Category Archives: Utah

Parks Galore; July 7-12, 2018

Golden Spike National Historic Site

The construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad, which linked the railway network of the Eastern United States with California on the Pacific coast began in 1863 at the terminal points of Omaha, Nebraska and Sacramento, California, and the two sections were merged and ceremonially completed on May 10, 1869, at the famous “golden spike” event at Promontory Summit, Utah.

We visited the Golden Spike National Historic Site on July 7, 2018, where we found an instructive visitor center and re-creations of the original steam engines that met at the summit.

The merger in 1869 created a nationwide mechanized transportation network that revolutionized the population and economy of the American West. This network caused the wagon trains of previous decades to become obsolete, exchanging it for a modern transportation system. The building of the railway required enormous labor in the crossing of plains and high mountains by the Union Pacific Railroad and Central Pacific Railroad, the two privately chartered federally backed enterprises that built the line westward and eastward respectively. There was an acute labor shortage when the railroads were begun, due to the Civil War and to the gold rush.

In the East, the effort started in Omaha, Nebraska by the Union Pacific Railroad initially proceeded very quickly because of the open terrain of the Great Plains. This changed, however, as the work entered Indian-held lands. The Native Americans saw the railroad as a violation of their treaties with the United States. War parties began to raid the moving labor camps that followed the progress of the line. Union Pacific responded by increasing security and hiring marksmen to kill American Bison, which were both a physical threat to trains and the primary food source for many of the Plains Indians. The Native Americans then began killing laborers when they realized that the so-called “Iron Horse” threatened their existence. Security measures were further strengthened, and progress on the railroad continued.

In the west, the Central Pacific Railroad made great initial progress along the Sacramento Valley. However, construction then slowed, first by the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, then by cutting a railroad bed up the mountains themselves. As they progressed higher in the mountains, winter snowstorms and a shortage of reliable labor compounded the problems. Consequently, after a trial crew of Chinese workers was hired and found to work successfully, the Central Pacific expanded its efforts to hire more emigrant laborers—mostly Chinese. Emigrants from poverty stricken regions of China, many of which suffered from the strife of the Taiping Rebellion, seemed to be more willing to tolerate the living and working conditions on the railroad construction, and progress on the railroad continued. The increasing necessity for tunneling as they proceeded up the mountains then began to slow progress of the line yet again. The first step of construction was to survey the route and determine the locations where large excavations, tunnels and bridges would be needed. Crews could then start work in advance of the railroad reaching these locations. Supplies and workers were brought up to the work locations by wagon teams and work on several different sections proceeded simultaneously. To carve a tunnel, one worker held a rock drill on the granite face while one to two other workers swung eighteen-pound sledgehammers to sequentially hit the drill which slowly advanced into the rock. Once the hole was about 10 inches deep, it would be filled with black powder, a fuse set and then ignited from a safe distance. Nitroglycerin, which had been invented less than two decades before the construction of the first transcontinental railroad, was used in relatively large quantities during its construction. This was especially true on the Central Pacific Railroad, which owned its own nitroglycerin plant to ensure it had a steady supply of the volatile explosive. This plant was operated by Chinese laborers as they were willing workers even under the most trying and dangerous of conditions.

Several miles from the historic site, we stopped briefly to look at a small “rocket garden” outside the buildings for the company ATK Thiokol. This is the company that used to make the rocket boosters for the space shuttle. There are many different displays of rockets including a shuttle booster and a Patriot missile. Each has an interpretive sign that explains what one is seeing and what it was used for. One won’t spend a lot of time here, but it is definitely worth the stop on the way in/out to/from the Golden Spike National Historic Site.

The Thiokol Chemical Company was founded in 1929. In the mid-1950s the company bought extensive lands in Utah for its rocket test range. In 1986 it was found at fault for the destruction of the Space Shuttle Challenger and the deaths of its astronauts.

City of Rocks National Reserve

City of Rocks National Reserve, also known as the Silent City of Rocks, is a United States National Reserve and state park lying 2 miles north of the south central Idaho border with Utah. It is widely known for its excellent rock climbing and rock formations.

The rock spires in the City of Rocks and adjacent Castle Rocks State Park are largely composed of granitic rock. We visited the area on July 9, hiking some of the winding trails at the base of the rocks, and also seeking out a shaded table for picnic lunch.

The City of Rocks is a popular rock climbing area, with over 1,000 traditional and bolt-protected routes. In the 1980s, it was home to some of the most difficult routes in the USA. Climbers in the region refer to the area as simply ‘The City’.

California Trail wagon trains of the 1840s and 1850s left the Raft River valley and traveled through the area and over Granite Pass into Nevada. Names or initials of emigrants written in axle grease are still visible on Register Rock. Ruts from wagon wheels also can be seen in some of the rocks.

City of Rocks was designated a National Reserve, a unit of the National Park Service, in recognition of the nationally significant geological and scenic values of its rock formations and the historical significance of the California Trail. Rock formations in the reserve developed through an erosion process called exfoliation, during which thin rock plates and scales sloughed off along joints in the rocks. The joints, or fractures, resulted from the contraction of the granite as it cooled, from an upward expansion of the granite as overlying materials were eroded away, and from regional tectonic stresses. The granite has eroded into a fascinating assortment of shapes as high as 600 feet.

Twin Falls/Shoshone Falls

On July 12, we drove to the Snyder Winery, near Buhl, ID. Bill & Colleen had been there before, and had contacted her to see if we could park there overnight.  Even though she would be gone when we arrived, she gave her permission.  We picked up a rock to the bus windshield on the way.  After calling to Boise to arrange for a repair the next day, we went to Twin Falls for dinner to celebrate Bill’s birthday.  

Shoshone Falls is a waterfall on the Snake River in southern Idaho, approximately 3 miles northeast of the city of Twin Falls. Sometimes called the “Niagara of the West,” Shoshone Falls is 212 feet high—45 feet higher than Niagara Falls—and flows over a rim nearly 1,000 feet wide.

Formed by catastrophic outburst flooding during the Pleistocene ice age about 14,000 years ago, Shoshone Falls marks the historical upper limit of fish migration (including salmon) in the Snake River, and was an important fishing and trading place for Native Americans. The falls became a tourist attraction starting in the 1860s. The City of Twin Falls now owns and operates a park overlooking the waterfall.

Due to its great height, Shoshone Falls is a total barrier to the upstream movement of fish. Anadromous fish (which live in the ocean as adults, but return to fresh water to lay eggs) such as salmon and steelhead/rainbow trout, and other migratory fish such as sturgeon, cannot pass the falls. Prior to the construction of many dams on the Snake River below Shoshone Falls, spawning fish would congregate in great numbers at the base of the falls, where they were a major food source for local Native Americans.

Currently, the Falls are subject to periodic drying. And that brings up the name of I.B. Perrine, who moved to Idaho Territory in 1884 and established a farm and ranch operation in the Snake River Canyon near present-day Jerome.

Although Perrine’s operation in the canyon received plenty of water, the surrounding area could not be easily irrigated and was therefore largely unproductive. Beginning in 1893, Perrine worked to convince private financiers to build a dam on the Snake River, along with a corresponding canal system to irrigate the area. This work culminated in the 1900 founding of the Twin Falls Land and Water Company and the subsequent completion of Milner Dam in 1905.

In 1900 the Twin Falls Land and Water Company was incorporated and filed claim for 3,000 cubic feet per second of water from the Snake River. Perrine’s ultimate goal was to irrigate 500,000 acres of land. Although this would have been impermissible in other parts of the western US, due to regulations, Perrine’s project fell under the boundaries of the 1894 Carey Act, which allowed private companies to construct large-scale irrigation systems in desert regions where the task would be far too great for individual settlers.

The reclamation of vast tracts of desert into productive farmland practically overnight led to the regional moniker of “Magic Valley”. Powered entirely by gravity, it was “a rare successful example” of private irrigation development under the Carey Act.

Twin Falls is near the site where Evel Knievel attempted to jump across the Snake River Canyon on September 8, 1974 on a rocket-powered motorcycle, after unsuccessfully petitioning the U.S. Government to let him attempt a jump over the Grand Canyon. Knievel and his team purchased land on both sides of the Snake River and built a large earthen ramp and launch structure. A crowd of 30,000 gathered to watch Knievel’s jump, which failed because his parachute opened too early, causing him to float down towards the river. Knievel likely would have drowned were it not for canyon winds that blew him to the river bank; he ultimately survived with a broken nose. In September 2016, professional stuntman Eddie Braun successfully jumped the Snake River Canyon in a replica of Knievel’s rocket.

On the Road with Norwegian Friends; Part Two — June 25 – July 6, 2018

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

On our way up to Lake Powell from Parks, we stopped north of Flagstaff at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, where we spent some time walking paths through volcanic flow fields.

Glen Canyon

When we arrived at Lake Powell, we checked in to Wahweap Campground. We stayed in the Page area for two nights, visiting (by car) Horse Shoe Bend on the Colorado River to the south, and renting a small motorboat one morning to explore some of Lake Powell near the Glen Canyon Dam. Kari and Rasmus did some swimming from the shore near the campground, and they and Bill and Barb swam from the boat. The Norwegians alleged that the water was “warm”, but no one stayed in for very long.


Bryce is spectacular.  We went to a number of overlooks, including those on the far north.  But perhaps the best experience was the Navajo Loop Trail down from Sunset Point through the slot canyon of Wall Street, through the Queen’s Garden Trail and up to Sunset Point, down into the amphitheaters and labyrinths, among the hoodoos and spires, and through deep, stone canyons of pink, white, and tan, where 500 to 700-year-old Douglas Firs reach upward toward the sunlight at the top of the canyon. 

Panguitch/Brian Head/Cedar Breaks

We wanted to visit Barb’s brother Mike as we proceeded north, but his mountain cabin was up high near Brian Head, and his residence was on the other side of the mountain, in Parowan. So we chose to stay near the village of Panguitch [Southern Paiute for “big fish”], UT, on the east side of the mountain. Our base camp was the run-down private Panguitch Paradise RV Park. “Run-down” as in no attendant, but with a scribbled sign with instructions to leave the [minimal] fee under the door, using the [non-existent] pay envelopes to be found on the [non-existent] clipboard attached to the door. But the price was right: $15 for full hookups.

Mike came down to join us for dinner, and the next day we took a toad up to see his cabin, the little village of Brian Head, and the colorful cliffs of Cedar Breaks.

Capitol Reef

We love Capitol Reef National Park. But on our way we learned they had only one vacancy, so on 6/30 we stopped at Wonderland RV in Torrey, UT. Colleen and Bill took the opening at Capitol Reef, and we drove over to visit them. The Staff at Capital Reef advised that several sites would probably open up the next morning, and that if we appeared sufficiently early we would probably get one. However, we had to appear in person; Colleen could not sign us in. So Barb got up early and galloped ahead while I broke camp. The strategy worked; we were rewarded with adjoining sites and juicy apricots freshly picked from the long-ago Mormon-planted trees in the Park.

Rivers Edge

And then it was time to get close to Salt Lake City, so that Rasmus & Kari could fly back to Norway. We chose Rivers Edge RV near Heber City. We attended a Fourth of July pancake breakfast at nearby Midway and later went to Park City to join the massive crowd gathered for the fireworks. While waiting for dark, Rasmus & Bill rode up a ski lift in order to come barreling down a luge run.

Salt Lake City

On July 5 we went in to Salt Lake City, where we visited the State Capital Building and the Mormon campus. Afterwards, we were reminded of the Mormon influence in the city when we sought a cup of coffee in a downtown mall. None of the many establishments in a huge food court offered coffee. We were directed to a coffee and pastry shop on another floor. There, we were told that they had run out of coffee!!!

It felt strange to drop off Rasmus & Kari at the airport. They had been ideal guests, and we all, Barb & I and Bill & Colleen, were sad to have them leave.

More Time With Friends — Lake Powell & Grand Canyon North Rim; October 17-27, 2017

The gang of six got settled into the Wahweap RV & Campground on October 17, and took the pontoon boat out onto Lake Powell the next day.  The day was mostly sunny, but fairly cool.  Our destination was Rainbow Bridge.

From Wikipedia:

A natural arch, or natural bridge is a natural rock formation where an arch has formed with an opening underneath. Natural arches are formed from narrow fins composed of sandstone or limestone with steep, often vertical, cliff faces. The formations become narrower due to erosion over geologic time scales. The softer rock stratum erodes away creating rock shelters, or alcoves, on opposite sides of the formation beneath the relatively harder caprock, above it. The alcoves erode further into the formation eventually meeting underneath the harder caprock layer, thus creating an arch.  The caprock itself continues to erode after an arch has formed, which will ultimately lead to collapse. The Natural Arch and Bridge Society identifies a bridge as a subtype of arch that is primarily water-formed.  [Indeed.  Bill & Colleen report that a number of years ago they were able to boat all the way up to and directly under the bridge.  Today, because of receding lake depth, there is a significant hike from the Park wharf to the bridge.  CTS ]

Rainbow Bridge is often described as the world’s highest natural bridge. The span of Rainbow Bridge was reported in 1974 to be 275 feet, but a laser measurement in 2007 has resulted in a span of 234 feet. At the top it is 42 feet thick and 33 feet wide. The bridge, which is of cultural importance to a number of area Native American tribes, has been designated a Traditional Cultural Property by the National Park Service.

Rainbow Bridge is one of the most accessible of the large arches of the world. It can be reached by a three-hour boat ride on Lake Powell [which is what we did] followed by a mile-long walk [not really that long] from the National Park wharf in Bridge Canyon, or by hiking several days overland from a trailhead on the south side of Lake Powell (obtain a permit from the Navajo Nation in Window Rock, Arizona).

The weather not looking favorable on October 19, we took a day off from boating and instead drove up to the Northern Rim of Grand Canyon.  The weather wasn’t perfect for that either, since the mostly cloudy skies provided sub-optimal illumination for the colorful canyon sides.  But then, just as we were on our way back to our vehicle as the sun approached the horizon, the sun broke through for a few precious moments.  Joan and I quickly grabbed a few consolation shots.

On October 20 we returned to the Lake despite a rather grim forecast of high winds later in the day. We told ourselves that we weren’t going far and that we would be protected by the cliffs to the west, since we planned to go south to the Glen Canyon Dam. On our way, we lallygagged at the marina, spending time looking at the huge pontoon boats moored and docked there, and perusing the gift and nautical shop. When we arrived in the vicinity of the dam, we had a leisurely snack of cheese, crackers, grapes and margaritas. And then the wind hit. We soon discovered that the winds were coming from the direction in which we needed to travel in order to get back to our launch ramp, and that the wind-swept waves were hitting the front of the boat and splashing up onto we hapless passengers. To make matters worse, the wind began to threaten to rip the canvas bimini, and so we had to stop and disassemble that. When we reached the launch ramp, we realized that the wind and waves at that site were broadside, rendering impossible getting the boat back onto the trailer. So we retreated to another ramp that was more protected, moved the truck and trailer to our new ramp, and ultimately arrived safely back at our campground, albeit more than a little cold and wet.

While Barb stayed back to do some RV chores, the rest of us drove out to Horseshoe Bend, on the Colorado River about 4 miles southwest of Page. It is accessible via hiking a 1.5-mile round trip from U.S. Route 89, and can be viewed from the steep cliff above the river.  The distance from the overlook to the Colorado River below is about 1,000 feet.

On October 21 the brothers and their wives got up early and joined a guided visit to Antelope Canyon. Barb and I had been there the year before (see our blog coverage here), so Barb did some laundry while I worked on our overdue blogs. When they returned, Matt & Joan split off and headed northward toward Utah’s National Parks and the rest of us returned to Parks, where we spent a few days cleaning our RVs and getting ours ready to be tucked into an RV storage facility not far from Parks. Late in our preparations we realized that the Chevy Tracker could fit into our rented space as well if only it could be put in sideways in front of the RV. Bill had four stands on wheels, and so that is what we did. We had inches to spare.

Heading East & North, Part I — Devils Tower & Belle Fourche, SD, Sept. 27 – Oct. 2, 2016

We returned to Las Vegas from Atlanta, GA (and from Nellie & Michael’s lovely wedding) on September 25.  We spent a few days visiting with Barb’s dad Cliff and sister Audrey, and with replenishing our groceries for our trip back to the midwest.  Oh, and we picked up the RV from the Vegas Chevrolet repair shop, where work had been done in our absence.  It started with a recall:  brake calipers needed replacing, for no cost, of course.  But we also asked that they replace a leaking seal on the left front wheel.  And then they checked the right side, and it was leaking too.  And then while replacing the calipers they discovered the rotors should be replaced.   And the brake pads.   And I asked that they flush the radiator and replace with new coolant.  By the time we got out of there, we had spent well over three boat units!  (Forgive the inside reference.)

Barb and Audrey went out to a musical at the Smith’s Center one night:  Beautiful, the Carole King Musical.  I had no interest in joining them for the show, but I did regret missing their dinner:  All You Can Eat Sushi.

Next day, we began our long trek back toward Bismarck.  We spent two long days (stopping at Walmart parking lots for the evenings) before getting to Devils Tower, in northeast Wyoming, where we were joined by son Jeff (who was returning from a summer of exploring Alaska) for a few days of R&R.  In an adjoining campsite we noticed a single woman who was camping in her car.  Speaking to her out on a trail, we learned she was from Switzerland, and had remained behind for an extra month when her tour group had moved on.  We invited Nicole over for grilled pork tenderloin followed by S’mores.  Very enjoyable encounter.

On October 2 we (including Jeff) moved further east to the Rocky Point Recreation Area campground adjacent to the Orman Dam near Belle Fourche, South Dakota (where my father grew up).  At this time of year there are very few campers in this part of the world.  The ranger at the entrance suggested that if we wanted to be together, we could use the group site.  That worked well, since we were the only ones present there and since the site was commodious enough that I could fashion an unofficial “pull through” and avoid disconnecting the dinghy.

We parted from Jeff when we left Belle Fourche, Jeff heading south and eventually west, and we continuing on toward Bismarck.  But that is the subject of our next post.

Capitol Reef National Park — Utah, August 24-28, 2016

Still with Bill & Colleen,  on August 24 we both found camper pads at Capitol Reef National Park. The bulletin boards announced that there would be a special program that evening at the outdoor arena: a melodrama complete with a beautiful heroine and a dashing hero and suitably nasty villains. The bad guys were struggling to steal the land destined to become a national park; the good guys were resisting. Booing and hissing and cheering were encouraged.   All of this in anticipation of the Centennial Celebration of the birth of the National Park Service, to be held the following day.  We attended both events, booing and cheering on the first night, and singing happy birthday and eating cake on the second day.

Selected pictures of the melodrama:

And of the Parks birthday celebration the next day:

Capitol Reef’s defining geologic feature is a wrinkle in the Earth’s crust, here called “Waterpocket Fold”, extending almost 100 miles from Thousand Lake Mountain to Lake Powell. Over millions of years three processes – deposition of nearly 10,000 feet of sedimentary rock made of limestone, sandstone, and shale, followed by uplift along an ancient fault reactivated by tectonic activity, and finally, erosion by rain, flash floods and freeze-thaw cycles – have shaped the Fold.

Petroglyphs and pictographs on rock walls give evidence of the people who lived here about 300 to 1300 CE.

In the 1880s Mormons established the small settlement of Fruita at the confluence of the Fremont River and Sulphur Creek. They built irrigation systems to water orchards and pastures, and sustained for decades a self-reliant lifestyle, tending apple, peach, pear, and apricot trees – trees now maintained by the Park Service and opened briefly to park visitors when the fruits are ripe.

Park literature says that in the Park there are over 100 species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish; and 239 species of birds. We didn’t see quite that many, but here are a few:


Bill & Colleen left the Park on the morning of August 27, since they had obligations elsewhere. We stayed until the next day, when we headed down to see Barb’s brother Mike, who has a cabin near Cedar Breaks. We’ve talked about that area before, so I’ll content myself with a quick panorama:



Heading southward — Idaho & Utah, August 19-23, 2016

After returning to our RV, we caught up with Bill & Colleen at the Murdock Camp Ground near Sun Valley/Ketchum.  We spent August 20 being tourists in Ketchum/Sun Valley, including a ride up a ski lift to the top of one of the famous runs on Bald Mountain.  We also sought out the grave of Ernest Hemingway in the Ketchum Cemetery.  We had lunch at Gretchen’s in the Sun Valley Lodge, named in honor of Gretchen Kunigk Fraser, the first American to win an Olympic gold medal in skiing.   She later made Sun Valley her home.

On August 21 we stopped at the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, a U.S. National Monument and national preserve in the Snake River Plain in central Idaho. It lies between the small towns of Arco and Carey, at an average elevation of 5,900 feet above sea level. The protected area’s features are volcanic and represent one of the best-preserved flood basalt areas in the continental United States.

The Monument and Preserve encompass three major lava fields and about 400 square miles  of sagebrush steppe grasslands to cover a total area of 1,117 square miles. All three lava fields lie along the Great Rift of Idaho, with some of the best examples of open rift cracks in the world, including the deepest known on Earth at 800 feet (240 m). There are excellent examples of almost every variety of basaltic lava, as well as tree molds (cavities left by lava-incinerated trees), lava tubes (a type of cave), and many other volcanic features. The 60 distinct solidified lava flows that form the Craters of the Moon Lava Field range in age from 15,000 to just 2,000 years. [Description adapted from Wikipedia.]

Our visit included a Ranger-guided walk through a lava tube, created when a mass of flowing lava congealed on the outside but continued to flow on the inside until the inside was evacuated.

We spent the night in the Arco RV Campground.

On August 22 we stopped at the Experimental Breeder Reactor-I, the worlds first nuclear power plant.

Experimental Breeder Reactor I (EBR-I) is a decommissioned research reactor and U.S. National Historic Landmark located in the desert about 18 miles southeast of Arco, Idaho. At 1:50 pm on December 20, 1951, it became the world’s first electricity-generating nuclear power plant when it produced sufficient electricity to illuminate four 200-watt light bulbs.  It subsequently generated sufficient electricity to power its building, and continued to be used for experimental purposes until it was decommissioned in 1964. Besides generating the world’s first electricity from atomic energy, EBR-I was also the world’s first breeder reactor and the first to use plutonium fuel to generate electricity. EBR-1’s initial purpose was to prove Enrico Fermi’s fuel breeding principle, a principle that showed a nuclear reactor producing more fuel atoms than consumed. Along with generating electricity, EBR-1 would also prove this principle.  [Wikipedia]

Outside the plant were two enormous experimental nuclear “engines”  constructed to explore the possibility of powering a plane with nuclear energy.  The intended plane still exists, but is stored elsewhere.  As you might suppose from the size of the engines, the experiment was not a success.

We also stopped briefly in the town of Blackfoot, where we visited the Idaho Potato Museum.  Boy do we know how to have fun!

After the museum we continued on to Pocatello, where we camped in a County Fairgrounds.  The place looked familiar.  Here is why.

On August 23 we continued onward, stopping to overnight in a “dispersed” (and free) campground near Nephi, Utah.  That night, as on most nights, the four of us played Spades.  That night, as on most nights, the mighty men prevailed.

Our next stop was in Capitol Reef National Park.  But that marvelous destination deserves its own post.  Stay tuned.

Arches National Park — Utah, August 16-17, 2015

When we naively arrived at the campground at the Arches Nat’l Park on August 16, we learned that they were “full”, and that reservations were usually necessary months in advance.  We stopped at the visitor center and watched the orientation movie, where we learned that the Park contains the largest concentration of arches in the world — more than 2000.  We then went on to Moab and checked into the KOA campground.  Next morning, we detached our Chevy Tracker “dinghy” and went back to the busy and crowded Park to see some of the sights.  We had intended to begin early enough to avoid the heat, but somehow didn’t get to the trailhead for the Delicate Arch until about 8:30 am.  Fortunately, it was partially cloudy at that point and we traversed the “moderately difficult” trail without difficulty.  Nice arch, but crowded in the immediate vicinity.  On the way back along the path, we visited an historic log cabin farm house, and then a cliff with spectacular pictographs.  We drove to and stopped at several other locations, including the Balanced Rock and the Double Bridges sites.  At the latter I photographed a young couple having fun taking interesting pictures of each other.  By mid afternoon the temperatures had gotten uncomfortable, so we returned to the campsite for a second night before venturing further east.  But those adventures deserve their own blog entry.  See you then?

Capitol Reef National Park — Utah, August 12-15

We spent two days getting from Bryce Canyon Nat’l Park to Capitol Reef Nat’l Park, stopping for an overnight at Escalante, where we enjoyed the sunset painting the cliffs to the northeast.  Next day, we took Hwy 12, described (deservedly) as one of the most scenic highways in America.  We found Capitol Reef National Park to be a lovely place, quiet and peaceful in the campgrounds and scenic beyond description in the surrounding Park.  No sooner had we arrived than we were joined by Janice & Steve in their camper “Sloth”, who took some time off from their duties at Bryce.  We hiked together and enjoyed sharing some meals and more card-playing.  We all picked some apples, and Janice made another of her delicious desserts.

Here are some (heavily) edited words from Wikipedia:


Capitol Reef encompasses the Waterpocket Fold, a warp in the earth’s crust that is 65 million years old.  In this fold, newer and older layers of earth folded over each other in an S-shape. This warp has weathered and eroded over millennia to expose layers of rock and fossils. The park is filled with brilliantly colored sandstone cliffs, gleaming white domes, and contrasting layers of stone and earth.

The area was named for a line of white domes and cliffs of Navajo Sandstone, each of which looks somewhat like the United States Capitol building, that run from the Fremont River to Pleasant Creek on the Waterpocket Fold.

The fold forms a north-to-south barrier that early settlers referred to as “reefs”, from which the park gets the second half of its name. The first paved road was constructed through the area in 1962. Today, State Route 24 cuts through the park traveling east and west between Canyonlands National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park, but few other paved roads invade the rugged landscape.

The park is filled with canyons, cliffs, towers, domes, and arches. The Fremont River has cut canyons through parts of the Waterpocket Fold, but most of the park is arid desert country.

Freemont culture Native Americans lived near the perennial Fremont River in the northern part of the Capitol Reef Waterpocket Fold around 1000 CE.  In the 13th century, all of the Native American cultures in this area underwent sudden change, likely due to a long drought. The Fremont settlements and fields were abandoned.

Many years after the Fremont left, Paiutes moved into the area.

In the 1870s, Mormon settlers moved into these valleys, eventually establishing a number of settlements.  In the 1880s they settled the Freemont River valley in the 1880s and established Junction (later renamed Fruita), Caineville and Aldridge. Fruita prospered, Caineville barely survived, and Aldridge died.

By 1920 the work was hard but the life in Fruita was good. No more than ten families at one time were sustained by the fertile flood plain of the Fremont River and the land changed ownership over the years. The area remained isolated. The community was later abandoned and later still some buildings were restored by the National Park Service.


The many orchards planted by Mormon pioneers are maintained by the Park Service and different fruit can be harvested throughout the growing season by visitors.  We just missed the peaches, but were there for the yellow apples.  We were told that there was no charge for fruit eaten while in the park, and the charge for fruit taken away is a nominal one dollar per pound.  We did some of both.   🙂

There are many spectacular Nat’l Parks in this area of Utah, but I think Capitol Reefs is our favorite so far.



Bryce Canyon, Utah — August 8 – 11, 2015

On August 8 we checked into the campground at Bryce Canyon National Park, where we were met by campground volunteers Janice and Steve (former cruising friends aboard Sailacious, now land cruising on their spacious Monaco camper) who directed us to our site.  The scenery at Bryce is spectacular.  Fiery thin red and orange “fins”, capped with hard concrete-like dolomite that retards their erosion,  some punctuated with windows and arches,  and pillars called hoodoos.  We took some free park tours and did some hiking on the rim trails and on the trails that descend down through the fins.  Have I said the sights are spectacular?

We enjoyed spending time with Janice and Steve.  We shared many meals, including some delightful desserts, and played a variety of games in the evenings.  They also gave us a number of valuable hints and bits of advice about the camping life and the care and nurturing of our mobile home.

When after four days we announced our intention to head to Capital Reef Nat’l Park, Janice and Steve decided to take some time off and join us there.  But to learn more about that experience, faithful readers must  tune in to the next exciting episode of Barb and Chuck Go Camping.

Out West; Nevada and Utah — July 8-12, 2015

Our first destination on our return to the States was Las Vegas, where Barb’s dad Cliff and sister Audrey live.  We stayed in one of the many hotels associated with a gambling casino, but did essentially no gambling. Instead we focused on visiting our relatives and on looking for a camper.  By coincidence, cruising friends Janice & Steve (nee Sailacious, and now owners of the camper they’ve named Sloth) were temporarily staying in a campground at Lake Mead, so we drove out for a short reunion and to get their advice about campers.  (More about the camper in another post, but I will say here that we were so impressed with their choices that we upgraded our own desires.)  After a fruitless search in Vegas, we learned of a private offering to the south.  We spoke with them on the phone, and ultimately met at a “half-way” point in Searchlight, NV.

And then we drove north into Utah to visit Barb’s brother Mike, who lives in Parowan but has a cabin high above Brian Head near Cedar Breaks at an altitude in excess of 10,000 feet.  Audrey came too. Barb’s son Jeff subsequently joined us in Mike’s commodious cabin.  We had a number of enjoyable walks and drives in the area.  But all was not peaches and cream, since Barb and Audrey suffered from altitude sickness and had to return down to Parowan for some spells until they could get acclimated.  But the landscape and wildlife and the visit were great.