Capitol Reef, Dinosaur and Colorado – May 2012

Took a trip over the Memorial Day weekend into Utah and Colorado. Not the best time of the year for travel – but needed to utilize the 3-day weekend to reduce the vacation days needed for a full week off.

Started on Saturday driving up to Capitol Reef and quickly found ourselves engulfed in a huge dust storm covering the bulk of the Southwest region. Conditions were terrible from Flagstaff all the way up to Capitol Reef with winds over 65mph and visibility down to feet in some sections. Passed on camping that night in favor a B&B in Torrey. The following day the weather was much improved and we were able to get into the Fruita campground in the park.

We spent Sunday touring the Waterpocket Fold area of the park – enjoying hikes into Headquarters Canyon and the Strike Valley Overlook. On our way back to the park via Boulder we ran into some folks stuck in deep sand just off the highway. Some bikers and another SUV had stopped to help but didn’t have the right equipment unfortunately. A quick, short pull with the winch took care of the situation. We returned to the park via South Pass Road – a 4WD trail that comes into the park via the south end of the scenic drive – very cool road that doesn’t seem to see much use.

Monday we toured Cathedral Valley, enjoyed a ranger talk on Fremont petroglyphs in the park and spend sunset at aptly named Sunset Point enjoying the twilight colors.

Tuesday we did a little more hiking in the park – visiting the Pioneer Register and Tanks in Capitol Gulch. On our way up to Vernal, UT we stopped in near Goblin State Park to hike Little Wild Horse Canyon – a popular non-technical slot canyon.

Wednesday we rafted a short, but spectacular section of the Green River – from Rainbow Park down to Split Mountain. The river flow was good and it was a small group with new guides getting some training in before the busy summer season really got started. Camping that night was at Echo Park – a very pretty campground down a very cool park road.

Thursday was a longer day than we wanted – touring the Yampa Bench road to enjoy the overlooks showcasing the Yampa River, followed by a trip back towards Vernal to check out the Dinosaur Quarry. And then down to Colorado National Monument.

Friday turned much hotter than anticipated with temperatures in the Monument easily topping 90 degrees.  So we spent the morning doing a tour of the Rim Road in the monument, followed by a miserably hot hike to Devil’s Kitchen and then headed for higher ground – moving down to Telluride, CO to get some elevation. After a quick shower we had a great dinner at Flora Dora Saloon and then took the Gondola up to Mountain Village for a drink at Tomboy Tavern.

Saturday we got up early to take a drive up Ophir Pass, which was very cool and well worth the trip. We’ll revisit this road in September as part of a Ouray-Telluride-Ouray loops. But on this trip we just got a little taste of the high-mountain passes in the area. The afternoon was spent rafting down the San Miguel River to Placerville. We had a great river guide and enjoyed the constant rapids and abundant wildlife and geological sights. Dinner was at the fabulous La Marmotte.

Sunday sadly brought the end of our trip – though we were able enjoy fabulous mountain scenery on the way south to Cortez.

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