Waterpocket Fold, Capitol Reef, UT continued. . .
This is a National Park! I have to keep reminding myself of that. As wonderful as National Parks are for preserving wilderness, I avoid most of them like the plague. But they are useful. Not only as a preservation of wilderness but also as a funnel for the mobs of tourists, RVs, tour buses, and family station wagons off on summer vacation. The designated scenic route. Complete with entrance fees. Advance reservation campgrounds. Snack bars. Bowling alleys. Roped off view points. Paved trails. Lodges. And reserved backcountry sites. Permit required. For a fee.
Yes, our national parks are a one stop shop for the enjoyment of all ages and skill level. Our national treasure. But how else could the masses enjoy the breathtaking beauty that America’s Wilderness has to offer? All crammed into a week’s vacation? The national parks inspire, educate, and impress upon its visitors that wilderness is worth protecting. For future generations to come. But they are not for everyone. There are people who wish to head out on a random Friday night. After work. Haphazard. Half-assed. Half-planned. Driving wide-eyed through the night. Arriving coffee-buzzed, sleep-deprived, at who knows what time, to that perfect camp spot, overlooking the edge of the Earth. And we vant to be alone! No reservation. No permit. No plan. Except to explore at will the mountains and canyons that haunt our dreams and make us do this sort of thing!
Capitol Reef National Park is different.
There are very few trails. Very few viewpoints. One small tourist campground. And NO designated backcountry sites. A free backcountry permit is required. You can pick it up at the visitor center. No itinerary required.
“Where do you plan to hike?”, the nice ranger lady asks.
I fumble through my maps, print outs from the internet, and notes scribbled on scrap paper.
“Umm”, I say.
“Well, what trail will you be hiking on?”, she asks me.
I’m not used to this kind of interrogation. Not while on vacation.
“I plan to start at Spring Creek. . .no. . .Pleasant Creek”, I tell her.
“And from there?, she asks.
“Then to boulder hop, pot hole jump, slickrock scale, and canyon climb my way up and over the Waterpocket Fold. Eventually. Maybe. Possibly. But doubtfully finding my way to Capitol Gorge and beyond. But maybe not. It really all depends on my mood. The weather. The cliff exposures. My map skills. And the scenery.”
She writes something down on my permit and sends me off. My kind of National Park! And one of the least visited in the U.S. America’s best kept secret. And let’s keep it that way, shall we? Besides, who would want to drive all this way for just a few short trails and one small campground? No services.
But the scenery! Splendid. As beautiful as Arches. Canyonlands. Zion. Bryce. The Grand Canyon. Only with no people. I’ve seen no one. Not even a trace or a footprint. Except for my own. Whoops, must have gotten turned around again.
Capitol Reef is one special place. With grand scenery. Grand skies. Grand Silence. Solitude guaranteed. And with sparkling waterpockets of the freshest, most pristine rainwater you will ever have the privilege to taste. No filter required.
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