UT – Capitol Reef National Park, Gypsum in Cathedral Valley

Joan was interested in seeing the gypsum that came from Gypsum Sinkhole. She has a special interest after working in Mammoth Caves in Kentucky and visiting White Sands National Park, both places where gypsum can be found. I was clueless about gypsum but game for adventure. 

So off we went, down the long bumpy road to Cathedral Valley. According to the NPS website, ” Cathedral Valley presents another chapter in the story of Capitol Reef’s geology. The geologic layers and eroded features here are different than those seen in other sections of the Waterpocket Fold. The Bentonite Hills among the Hartnet Road and the Painted Desert on the Cathedral (also known as the Cainville Wash) Road appear as softly-contoured, banded hills in varying hues of brown, red, purple, gray, and green. The hills are composed of the Brushy Basin shale member of the Morrison Formation. This layer was formed during Jurassic times when mud, silt, fine sand, and volcanic ash were deposited in swamps and lakes.” 

“Upper and Lower Cathedral Valley offer exquisite views of sculptured monoliths with intriguing names such as the Walls of Jericho and the Temples of the Sun, Moon, and Stars. The monoliths are composed of the earthy, buff-pink Entrada Sandstone. Deposited 160 million years ago in the Jurassic period, this fine- grained sandstone formed by the deposition of sand and silt in tidal flats. It crumbles easily to a fine sand which is rapidly removed by water; therefore, talus (debris) slopes do not form and Entrada cliffs tend to rise sheer from their base. Above the Entrada, the grayish-green sandstone and siltstone of the Curtis Sandstone forms a hard cap rock on some of the monoliths and higher cliffs and buttes, protecting them from erosion. Above the Curtis is the thinly-bedded, reddish-brown siltstone of the Summerville Formation.”  Source: NPS website

Glass Mountain, the small mound on the right has the largest exposed concentration of gypsum. According to NPS website, “Glass Mountain is a large, exposed mound of selenite crystals. Selenite is a variety of gypsum (CaSO4•2H2O) in the form of glassy crystals. Gypsum is a common mineral found in the sedimentary rocks of this area. The crystals of glass mountain are somewhat unusual in size and in the massiveness of the deposit. Glass Mountain formed as a result of groundwater flowing through the Entrada Sandstone. This water carried dissolved gypsum, which started to crystallize, forming what has been called a ‘gypsum plug.’  This plug is now being exposed as the soft Entrada Sandstone erodes away.”  According to Wikipedia, “Gypsum is a soft sulfate mineral composed of calcium sulfate dihydrate, with the chemical formula CaSO. 4· 2H2O. It is widely mined and is used as a fertilizer, and as the main constituent in many forms of plaster, blackboard chalk and wallboard.” 

At first glass it looks like a pile of trash. According to NPS, “the visible part of Glass Mountain could merely be the ‘tip of the iceberg,’ with much more selenite still hidden underground.”

Joan was thrilled as she’d never seen gypsum in this form. 

It was challenging to photograph, but we did our best. 

As we reversed direction on our exit, the sun was in the perfect position to showcase the glassy glitter on many other brown mounds. 

This is one of those places where we can say, “we came, we saw, we went,” and we don’t ever need to come back.

Adventure Dates:

  • March 30, 2018

Tips:

  • Collecting any park resource, including gypsum is prohibited. 

Resources:

Links:

UT – Capitol Reef National Park, Chimney Rock and Spring Canyon

As I indicated in a previous post, Joan and I decided to immerse ourselves in Capitol Reef National Park. We’d spent four days backpacking through Upper Muley Twist Canyon and Lower Muley Twist Canyon, then spent a day in Capitol Gorge exploring the Golden Throne, Petroglyphs, Narrows, Pioneer Register and Tanks. Next on the agenda was another backpack trip, this time through Upper Spring Canyon starting from Chimney Rock. According to the WOW guidebook, “if you must choose only one hike in Capitol Reef National Park, make it Spring Canyon or Navajo Knobs.” Since I previously hiked the Navajo Knobs trail, Spring Canyon it was!

Whenever there is a viewpoint, that’s where you’ll find Jan. Thanks Joan for capturing some action photos of me. 

This canyon feels very different than Muley Twist. The walls are grandiose. According to NPS, “Spring Canyon is deep and narrow with towering Wingate cliffs and Navajo domes.”

This is the junction for Lower and Upper Spring Canyon. Most choose lower so of course we choose upper. 

The big surprise of our trip. SNOW!!! 

We found a really sweet campsite, protected from the wind.

A really cool home for a spring. There was a fair amount of water in Spring Canyon, named for the multiple springs. However, most was not the best caliber and we were grateful that we’d carried sufficient.

Joan collected some water just in case, but upon closer inspection there were tiny worms swimming around, probably something we didn’t want to ingest. 

Adventure Dates:

  • March 29-30, 2018

Tips:

  • According to NPS, “The route not an official, maintained trail. It is marked with rock cairns and signs, but carrying a topo map is recommended. Route conditions, including obstacles in canyons, change frequently due to weather, flash floods, rockfall, and other hazards. Route finding, navigation, and map-reading skills are critical. Do not rely solely on unofficial route markers such as rock cairns which are not maintained by NPS. It is extremely hot in summer and water sources are unreliable.”
  • Free backcountry permits are required for all overnight trips and can be obtained at the Visitor Center.
  • Obtain a copy of the trail handout at the Visitor Center. It has tips about the POI’s as well as trail beta.
  • Be aware of biological soil crust. 

Resources:

Links:

UT – Capitol Reef National Park, Capitol Gorge and the Golden Throne

After four days of hiking Upper Muley Twist Canyon and Lower Muley Twist Canyon, Joan and I decided to play tourist for the day.

According to the NPS website, “Petroglyph panels throughout the park depict ancient art and stories of these people who lived in the area from approximately 300-1300 common era (CE).” 

According to the NPS website, “Elijah Cutler Behunin led a group of pioneers to clear a wagon trail through Capitol Gorge which allowed settlers, church officials, miners, outlaws, and others to pass more easily through the Waterpocket Fold.” 

Unexpected Surprises 

Great Deterrent

Adventure Dates:

  • March 28, 2018

Resources:

Links:

UT – Capitol Reef NP, Lower Muley Twist Canyon

I mentioned in my last post that Joan and I decided to immerse ourselves in Capitol Reef National Park. To us, on this day, that meant since we hiked the Upper Muley Twist Canyon Loop, we would also need to hike the Lower Muley Twist Canyon Loop. According to the NPS, “the highlight of the hike is a deep, narrow, twisting canyon with large alcoves.” 

The trailhead begins at “The Post.” Per the NPS website, “Dispersed/at-large camping with vehicles is prohibited within the park, including at or near trailheads. Dispersed/at-large camping is allowed on federal lands (USFS, BLM) adjacent to the park.”

Carrying our packs, we were a bit nervous about this warning on the NPS website. “The Post cutoff trail heads west from the parking area and climbs steeply up the Waterpocket Fold, providing panoramic vistas. Sections of the trail traverse steep slickrock with loose footing and severe exposure in several places. Use caution, especially on a particularly-exposed 100-foot (30 m) section, and especially if wet or icy conditions exist.” Oh well, I said to Joan we could always turn back. 

At one point Joan was ready to turn back. She wasn’t feeling great and exposure is not her strength. We stopped and she said we probably aren’t even 1/3 of the way. Since I was tracking our route, I looked at the map and found we were nearly done. She was in shock and might have done a little dance when we could mark that section complete.  Telling of the conditions might be the fact that we didn’t take any photos of the challenging traverse. 

She quickly refound her happy spot when she found early blooms to be photographed. 

Since this is more of a route than a trail, we were happy to find the junction. 

Per the NPS website, “large alcoves highlight this portion of the canyon. Here the Kayenta formation has been undercut, forming high overhangs. The canyon continues south for over 8 miles.” This was one of the highlights of this trip. The trail goes behind the big field of debris and through the alcove. 

A lot of time is spent walking the wash. 

The Cottonwood trees were just beginning to leaf out. 

One alcove has been used by travelers for many decades. This is known as “Cowboy Camp.” Current philosophy is anything older than 50 years is history vs graffiti. 

This was the oldest date I found. I believe I read this was a stopping point for the Mormon pioneers. 

This was some of the WOW geology we found. 

After finding our campsite, we had time to explore. Ah the freedom of going without a pack! 

We might have even found a few moments to relish the last of the sun which disappears early when you’re deep in a canyon.

In fact we walked up and down the canyon finding sun, enjoying it, then retreating for a bit more time with our friend. 

We roamed the slickrock and came upon this pool. 

I considered jumping, NOT! 

Home for the night . . . where I learned the lesson about wind and sand. Use the rain fly Jan!

And then that orange orb said goodbye for good. 

Per the NPS website, “Near the end of Lower Muley Twist is a high alcove, after which the canyon turns toward the east and becomes very narrow with high walls. At this point the high cliffs of Big Thomson Mesa are visible ahead.” 

The sun arrives late in the canyon just like it goes to bed early. 

After exiting the canyon, we took the detour to Hamburger Rocks before continuing our loop up Grand Gulch, an old road the Mormon pioneers finally discovered as a much improved option to the Muley Twist Canyon. 

Joan might have been a little excited for a hamburger. 

Soon enough it was time for the hamburger challenge. 

Where there are hamburgers, there must also be rootbeer floats. Joan is eagerly awaiting completion and reward. 

We can attest that the detour was well worth our time. According to NPS, “these are small, dark-red hoodoos within the Navajo sandstone.”

Next detour was Muley Tanks. Since Joan and I have hiked a fair amount in the desert we didn’t know what to expect. Would it be a metal tank where we’d need to climb a ladder like we did on the Arizona Trail? Or would it be a mud pond like we found on the Continental Divide Trail? Would it be a cattle trough?

Yes, we might have said WOW! 

After Muley Tanks, we had pretty high expectations of Cottonwood Tank. 

I think Joan has just about perfected this relaxation thing. 

I love finding survey markers. 

It was end of another fab adventure and time to sign in on the trail register. We survived and lived to tell about it! 

The reward, car camping and a hot dinner. 

Joan camped in a dry wash protected from the wind while I slept in my car. 

But first we watched sunset and the full moon rise from the comfort of my car. 

Adventure Dates:

  • March 26-27, 2018

Tips:

  • According to NPS, “The route not an official, maintained trail. It is marked with rock cairns and signs, but carrying a topo map is recommended. Route conditions, including obstacles in canyons, change frequently due to weather, flash floods, rockfall, and other hazards. Route finding, navigation, and map-reading skills are critical. Do not rely solely on unofficial route markers such as rock cairns which are not maintained by NPS. It is extremely hot in summer and water sources are unreliable.”
  • Free backcountry permits are required for all overnight trips and can be obtained at the Visitor Center.
  • Obtain a copy of the trail handout at the Visitor Center. It has tips about the POI’s as well as trail beta.
  • Be aware of biological soil crust. 

Resources:

Links:

UT – Capitol Reef NP, Upper Muley Twist Canyon

In my opinion there’s nothing that defines Capitol Reef more than the Navajo Knobs you see along Notom Road. They really appeal to me and each time I see them, it’s a WOW moment. 

REWIND: After hiking to Upper Calf Creek Falls in Grand Staircase-Escalante, I continued my drive north on Highway 12 before turning west on Highway 24 where I found myself at Capitol Reef National Park. Although it was late in the day and I wouldn’t be able to visit, I was excited to spend the night dispersed camping off Notom Road where I could feast my eyes upon one of my favorite geologic features which I call Navajo Knobs. Last spring I spent a few days enjoying this area (link to related post). 

The next morning, the sun’s golden glow warms the knobs. But all too soon it was time to continue my travels to Moab.

This was a special day. It was time for another J&J adventure with my bestie Joan. 

After discussing several options, we decided to spend time immersed in Capitol Reef National Park. First on the list was Muley Canyon, a place I’ve dreamed of since first crossing the Waterfold Pocket several years ago. Last spring, my blog post said “one day I’d like to come back and hike the Muley Twist trails.”

Look at that beautiful monocline. During my trip last spring I took a lot of photos and wrote a bit about the geology of the Waterpocket Fold (link to related post).

If you can’t hike the fold, driving through the fold on Burr Road provides many WOW views. 

According to the NPS handout, “Upper Muley Twist Canyon cuts lengthwise along the spine of the Waterpocket Fold creating a colorful, meandering canyon. The Navajo and Wingate sandstone layers are exposed here, tilted by the uplift and folding of the Earth’s crust and sculpted by millions of years of erosion. The Wingate, stripped of its protective Kayenta cap rock, has eroded into unusual forms including many large arches. Highlights of the hike are narrow canyons, expanses of slickrock, large arches, and dramatic vistas from the top of Waterpocket Fold.”

Walking the road toward the Upper Muley Twist Trailhead, we quickly spotted the first POI, Peek-A-Boo Arch.

Second POI, Double Arch.

According to the WOW guidebook, “Strike is a geological term for the axis of the fold.”

Looking down at Waterpocket Fold, Strike Valley, and the Henry Mountains. So much yummy geology!

Those are my Navajo Knobs in the far distance. 

Looking the opposite direction. So many shapes, colors and textures. 

Soon enough it was time to get serious and start hiking the canyon. 

We didn’t get very far before we found our first distractions. 

There were many arches to be spotted along the way including this one, Saddle Arch. 

One of the most exciting finds was petrified wood. 

This photo shows how everything is tilted. 

It’s quite a transition from the wash to the rim. 

What’s easy for long-legged Joan, becomes quite a challenge for short-legged Jan. 

Made it to the rim! Joan couldn’t help but being a little overwhelmed looking at the Henry Mountains, a place she’s dreamed of visiting.

We were excited to find water in the pockets of Waterfold Pocket. 

It was a very windy day on the rim, but oh those views made every minute a joy. 

The geology is beyond words. 

What do you do when you’re in Muley Twist country? Why of course you twist and shout!

As we worked our way through the canyon, it was impossible not to imagine what it was like for the Mormon Pioneers who traveled through with their wagons. According to the NPS, “From 1881 to 1884, the canyon served as a wagon route for Mormon pioneers traveling south toward San Juan County. The canyon was though to be narrow enough to “twist a mule”, hence the name Muley Twist.” 

Adventure Dates:

  • March 24-25, 2018

Tips:

  • According to NPS, “The route not an official, maintained trail. It is marked with rock cairns and signs, but carrying a topo map is recommended. Route conditions, including obstacles in canyons, change frequently due to weather, flash floods, rockfall, and other hazards. Route finding, navigation, and map-reading skills are critical. Do not rely solely on unofficial route markers such as rock cairns which are not maintained by NPS. It is extremely hot in summer and water sources are unreliable.”
  • Free backcountry permits are required for all overnight trips and can be obtained at the Visitor Center.
  • Obtain a copy of the trail handout at the Visitor Center. It has tips about the POI’s as well as trail beta.
  • Be aware of biological soil crust. 

Resources:

Links:

UT – Capitol Reef NP, Waterpocket Fold Monocline . . . through my lens

There is nothing quite like a morning greeting from the orange orb. Today I’d be saying goodbye to Holly. We had such a great week of fun and adventure, hiking Bell and Little Wild Horse Canyons in San Rafael Swell, Horseshoe Canyon in the Maze District of Canyonlands, Natural Bridges National Monument, and the Sundance Trail in Dark Canyon Wilderness

Heading back to civilization. 

Gotta love the Utah red dirt. 

I spent a few hours in Hanksville getting ready for the next leg of my journey. It was a wet, wild, windy night. The wind continued the next day so I was happy for a day of sightseeing, including a visit to historic, Wolverton Mill

Back on the familiar roads of Capitol Reef National Park where I spent some time in 2016 (link to related post). 

My favorite feature in the Park are the Navajo Knobs of Waterpocket Fold. 

There is a lot of geologic variety in the area.

As I was wandering around, I found these unusual pieces. I’m guessing reef from an old seabed? 

This adventure was to be more about exploration and photography than hiking. With that in mind, we set up base camp on BLM land off the Notom-Bullfrog Road. My adventure buddy Trish not only had a Jeep to aid in our exploration but a Taj Mahal tent. This is glamping at it’s finest! 

Meanwhile I was happy to luxuriate in my car while enjoying this sunrise view. 

We stopped many times along Notom-Bullfrog Road for photos and walkabouts. 

Then we found my second favorite part of Waterpocket Fold.

A drive south along the Notom-Bullfrog Road offers views of the Waterpocket Fold. The monocline, or one-sided uplift of the Earth’s crust, is a premier example of the bending and folding of rock layers. The Waterpocket Fold is notable for its great length of multiple layers of exposed and carved colorful sedimentary rock. The monocline extends from Thousand Lake Mountain in the north to Lake Powell in the south.

Crustal pressure reactivated an ancient buried fault deep within the Earth, causing the overlying sedimentary rock layers to uplifted and folded. Today this monocline appears as a steep slope that ends in an abrupt cliff line. The east side of the Fold is tilted as much as 60% from the normal horizontal which caused accelerated stream erosion to occur. An estimated 7,000 feet (2,134 m) of overlying rock has been eroded away since the formation of the Fold, 60 million years ago. The west side, or escarpment face, is a near vertical cliff line and a formidable barrier to travel.

Geological features provide a source of park names. The vast expanse of white Navajo Sandstone atop the sloped side of the monocline is dotted with numerous natural tanks or potholes that collect rain water, contributing the name “Waterpocket” Fold. Navajo Sandstone domes resemble the Capitol building, hence the name “Capitol.” Many early prospectors were former sailors who likened the vertical cliffs of Wingate Sandstone to a barrier common in nautical travel: a “Reef.” Source: NPS

This looks like a mound of brains.

Views of snow-topped Henry Mountains were interspersed with colorful rocks. 

One day I’d like to come back and hike the Muley Twist trails, but this day we turned down into Burr Canyon to connect to the Burr Trail Road. 

We found a little snow!

We found trees. 

Back in camp to enjoy my favorite vista. 

And watch another sunrise. 

The next day we took the short hike to Hickman Bridge Overlook. 

The surrounding views are pretty incredible. 

As are the macro details. 

Soon I found myself saying goodbye to Trish and Capitol Reef NP. I’ll see you both again! 

Then I was off to find my home for the night, nestled between the Bears Ears. 

It was a great place to watch storm activity. 

Adventure Dates:

  • March 23-25, 2017

Links:

Resources:

Important Note:

Please remember to turn off location services or automatic geotagging when photographing rock art or other heritage sites- especially if you plan to post your photos in social media. Avoid showing the horizon or identifiable features in the background that would help people navigate to the area. Better yet- only post photos of public archaeology sites. Those sites can generally be identified by the presence of interpretive signs or appear in materials distributed by the land-managing agency. While remote and little-known sites may no longer protected by being difficult to find, easily accessible sites have been targets of vandalism for decades. Public education is our best defense- please spread the word: rock art (both prehistoric and historic), structures, and archaeological deposits are wonderful to visit but impossible to replace when they are damaged or destroyed. Please enjoy these treasures, but don’t destroy them. Source: Utah Heritage Stewardship Program

UT – Capitol Reef – Navajo Knobs Trail . . . 360 degree views, yes please

After a morning spent exploring Burr Trail and Grand Wash Roads, I was ready to stretch my legs. As a first time visitor to Capitol Reef, I pulled out my trusty WOW Guidebook and consulted with the staff at the Visitors Center to find a suitable hike. This 10 mile, 2400′ gain/loss trek sounded perfect. I especially liked that it began with the ascent, and hey who doesn’t like destination hikes with 360 degree views?

You may have to fight your way through the tourist crowd to reach this junction, but no worries as the majority have their sights set on Hickman Bridge. A very small percentage hike to the overlook. On this date I only saw a couple of people between this junction and the overlook, and didn’t see anyone the rest of the way. 

Aptly named Golden Throne to the left, Pectols Pyramid to the right, and Henry Mountains far in the distance.

Or maybe this is the Golden Throne?

Much of the hike is on long flat slabs ramping gently upwards.

Nature’s sidewalk. 

Loved walking these ramps. Favorite photo!

From the overlook, it’s a long ways down to Fruita and yet only halfway up to Navajo Knobs. 

The colors of geology.

The textures of geology.

I even found a little petrified wood.

Much of the trail is marked by cairns.

Are you the knobs? 

A bit more climbing and you see the first views of the knobs. 

Knobs here, knobs there, knobs everywhere. 

Want to live in this little house with me? 

A cool secret passageway. 

The final stretch might be outside the comfort zone for some but even if you elect not to do this final climb, the views to this point are worth the effort. 

The 360 views from the top are incredible.

Looking down at Fruita. 

As if this hike wasn’t already a winner, add a few blooms and this gal is even happier.

Silvery Townsendia (Townsendia incana)

Claret Cup (Echinocereus triglochidiatus)

Fossil? 

It was about 7pm when I finished the hike. I stopped at the Visitor Center to use the restroom and grab some water before finding a place to camp. Just as I got out of my car, hands full of water jugs, I heard a familiar roar and quickly turned around to find this rockfall avalanche. I hurriedly opened my car door and grabbed my phone to capture this photo. Video would have been amazing. The dust plume seemed to take forever to settle. I shared this photo with the Park and it’s now part of their educational materials.
Date(s) Hiked: April 7, 2016

Road Trip Day(s) #48 out of 88

Tips:

  • Plan for about a 10-mile round trip, 2400′ elevation gain/loss hike.
  • Burr Trail Road is worth exploration. I recommend a late afternoon drive when light for viewing the geology is far superior to morning.
  • If you like slot canyons and petroglyphs but aren’t up for a hike, Grand Wash Road offers both from the comfort of your car.

Resources:

Links: