Friday, March 27, 2015

Gorgeous Gorges Trip, Day 5

Spring Break, Day 5
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Cannonville to Torrey, UT
Capitol Reef National Park

This morning, we said goodbye to Cannonville and took off to finish the rest of the drive on highway 12. The first half was all what we had just seen the day before while driving to Calf Creek. In hindsight, it may have been a better idea to just stay one night in Cannonville and have finished the drive to Torrey the day before, but we didn't know that we'd only be spending half the day at Bryce Canyon. Oh well, with the hotel price so low in Cannonville, I'm sure that more than made up for the extra miles we added to our trip!

It was a beautiful day to drive the scenic highway 12! We drove up, down, and around canyons and hills. We reached our highest elevation at over 9000 feet. We saw more deer near the road, and had a jack rabbit cross the road in front of us. We stopped at a snowy scenic overlook just passed Boulder, UT to enjoy the view of snow, evergreen trees, mountains, and a lake in the distance. There were informational boards telling us about the road we were driving. Until the 1970's, the road was unpaved and impassable throughout the winter, making the drive from Boulder to Torrey over 200 miles instead of the normal 50. They finally went and paved the road, and in the 1980's everyone celebrated the completion of the newly paved highway 12! We enjoyed these kiosks telling us about the history of the area, and really wish we saw them more at scenic views!

After saying goodbye to highway 12, we took 24 to Capitol Reef National Park. It was around noon when we arrived, and we went into the visitor's center to plan out our afternoon.

Curtis had been to this park before, but didn't do any hiking and didn't remember being very impressed with the area. However, our friends Paul, Holly, and Mitchell raved about how great it was and claimed it was even better than Bryce Canyon. The standards had been set high, and we were anxious to see how this was possible. Before even entering the park, the red cliffs stood out in the distance and made me excited to hike through this beautiful area. As we got closer to the park, the mountains only got bigger and grander.

We decided to start our hike with the trail that leads up to Cohab Canyon, and then took that trail to the Frying Pan trail all the way to the Cassidy Arch. From there, we would either hike back the same way, or possibly ask someone else who had just done the short hike to Cassidy Arch to drive us back to our car. If that worked out, we would only be hiking 6 miles, but if we decided to hike the whole way back it would be 9.

The beginning of the trail to Cohab Canyon was extremely steep as it went right in to switchbacking up the side of a mountain. Once we reached the top though, the views were glorious and the trail was much easier. The hard part lasted less than a half mile, then the trail went around a cliff and into Cohab Canyon on top of the mountain.

It was incredible! The Canyon was gorgeous, with such colorful rocks, and the bright blue sky contrasted beautifully. The weather was still perfect for this hike, and I almost decided right then that I didn't want a ride back, I wanted to come back and see this canyon again!

The trail went through the canyon until it met up with a wash, then it became a slick rock trail as it neared the Frying Pan Trail. We only met one group of people on the way up, so we had this part all to ourselves.

The majority of the Frying Pan Trail is on slick rock, and it follows a ridge up and around different peaks. There were minimal trail signs in the area - the only way to know where the trail was going was by looking for the many cairns that led the way. We really enjoyed this - it had a real sense of adventure to the hike.

As you can see from the pictures, the ground looks slanted on this trail. Our trail basically picked a ridge and followed it up the slant and back down on the other side. It got steep at some parts, and the early afternoon sun was now beating down on us with little shade around. However, as we were walking, we'd see little patches of snow further off the trail in the shade that the cliffs provided. We can call it our miracle snow - we played with it a bit and put it on our heads with our hats on top to cool us down. :)

We finally made it around one last peak and started heading downhill again. Our trail intersected with the trail to Cassidy Arch, which was just another half mile away. The slick rock continued with its way of using cairns to guide you, up and down little bumps until you're standing across from the Cassidy Arch with the most beautiful backdrop surrounding it.

Where the trail led us...

Cassidy Arch!

Curtis and I both took turns standing on it and taking pictures. We then sat down across from it and had lunch. While we were there, another couple reached the arch, and we struck up a conversation with them. I'm so thankful they did show up, because we were able to get a picture together on the arch! (It would have been pretty much impossible to do an auto-timer in this instance.) ;)

We chatted some more with them, and found out that we were both doing the same trip, only in reverse order! We gave them tips about Bryce and Zion, and they shared their advice for Arches National Park. (Their advice? Arches is Disneyland, everyone goes there, it's overrated, go check out other things. Haha! We took note of their other ideas to look up later.)

We probably could have gotten a ride from them, but I didn't want to be done with hiking this beautiful, quiet trail, so we packed up and headed back the way we came. There was less incline on the way back, and the area had cooled off some, making our hike easier.

We made it back to our Jeep after a great afternoon of hiking, and stopped in to the Gifford House for a treat. The Gifford House is a historic homestead turned shop located on the national park land, and they are best known for their fruit pies made daily with fresh fruit grown right there! Unfortunately, they were sold out of pies, but we were still able to get ice cream and a cinnamon roll, both great rewards for hiking 9 miles. Also, we made sure we knew when they opened the next day so that we could stop on our way out and pick something up. :)

If I were a horse, I'd want to live in Capitol Reef.

After doing this hike, we discussed and compared this national park to the ones we'd been to, and we decided that our friends were right - we liked Capitol Reef more than Bryce Canyon! While Bryce is gorgeous to look at from above and even more fun to hike through, at the end of the day all you've seen are hoodoos. Capitol Reef was really more of an adventure for us, with its canyons, slick rock trails, colors, and many different rock formations. However, Zion still ranked as #1 - even with the crowds of people, the grandness of the sheer rocks and canyon views topped all we'd experienced so far.

After that, we did the scenic drive to the end of the paved road. We had friends who were there the week before that told us this drive was closed (probably due to mud and flooding because of the snow melting!) but all of the paved road was now open.

After enjoying the scenic drive, we stopped at the Goosenecks. They were cool and colorful, but didn't top the goosenecks we saw last year in Southeastern Utah! They were still worth seeing though.

We made a quick stop at Panorama Point after that and enjoyed seeing more snow-capped mountains peeking through the red cliffs. Those mountains followed us everywhere, I tell you!

Chimney Rock

Another trail that had been recommended to us was the Chimney Rock loop trail. We stopped at the trailhead, but at this point it was late afternoon and we were sunburned and tired from the earlier hike. We thought about just doing a little part of it, but saw that it gained 600 feet of elevation within the first mile or so and decided we weren't up for it for tonight. Oh well, we know which hike we'll do first next time! ;)

We drove back 11 miles to Torrey, UT. We were staying in the Red Sands Inn right off of highway 24, and that is another place I'd highly recommend! They had cute rooms and served great breakfasts. Curtis and I even got a chance to use the pool for once on this vacation.

And one last recommendation - if you're staying in Torrey, eat at the Red Cliffs Restaurant! I think this may have been our favorite restaurant from the entire trip! Curtis had the Philly sandwich and raved about how it wasn't just meat, sauce, and cheese - they also added stir-fryed mushrooms, peppers and onions to the sandwich, and will from now on ruin every other Philly for him. ;) I had the Malibu Chicken sandwich, which was a grilled chicken sandwich with a slice of ham and melted swiss cheese, served in a pretzel bun - YUM! It was delicious and very filling - which made Curtis happy because he got what I couldn't eat. I don't always go and rave about a restaurant, so you must know that this one is special and deserves a visit if you're in the area!

Day 5 Wrap Up: Drove 120 miles, Hiked 9 miles
Highlights: Cobalt Canyon, Cassidy Arch, and Red Cliffs Restaurant :)

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