Turning right to Utah Highway 24 at Torrey, we drove through the center of Capital Reef National Park. The main feature of the park is the 100-mile-long Waterpocket Fold stretching from north to south. It is termed as a monocline by geologists. The red and cream colored Wingate and Navajo sandstone cliffs rise from the desert and created a fold in the Earth’s crust.
We couldn’t find a parking spot at the Visitor’s Center, so we only had a glimpse of the park. The 19th-century settlers planted fruit orchards at the base of the gigantic cliffs and named this little town Fruita. Fremont River runs east across the park. Civilizations are always established along the river. Pictographs and petroglyphs on the cliffs along the river are evidence of settlements of native Indians. The original schoolhouse stood silently at the foot of the towering cliffs. The schoolhouse also functioned as a church and the community center. It was the heart and soul of this tiny community.
Driving out of Capital Reef, the landscape started to become a badland with gray rock formations. If were not for the traffic on the road, we felt like driving through a moonscape of unfolding rolling gray hills. After Hanksville, highway 24 turns to north and cuts through San Rafael Desert.
Under the dramatic San Rafael Reef sits Goblin Valley State Park. Thousands of odd shaped rocks lay in the valley under a wall of cliffs. The strange landscape looks like Mars from the overlook. But when we went down to the valley, we felt like stepping into a playground. Those eroded soft sandstones have interesting shapes. Some look like little goblins, some resemble mushrooms, yet others seem like aliens. When the magic sun rays kissed the rocks, the brown colored goblins glowed with golden hues and alive. A standalone rock formation shapes like a dancing boy and girl surrounded by other dancing pairs. Who knows if they would have a party in the midnight?
It took millions of years to erode Entrada sandstones into these wonderful goblins. 170 million years ago, this area was an inland sea, now a desert with no lights within 10 miles. It has one of the darkest skies on earth. But the bright moon lit up the evening sky, and we didn’t have a chance to appreciate the dark sky. The heavy wind blew red sand across the campground. Everything in the trailer was covered with a layer of red sand. We also canceled the full moon walk due to the high wind.
Our brief visit of Capital Reef National Park and Goblin Valley State Park wrapped up our travel in amazing Utah.