We had covered so many miles in the first three days of our trip. At one point, we had six vehicles but we were down to only three at this point. We'd been over by Goblin Valley and the San Rafael Reef, and spent two days in the Maze District of Canyonlands. Now it was time to see a bit of Capitol Reef. We headed down to the trailhead and found the trail pretty easily with GPS coordinates.
We were airing down when a couple of Jeeps found us. They wanted us to go through the river first, and we were up for the challenge. They were nice people, and we'd see them and others all day. We all had the same trip planned, but we did it at different speeds. As always, we were pretty slow.
The river looked pretty shallow, though it was cruising along at a fast pace. Monica went through first and had no issues with the southern crossing, so the others followed. The water moved at the same pace as the Jeeps, and it looked like they were floating.
We couldn't miss the other crossing, so we looped around to do that one, too. Then we did the southern one again just to get back over to the correct side. The trail started out with some fun, and we were looking forward to seeing the rest of it.
We headed north, and the weather and scenery were perfect. It promised to be a great day. We stopped at some old drilling equipment just to check it out and make up tales about how it got there and why they just left it. Frank carefully walked through the mud and cow droppings to get to an old well, and pronounced the water to be just fine for drinking. We explored a little and we were just leaving when the other Jeeps showed up.
We needed a stop for snacks and sunscreen, so we found a flat spot that had been used for camping. The North Blue Flats were pretty nice, and the other Jeeps passed us at that point. Then we headed up into and through the Bentonite Hills. It looked a bit like the moon, and it was pretty cool.
It didn't take us long to get to the spur to the Lower South Desert Overlook. We parked behind the other Jeeps, and they were coming off of the hike as we went in. It was very sunny but not too hot, with a nice breeze. Frank and Autumn did some exploring, and we tracked an old Jeep trail that used to head down into the South Desert from there. It was getting hot, though, so we left.
After that overlook, it seemed to take a while before we got to the next one, the Upper South Desert Overlook. We parked and found a shady spot to have lunch. While we ate, more vehicles showed up and it got pretty busy. We finished eating, and then Monica and Frank did the steep but short hike up to the top of the bluff. The views of the South Desert were pretty nice. It started raining as we worked our way back to the cars, so we took that time to seal up Jeeps and get ready for the inevitable rain that we could see coming toward us.
The Upper Cathedral Valley Overlook was nice, and the Thousand Lake Mountain Campground looked like a nice place to stay. We only saw one picnic table.
We turned right at Hartnet Junction, and then found the Cathedral Campground. This one was much nicer, with developed sites, picnic tables, fire pits, and a few pit toilets that were very clean. It was getting pretty chilly, so we had a couple snacks and then left.
The switchbacks down to the valley were well maintained, so not a big deal. We stopped at the small parking area for Morrell Cabin and had a chat. We really wanted to hike out to it, but the weather was getting nasty. We realized that we'd need to come back again another day, so we skipped it.
We stopped at the Cathedrals Trail trailhead, too, as this was our main destination hike. But was it worth getting hit by lightening, or at least caught in a rain storm? We decided it wasn't, and we were bummed to keep driving and skip the hike along the Cathedral Mountain strip.
That meant we were actually ahead of schedule as we came around to the Middle Desert. We took the spur to the Gypsum Sinkhole, starting our walk as the other Jeeps were coming back. They told us it was pretty cool, and they were right. We spent a bit of time there, pointing at things and talking. We followed other hiking trails to the other side of the little alcove, and found they didn't go anywhere. It looked like lots of people followed them and discovered the same thing. The only thing there is the sinkhole.
We got back to the main trail and kept going. Of course, we saw the other Jeeps leaving Glass Mountain as we pulled up. Now, that's a weird thing, that little hill of glass. We spent a lot of time checking it out even though it was windy, cold, and sprinkling rain. It's so weird! We also drove by Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon. We took pictures but didn't get out. The weather was really turning on us.
As we drove to the pavement, the rain was really coming down. We noticed that one little creek that was probably dry most of the time had water running in it. Then we got to the small water crossing for Caineville Wash and noticed that we were in flash flooding conditions. Water was coming down quickly over spots that weren't supposed to have water on them, making little waves here and there. We carefully but quickly drove to the other side.
We'd come to places with bentonite, and it was slick. A couple times, we got a bit sideways on the trail. Four-wheel drive was smart, and it was pretty slick in spots. We drove carefully and steadily to get out before we got stuck in there.
Luckily, we made it out, safe and sound but covered in mud. We almost made it to the end of the trip without getting mud all over everything! Back in town, we heard stories of people getting stuck out on that trail and needing rescue, because of the wet clay. We probably would have been close to that type of situation if we'd been an hour or two later. We used a hose at the campground in Hanksville to get some of the wet clay off of our Jeeps, because we were heading for home in the morning.
This was a great trip, and we have so many trails ready for the next time we're there. Hanksville is a great home base, though it would be pretty awesome to camp in the Maze District. Maybe next time.