We left Moab headed West on US-191, passing right by Arches NP, where even in the morning the Park Service was turning grumpy motorists away at 10:00 AM because the park was full. We continued for an hour or so before re-joining I-70 where we merged into the Westbound lanes. Fortunately, we were only on I-70 for a bit over a hour before turning south on UT-24 toward Hanksville.
Again, we were treated to the amazing variety of Utah landscapes and colors, huge mesas, mountains initially on the East but eventually both sides of the road and even some wildlife since we spotted lots of birds and a deer. Another hour of pleasant touring and we arrived in Hanksville, a funny little place in a gorgeous basin. There is not much in the way of business here but right in the middle of town lives a guy that has turned almost every kind of hardware or machinery into sculpted assemblies resembling animals, dinosaurs, dreamcatchers and a variety of other fanciful characters. We parked in the shade of a big roadside tree and checked out all the critters and doodads in this guy’s ample front yard. No humans were in sight. There was a sign out front that proclaimed this place was entitled “Carl’s Garden.” Anybody traveling through Hanksville that misses this strange roadside attraction will know he has missed the road to Torrey and the magnificent Capitol Reef National Park about an hour West. We followed the road along the Fremont River into Capitol Reef, our favorite national park. The wind-and-water eroded geological structures here are extraordinary, extending from the road elevation to a couple thousand feet higher. It makes us feel truly insignificant when standing in this unique, spectacular place.
The park encompasses a huge feature called the Waterpocket Fold, from which no river leaves. When we visited Capitol Reef a few years back, we had our enormous, 12,000 pound fifth wheel trailer pulled by our two-wheel drive F-250, a true leviathan. However, weather changes quickly here and the road down the center of the Waterpocket Fold is not paved within the Park’s boundaries. Therefore, back then I was reluctant to venture out onto dirt roads extending for miles into wilderness while riding in a traction-challenged F-250 that weighs 8,000 pounds, probably being really stuck once skidding off the side of a muddy, lonely road. There are large sections of the Fold road composed of bentonite, a soil that turns from nearly rock to greasy snot in seconds when hit with rain. There is no cell phone service in the Fold.
This year, however, we were in an all-wheel drive vehicle weighing substantially less than our F-250 and we had come here to do what is referred to as “Looping the Fold.” We hope to get to that tomorrow but today we continued through the park to a place called The Broken Spur, our lodging for the next two nights. Despite requesting an accessible room, the desk staff indicated that there really ain’t any disabled rooms, a fact they had casually neglected to mention when queried about it when I made reservations. Again, we discovered puny toilets, no grab bars anywhere, abrupt curbs and dropoffs, almost plank-like and low beds but they do have a great ice machine and cable TV. The desk staff was nice but helpless and there is an onsite steakhouse where they offer a prime rib dinner, but not until tomorrow.
Instead, we went to a highly-touted burger joint called Capitol Burger. Upon arriving and checking out the short menu on the side of what was a food truck parked in a motel parking lot, I had my doubts about the place and their $10 burger prices but it turned out that their burgers were luscious and worth every cent. I wish they sold burgers near my house.