Day seventeen: Torrey

The day dawned cool but we had the promise of warmer temperatures to come. Tammy at Beds and Bagels kindly let us have a couple of bagels for lunch. I had salted caramel with onion and chivescream cheese whilst Graeme chose onion bagel with smoked salmon (!)

We said goodbye to Arches and Canyonlands thinking that another couple of days here would have been good, to see more of both. Down I-70 to the Hanksville turnoff, we skirted the tail end of the Maze, part of Canyonlands, before turning towards Goblin Valley State Park past more flat scrub desert.

Costing $13 for the car, Mushroom Valley would be a better description than Goblin, in fact it was called that before it became a State Park. Yes you could make out faces, but to me they resembled toadstools. All they needed were some fairy doors and brightly coloured white spotted roofs. The ground was tightly packed, but dry, mud or sand, soft and crumbly to the touch and a bit spongy underfoot. It seemed a heavy rainstorm would wash it all away. It was reminiscent of a beach a hour or so after the the tide has gone out with runnels for water to drain away. We saw another small lizard and a lot of large ants.


The goblins, or hoodoos, are spread out over the floor of the basin, some in clumps, some singly, and mounds where it seems like they dissolved into a small hill. It was peaceful there, it’s not one of the better known parks so doesn’t attract the same number of visitors.

Goblin Valley State Park

It was quite cloudy with a few darker clouds but it was still 86F (30C) and a party of three pronghorn antelope crossed the road in front of us on our way out. I had to google them as it wasn’t anything I’d seen before.


Weather, in particular rain, is a big factor here. As everywhere is very arid any rain flows straight off the hills and mountains and flash flooding is a major danger. We called in at the Henry Mountain station of the Bureau of Land Management to check out conditions for our next destination, Cathedral Valley, containing the Temples of the Sun and Moon and Glass Mountain (actually a selenite/moonstone mound). High clearance, 2 wheel drive vehicles were fine but there was a chance of rain. Guess what? To be fair we weren’t sure it was raining where we wanted to go, but but weren’t going to risk it. I mean the road to the valley is called Caineville Wash Road. Says it all really. It was gutting as I’d been really looking forward to Glass Mountain. So we reluctantly ignored the turning and continued on towards Fruita.

Fremont river — see that sky?
Our car

The geology round here is fascinating. There’s pale sandstone, red sandstone, petrified dunes, multicoloured striated hills, sheer faces and then round the next bend back to one or the other. The dunes look like you’re driving through a quarry and the isolated dunes are slag heaps or that you are driving through a lunar landscape. It’s all a bit weird and surreal.

Sandstone (petrified) dunes
Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef is 100 miles x 15 miles of rocks, big rocks. We stopped by some petroglyphs, carvings on the rock, created in about AD 600–1300 by ancient Native Americans who carved or pecked drawings of people and animals into the rock. This image has been darkened to identify the carvings better.

Navajo Dome

The wind whipped up and the rain that had thwarted us earlier caught up. It didn’t last long and wasn’t heavy and the temperature hadn’t dropped much by the time we reached Capitol Reef Visitor Centre. We had a quick nosy round the shop and I bought book about the geology of the regions - it’s bizarre the way it changes almost from one minute to the next.

Gifford House is an old farmstead turned into a shop and you can buy delicious fruit pies there. The orchards round here are open for anyone to go in and eat the fruit for free, but you have to pay for any you want to take away. There were also deer, three (a fawn!) just before we got there and one in the field next to the shop.


Capitol Gorge is a paved road for 8 miles and unpaved for another 2 miles, so Graeme got his off-road fix. The route follows the river course closely, although there was no water in it, indeed the road was the river course at times. The overarching cliffs dwarfed us, great slabs of rock on all sides.

Capitol Reef
Dried up wash

You could imagine you were on a boat floating down a deep canyon. We took a short 2 mile excursion off this, the Grand Wash, with dire warnings on signs not to go if a storm was expected. As it turned the storm was elsewhere so we bumped our way on this mini off-road excursion.

Huge cliffs

We were rewarded with awesome rocks and two cute chipmunks at the end. I know I keep saying it but I am in awe of the rocky mountains here. I could look at them all day, especially the red ones.

Looks like chocolate cake to me
Capitol Reef
Capitol Reef
Chipmunk, look at those little paws…

Hopefully this bad weather will have blown over by tomorrow or it will dent another off-road excursion we have planned; of course Graeme has a workaround should that happen.