Sunday, March 23, 2014

Capitol Reef

Thursday after school the Young Men of the Spring Creek 18th ward headed south for a three day adventure in Capitol Reef National Park. Joel had an agonizing decision of which of the two goods he should choose: a fun campout or three soccer games. He finally opted for soccer. I had two classes to teach on Friday morning so I drove down Friday afternoon to join the group. I missed a fun day of hiking to Cassidy Arch and then along the Frying Pan Trail. I did arrive in time to deliver three stuffed Papa Murphy's Pizzas for our dutch oven dinner. Our camp site was among the fruit orchards of the one time Mormon settled town of Fruita. Fremont Indians also once called this well watered valley their home. While waiting for the pizzas to cook I took a quick hike up to enjoy the light of the setting sun .

The Campground from above.

Ancient roots which have secreted a turquoise color into the rocks.

Next morning we headed out with neighbor and ward member Paul Bybee who is a professor of Paleontology at UVU. Our quest was to help some of the scouts earn requirements for the geology merit badge and for the rest of us to enjoy some unmarked treasures. First stop was out the western entrance to the park a few miles and then a few miles north along a dirt road to the remains of an ancient "Amazon-like" rainforest. Paul showed us two old petrified stumps. Since we weren't on NP land we were all able to pick up pieces of petrified wood that surrounded the rock hard stumps.

The second stump.

Surrounding landscape--Morrison Level

At the next stop Paul explained that the large rounded basalt rocks were deposited by ancient glaciers that carried these rocks down from Boulder Mountain to the west which is an ancient shield volcano. Amazing to think that this area over the eons had been an ocean bed, on ocean shore, a river bed, a rain forest and a glacier.

Then we walked over to an alcove where Paul showed us the ancient remains of pack rat dens. Apparently secretions from the den helped to fossilize the den. Over time the rocks surrounding the dens eroded away leaving black masses on the cliff side.

We walked further along the cliff face to where dinosaur bones can be seen. I love the different colors of the many layers and rocks.

Two oval white spots are crosssections of dinosaur ribs. Nick's finger are for size comparison.

Then a large femur and two cross-sections of vertebrae bones from an apatosaurus (brontosaurus) can be seen.

Paul is pointing to the femur--about four feet long. The two vertebrae are above Paul's upper right arm.

Tragically, some idiots have recently chipped away at the femur.

The cliff face where the dinosaur bones and fossilized pack rat dens are located.

Next stop was near Chimney Rock.

There we could see clearly the ancient fault that moved ancient sedimentary levels up and down. My favorite level was the Moenkopi level that is deep brick red color (lower right) of Chimney Rock. We had planned to hike up to the saddle in the photo to see petrified logs, but we were ruining short of time. I'll have to try that another time.

For out last short hike we headed west to where parts of the Moenkopi Layer have broken away.

There on what was the bed of an ancient tidal shore we could clearly see the toe prints of ancient reptiles that were imprinted down into the soft sediment (8 year old Trent's hands are for size comparison). We were looking at the underside of that imprint.You can almost visualize the reptiles quickly running across the muddy sediment as their two centered toes claw into the mud.

A second large rock that has fallen down and overturned revealing its bottom most layer with more toe prints.

This shows the solidified remnants of ancient sand ripples.

Wonder when the one horizontal rock--hanging by two corners--will fall?

Paper thin layers of sedimentation.

Before leaving scientist Paul shared his feelings about the wonders we had seen. He referred to Alma 30: 44 which states: "But Alma [the prophet] said unto him [Korihor the anti-Christ]: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator." Paul then testified that his studies of the formation of the earth, the existence of dinosaurs, the beauty of the rocks and trees, all testify that there is a God. A great end to a great outing.

Back to the cars for a final photo and then head for home.

(Photo courtesy of Barrett Raymond)

Since I missed the first day of hiking, I decided to stay longer and hike up to Hickman Arch.

Tiny bridges along the way.

Wonder when the roots of this bush will cause its sustaining shelf to fall?

Hickman Bridge

The Fremont River valley.

The upper Navajo Sandstone layer at Capitol Reef is white colored. Its white towers are what gave inspiration to the Capitol part of the name. Reef comes from early settlers who imagined the long cliff lines like unto barrier reefs that impeded travel into shore.

First flowers.

Petroglyphs from the Fremont Indians

West of the park between the small towns of Torrey and Bicknell is a wonderful eroded Moekopi layer.

Heading north again I knew I was getting close to home when snow capped Mt. Nebo came into view (photo taken just north of Levan-- navel spelled backwards, its sits at the center of Utah). Mt. Nebo is the southern anchor of the Wasatch Front. We can see the north slope of this mountain from our front porch.

Utah Valley from the south with the almost completed Payson LDS Temple  (center left) and the Wasatch Mountains, including Mt. Timpanogos (upper left) and Provo Peak (upper right).

Springville sits at the foot of the right half of the southern-most (right) mountain in the photo --Provo Peak with surrounding seven peaks. Our home is right below the prominent V shaped canyon (Little Rock Canyon) in the center of the western face.

To see all 195 photos on Flickr please  click here


  1. Hi Chad, my wife's grandpa lives just 5 miles west of Torrey and we visit him and the NP about 3-4 times a year. I haven't, however, had the luxury of a professor of paleontology accompany me for the detail you guys got!

    The cover photo on my blog ( is taken from the northern slope of Boulder Mountain looking north towards Thousand Lake Mountain; Hwy 24 runs through the bottom of the valley in that photo.

    1. Jess, great cover photo. Also, loved your blog post on Coyote Gulch. Great photos. Hope to make it there someday.