Sandstone Towers and Cliffs. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. October 8, 2012. © Copyright 2012 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.
Sandstone towers and cliffs in evening light, Capitol Reef National Park
By comparison to some of the other well-known Utah national parks, it seems to me that Capitol Reef is perhaps a bit more difficult to get to know. Oddly, this might be partially because it is so easy to experience it very superficially. A main highway passes right though the park, and a number of the characteristic and iconic features are visible from the highway or by barely leaving it: the well-known orchards, accessible examples of rock art, large and impressive sandstone walls and towers, the Fremont River. Other features are neatly containing along an impressive “scenic drive” with some popular trails. But it seems that the steps to see additional aspects of the park are bigger than at some other parks. For example, while most Yosemite visitors think of The Valley as the park, it isn’t really all that difficult to drive paved roads to Glacier Point, redwood groves, or even the summit of the Sierra. But to go a bit further at Capitol Reef you might have to drive through a river, have four-wheel drive, ask someone about some relatively unknown canyon, drive for many miles on gravel roads.
My first visit to this park was limited to the most accessible features, as we were passing through on our way to another place. We stopped briefly to see the rock art, and I saw those iconic orchards of Fruita. On the second visit, we had more time – we were in the area of several days – and we spent time on the “scenic drive,” did a few of the hikes, and poked around the fringes of these area. We even drove the dozens of miles down that east side gravel road and took a long drive on less-used roads to return to where we started. On a subsequent trip, we asked around a bit, and ended up poking into a canyon where we were the only visitors and walking along a route high in the mountains on a sub-freezing morning. This photograph comes from the intermediate experience of that second trip. Although there was (and still is!) much that I don’t know about this huge and diverse park, by this point I was starting to get a sense of the rhythms of light and so forth, and this enable us to be at this (accessible) location at the right hour as the day came to an end.
G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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