2019 Running Trip – Day 3 – Capitol Reef National Park

Did I mention it was cold at Bryce Canyon? We got out of there early to get some heat. One main principle that I’ve stayed true to on the running trips is to leave each morning just before sunrise. Especially out West, driving at sunrise will provide you with great views.

The goal of the day was to reach Capitol Reef National Park. More than any other day on this trip, we’d be spending most of the day on the route to the park. Highway 12 is an American Byway with fun places to play along the way. We planned to take full advantage of it. As the sun came up, I couldn’t help but to get a good road pic and thank Mike & Deb Purdy. Travelers (and drivers) themselves, I knew they’d appreciate the approach to the pic. Being late October in Southern Utah, we don’t see many cars on the road. However, we did come upon a random cow on this road.


We’ve said it many times already on this trip, the diversity of Utah’s scenes is out of this world. As we drove east out of Bryce Canyon, it didn’t take long for the terrain to change. At a scenic overlook, I thanked Jon & Ellen Collier. A few years back, the Goods joined the Colliers for a few nights in Custer State Park in South Dakota. Jon taught me some of the camping ropes, including the important principle – watch your fingers when a five year old is holding a hatchet. I’ve reflected many times on this trip – WWJCD – What would John Collier do?


Zim was feeling feisty this morning and wanted to get the blood flowing.



I like coffee. So do you, probably. Our coffee intake has been somewhat limited throughout this trip. Zim has a burner, and we bought instant coffee at Sam’s Club, but we’ve been averaging .75 coffees a day. This 4-5 cup-a-day coffee drinker has been fighting off some headaches this trip. So when we saw the sign for Kiva Koffeehouse in the middle of nowhere, we were pumped. Turns out, Kiva is probably the coolest coffee shop I’ve ever been to. The views!


We enjoyed a delightful raspberry scone and a fresh brew.


I’ve thanked Suzanne Alexander a few times already this trip, and I remember a text that I received from her when she was out here – YOU MUST GO TO KIVA KOFFEEHOUSE! Uh yeah, great recommendation! Now would also be a great time to thank another one of my blog sponsors – Wohven Shirts. Wohven is an awesome t-shirt subscription service that features fun designs from people across the world. I probably wear a Wohven shirt 6 times a week. They are comfortable and stylish! Check them out.


Just north of Kiva Koffeehouse, we parked at the trailhead for Lower Calf Creek Falls. Prior to the trip, I ordered a bunch of Utah travel guides, and one shipment included a state map. On the cover of the map was this spectacular waterfall. I instantly knew I would need to find it.

There are two hikes you can take to get to the falls. Lower, a 6-mile round trip hike that leads to the bottom of the falls, or Upper, an easier 2-mile round trip hike that leads to the top of the falls. While longer, Lower has the better end view. So we took it!


We’ve become pretty good at the hike/run. It’s a pretty simple concept. Walk the inclines or through heavy sand and run the downhills. This hike was amazing! October is my favorite travel month because of the weather, limited crowds, and amazing fall colors. Lower Calf Creek followed the river to the falls, and we were welcomed with the season’s colors.


Along the way, I stopped to thank Aaron and Lindsey Good. I was supposed to thank them at the restaurant that we’d have lunch at, but this was better. Aaron is my first cousin and an incredible artist. Lindsey is an elementary school teacher. God bless her. We run into them frequently in the fall at Iowa State football games.


We came to a natural amphitheater in the rock, and I knew I had to thank my rock-loving nephew Will. Sorry Will, I can’t bring this rock home with me for your collection. Thinking back on the day, I probably should have tried to thank Will alongside the random cow in the road, but this was a safer decision. Love you Will!


The trek continued….


And then, boom, waterfall! How awesome is this?


Funny story. Following last year’s trip in Arizona, I received a message from my mother-in-law. She was a bit embarrassed that I had thanked she and her husband Rob so many times throughout the trip. I was given very clear directions this year not to do that. 🙂 Instead, I wanted to find an uber-special spot to thank them ONCE. Found it. Thank you Rob and Julie! I mentioned in an earlier post on this trip that Tillie and I experienced the death of our first dog Lex a few months back. In an extreme act of love and kindness, Julie called us that morning and told us to bring Lex out to her farm to be buried. We showed up to an already dug grave and numerous rocks to decorate the site. It’s a gesture I will never forget.


A fun pic of Zim admiring the falls.


And the two of us after soaking our tired feet in the frigid water.


We hiked/ran back to our car and drove to Boulder, Utah for lunch. We ate at Hell’s Backbone Grill, an award-winning restaurant in a tiny town. Lunch was amazing and refueled us for the rest of the day.


The next section of the day would be on the Burr Trail. It would consist of 70+ miles of some of Utah’s best scenes. We were warned about the road prior to getting on it. If there’s rain in the forecast, don’t even think about it. Luckily, it was a beautiful day. Onward. On many Utah travel guides, you’ll see an iconic view from the Burr Trail. We found it. Such an incredible drive. I thanked David & April Etler. I’ve thanked them a number of times over the years. April was our daycare provider for seven years. As Tess entered kindergarten this fall, we had to say a sad “goodbye” to seeing the Etlers each day. They’ve been such a blessing to our family, but thankfully we still see them often as they come to many of the kids’ activities. One of the more caring families I’ve ever met.


The Burr Trail turns into sand/gravel about halfway through. Heavily graded, we received our free massage for the day. I now see why they tell you not to drive on it when wet. I stopped to thank my nephew and little buddy Talan. Uncle Steve mode is in full effect when Talan is around. Love that little dude.


We drove a series of narrow and very steep switchbacks. The trusty van persisted on this drive, so we celebrated by getting her in another photo and thanking Scott Lynch again. Good job van.


We finally reached Capitol Reef National Park. Capitol Reef is absolutely the most underrated National Park in Utah. Capitol Reef National Park was designated a national monument on August 2, 1937, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to protect the area’s colorful canyons, ridges, buttes, and monoliths; however, it was not until 1950 that the area officially opened to the public. It’s definitely tough to get to, but totally worth it! We found the entrance sign, and I thanked John & Susan. Susan and my mother are first cousins who grew up together. My grandfather and Susan’s father owned a grocery story in Eldon, Iowa, the home of the American Gothic House.


Highway 63 runs east and west through the Park. Zim and I were instantly amazed how big everything seemed (and was) at Capitol Reef. We felt tiny. We stopped for another road pic where I thanked Ryan & Nicole Galles. The Galles are a part of our tailgating crew, and we love seeing them throughout the year. There is one thing I can count on when I’m with Ryan – I laugh my tail off. It’s been fun to see the Galles girls grow up and see Ryan and Nicole turning into softball parents. I see a running trip in the near future for Ryan and me.


We parked at the trailhead for Hickman Natural Bridge, one of Capitol Reef’s most popular landmarks. I wanted to try to get to Cathedral Valley during the day, but we were a bit too late for the drive to the north part of the park. Instead, I thanked Colonel Steve Bloomer again in front of a rock that felt like a cathedral to me.


The Hickman Natural Bridge hike was an awesome 2-mile hike to finish the day. We saw less than 20 people during the hike, so it felt like we had the place to ourselves. The colors pop at Capitol Reef. We were particularly fond of the bright yellow trees.


Hickman Natural Bridge is iconic! We reached it as the sun was starting to set, a perfect time of day for great pictures. I thanked Mike & Deb Sedlacek again for their donation.


Our view from the top.


We rushed back to Fruita Campground to setup for the evening. Out of the cold, we were grateful for another tent night. Fruita Campground is awesome! Amongst the colorful trees, full of fruit trees (that you can pick and eat), and wildlife everywhere, it was a perfect place to lay our heads for the evening. I thanked Kristen Morrison for her donation. Kristen has been very generous over the years, and I thought of her earlier in the trip at Zion. I was wearing my Chicago Cubs stocking hat on a heavily trafficked hike and received a number of comments. Little did the people know, I’m not even a Cubs fan, just a sucker for a good deal on stocking caps. Kristen lives in Chicago with her family.


On our way to dinner in the town of Torrey, the gateway to Capitol Reef, we pulled over for a quick view. The sun was nearly set, shining brightly on the stately rocks of Capitol Reef.


The day ended with a giant pizza and a few beers in Torrey. One thing to know about Capitol Reef is that cell phone service and wifi is VERY limited. Let me tell you, this blog post was a struggle to complete!

Onward to Arches National Park!

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