Today we traveled a large clockwise loop, leaving Bryce in the morning and finishing the day in Tropic, UT. We headed north on US 89, which continued to parallel the Sevier River through a scenic valley. There was little traffic – just mile after mile of easy touring, smooth roads and beautiful farm country. We were thoroughly enjoying our time together on the bike, chatting occasionally on the intercom but otherwise content to simply be in the moment. We went as far north as Sigurd, then turned onto UT 24 and headed south toward Capital Reef. The weather was turning, with thunderstorms moving across the mountains to the southwest of us. We eyed the dramatic clouds wondering if we would escape the heavy rain that we could see pouring from them. Now we were both wishing that we had packed the rain liners instead of leaving them behind in the rental car at the hotel. Murphy’s Law. The rain caught us as we rode past the Koosharem Reservoir Recreation Site, but it didn’t last long and we both agreed that’s it’s part and parcel of the adventure.
We stopped for lunch at the Country Café in Lyman. There were 4 other bikes parked in front, so that was enough of a recommendation. We continued on and we were listening to some contemporary Christian music. As we headed east on UT 24, we crested a hill and saw the magnificent cliffs of Capital Reef National Park ahead of us just as Josh Groban was singing You Raise Me Up; “You raise me up so I can stand on mountains”. It was a perfect soundtrack as the park unfolded before us. It’s probably my most poignant memory of the trip.
We were struck by the uniqueness of each of the parks – Zion with it’s resolute cliffs, Bryce Canyon with it’s hoodoos that change color with the movement of the sun, the sheer red walls of Capital Reef. First I thought that Zion was my favorite, then Bryce, now Capital Reef. I had to admit to myself that I couldn’t assign the label of “favorite” to any of them. They are each unique.
We stopped at the western entrance of the park to take our “we were here” photo and got chatting with three ladies traveling together. They were from North Dakota and one of them was holding a life-sized face photo mounted on a stick. It turns out that this was their fourth friend Sally who didn’t like to travel and so when the other three traveled, they took her photo along with them and when they would take a group photo, they would hold up “Sally” so that she would be in the photo too. It seemed a little weird but thoughtful at the same time!
At the visitor center I gathered another passport stamp and pin for my collection, and then it was back on the bike to tour the park. Capital Reef is a large, long park and we saw but a small portion of it from the road. We rode the Scenic Drive from The Visitor Center to the end of the paved section. It goes through Fruita where there are still fruit tree orchards that Mormon settlers planted long ago. The road went up and down hills, around curves and through low washes. We turned around when the pavement ended and returned to the Visitor Center where we continued east. We stopped to view and photograph the petroglyphs, but the weather was beginning to look questionable again and it was late afternoon so we decided it would be wise get on the road and head to our next motel.
We backtracked to UT 12 and continued south to Tropic through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument which offers even more stunning views. I don’t remember exactly where it was – I think that it was as we approached Henrieville at the south end of the park – and the road went right across the top of a ridge. The ridge was only two lanes wide with sheer drop offs on each side. I felt like I was threading a needle. I think that my wife squeezed her eyes shut as she tightened her hold on me. Alas, there was no place to pull over for a photo. But what a spot that was.
Enjoy these photos.