We had breakfast and headed straight for Capitol Reef. It's a small park, a sweet little place nestled in a red canyon. It has the ruins of an early Mormon settlement, Fruita, and so the canyon is grassy and has orchards all over the place still. (Aside: I keep forgetting to mention it, but a lot of these parks/monuments have had orchards and/or gardens, which they let visitors pick from! It's some kind of unwritten rule I had no idea about but utterly approve of. We've already enjoyed grapes and a zucchini and an apple and a peach we got from Pipe Spring National Monument last week. These people- so generous. We had to pay for the self-pick apples at Capitol Reef but hardly complained).
Anyway, this park is very sweet and peaceful. We chose Capitol Gorge for our hike, (picked, embarrassingly, from the "easy" section of the hiking guide - we're just not ready for anything intense just yet. Too soon.) which turned out to be perfect. Capitol Gorge offered us a little bit of everything! There was the walk through the narrow slot canyon, good for me because I'm still mourning not doing The Narrows. Then there were the pioneer names carved into the rock, from interesting years like 1889 and 1896 and 1901 and 1911. Then there was the scramble over baking hot rocks looking for the (supposedly extant) "water tanks", apparently pools of water in the rock that catch rain water and don't dry all the way up, even in the summer. We teamed up with another couple about our parents' age (who called us "California" because we never actually told them our names, just where I was from) and even spreading out it took us almost an hour of hiking and exploring the rocks to find the tanks. The other couple eventually found them and showed us. And we felt SO COOL. I felt like I was in a Louis L'Amour book. His cowboys are always saving their own lives because they know where the water tanks are in the desert. And then they always fill their canteens before drinking (that's like Cowboy Rule #1).
Anyway, after the hike we visited a restored pioneer house in historic Fruita. There was the most interesting woven rug in progress, leaned against the wall, and between studying it and looking at some nearby books, I determined that rug weaving is to be my new hobby once we get settled. It was so beautiful. It was woven, but out of strips of fabric so it looked like a braided rug - I wish I could explain it. Colby promised to help me build the rudimentary loom, and I promised to furnish our house with beautiful handmade rug-art.
There was also a little country store in the little restored pioneer house, so obviously we had to try the homemade ice cream.
Then we drove to Canyonlands. We picked the "Island in the Sky" district for our visit, and bypassed "Horseshoe Canyon" much to my chagrin (as it houses what's advertised as the continent's best prehistoric art) due to lack of time, energy, and high-clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle.
The campground at Canyonlands was also full, so we had to RUSTLE up a campsite at nearby Horsethief Campground (get it? Rustle?) Okay, anyway, then we headed to nearby Dead Horse Point. It gave us a spectacular view. And I just exceeded my italics quota for this paragraph.
Dead Horse Point is pretty much a canyon "island" connected to the mainland by a "narrow neck of land" reminiscent of the land of Nephi. I guess cowboys used to herd wild horses onto it for a natural corral, which went well until as legend has it they left some horses out there and they died of thirst. Thus: Dead Horse Point.
Then we headed off to Canyonlands, for a tour of the overlooks and a picnic dinner at Upheaval Dome, the endpoint of the scenic drive. Canyonlands is so bizarre looking. Beautiful and dramatic, but weird.
And can I just say how sick I am of geology? I have had it about up to HERE. I had my fill after Ranger Emily taught deposition, uplifting, erosion and what-was-the-other-one at the Grand Canyon, and really beyond that I'm not interested. Unfortunately geology seems to be the only thing to really talk about in Southern Utah parks. I think it's much more interesting to talk about the recent history of the park - like when it was founded, and who discovered it, and how cowboys used to ranch cattle in it or whatnot. Instead, the dang NPS acts all put out when they tell about how over-grazing from the dang cowboys ruined the natural vegetation. Oh come on, they didn't know any better!
Okay, thanks, I've been needing to get that out.