but here it trapped water. That’s bad news if you’re a real life J. R. Ewing, but pretty good news if you’re a bird, a chipmunk, a mule deer, or something that eats them.
Capitol Reef is not in the same league with Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, or Glacier, but it is very clean, beautiful, and is an altogether different canyon system from each of the three we saw before this. We spent two nights in the Park’s First-Come, First-Served campground, Fruita, named after the settlement and those abundant orchards that bloom along the Fremont River. The orchards were wildly productive, thanks to its alluvial soils and the elaborate irrigation system those early settlers put in by taking out dirt one shovel at a time. The Park Service has preserved a Mormon blacksmith shop, a barn, a schoolhouse, the county’s first tractor (the Amish are anti-progress, but Mormons are all for it). The Gifford House has been preserved and now serves as a bakery/café supplied by a local Bed & Breakfast. The B&B may or may not be operated by 21st century members of the Church of Latter Day Saints. We had a to-go breakfast from the Gifford House of good but undistinguished pumpkin scone and a heavy-on-the-sugar cinnamon roll.
There’s a lot to see here and Kat took some excellent pictures. I will let them speak for themselves.