Saturday, January 10, 2015

Life Elevated Part 4 - Capitol Reef National Park

After three nights at the Center of the universe, I left Escalante and drove east on highway 12 towards Capitol Reef. What an amazing drive. I was stopping at every turn to take pictures. I took pictures of course profile for Escalante Canyon marathon (this starts from Boulder and finishes in Escalante). Thats one of the spectacular marathon courses I've seen. Some of my running friends are going to be hooked at Escalante race after looking at these pictures.

I made a turn into one of the viewpoints about 15 miles away from Capitol reef. This is a point at 9600 ft elevation and you get a spectacular view of the mountains of Capitol reef. Drove on that access road for about 15-20 feet and my car got stuck in a foot of snow. I did everything I could to back off and my 4 x 4 just wouldn't move. Fortunately a couple driving on highway 12 noticed my struggle and came to help. This Gentleman was a local and he got the shovel to clean the snow around and get my car back on the road. I'm really grateful for his kindness. I could have been stuck there for a while. These pictures would explain why I was so excited and didn't pay attention to the snow.

Mind blowing. Never seen anything like this !!

Cloud cleared and finally was able to take this shot.

I finally made it to Capitol reef late noon. Picked up maps from visitor center and did some short hikes at Gooseneck, Panorama and Sunset point. 

Checked into Days Inn, which was probably the only hotel open around here. 

It was sunny 50-degree perfect weather next morning and I had a blast exploring Capitol Reef National park. All those mountains and peaks that appeared tiny from highway 12 were monstrous. I headed to hike Hickman Bridge first thing in the morning. Sunlight was directly on the bridge at around 9 am and lighting was perfect for photography.

Easy hike to get this spectacular natural bridge

Upon descending I drove east on 24 and turned south on Notom Bullfrog road just to enjoy the dramatic scenery and take pictures. Made a U turn after about 10 miles (where unpaved road start). Return trip to the park was equally amazing.

Then drove on Scenic road all the way to Capitol Gorge and did the 1 mile hike. Captured some unbelievable pictures from Pioneer Registry and Tanks.

It was almost 2 pm and after a quick lunch I headed to hike Cassidy Arch. I enjoyed the elevation it provides and the views along the way were spectacular.

But this was one hike that went totally wrong for me. I saw the arch from a distance and a direction indicating it’s about 0.5 miles away. I hiked in that direction for about 20-30 minutes and for the life of me couldn’t figure out where the arch was. Directions to the arch at that point are non-existent. 

I was standing on top of a huge rock and realized I’m lost pretty badly. I moved in all directions for 100-200 feet and couldn’t find any sign of the arch. Frustrated returned back to the trail and I had a struggle finding it too. Anyway I barely made it to the car by sunset and drove back to the hotel.
I checked at the visitor center at Capitol Reef and ranger told me for Cassidy Arch you end up on top of the arch.Thats exactly where I was and I'm relieved I wasn't lost.. :) .
I went back to the park next morning for a run and saw sun, rain and snow all within 1 hour of my run. It was quite dramatic.

Saw this beauty during the run on Scenic drive.
Decided Capitol Reef would be my last destination in this trip.There is no point pushing to reach Moab/Canyon-lands/Arches when I cant do justice to those parks. I'll probably do those parks another time. I had two more days to get back to Vegas and I decided I'll drive back west and take my time to transition my legs from hiking to running mode. I stopped at Bryce canyon for a night and was able to run at 9000 ft elevation for an hour and felt quite comfortable doing it. Next day I headed to Zion to spend a night and ran Angel's landing hike to Scout's lookout which was equally comfortable. I felt acclimatized to higher elevation.. Too bad I couldn't stay here and train for my upcoming marathon at Big Sur. Made it safely back to Vegas and then flew back home to NYC without any issues. I'm incredibly thankful to my friend / colleague for suggesting this trip and for all the inputs and guidance he poured on. And also huge thanks to destination experts at Trip advisor for their tips in making this a successful & safe trip. Even after two weeks I feel like I haven't seen anything and cannot wait to go back to explore the elevated grandeur of these national treasures.