Friday 30th .
We decide on a fairly quiet day today. A visit to the Fruita area and a short scenic ride ending in a gorge walk.
The skies have cleared and after watching the sunrise from our bedroom and a coffee in the desert garden we are soon on our way to a patch in the desert where a small group of devout Mormon families harnessed the Fremont River and established a group of orchards and smallholdings in a valley site. It is now known as Fruita. The orchards are still maintained and the visiting public are invited to pick the fruit for consumption. Cherries, apricots, almonds, apples and pears line the road of this little oasis. There still remain the restored schoolhouse and the house and barn of the Gifford family. The last families left in 1955 since when the National Park Service has made the area the admin centre for Capitol Reef National Park.
We branch off on the Capitol Gorge dirt road for a scenic ten miles until the road ends at a narrow Gorge where we take a hike and then a brief scramble and climb to the ‘Tanks’ – depressions in the rocks that fill with water and provide vital water sources for local wildlife and the greenery that has established.
The walk provides another experience of narrow Gorge walking. It is now an offence to graffiti or hack at these rocks but the Pueblo Indians made some of these walls their storyboards thousands of years ago and the local youth early last century made sure they left their mark.
We spot a world class combover at our return coffee stop before an early return to our Airbnb apartment.
Saturday 1st. On to Moab
This is mostly a travel day and although our Moab host advises us to stop off in the Goblin Valley Park we decide to give it a miss.
Before we leave Torrey our lovely host Heir gives us a short tour of his garden where he has collected and laid out hundreds of dinosaur fossils over the years. He is an ardent enthusiast and loves showing us the various claws and teeth that he has picked up on his walks in the area around his house. He did most of his collecting before the law changed making it a felony to remove artefacts from the ground. This area is rich in fossils and human artefacts like pots, arrow heads, beads, petroglyphs, and even historic villages are stumbled across from time to time. The archaeologists have made it clear that the importance in the find is to be able to record every aspect of it in situ. In fact the descendants of these ancient peoples would often prefer a group of artefacts to be left where the elders placed them and not removed to a museum.
Heir assures us that what he has accumulated is all within the law. It certainly adds another dimension to his already lovely garden.
We stop briefly as we pass through Fruita again to see some ancient Petroglyphs on a rock wall before setting off across some of the strangest and most desolate landscapes we have so far encountered. The rock is grey, like cement piles hundreds of feet high. It sustains hardly a scrub or blade of grass and there is little sign of life. It is a grim, post-apocalyptic landscape and again we wonder how the early pioneers managed to cross it on horses and wagons. No wonder it was one of the last areas to be mapped and makes the Fruita oasis even more remarkable. Later we find out the Mars Society established the Mars Desert Research Station in the area due to its Mars-like terrain.
We pull off the Interstate 24 at Green River ( pop 979 ) for petrol and a comfort stop. We are directed to the town coffee shop which we are led to by our noses as the aroma of roasting beans wafts up the road. The path is covered in a hatching of yellow butterflies which are very welcome as an antidote to the greyness of our drive so far.
The shop is another eclectic little oasis of alternative culture in this hard western environment. It helps that the coffee and fresh muffins and cookies are superb but the shop is full of colour and art and music. We get to chat to the lady who owns it and she is a bit of an expert on the local music and early blues and bluegrass.
Would have liked to chew the grass some more but Moab calls and soon we are hurtling through some more red mountains that make up Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, our playground for the next few days.
Our host is away for the weekend but we are made welcome by his housemate Sabine who settles us into yet another homely and comfortable room and house. There are two ultra friendly dogs to pet and, as it is our own puppy’s fourth birthday and we are missing her, it is an added bonus to have a pooch asking for tummy rubs.