Sunday, January 18, 2004

We left for Capitol reef at eight thirty on Saturday morning. Happy to be on the road and trundling along, we stopped for a fishing license just in case we decided to toss hooks.

We wouldn't need the licenses, nor would we need our tackle.

Driving through the inversion, we watched the handy-dandy outside thermometer on Ryan's Explorer, and throughout much of the trip, it hovered around twenty degrees. The vista outside the glass box was bleak, haze and mist limiting visibility to a few miles at best.

As we ascended the last rise before Grass Valley and the Koosharem area, the fog began to break. Our relief was expressed through silent grins and reticent acknowlegments of good fortune, "Yeah, this is beautiful, sure is good to see the sun, but we probably won't be able to see very far even in the desert with this cursed inversion." We steeled ourselves for the worst, but as the temperature climbed above freezing in the six thousand foot plus elevation of Grass Valley, our hearts began to feel light in the possibility of desert warmth and sunshine.

Loa, Lyman and Bicknell in the Rabbit Valley at a little bit higher elevation than the Grass were cooler, but the sunshine was brighter and the haze less noticeable. We talked about the fishing spots close by. "If ya lived here, you could be to Deep Creek in less than twenty minutes," and "Could you imagine fishing the Boulder or Thousand Lakes weekly, or even daily?" Angling was still on our minds, it was always part of our happy banter and a rite of our journeys.

We passed through winter-quiet Torrey and began to descend into Capitol Reef. The thermometer rose with each minute. Thirty four, thirty six, thirty eight. As we sped through Fruita, also deserted by the gadfly pleasureseekers of the warmer seasons, we passed the forty degree mark. "It's gonna be perfect hiking weather for us!" Our joy was beginning to really show. Little did we know.

On the east side of the park, I pointed out to Ryan the local landmarks. Notom Ranch, the Henry Mountains, Bloody Hands Gap, Notom Bench. I started feeling apprehensive as we approached the end of the bench. The paved road was not ending as it had since being extended eight years earlier. It plunged down the bench and through Burro Wash. It kept on going. It was surreal to see the pavement where old washboard surrounded by mud and soil used to be. It went on quite a ways, mercifully ending before the road descended into Cottonwood Wash.

We went a bit further on the old dirt road just to feel the old friend's ways before turning around and back up to the bench. We stopped at the overlook to breath a few and so I could point out a few more significant places. There was Blue Flats to the north east, Thompson and Stephens Mesas to the southwest, Mt. Ellen, with Penellen Pass and Mt. Pennell further on. We could see far. The inversion and hazes of the lower valleys didn't affect this place, a high desert valley where only a few hardy souls dwell permanently. We were glad, as the land and air were rewarding us generously already.

We got into the truck and with some effort, partially due to the odd new road as well for the five years passed since the last time I was here, we found the turnoff. Down the rocky, rickety path we went until we could go no more without dumping the rig into the wash.

Ryan was getting excited. He leapt out of the truck, got his pack and was ready for the day's true journey. I knew he was really jazzed because he hadn't even mentioned fishing in over an hour, and his fishing pole was untouched in the car. He was thrilled by what he saw, and the anticipation was almost too much to contain as we trotted down the path into the wash below.

We hadn't gone more than twenty five yards when we started really noticing what we had come over one hundred and forty miles to see.

Soulquenching beauty.


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