Capitol Reef trips became special because my significant other has strong ties to the place. (For example, in the summer of 2015 he was almost caught in a flash flood while canyoneering near Cassidy Arch.) He was eager to share his love of the park with me, and there are few things I love more than people being passionate about their favorite national parks.
My first trip to Capitol Reef was President’s Day weekend 2016. The park was free that day, but apparently no one cared because things were practically deserted. I’m talking fewer people than I’ve ever seen at Canyonlands. I was quite surprised mainly because it was a 3-day weekend, though also because the park is closer to the Provo/Salt Lake areas than any of the other Utah parks.
The main hike of the February trip was to Cassidy Arch. This seems to be the hike of Capitol Reef. It’s not too strenuous and the payoff, for those who like to end on a great view, is well worth it. For someone like me who wants interesting views/things to look at on the way, it was also great. Though there were bits of snow around, it wasn’t enough to inhibit hiking in any way.
The second time at Capitol Reef was only a couple months later as Peter and I joined a group of friends on a 1-night camping trip. I’ve got strong opinions about hiking and camping with large groups of people (large meaning more than 5), so I was definitely apprehensive. The bigger the group, the more people there are to coordinate with and the more likely it is that I won’t be able to do things how I want/like. (Is that selfish? Most definitely. Will I be changing that attitude? Not likely.)
Peter is also somewhat particular about how hiking and camping should work; luckily for us, our ideas match pretty much all the time. But that just means other people have to deal with two fairly experienced outdoor lovers who have a lot to say on everything. (An overview of what we feel strongly about: Choose and research your hikes well before you get to the park; always wear wool socks; you always need more water; don’t sleep on the frozen ground; don’t take up the whole trail; have wool socks; change your clothes before bed; wear a hat to sleep; talk while hiking but don’t become a nuisance; did I mention the wool socks?)
The things we want everyone to do/not to do aren’t revolutionary and they aren’t exclusive to us, but compared to the majority of people we were around on the trip, Peter and I probably seemed overly prepared. To me, the things he’s passionate about seem completely normal and he feels the same about my hiking/camping passions. But I digress.
Camping and hiking with big groups is hard! And sometimes you can start to feel like you’re leaving people out if you want to go and do your own thing without consulting anyone else.
Both times in the park we did hikes around Hickman Bridge. The first time we actually went to the bridge.
The second time we just looked at the bridge from the Navajo Knobs trail, basically ditching everyone else in our group, something we ultimately decided there was no reason to feel bad about.
The neat thing about Capitol Reef is that it combines features from basically all of the other Utah parks. There’s something for everyone there. And for everyone to see what they want/like, they should get to hike at their own level and speed; for me and Peter that meant going on ahead to the Rim Overlook instead of stopping a little after passing Hickman Bridge.
There’s still so much to see in Capitol Reef and I’m sure Peter and I will be back at least a third time before 2016 is over. After all, neither of us has done the full Navajo Knobs trail or Golden Throne. I expect to rappel through Cassidy Arch as well. Considering it’s only 3 hours away, it would be wrong not to go back again and again.