Tag Archives: Capitol Reef

Photo of the Week: Reef Light







Sometime around the beginning of October this year, the sky gods smiled on me and my (phone) camera.

I snapped this after a thunderstorm pounded through the area. The blinding, liquid light illuminated the rocks of Capitol Reef like shining beacons against that fearsome sky. Out walking on Beas Lewis Flats, you can get this view by facing east, directly toward the swells and dips of the Park.

Of course, there is no guarantee of light and shadow dancing and tip-toeing around one another, swirling  together and clashing apart as they inform your photo with beautiful grace. Storm chasing is an art form that many around here strive to master. I am definitely a novice at it! Let me tell you, though, the resultant photos are stamps on the memory and heart that won’t soon erase themselves.

There are a million and one reasons I love where I live. Let’s call this photo reason number 1,719.


Filed under Random Musings

Hike of the Week: Navajo Knobs

I’m resurrecting the Hike of the Week posts. I will *try* to get one up every week…that will be a good challenge. Heh!

Let’s start off with one of the harder but more rewarding destinations in Capitol Reef–the Navajo Knobs. So called because a) they’re in the Navajo sandstone layer and b) they look like giant knobs, the Knobs are a 9.3-mile round trip hike with a 2,400-foot elevation gain. Yes, yikes. Trust me, though, it’s well worth it at the end! Bonus: if you go all the way to the Knobs, you’ll have actually done two hikes, since you pass Rim Overlook on the way.

How to do this hike:

1. Park at the Hickman Bridge trailhead and start uphill.

fall color at trail's start

2. When the trail splits (signed), head north (right) to get on the Knobs trail.

3. Go up. And up. Then up some more. Take breaks, breathe, enjoy the views when you have them.

the trail and the views

4. The hike consists of meandering switchbacks that provide blessed flat stretches, and long uphill climbs, mostly over sheer rock. (No, you aren’t in danger of falling off a cliff.) Just motor on!

5. Pull over at the signed Rim Overlook and take a gander (and breather) at the views. Then push on.

looking down at Fruita orchards from Rim Overlook

6. When you reach the actual knobs, the trail will wind up below (south) and then behind (east) them. To achieve the actual pinnacle involves some scrambling, which may be too much for the heights-averse. But if you do, the 360-degree views should astound.

looking north from the Knobs

You can see east to the Henry Mountains (and even to the Abajos if it’s clear enough), southwest to Boulder Mountain, northwest to Thousand Lake Mountain, and everywhere else. The horizon seems limitless, and the scope of Capitol Reef’s rugged beauty extensive.

7. Return the same way.

Endless views on the trail. Henry Mtns. in background

Tips on doing this hike:

1. If you think your knees will protest, hiking poles may be helpful.

2. Late fall, winter, and early spring are ideal times to hike the Knobs. The trail is exposed most of the way, meaning it can be unbearably hot in the summer while providing welcome sunshine in the cooler months.

rugged Capitol Reef country northeast of the Knobs

3. No go if storms threaten! You’re too exposed to lightning danger.

4. If you decide to add in the Hickman Bridge trail, tack on another 1.6 miles to your hike.

Random facts about this hike:

1. Along the way you’ll encounter plenty of black boulders that seem to be air-pocked. These are volcanic rocks (andesite basalt), remnants of Boulder Mountain’s days as an active volcano.

volcanic rock

2. Just barely up the trail from its start, there is a small offshoot with a sign that faces you south. You’ll be looking at Pectol’s Pyramid, named after local Torrey resident Ephraim P. Pectol. Pectol had a dream, and Capitol Reef is a partial result of his vision.


Pectol's Pyramid from a high up vantage point



Filed under Hikes

Photo of the Week: Cohab Canyon

This photo of riotous color is from a hike I did in Cohab Canyon, located in the always stunning Capitol Reef, with friends at the very beginning of October. October just became my new favorite month here. I adore the colors, the crisp air, and the lingering warmth in the days. Ahhh…. (I try to ignore the fact that it heralds the approach of winter.)

Cohab Canyon is a relatively easy trail, but accessing it requires some uphill hiking that might tax some. If you have iffy knees, think carefully before tackling this one. I like to start on the Fruita side–the trailhead is well-marked along the Scenic Drive, immediately south of the large barn right by the Gifford House. The switchbacks here offer great views all the way.

When you get into the canyon itself, the rock formations are bedazzling to  the eye, as are their colors. Tangerine, cream, gold, tan, brick red, and more…it’s a photographer’s paradise, especially on a bluebird day. I was pretty thrilled on this day because the lighting conditions and flower display were about perfect.

This trail meets up with the Frying Pan Trail, which leads to Cassidy Arch. You’ll be backtracking unless you have a car drop at the Grand Wash parking area, or alternatively at the other Cohab Canyon trailhead on Highway 24, just across from the popular Hickman Bridge trailhead.


Filed under Hikes, Photos

monsoon season is here again; and with it, potential dangers

Monsoon season loves the Southwest. Summertime sees plenty of days and weeks on end of the sudden, severe storms that drench the high desert areas with an abundance of rainfall that truly must be experienced to be fully believed and understood.

It’s been rainy here in the Capitol Reef area for several weeks now, with a brief reprieve of about, oh, two days. Rain means good water table levels, full water tanks, wildflowers off the hook, and life in the desert. We like rain here, love it. It’s vital to this ecosystem, and the wild life it brings forth is spectacular.

Flowering Prickly Pear

The rain during monsoon season can also mean waterfalls where moments before none existed, sweet little creeks turned suddenly turbulent and muddy to a degree that truly frightens, and an awesome show of the strength of water.

a pour over created by a monsoon storm

When you contrast that natural power display with the relative frailty of the human body, it’s the sort of awesome that sends shivers racing down the spine. As I often say, don’t mess with mama nature, because it’ll mess right back with you.

Today was one of those days. Early in the day the sky loomed ominous, dark, and hugely full of clouds full of sturm und drang.

'twas a dark & stormy day...

Great day to check out the Fremont Falls in Capitol Reef National Park. The falls have been popular with locals for decades, as well as visitors. I’ve swum in them, under them, and jumped off the rocks into them. (Yes, I know, bad. But I always made someone else go first so that if they didn’t come back up, I knew not to jump! Heh.) They can be a lot of fun. But when it rains…ooh, yeah. Those falls get crazy.

the Fremont Falls in full flash flood mode

The Fremont Falls, using words from a press release today from Capitol Reef:

The waterfall located near mile marker 86 on State Highway 24 in Capitol Reef National Park was created in 1962 when the river was rerouted to accommodate the construction of Highway 24. This water feature has historically been an attractive site to swimmers and recreationists. The dynamics of the waterfall have changed over the years, and the river has cut a narrow channel in the soft sandstone. This has increased the velocity of the river and created a hazardous water filled slot above, and a dangerous plunge pool beneath, the falls.

Very recently, Capitol Reef closed the waterfall to the public. Why? Because three people nearly drowned there in the past three weeks. All of them were held under the water for at least a few minutes and were pulled out not breathing and with no pulse. All three were life-flighted to hospitals up north. All three, by some insane miracle, survived with no lasting physical damage.

So I reiterate again my plea to southern Utah visitors during monsoon season: Be careful. Play, and play carefully. Don’t underestimate the power of the land and water. Enjoy, and use your common sense.

And for your viewing pleasure, check out the photos of the power of monsoon season in southern Utah canyon country.

temporary highway closure in Capitol Reef


bringing out the big guns


just another day in paradise...monsoon style


sudden seasonal waterfall

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Filed under Outdoorsy Tips

A Week in the Life of an Outdoor Guide



My outdoor guiding job is very cool. I get to play outside, and take people out to play with me. I even get paid for this! And tipped (usually)! Sometimes it’s hard to believe I live this cool life. Well, moments of coolness. Such as my recent week.

In a seven-day period of time, this was my schedule:

Friday: Drive clients to Cathedral Valley in the northern part of Capitol Reef National Park. Tell them I studied French for 5 years but am too scared to try to actually converse with them. Enjoy wonderful conversations with them (in English), then still smile as they depart without tipping me. Ah, the French.

Temple of the Sun, Cathedral Valley

Saturday: Meet friends to hike Lower Calf Creek Falls, between Escalante and Boulder, Utah. Have a blast! Oh, and enjoy the best fish tacos I’ve yet had anywhere in southern Utah. (Circle D Eatery in Escalante, I’m looking at you! Yum. If you go there, tell Patrick I said hi.)

Small Leaf Globemallow on the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail

Sunday: Hike Sheets Gulch and take a gander at the Strike Valley Overlook, both in Capitol Reef National Park, with a good photographer friend. Find overhangs, ruins, and neat slot canyon scrambles.

downclimbing in Sheets Gulch

(photo by Jennifer Howe)

Utah Daisies in Sheets Gulch

Monday: Hike the 9-mile loop of Upper Muley Twist in Capitol Reef National Park. In a word: stunning. Discover one member of the party is quite fearful of snakes when we come across a big bullsnake desperately trying to slither away from us.

Bullsnake in Upper Muley Twist Canyon

She is also afraid of furry little mammals with tails that run up the walls when we are in a little slot canyon section–I realize this when she lets loose a shriek and whirls back into me, clutching my arm and attempting to exit the area with utmost speed. Lean into the 50-mph winds that assault us up on the rim as we stagger sideways, blown by the capricious elements, while taking the endlessly gorgeous views of the Strike Valley, the Henry Mountains, and everything north, south, and east as far as the eye can see.

Strike Valley Overlook

Enjoy dinner with the clients at Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder after one of the loveliest hiking days in memory. Sigh when they also don’t tip. Choose instead to remember the bulk of the awesomely fun day.

Saddle Arch in Upper Muley Twist Canyon

Tuesday: Cathedral Valley again, as seen with serious amateur photographers. Loved them! Total sweethearts from the Midwest who were utterly adoring of the Western landscapes. Learned some more photography tips & tricks from them throughout the day.

Glass Mountain in Cathedral Valley

Wednesday: Cathedral Valley, this time incorporating some hiking as well. Learn more flowers, hike to overlooks I’ve never been to before, and thoroughly enjoy the company of the funny Texan guests. Hiking during this trip is an unusual treat for me, and I love it. Also get to test out some Merrell Barefoot running shoes I just received…gear review coming soon to the lovely National Parks Traveler website.

Central Prickly Pear in full bloom, Cathedral Valley

Thursday: Drive the Reds Canyon loop in the San Rafael Swell. See wild horses who’ve freely roamed the area since the mid-1800s and earlier. Observe both photographer clients and self swoon with the utter coolness of this visual feral treat.

Wild Horses in the San Rafael Swell

Be entertained by a winsome lizard during lunch. Gaze at old uranium mine remains and wonder how the miners could stand being deep within the earth while surrounded by such natural beauty.

Sunflowers in Reds Canyon near Muddy Creek

Look at rock art panels. Drive I-70 back to highway 72 over Thousand  Lake Mountain in the early evening light. Beyond gorgeous. Enjoy dinner at Cafe Diablo with the clients, who are the same wonderful people from Tuesday.

Friday: Relax….

Not every week is like this. Sometimes they’re even busier, sometimes they’re super quiet. And I didn’t get to go horseback riding, which is my favorite thing to do. But all in all, it was pretty sweet. The commute…the view from my office…the enthusiastic clients…the lifetime of dividends in the form of experiences, memories, and photos.

Excuse me now. Time to get back outside.


Filed under Utah Adventures

Hike of the Week is Sunset Point

[photo courtesy of Jennifer Howe]

I’m talking about the one closest to my home. The one in Capitol Reef National Park. Read all about it over here on my NileGuide blog. Then comment, dammit, and go visit it when you can. The hike. Well, the blog too.

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Filed under Hikes

oh, summertime, how I love thee…

…but how you make my writing suffer! I knew it had been some time since I blogged on here, but I was utterly aghast to realize it’d been almost two months. Mea culpa!!! A thousand times over. Not like I have a huge readership or anything. Yet still, the responsibility hangs heavy on me at the moment.

As you may know, in the summer I am paid (paid, I tell you! Miraculous.) to play outside. Ride horses, go hiking, drive people around to gorgeous areas like Capitol Reef National Park and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM). Look at these pictures and weep:

(yes, my pants are highwaters…deal with it. I have long legs! Velvet Ridge aglow in background.)

(the bridge at Devil’s Garden in GSENM)

(riding my decidedly nervous horse (Doc) in the annual 4th of July parade in Torrey)

(Pippin at Blind Lake!)

(on our way home from Blind Lake…descending Boulder Mountain…with Thousand Lake Mountain in the background. Tough job, eh?)

As you can see, I’ve been quite busy running around this lovely area. But I really will try to post more often…it’s just so hard during these gorgeous, busy days!

Hope summer is going fabulously well for everyone else out there too. Enjoy it…it only comes once a year. 😉


Filed under Random Musings