Saturday, July 22, 2023

Not Even Not Traveling 39: Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef

After we arrived in the late afternoon to the national park, we stopped by its visitor center. Unfortunately, the building was closed and we couldn't get advice on trails. Outside the doors, we thumbed through the park guidebooks left out on display. Someone from the staff had printed them in a bunch of different languages. They were the most popular languages in the world. Except for one. A label on the display shelf read, 'Klingon.' 

We knew a guide in Klingon was probably a gag. I found it an attractive idea, though. I'll bet it would get more action than Dutch, for instance. Sadly, if someone had printed a real Klingon stack of guides, other tourists had snatched them up. The slot for them lay empty. 

There was no explanation we could see around us for the odd name of the park. As it turns out, though, I could look it up. The locals who created the site name Capitol Reef came at the concept from two angles.

Firstly, the white domes of sandstone in the area somewhat resemble the dome of the Capitol building in Washington, DC. You have position yourself for the right perspective and to squint a bit. Or you need a generous imagination. It's an odd thing to notice, regardless, but someone did.

Secondly, when prospectors came to the area, some of them arrived with nautical backgrounds. They didn't get rich but they stayed long enough to refer to an area now known as the Waterpocket Fold, which is an eighty-seven mile ridge in the earth's crust, as a reef. So a) something that gets in your way on the sea may be a reef and b) this ridge was getting in the way, therefore it was a reef. 

Apparently, folks then put the Capitol dome shapes and the ridge/reef term together. Now we're blessed with this park name that seems almost folk-ishly poetic and, ultimately, doesn't make any sense except as a warning marker that would be subtitled 'how people think.' 

That evening we planned our Capitol Reef hike and chose the Hickman Bridge Trail. Utah has a few natural bridges but this one was supposed to be among the best. Diane felt motivated by it. Plus, we could go early and probably avoid the crowds.

We had perfect timing at Hickman Bridge. There was no one ahead of us. Once or twice, we heard voices from behind. I'm slow, so I worried they would catch up while I was kissing rattlesnakes or whatever it was I was going to do (venture into a shallow cave, as it turned out). Fortunately, the people behind us broke their legs or something. They never did catch up while we were outbound to the natural bridge formation, not even when I insisted on scurrying under the shelves of rock that made the cute little cave.

If I had been eleven, I would have refused to come out. I'd have built a campfire and lived the rest of my life in the cave until someone called me to dinner.
  • Hickman Bridge: an impressive natural bridge but you can't climb it without ropes and pitons so why bother?
  • Tiny little kid-size party cave: excellent, bring a snack. 
On the way back, we met the entire world. (We're still passing some of the people and waving, I believe.) As I said, our timing was perfect. We got to recommend the highlights of the trail to many other hikers. I was able to instigate a dad with kids into exploring the campsite cave. Plus we saw forty or so lizards and what might have been eight extremely fast chipmunks, each a scurrying blur.

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