Scenic Byway 12
Okay. Back to our Utah's National Parks road trip for J.'s 30th birthday. Day 3 to be exact. We woke up early and packed up our super wet tent (thanks to the crazy downpour from the night before) and continued down Scenic route 12 towards Capitol Reef National Park. )We did make one more pit stop to Mossy Cave hike in Bryce NP since it's right on 12 and is a really really fast hike- less than a mile. Seeing that it had just rained, we knew the waterfall would be flowing and we wouldn't just be hiking to a dry river bed or something. Because let's be honest- waterfall hikes without actual waterfalls are super lame.)
Scenic Byway 12
So back to Scenic Byway 12. Ohmygoodness it's so beautiful. We've traveled to a ton of places in the U.S., but this one takes the cake as one of our all time favorite drives. (P.S. I will say that a lot over this trip, but seriously. One of the prettiest highways ever.) It's 124 miles of beauty. There was one part where you're on the very top of a mountain driving across this narrow ridge and for as far as you can see (on both sides) is just absolutely breathtaking scenery. That said, it's super narrow and there is oncoming traffic- or could be- we were pretty much alone on most of the drive, so yea. Pay attention. That's a super long fall. You also get to drive through the Grand Staircase National Monument which is really cool to see. There were so many times I just sat there staring at the window saying "how was THAT made?"
Scenic Byway 12
One of the coolest parts of the highway is how different each section is from the others. From arid desert, to more of a high plains desert, to lush aspen groves, to thick pine forests- it was hard to believe that we driving through the same state- much less driving on the same road. And of course, I made J. stop pretty much every 100 yards so I could take another photo. Because I'm cool like that and like to make drives super super long.
Scenic Byway 12
Speaking of makes drives super long, we were getting closer to our site when I saw a tiny road sign for "Burr Trail Road." I remembered reading about it while researching Capitol Reef, but I never planned on actually doing it since I thought we'd be pressed for time. Well we weren't, so we turned. Because really. How often do you get to drive through slick rock canyons and see where cattle herders moved cattle from summer and winter ranges? Okay maybe if you live in Utah you do this all the time. But we live in Denver and are from Georgia, so yea, we don't. Oh! And you get amazing views of the Waterpocket Fold- which is an actual wrinkle in the Earth's surface! Why yes, I am a nerd.
Burr Trail Road
So we drove it (beautiful, worth it, and you're pretty much alone the entire time in case you'd like to get away from crowds.) And got to hike in our very first slot canyon- which happened to be wide enough to get me comfortable with climbing into much smaller places later on. Which not only took a decent amount of deep breaths, but also a lot of distraction to keep myself from replaying scenes from 127 hours in my head. Speaking of... HOW DO YOU CUT OFF YOUR HAND AND NOT GO INTO SHOCK?! I'll let you know right now. I don't have that in me. Sorry guys, but if I ever get stuck somewhere, don't bet on me doing anything crazy- like amputation- to get out of it.
view from the slot canyon
After exploring, we could see that our dark cloud friend from Bryce was starting to head our way so we hurried on back and made our way to our campsite (which was right off of 12 in Dixie National Forest.) After setting up the tent to dry out from the night before, we hopped back into the car to go to Capitol Reef (which was only like 12 miles away at this point.)
natural stone bridge hike
So. Capitol Reef. It was pretty, but kind of strange. It was established in an old Mormon settlement and was pretty much empty. Unlike most other parks we've been too, there weren't gates at the entrance (and therefore we didn't have to show our pass,) the visitors center was really really small, and when we asked about hikes we were asked in return "how we were feeling." Umm, confused? Any good hikes for confused, kind of tired hikers? After that, we figured we'd just stake our chances and do whatever. I don't believe there was a hike in the park longer than 5 miles one way, and there weren't many of those to choose from anyhow, so we picked a short one and ran off to do that before it got dark.* There were also orchards (planted a long time ago by the Mormon settlers) and grass lawns that they watered ALL DAY. Really surreal to be in the desert- like red rocks desert- and then see perfectly manicured green lawns randomly. That's definitely not native to the area.
*Side note here. If you asked J. what happened when we first came into the park, his story is a little different than mine. Mostly it would start out with "Courtney went crazy demanding that we stop and buy pie from this old Mormon store and refused to go hiking until that was done." To be honest, that's not too far from the truth. You see, the main thing I read about while researching the park was this damn pie. (And by main, I mean pretty much there were 4 things to do in the park and the pie ranked number 1 on everyone's list.) It also apparently always sells out and I wanted to have it for desert that night so I didn't want to wait and risk it all being gone. I'll spare you the details, but let's go ahead and say that I was the happy owner of a miniature mixed berry pie before we began our hike to Hickman Bridge. In my defense, there were only 4 pies left out of like the 100 they start the day out with. I don't know where in the world these pie loving people were though because the park was pretty much empty, but who knows. Maybe pie was all the wanted so they grabbed and left. Left to where I also have no clue since we were in the middle.of.nowhere.
So yep, we did our hike (super cool natural rock bridge) started driving back to our campsite to cook, made a detour to have pasta at a restaurant because, um. pasta, and finally ended day three with pie by our campfire. And in case anyone was curious, it was delicious. Worth it!