If you could mix Sedona’s red rocks,
with Painted Desert’s colors,
and Zion’s canyon walls,
and Canyonland’s monoliths,
while also adding Arches’ arches…
in a geologic blender, then stir in one cup of Fremont River water,
top with orchard fruit,sprinkle in some petroglyphs,
and season with Mormon history,you would have a delicious National Park named Capitol Reef that few would ever taste. And that would be the greatest crime, because this is a four-course park that satisfies all the senses, and requires at least four days to consume all it has to offer.
And yet Capitol Reef stands out as a National Park that’s most in need of a publicist or a brand manager. For a park that has so much to offer, it defies logic that little more than 1 million visited last year. Maybe it’s the name. It’s connotation to Washington–as unpopular as politics are today–might have an impact. Or perhaps the mention of “Reef” confuses visitors who may mistakenly associate a park bordering on Utah’s shoreline. Either way, it’s time to re-imagine a name that befits this jewel.
A big regret when planning our itinerary through Utah was naively categorizing this park as “order-to-go” fare, when it clearly requires a more leisurely approach to appreciate all its hearty features and delicate nuances.
Our two days at Capitol Reef were full and varied. We hiked; we drove; we participated in ranger-led discussions; and we off-roaded. We also got caught in a flash flood just minutes after taking the scenic drive–with all the wash basins turning red from torrential run-off, stranding dozens of cars in the canyon until the rain ran its course.But we would not be detained. The truck’s high clearance and V-8 muscle was more than enough to plow through two feet of fast water, cutting a red swath through the wash, and a sending a bloody spray across my windshield and windows. The benefit of beating the waterfall gave us the road ahead to ourselves, as all the other cars were left behind in our wake.
Conveniently, the rain passed the moment we approached the Capitol Gorge Road,and coincidentally coincided with a Sirius-XM radio broadcast of Trump announcing the American withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord. It’s hard to relay the irony of negotiating the winding narrow passage between the canyon walls while listening to Trump rationalize his decision under the guise of job losses in front of a partisan Rose Garden rally. With every fractured sentence and every tired hyperbole, the crowd would erupt with enthusiastic applause, acknowledged by Trump’s demure, “Thank you, thank you.”
It seemed sacrilegious, listening to Trump’s politicized and pacified diatribe while zigzagging through the gorge and admiring nature’s wonders. Although the satellite signal would occasionally drift with the drive–interrupting the incongruity of his half-hour address–I was certain that Trump would never be discussing the benefits of tackling climate change, or consider the potential of adding green jobs that promote renewable energy.
The end of the Capitol Gorge Road fed into the Capitol Gorge Trail. Leaving the F-150 behind, we followed the gorge on foot,
tracing many generations of footsteps before us.These people left us a great treasure (discounting the grafitti–more on that later) to inspire us, but also assigned us a great responsibility to preserve and protect it so that future generations may also be inspired. Our legacy as moral and ethical humans relies on it. And our future as a planet depends on it.
And that’s when it dawned on me. Take Trumps’ tired mantra, and re-purpose it!
I hereby propose that Capitol Reef now be called “Tremendous National Park”!
What do you think?
* All photos posted are from Capitol Reef National Park. Any similarity to other National Parks is purely intentional.