Capitol Reef National Park
After stopping for breakfast in Moab, we headed out for Capitol Reef National Park. As we made the three hour journey southwest, it was interesting to witness the gradual change in landscape along the way. The mountainous terrain that we were leaving behind was striking for its tones of red rock, and muted tones of earth. As we tracked southwest, tones of red were gradually replaced with shades of sandstone brown.
More prominent were vast open fields of sandy terrain dotted with assorted low lying shrubs and modest rock formations that likely tumbled down from the mountainous range along the edges of distant view. The terrain became what could most be aptly be described as desert. Shades of green were few and far between, save for some patches of groundcover sprouting from the rock bed surface. This abruptly changed as we entered Capitol Reef National Park. Returning were shades of red rock and impressive stone facades and spires that have been such a predominant feature of our trip thus far. What was strikingly different is the valley of lush green vegetation we were entering. Deep green shrubs gave rise to leafy trees of varying heights, providing shade to the flowing stream bed below, part of the Fremont River.
Groves of fruit trees were seen thriving throughout the valley. This oasis was called home by early Mormon settlers who established a small yet active community while living off the abundance of this fertile land until the early 1940s. The settlers appropriately named the area, Fruita.
Continuing on through the park on scenic byways we began to appreciate other unique features of the area. One such path brought us deep in to the valley, along narrow passages framed by towering rock. Petroglyphs, encryptions carved in stone from the first settlers, could be seen along the way. Irregular porous indentations marked much of the rock surfaces, lending striking resemblance to coral reef; the reference to Reef in the name of the park now made sense. With the help of a guided audio tour, we came across Capitol Dome, a natural rock formation visible from many points in the park, which resembles the dome of the early Capitol building in Washington, DC. Our understanding of the nomenclature of this park was now complete.