It seems the coronavirus pandemic has led to a resurgence in road trips, in particular to national parks, and that’s just what my dad and I set out to do as we made our way from Michigan to California in early October this year. For our road trip, we pretty much drove straight on through until we made it to Utah where the first national park on our list was located.
I hadn’t head of Capitol Reef National Park prior to this trip, but it certainly did not disappoint. Of the three we went to, this was the least crowded - a welcome environment in the middle of a global health crisis. Of course, driving into Utah alone will take your breath away. You’re instantly greeted by orange and red western landscapes that make you feel like you walked right into the Old West. Since we weren’t camping at the park, our main focus would be to hike and sight-see. For those who love hiking, I can’t recommend the parks out west enough. The weather is almost never a problem, though if you have a flexible schedule I’d recommend going in the Spring or Fall when it’s not quite so hot. If you’re not into camping outdoors, the nearby town we stayed in is called Green River. You can book a small hotel there if you choose to do so and then drive to the park.
When we got to Capitol Reef, the next step was deciding on which trail to take. Even for experienced hikers, the advanced ones can be difficult, so I’d recommend going with a moderate one. The great news is the parks usually provide a list of trails and how strenuous they are. If you’re worried a moderate one might not be challenging enough, trust me, you’ll still have a fantastic workout and not keel over in the process.
We choose to go with the Cohab Canyon Trail, one of the moderate ones. We were there around mid-day. It was warm, but not unbearably hot. That being said, be sure to pack some water. The first part of the trail was the most steep. After that is stayed pretty flat until we got to the part of the trail where we could climb to the top of the mountain for the view. I highly recommend doing this. It’s not hard to get further up there and the view is totally worth it. We even saw some prairie dogs and tiny green lizards running around up there as well. Very harmless. I promise, the lizards are actually kind of cute.
Coming back is pretty easy. The main thing you want to watch out for is loose dirt when going downhill. You can easily slip and possibly get hurt, so take it at a comfortable pace.
Unfortunately, my day had suddenly taken a turn for the worse after that hike. My dad and I had stopped to get outside the car and take pictures in another area of the park. I stupidly left my purse on the back of the car, only to forget about it as we drove off. 20 minutes later I realized my mistake and we hustled back as quickly as we could to the same spot but the purse was nowhere to be found. I was in a state of panic. The purse had my credit cards, license, extra set of car keys, and more. Thankfully, I had my phone with me, so that wasn’t also missing. We then went to the visitor center and asked the park rangers if anyone had turned it in. Nothing. I filled out a report in the event it was found, but the cynic in me figured all was lost. I called the bank immediately to cancel my credit cards.
Tired, hungry, and feeling helpless, I was in need of a fantastic dinner to ease the pain. That evening we stopped in a tiny town for dinner on the way to the next park. The town was so small that we didn’t even know what it was when we pulled in. Our goal for the week was to eat at local restaurants if we dined out, and we came upon a restaurant called Butch Cassidy’s Hideout. Thanks to the help of Google though, I was able to discover later on that this hidden gem is located in the town of Circle, Utah. My dad and I both had the roast beef dinner and oh my goodness it was so good! In addition to the roast beef, you get mashed potatoes, green beans, and a side salad (or soup if you opt for that instead). The salad alone was fantastic.
Coming up: Part 2 at Zion National Park and the good Samaritan who saved the day
About the author
Jill Zwarensteyn is a writer, comedian, and television producer who has been featured on Amazon, truTV, The New York Times, Matador Network, BUST Magazine, Tiplr, ARTRPRNR Magazine, YourTango, Thought Catalog, GoMad Nomad, Mashable, The Daily Mail UK, the Cannes Film Festival, LaughFest, Women's Lifestyle Magazine, and the Funny Women Festival LA. For more info visit: http://www.jillzwarensteyn.weebly.com