Across the Waterpocket Fold
When I passed through Capitol Reef for the first time in Spring of 2014, I knew very little about the park, and was wildly unprepared for what I would find. I arrived early in the morning and found an amazing camp site amongst the flowering apple trees of the Fruita District, and set out on what I thought was going to be an easy walk. I had spent the previous two weeks doing some particularly strenuous hiking, including a 24 mile hike through Canyonlands two days earlier, and wasn’t really in the mood for anything too taxing.
I passed through the orchards, taking pictures of cherry and apple blossoms in full bloom against a backdrop of red-rock sandstone walls, and stopped by the visitor center to browse the gift store and look at maps. I wandered past the old school house and up a short trail to Hickman Bridge, an impressive span just off the main highway through the park. From there I wandered down the road a bit to the Grand Wash, an aptly named canyon that has been likened to a dry version of the Zion Narrows, which I adored. When I reached the trail up to Cassidy Arch, I took it, thinking it would be the easiest way to loop back to my campsite.
What I wasn’t anticipating was the breadth and dynamism of the landscape once I got above the canyon floor. From on top of the Waterpocket Fold, a geologic upthrust that spans several hundred miles of central Utah, the world looks as if it’s been turned on its end, sloping down to the east in a disorienting way that makes you tilt your head to try and correct it.
This photo, looking south from just above the Grand Wash, is a perfect showcase for this tilted landscape. The striated sandstone patterns intensify the effect, as everything seems to point downward, in the opposite direction of where I needed to go.
It was another six miles before I reached my camp, my casual stroll had become a 17 mile hike with no water, and my legs were severely cramped from the lack of hydration. I collapsed into my tent when I made it back and drank multiple liters of water, grateful to be done with the hike but feeling like I’d had my eyes opened to a park I now consider one of my favorites. There’s so much to explore and discover in a park like Capitol Reef, and I look forward to my next trip there.