Galley Wench Tales

Exploring the world through the people we meet
and the food they eat.


VIew from our rear-view mirror because I didn’t want to stop Wayne
every few seconds to photograph yet one more gobsmackingly stunning sight
 in Capitol Reef National State Park in Utah.

Even though we’ve many miles to go before reaching Florida from Portland Oregon, the area we want to spend the most time on the trip exploring rather than just driving is the Southwestern US.

Grand Wash trail, Capitol Reef Park, Utah. Note those tiny dots on the trail to give you some perspective.

Today’s stop was Capitol Reef National Park. Compared to Zion, it’s relatively small. But Capitol Reef is chock-a-block with jaw-dropping scenery than never seems more than a stone’s throw away. I remember Zion as more wide-open on the trails I hiked there. 

Tall canyon walls on Grand Wash trail, Capitol Reef Park.

Our first trail was Grand Wash. There were lots of signs warning visitors away from using the trail if there were storms. Wayne and I tried to imagine what it would be like to see Grand Wash live up to its name from some high vantage point while a torrent of water added its sculptural imprint.

Wayne said these narrow canyons reminded him of Western movie chase scenes; he half expected bandits going after a Wells Fargo wagon to race past.

Fall colors, Grand Wash trail. Capitol Reef Park, UT.

Once again, the fall colors in the Southwest give places like New England a run for the money. While New England foliage grabs your attention with fire-engine red, the rock colors in the Southwest glow when accented with bright yellow fall leaves.

The gray rocks sparked uranium mining in Capitol Reef Park. Little uranium was mined, but a lot of damage was done that still remains in the park.

If there’s a visually boring inch in Capitol Reef National Park, I’m not sure where it is, though we did only get in two trails as we didn’t start until the afternoon.

Muscular-looking monoliths on the road into Capitol Reef Gorge.

Capitol Reef Gorge was our second trail.

Part of the “Pioneer Registry”—historic, sanctioned graffiti—on the Capitol Gorge trail. 

There are both petroglyphs and rock etchings referred to as the Pioneer Registry. The oldest date for the latter I saw was 1888. Signed warned there was a $300 fine for anyone caught adding graffiti, with cameras posted. I found it amusing the trail highlights included Indian and pioneer graffiti, but that modern graffiti is a no-no. I thought the signs should say “no more graffiti.”

Some red fall foliage on the “tank” spur off the Capitol Gorge trail, Capitol Reef Park.

I took the spur trail to the “Tanks,” natural water holes. However, these uber-tiny reservoirs were bone dry.

EPH Hanks tower caught our eye leaving Capitol Gorge trail road.

The drive into and out of both Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge trail are worth the admission to the park, even if you never get out of your car and hike a trail.

The Castle rock formation, Capitol Reef Park, Utah. Not hard to guess how it got its name.

We bought an America the Beautiful annual national park pass at the park’s visitor center as our expired from our last cross-country trip. We paid $80 for the pass, but when we drove into the park area where normally the park fee would get collected, the area was unmanned. Nor was there any kind of a dropbox for payment. 

Chimney rocks. Capitol Reef Park, Utah.

I guess we could’ve held off on the park pass, but we plan to visit more national parks on this trip. Besides, I am pleased to help pay to maintain these national treasures,

One thing I am not able to photograph and share in this post: the stars. We saw the Milky Way, something we’ve not seen since our sailing days. The one exception is the summer of 2019, when we took a camping trip up to Mt. Hood, mostly to once again see the stars far enough away from light pollution.

Tell me, when is the last time you saw the Milky Way clearly? Where were you?

You can learn more about why dark skies are important and how to find them here.

View from Panorama Point, Capitol Reef Park, Utah.

We only drove 42 miles round-trip from our BLM campsite outside the park, and hiked about 6 miles. But for only five hours, we felt like we were fully immersed in the true-to-life Southwestern version of Fantasia.

Tomorrow morning we’ll grab a cup of home-brew coffee (for Wayne) and chai tea (for me) and head out to Capitol Reef’s Hickman Bridge trail. Then we’ll hit the road again, convoy style, and make for another BLM area outside Bryce Canyon National Park.