Part 7: Capital Reef to Cathedral Valley, UT


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The Trip

We spent the night near the boundary of the Capital Reef NP on a flat spot on a side road.  The road was rather rough and for the first time on this trip I used four wheel drive "just to be sure".  When we broke camp the next morning, we headed north and then west into Torrey and Loa, UT for a re-supply.  We needed to do a "drain and fill" on blackwater, fuel and fresh water.  From Loa, we headed north into the 1000 Lakes Mountain and then east again into the Cathedral Valley.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

From a small ridge close to our camp, I saw the moon rising over the Henry Mountains.

The moon was full and provided nice lighting to an otherwise dark location.

Next morning, we got a full view of Oak Creek Canyon where the road dead-ends just about .5 miles from our camp.

We were all by ourselves and got a chance to exercise the outdoor shower capability of Thor's camper.

We headed east back down the canyon to the Burr Trail and turned north, then west to Torrey.  Outside Torrey, UT we saw a sign for an overlook so we decided to check it out.  Sulphur Creek carved this nice canyon.  1000 Lakes Mountain is visible in the distance.

Another view of Sulphur Creek canyon.

Kathleen takes a photo from the view point.

On the trail back to Thor, I spotted these interesting erosion patterns in the rocks.

We did a full re-supply stop in Torrey and Loa and then headed into the 1000 Lakes Mountain.  From the eastern slope into Cathedral Valley we got a nice view of the Burr Desert to the east.  At the point where this photo was taken, our elevation was about 9500 feet.  The desert floor is about 5000 feet.

Before we came to our campsite at Cathedral Valley, we hit a viewpoint on one of the cliffs.  The soft rock underlying the harder cap rock results in these steep cliffs.

The far plateaus are over 10,000 feet.

The campsite was on the cap rock and we would not descend the cliff until the following morning.

We used our BBQ setup for the first time this trip.  The wind was strong and I was fearful that the flame would blow out.  But it did not.  We bought a rib eye steak cut from local grass-fed beef in Torrey and it was awesome.  The Utes know how to do beef.

After a windy night, we broke camp and started our descent into Cathedral Valley.  On the down grade we got this nice view.

The branches of the dead tree provide a stark contrast to the vivid blue of the sky and the red cliffs.

Once we were on the floor of the valley, we got better views of the hoodoos.

There were many structures like this one, rising many hundreds of feet from the valley floor.

The "rock" comprising these structures is basically just consolidated dirt.  But, when covered with a harder cap rock, interesting structures evolve.

There was plenty of evidence of a history of volcanism in the area.  En-route to a point of interest, we came upon this volcanic dike.  Note that there were 3 planes of intrusion.

Since the volcanic rock is much harder than the surrounding material, erosion reveals the intrusion plane.

We stopped to inspect a gypsum sink hole.  The height of the cliffs in the distance can be estimated in terms of Thor-multiples (about 10 feet to the roof of the cab).

The gypsum sink hole was quite large, perhaps 30 meters across and at least twice that in depth.  Since the walls of the surrounding rock is weak and friable, we gave the edge wide berth.

There was a cul-de-sac canyon at the sinkhole.

There were many smaller hoodoos and spires on the lip of the canyon.

With the harder cap rock protecting the soft strata below, interesting formations result from erosion.  Note the many balanced rocks.

On the trail to UT-24 we passed many nice cliffs with curtain structures.

This formation is gypsum chunks called Glass Mountain.

A close-up of the gypsum nodules.  If a small portion of the gypsum is flaked off and cleaned, it is transparent.

Close to the highway we spotted this striped butte.  The colors were fantastic.

From the highway a short distance south of Hanksville, we spotted this structure of hard cap rock overlying the soft grey mud-stone formation.

We did a fuel stop in Hanksville and had lunch at the local cafe.  From there we headed north to Goblin Valley.  But, Goblin was full, so we found a side trail that gave us our own isolated canyon to ourselves.

Capital Reef may be one of my favorite parks in this area.  It is more remote, but the less-traveled nature provides an ambience that some of the bigger parks like Zion lack.  Cathedral Valley is a must-see if in the area and I highly recommend entering from the west and going east over 1000 Lakes Mountain.

Tomorrow, we head north into the San Rafael swell and the San Rafael river.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2013, all rights reserved.
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