It was only supposed to be a two mile hike, but it felt like twelve. It was day two in Capitol Reef National Park, and I had set foot in the morning on the Rim Overlook Trail to catch a view of Fruita from above. Never before had I been on a trail that was so short yet seemed so long. I believe this perception was gained in part from the tedious task of maneuvering my feet around rocks, watching out for rattlesnakes, and searching for cairns to keep me en route. On top of that, add extreme heat and sun exposure. There was also the repeatedly false perception that the trail was coming to an end. I would see an outcropping of land along the rim, and assume it was the end, only to find out the trail wound around and kept going. This happened maybe a half dozen times.
The trail eventually ended at Fruita Point, and I looked down into the canyon. It wasn’t the viewpoint that was the highlight of the trek, as it was forgettable, but what stays with me most vividly in my memory is the hike there, through shambles of broken rocks, across expansive sun baked rock faces, and through indentations and coves of sand. At one point I rested, stretching myself out in some soft sand, as if reclining at beach, but I was really in a sunken cove, hidden by desert brush. At another point I sat in a smooth rock cavity, just my size, to find shelter from the sun. Although seemingly long, the trail was fun, interesting, and throughout the whole trek I was accompanied by small lizards who would blend in so fine with the landscape but suddenly scurry upon the approach, causing me to flinch at their surprise.
When I was back down in Fruita, after my hike, I was very hungry and felt I had burned enough calories to earn a fruit pie sold at the little gift shop in Fruita. The town has a history of fruit harvesting and pie and jam making. I figured that in order to have the full Fruita experience, I needed to have some pie. I bought an individual blackberry pie and a small cup of ice cream (the kind with a wooden stick), and I enjoyed it on a picnic table out front. This area of Fruita was quite busy now, meaning there were a few families on the premise, but it was obvious, from overhearing their talking, that they were just day visitors. I was able to tune out all the noise around me and write in my notebook about my experiences in the Petrified Forest.
After eating my pie, I went for a walk around Fruia, I walked past the old school house, down by the river, and to a large section made into what sort of looked like a city park, with a mowed lawn and picnic tables. There I observed some very old girthy cottonwood trees. There was a placard explaining their significance, showing photos from back in the pioneer days of the same trees. Leaving this lawn area I walked by the orchard. I had read online and heard on the Rock the Park show that you could pick fruit from the orchard, but it didn’t look like they were allowing it at this time.
As I was walking by the orchard, some mule deer walked right up to me. I was not used to deer approaching me. Deer to me have been some of the most easily frightened animals, but these deers were approaching me, I had to curve my direction so they wouldn’t walk into me. I am used to deer in the Midwest and South, where they are so frequently hunted. Perhaps, because of this, they have developed knowledge and instinct to avoid humans. But here, tucked away in a desert oasis, protected by the National Park Service, humans are not feared. Wherever humans go, they usually bring food, and in this area food was not in plenty, so perhaps the deers welcomed humans in hopes that humans would provide for them. I’ve observed in my travels that desert environments bring out boldness and aggressiveness in all creatures.
I myself was ready to aggressively search out food and water. I was craving with great intensity cold water. I was prepared with water, but my water was hot. I wanted cold water, and I craved food other than nuts, berries, and jerky that I had packed away in my car. I searched in my GPS for restaurants. The nearest was a Subway, thirty miles away. Typically, by no means, would I drive 30 miles just to go to a Subway, and furthermore it had been my tradition that once in a National Park for a stay, not to leave it. However, the thirst and hunger was so present and nagging, that I decided that even for just a sip of cold water, 30 miles there and back would be worth it.
The miles went by quickly, and I found the Subway located inside a gas station. That Subway sandwich and water mixed with artificial lemonade syrup made me the most appreciative of beings. In the gas station I also bought a bag of Muddy Buddy Chex Mix. The sweet powdery crunch was so satisfying and so memorable, that it created a powerful association in my mind, so much so, that from that point on Muddy Buddy Chex Mix has become my preferred snack on summer camping road trips.
On my way back into Fruita, I stopped at the entrance sign to Capitol Reef National Park to take a picture and then I pulled over at Sunset Point. I thought the sun was soon setting, and here I could take it in. I came to discover that the sun had already set behind the reef. Nevertheless Sunset Point proved to be a beautiful viewpoint. From here I looked down into deeper canyons and up at mountains in the far distance with the giant walls of Capitol Reef to my left. I thought that this place was beautiful, and it was one of those moments in which I really became aware of not only my existence but my own presence in this place. I closed my eyes for a moment to attune my ears to the quietness around me. I opened them to rediscover myself in this amazing and strikingly different landscape from what I was used to. I recollected where I came from, all the hardships of life I have endured, and here and now I was with the will and aptitude to have brought myself to remote Utah and immerse myself in natural beauty. With all the peace surrounding me, and the spark of adventure now ablaze, I realized I was still on the front end of a large summer adventure. But already I was feeling restored, alive and free. Nature always has a way of bringing me back to life. (The Subway sandwich also helped.
Read the previous entry “The Way of the Pioneer,” here: https://joshthehodge.wordpress.com/2017/10/29/the-way-of-the-pioneer
Read the next entry “Trouble at Arches National Park” here: https://joshthehodge.wordpress.com/2017/11/10/trouble-at-arches-national-park/