Monday, April 27, 2009

The Capitol in Capitol Reef NP

"A giant, sinuous wrinkle in the Earth's crust stretches for 100 miles across south-central Utah. This impressive buckling of rock, created 65 million years ago, is called the Waterpocket Fold."

So begins the National Park brochure's description of the Capitol Reef. The Waterpocket Fold is the geologic centerpiece of Capitol Reef National Park. The ridge of resistant sandstone tilted up by the Fold gives, at least in part, Capitol Reef its name. The ridge was a barrier to travel and such barriers were called "reefs".

Nearly 10,000 feet of sedimentary rocks are exposed in and around Capitol Reef. The eroded "petrified dunes" of the Navajo Sandstone reminded early settlers of the rotundas of capitol buildings in Washington, D.C.

As we drove along the eastern edge of the Park on the Notom Road. we came upon this scene. The "expanding" series of clouds seemed to be reaching out to us. It must have worked, because we sat by the roadside for a good period of time just watching the clouds float overhead.

We stopped to watch this farmer disc his field because it was very peaceful, watching the driver's dog running alongside the tractor, and because it was the the first piece of tillable farmland that we had seen in weeks.

We passed several farms with cattle, sheep, bison, and even ostriches grazing on irrigated acreage, but no crops on the arid lands.

Heading west toward Torrey (UT) on Route 24, we came upon the Behunin Cabin. In 1882, Elijah Cutler Behunin and his family built this cabin. A family of ten lived here. Braided rugs covered the dirt floor. Ends of dress materials became curtains. There was a fireplace to cook in, and a water supply near the floor. The family probably ate outside.

The local environment provided stone, but it didn't provide much for mortar. The blocks appear to have been mortared with mud. The blobs of muddy mortar resemble the mortar work executed by the Ancestral Pueblo (or Anasazi) builders at Mesa Verde.

Father, mother, and two smallest children slept in the cabin. By widening a dugout in the cliff behind the cabin the older boys had a place to sleep. The girls made a bed in an old wagon box.

One of the other buildings remaining near the town of what was Fruita is the schoolhouse. In 1896, Elijah Behunin donated land for a school building that he and other early Junction (later re-named Fruita) settlers built. Even though only eight families lived in Junction, these farmers had large families. Twenty-two children attended the school at its highest enrollment.

The log building also served as a community meeting house and church. As late as 1924, the building was also used for dances, town meetings, elections, church youth activities, box suppers, and celebrations.

Not far from the schoolhouse on Route 24 are these petroglyphs from the Fremont Indians, who lived in the area from approximately 700 A.D. until 1300 A.D. (Click on the photo to see the figures more clearly in the lower part of the reddish rock.)

We both took photos of the Capitol Dome and could not decide which one to use. One featured the trail to the Dome, the other featured the Fremont River, so . . . .

We had not known anything about Capitol Reef National Park before touring the Park and the area.

We left wishing we had scheduled more than just one week here.

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