Monday, November 14, 2011

Capitol Reef Trip 10-13 November 2011

This past weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the Capitol Reef Field Station, ran in conjunction with Utah Valley University and the National Parks Service.  The Field Station is located on a bluff near Pleasant Creek within the park, looking out between two mountains at a wonderful view of the beautiful Henry Mountains in Southern Utah. 

One thing that makes the station so unique is the fact that is is self sufficient for ta majority of its consumption needs.  It relies on a solar panel bank for it's electric needs, and can draw water from a local creek for water.  The buildings were designed to use passive solar to assist in the heating of the buildings, and they were able to stay 20-30 degrees warmer than outside temperatures without additional heating.  With a small propane heater, the buildings stayed quite comfortable for the time I stayed there.  Jane, the station caretaker, shared how the buildings use a passive cooling design with windows and heat towers in each of the buildings that allow them to remain cool even in the hot desert summers of Southern Utah, without any power to assist in the cooling.

Aside from the Field Station, there is so much to do and see within the Park.  A quick trip to the visitor center to learn about the local history, both prehistoric and modern, can give you a start.  A walk in the area of the visitor center can allow you to take in the views of the historic pioneer village and orchards.  If you visit in the main season, take a swing by the Ripple Rock Nature Center, especially if you have young ones with you.  There are a number of hikes in the area that you can take, and I won't share them all, because finding which ones to take is part of your job in planning your own adventures.

With my friends, we visited the petroglyphs carved by the Fremont Indians that are located near the road, as well as the historic Fruita School House.  A short way up the road, we parked at the trail head and went on a hike to Hickman Natural Bridge.  Carved by running water over thousands of years, it towers over the wash where it formed.  Our group took a few minutes after some scrambling to the top to reflect on the beauty and quiet that can only be found now in places like the national parks.

We also took the Cohab Canyon Trail, located near the visitor center, and had a wonderful time working on some basic canyoneering skills in a small side slot canyon.  After journeying a bit farther, we returned to the station.  The rest of the trip was involved in classwork and discussion, and some games at night.  I learned that some people have the odds to make it in Vegas at the poker tables, and that poker is not my game.  But the desert is defiantly my home, and I can't think what I will do if I had to live without the outdoors to refresh me.

Photos by the author

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