Nine Days in Capitol Reef

Ron Diel

Member
Joined
Apr 3, 2014
Messages
10
In late April into early May I decided to take advantage of a break between projects to head West to Utah for a nine-day camping / photography trip. On a trip about a year before, my wife and I had driven from Bryce to Moab on the insanely scenic Highway 12 / 24 route, which took us through Capitol Reef National Park. We were blown away by what we saw, but had little time to stop and appreciate the Park. My wife couldn’t join me this time due to work requirements, but I decided to return to Capitol Reef to really see what is there.

Six of the nine nights were spent in a tent, three in the Fruita campground, one in the Cathedral Valley campground, one near the Temples of the Sun / Moon, and one in the Cedar Mesa campground. The settings were great, but the temperatures were well below average with lows in the 20s and a couple of nights with high winds. Luckily, my gear was adequate to the challenge.

To get a campsite, you have to get to the Fruita site by noon or so even in April but the other two were sparsely populated at that time.

Starting from the Fruita site, I explored the central section of the Park. The photos in the first group were taken around on various trails during those days, with each shot described along with the corresponding image below:

_CRNP - Diel CNTR 01 s.jpg

The Castle, a rock formation visible from Highway 24 and the Visitor Center

_CRNP - Diel CNTR 02 s.jpg

A hoodoo in Cohab Canyon, a trail accessible from the Fruita Campgrounds.

_CRNP - Diel CNTR 03 s.jpg

Hickman Arch, accessed via a trail originating along Highway 24.

_CRNP - Diel CNTR 04 s.jpg

Cassidy Bridge, which can be reached by taking the Frying Pan trail which interconnects with the Cohab Canyon Trail. The bridge was named after Butch Cassidy, who may have hidden out in this area back in the day though the tentative wording I saw in a few places makes me suspect that this was at best apocryphal and at worst marketing hype.

_CRNP - Diel CNTR 05 s.jpg

Farm and house from the Gifford Homestead, one of the family farms established in the area long before it became a Park. There is a store in the house which sells some great baked goods, including six-inch pies that make a great lunch if you plan to hike off the calories during the afternoon.

_CRNP - Diel CR 00 s.jpg

Chimney Rock, a formation near Highway 24 where it enters the Park. One trail ascends the formation behind Chimney Rock to give you a view from above; this image was taken from the back as the trail re-emerged prior to ending back at the parking area.

_CRNP - Diel CR 01 s.jpg

A mesa in the valley behind Chimney Rock viewable from the trail, which can be seen leading toward the mesa.

I next moved on to Cathedral Valley. To explore the Valley you drive around a 57 mile sometimes rough 4WD road that takes you North from Highway 24. Parts aren't bad, but the section near the campsite seems to be made up mostly of 8-inch rocks that shake your car pretty fiercely. Due to repeated photo opportunity stops, I spent most of three days completing the loop with a stop at the campgrounds and an overnight near the Temples of the Sun and Moon.

Although the Park doesn’t give permits to camp near the Temples, they advise you that the boundary of the Bureau of Land Management property is only a mile away and there is no restriction on camping there. Being able to stay nearby overnight was important to me since I planned to capture sunset, sunrise and star shots in this area so I didn't want to have to hike or drive too far away.

The shots from the Cathedral Valley loop drive are included below:

_CRNP - Diel CV 00 s.jpg

The rusted-out cab of an abandoned water drilling truck that you pass on the way into Cathedral Valley. This was captured as three bracketed shots that were manually balanced and merged in Photoshop (I tried PhotoMatix Pro and automated Photoshop HDR tools, but it came out looking like a sic-fi prop).

_CRNP - Diel CV 00a s.jpg

The Bentonite Hills that you also pass on the way into the Valley. These were formed from clay that resulted from volcanic activity back in the days of the dinosaurs. The gentle, smooth slopes are a contrast to the sharp angles and steep cliffs that mostly make up the Park.

_CRNP - Diel CV 01 s.jpg

A first view of rock formations in the Lower South Desert section of the Valley. This and a couple of the other images seemed to lose a lot of their red tones as they were uploaded - I guess there is a color space / mapping issue that I need to investigate...

_CRNP - Diel CV 01a s.jpg

A closer view of some of the Lower South Desert formations - this seems to have kept its color better.

_CRNP - Diel CV 02a s.jpg

A closeup of Jailhouse Rock, the large formation on the right of the firstLower South Desert shot above.

_CRNP - Diel CV 03 s.jpg

A final image from the Lower South Desert area - weak color again.

After visiting these formations, I drove on to the Cathedral Valley campground where I overnighted. The next morning I captured some images near the campsite and in Upper Cathedral Valley, which haven't been processed yet, and proceeded on to the Lower Valley.

_CRNP - Diel CV 04 s.jpg

The Temple of the Sun in the Lower Cathedral Valley area. On this one I took out the color (using Silver Effex Pro). Just channeling my inner Ansel as we all must do from time to time.

_CRNP - Diel CV 05 s.jpg

Sunset capture of The Temple of the Moon. The two temples are close together; this shot and the black and white image above were taken from the same hill behind the Temples. The Temple of the Sun is the larger of the two by a considerable margin. By the time I took these, the other two cars that came through during the afternoon had left and there was no sign of humanity (other than the dirt roads and three small wooden signs) within view, and you could see a very long way from that hilltop.

_CRNP - Diel CV 06 s.jpg

The Milky Way and stars behind the Temple of the Sun. This shot was my number one goal in visiting this area of the Park. I brought along a 24mm f/1.4 lens and a 5D Mark iii to be able to capture this quickly enough to mostly freeze the stars while getting enough light to show the Milky Way. There is a little motion that you can see at full size, and a couple of small streaks that may be planes or meteors (or satellites?).

Based on advice from the Rangers, I adjusted my schedule to have a clear night, which clearly worked out as you can see (and I also benefitted from the 25 degree low which both made it even clearer and eventually mad my feet numb and from the fact we were within one day of the new moon). Over and above timing, this is a very dark area in general - there was probably no one within 15 or 20 miles when I took the shot, and the nearest town is more like 30 miles away (and has under 200 residents). It was a hassle in some ways getting the image but I feel it was worth it. I also really enjoyed the quiet and sense of solitude you get being in a place like this; it's a very different feel than the everyday atmosphere back here in NYC.

_CRNP - Diel CV 07 s.jpg

Temple of the Sun at sunrise, from a hill on the other side of the Temples.

_CRNP - Diel CV 08 s.jpg

Temple of the Moon, also at sunrise from the same hill.

Finally, I headed South from Highway 24 to visit the Waterpocket District. I followed the Notom-Bullfrog Road down to camp at the Cedar Mesa campgrounds and then proceeded onto the Burr Trail Road to get to a trail where I could get an overlook of the Waterpocket Fold that gave rise to this Park.

A few shots from the the Southern part of the Park are included below:

_CRNP - Diel R 00 s.jpg

Waterpocket Fold, looking North - you have to drive all the way down the spine of this valley to get here from highway 24. This fold, which resulted from two continents colliding long ago, is geologically significant and was one basis for identifying the Park itself as important to preserve. In person this appears as distinctive as it seems in these shots - you can tell that some extraordinary force was needed to create a seam as large and uniform as the fold.

_CRNP - Diel R 01 s.jpg

The Waterpocket Fold looking South. I also did a pano that combines these views with some central views, but I'll never get it past the image size limits on bits.

_CRNP - Diel FR 01 s.jpg

Entrance to a Canyon on the front side of the Southern part of the Park.

_CRNP - Diel FL 01 s.jpg

Desert cactus flower brought out by rain we got on my third day here. I saw a variety of wild flowers during the trip, along with some mule deer, marmots, and the occasional lizard (as well as a number of birds). Otherwise, the desert conditions limited the number of animals and plants in the Park - another factor on the quiet that descended when the wind died down. There are reportedly a few mountain lions in the Park, but they're rarely seen and tend to be around the areas where the deer feed.

Overall I was delighted with this trip. The timing was good – the crowds were very light on most trails since it was early in the season and, though a touch chilly, the temperatures were highly preferable to the 100+ temperatures you’d find here in the summer. The Park itself is amazing: very large, lots of good trails, more photographic opportunities than I could take advantage of during nine days, and the fewest people of any of the Utah National Parks. And, as usual, the Park Rangers were very well informed, very helpful, and always friendly.

I plan to go back, perhaps during the fall to get fall colors (and again avoid the temperatures of the summer).

Featured image for home page:
slide.jpg
 

Laura

freespirittraveler
Joined
Oct 1, 2012
Messages
957
Great trip and awesome pics. I especially like the B&W of the Temple of the Sun and the sunset shot of Temple of the Moon. And of course the Milky Way pic is spectacular! I'll be going there in the fall, too, can't wait!
 

Bob Palin

Killer
Joined
Feb 9, 2012
Messages
159
Butch Cassidy was certainly in the area but nobody really knows for sure exactly where he went and hid out. He was born and grew up near Capitol Reef (Beaver) in an immigrant English Mormon family. It was recently discovered that some of his relatives are buried in the Fremont cemetery and there is a thought that he might be too, there seems to be considerable doubt that he actually died in Bolivia. He's related to Charles Dickens and it's possible that his father was the model for Oliver Twist. (I rarely get this story in during my back country tours!)
 

Ron Diel

Member
Joined
Apr 3, 2014
Messages
10
Butch Cassidy was certainly in the area but nobody really knows for sure exactly where he went and hid out. He was born and grew up near Capitol Reef (Beaver) in an immigrant English Mormon family. It was recently discovered that some of his relatives are buried in the Fremont cemetery and there is a thought that he might be too, there seems to be considerable doubt that he actually died in Bolivia. He's related to Charles Dickens and it's possible that his father was the model for Oliver Twist. (I rarely get this story in during my back country tours!)

Thanks, better / more detailed information than I was able to get while preparing or while there.
 

Eric O

Member
Joined
Apr 12, 2014
Messages
175
WOW! Fabulous pictures! What camera did you use to capture such brilliant colors and contrast?

Edit: I answered my own question by reading with comprehension. 5D Mark iii - WOW, way out of my price range. Again, thank you for the report!
 

Ron Diel

Member
Joined
Apr 3, 2014
Messages
10
WOW! Fabulous pictures! What camera did you use to capture such brilliant colors and contrast?

Edit: I answered my own question by reading with comprehension. 5D Mark iii - WOW, way out of my price range. Again, thank you for the report!

It is pricey, but some basic Lightroom and Photoshop post processing probably had more to do with the colors and contrast in most of the images I posted. I probably did need the high ISO capabilities of my camera for the darkest image in the three shot composite I used to get the interior of the drilling truck cab and the overnight Milky Way image by the Temple of the Sun. Even for the truck a longer exposure might have done it, but for the star shot you couldn't lengthen it without starting to get noticeable star trails - unfortunately, that shot is just inherently expensive (not just the 5D but also the lens). On the other hand, it was amazing just to stand and look at that sight out in the darkness of CRNP - in fact I probably value that more than the shot itself, which doesn't do it justice.
 

owyhee

Member
Joined
Apr 15, 2014
Messages
18
I am heading to Capital Reef next week - I really appreciate the preview! I am not a photographer (just have my phone) but I love seeing the quality photos on this site. Thank you!
 

Bob Palin

Killer
Joined
Feb 9, 2012
Messages
159
WOW! Fabulous pictures! What camera did you use to capture such brilliant colors and contrast?

Edit: I answered my own question by reading with comprehension. 5D Mark iii - WOW, way out of my price range. Again, thank you for the report!

Asking someone what camera they used to get such great pictures is like asking a chef what stove they used to make such a great dinner. While there are technical advantages to the higher end cameras they are often in marginal or specialized situations. You can take amazing pictures in many conditions with a 'lesser' camera and in good conditions you can take pretty good pictures with a lot of phones. If you are not going to make huge prints most cameras these days are very good.

I don't say this to belittle Ron's pictures at all, they're great, but to encourage you not to think that you can't do really good things with a lower priced camera. In most cases a picture is made by the photographer not the equipment.

This picture was taken with my phone, Samsung S4

Spring Flowers, Caineville, 15th May 2014 (1) by Bob Palin, on Flickr
 

owyhee

Member
Joined
Apr 15, 2014
Messages
18
Asking someone what camera they used to get such great pictures is like asking a chef what stove they used to make such a great dinner. While there are technical advantages to the higher end cameras they are often in marginal or specialized situations. You can take amazing pictures in many conditions with a 'lesser' camera and in good conditions you can take pretty good pictures with a lot of phones. If you are not going to make huge prints most cameras these days are very good.

I don't say this to belittle Ron's pictures at all, they're great, but to encourage you not to think that you can't do really good things with a lower priced camera. In most cases a picture is made by the photographer not the equipment.

This picture was taken with my phone, Samsung S4

Spring Flowers, Caineville, 15th May 2014 (1) by Bob Palin, on Flickr
Thanks for the encouragement - I am looking forward to some spectacular sights. Maybe I'll capture a few. At least enough to bore my children!
 
Similar threads
Thread starter Title Forum Replies Date
tropicalwanderer YNP : 8/31-9/7 : Heart Lake to Nine Mile via CDT, South Boundary and Thorofare Trip Planning 9
Udink Nine Mile Canyon XIV: Warrior Ridge Hiking & Camping 4
Udink Nine Mile Canyon XI Hiking & Camping 0
Udink Nine Mile Canyon VII: Awesome! Hiking & Camping 5
Udink Nine Mile Canyon VI: Big, Big Sheep Hiking & Camping 0
IntrepidXJ Nine Mile Canyon Tour Hiking & Camping 4
Udink Nine Mile Canyon V Hiking & Camping 5
Udink Nine Mile Canyon IV Hiking & Camping 2
Udink Nine Mile the Third Hiking & Camping 8
Udink Nine Mile Canyon, Round Two Hiking & Camping 2
Udink Nine Mile Canyon Hiking & Camping 6
IntrepidXJ Fall in Nine Mile Canyon Hiking & Camping 3
Antlerking Nine Mile Photography 2
WasatchWill The High Uintas 4-4-4: Four Basins, Four Passes, Four Days Backpacking 13
J A few days in Mojave National Preserve Dec. 5-7, 2020 Hiking & Camping 9
J N. Mojave Desert Rambles and Scrambles (start of 40 desert days) Nov. 14-20, 2020 Hiking & Camping 4
LarryBoy Five Days on Boulder Mountain Backpacking 5
Hiker Seth A few days in Baxter SP Backpacking 5
wildwesthikes 9 Days Solo Escalante Loop in October (water advice) - Stevens Canyon, Baker Route over Waterpocket fold, Halls Narrows to Moody Canyons Trip Planning 11
norwegianxplorer Summiting Mount Whitney from Guitar Lake, 6 Days backpacking the Sierra before the Creek Fire closed everything down. Backpacking 5
Happyidiot 4 Days In The Winds Backpacking 10
M 5 days Green > Elk Wind River route advice August 17th Trip Planning 9
balzaccom Five days in Yosemite Backpacking 2
TrailScot 10 days in The Maze - April 2019 Backpacking 20
NorthwestWanderer 3 days in Idaho/Oregon's Hells Canyon: Pittsburgh Landing to Willow Creek Backpacking 2
pstm13 HELP NEEDED- Idaho in Early June for 2-3 Days Trip Planning 6
U Any recommendations for 5 days hiking in Wyoming, Idaho or MT? This is around July 15-20. Not counting on Glacier being open Trip Planning 9
C Days of Old General Discussion 14
JBPHXAZ Suggestions for 4-5 days Backpacking in the Southwest Trip Planning 2
fossana A taste of the GR11: 6 Days on the Travesía Pirenaica (High Pyrenees, Spain) Backpacking 18
TeamJenkins17 Few days in Glacier August 2019 Hiking & Camping 0
Mikjik86 8 Days Backpacking Dark Canyon Wilderness Backpacking 2
TractorDoc Three Days at Mount Rainier in late July. Hiking & Camping 10
2eez4life 4 days in the Sawtooths Backpacking 6
NorthwestWanderer 6 Day backpacking trip in Glacier Peak Wilderness (3 days of off trail route) Backpacking 9
misSOULa Six days in the Bob Marshall Wilderness: The Chinese Wall and White River Backpacking 15
Dreamer Wind River Dreaming | Summer 2014 the first few days July 9 - 14 Backpacking 5
RyanP Kane to Bullet in 4 days? Trip Planning 8
J Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, UT-AZ Backpack: April 26-29, 2019: Days 2-4 Paria River Backpacking 3
balzaccom Rainy days in Death Valley Hiking & Camping 3
Mikjik86 Halls Creek Loop. 2 Days, or 3? General Discussion 6
Scott Chandler A Few Days in Yosemite Hiking & Camping 6
JDWalters Three days in Utah/Arizona Hiking & Camping 12
Born to Hike Backpacking Northern Windriver Range, solo 60+ miles, 5 days, mid September 2018 Backpacking 17
W 3-4 days in the Sawtooths, first week of June 2019 Trip Planning 16
Mikjik86 Backpacking Coyote Gulch, 3 Days, 2 Nights- October 2018 Backpacking 2
DuneElliot 3 Days on the PCT, WA: June 2018 Backpacking 0
Boognish Four days in the High Sierra Backpacking 10
Scott Chandler The Chandler Family Get Together in Glacier 2018: Days 3 & 4 Hiking & Camping 1
Ben How many days have you been alone General Discussion 26

Similar threads

Don't like ads? Become a BCP Supporting Member and kiss them all goodbye. Click here for more info.

Top