Exploring Around Torrey, Utah – I

Welcome to Torrey, Utah

As of this writing, we are in Torrey, Utah, staying at the Thousand Lakes RV Park a little ways out of town. We’re scheduled to stay here for three weeks, exploring the area around Torrey. This post will cover the first week and a half of our stay.

Our drive from Bluff to Torrey took us through some spectacular country. From Bluff we drove north to Blanding, then turned west on Highway 95. On Highway 95, we crossed the Comb Ridge, Cedar Mesa, passed by Natural Bridges National Monument and drove through Fry Canyon. Continuing on, we crossed the Colorado River on the soaring bridge spanning the canyon at Hite, skirted the Henry Mountains and drove until Hanksville.

From Hanksville, we took Highway 24 to Torrey. Highway 24 passed through more stunning scenery of the Caineville badlands and Capitol Reef National Park.

All along the way, skies were becoming more overcast, thunderstorms were building up and threatening rain. We passed through several brief showers, but arrived in Torrey before the storm unleashed. We barely setup at our campsite when the rain started. We had an intense thunderstorm that evening, but we were snug & safe in our rig.

The monsoonal weather continued for the next few days, with mostly clear skies in the morning and thunderstorms in the afternoon and evening. Given the pounding rains in the area, several of the roads we wanted to explore in Capitol Reef were impassable – the Fremont River was running swift and deep at the ford crossing to Cathedral Valley and the road from the Caineville entrance to Cathedral Valley was a muddy mess and cut in many places by stream or arroyo crossings. Likewise, the travel on the road through the Waterpocket Fold and the Burr Trail were not advisable due to muddy and potential washout conditions.

For the first week of our stay, we contented ourselves with scenic drives through other areas of Capitol Reef, around the Caineville badlands and down Scenic Byway 12 to Escalante. We also made supply runs to the nearest grocery store in the town of Loa (17 miles) and to the nearest Walmart in Richfield (63 miles).

Here are a few photos from our drives through Capitol Reef National Park. (I just realized in preparing this post that we had not taken very many snapshots of major landmarks in the park – we had visited Capitol Reef several times in the past, taken the more touristy shots then and just enjoyed the scenery this trip.)

Here also are photos from our day trip along Scenic Byway 12 from Torrey to Escalante. The route from Torrey to Boulder crosses the flanks of Boulder Mountain with the road summit at 9408 ft. elevation. The road passes through piney forests and alpine meadows with groves of aspen. Scenic overlooks offer breathtaking views of the Henry Mountains, Caineville badlands, tilted formations of the Waterpocket Fold and slickrock vistas of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

From Boulder to Escalante, Scenic Byway 12 crosses vast expanses of slickrock and canyon country. One infamous section of the road, called the Hogsback, winds down a narrow ridge with precipitous drops to either side.

After lunch in Escalante, we returned to Torrey, with a side trip (12 miles) down Hole-in-the-Rock Road to the Devil’s Garden rock formation

One morning, I took a trip out to the Caineville badlands to shoot the massive Factory Butte formation at sunrise. Driving from Hanksville towards Capitol Reef, Factory Butte is an impressive sight looming over the surrounding badlands. The formation has been likened to a massive factory or nuclear power plant complex – I can certainly see the resemblance. Kim and I had scouted the location and road conditions during an earlier day trip to Hanksville and back. Road conditions were good, despite the heavy rains in the past week. Sunrise was not very spectacular, but there were a few good black and white images.

There is a small formation at the base of and dwarfed by the Factory Butte that I found of particular interest – not sure what the name is, but I’m calling it “The Lost Fortress” here. To me, this looks like the ruins of a long lost desert fortress or temple at the base of the imposing butte. What do you think?

By the end of our first week, after checking on current road conditions at the Capitol Reef NP visitors center, we were confident enough to drive the Waterpocket Fold road to the Burr Trail and then to take the Burr Trail across to Boulder and back to Torrey. The Waterpocket Fold is an amazing geological formation – massive layers of rock have been shoved until they buckled and thrust upward in a massive fold. Over many thousands of years, the upper layers of the fold eroded until only upthrust ridges and valleys remain. The Waterpocket Fold road is a rough, yet reasonably well maintained dirt road running down the valleys of the fold all the way south from Highway 24 to Bullfrog, Utah, about 68 miles.

About 35 miles down this dirt road is the junction with the Burr Trail Road. Turning west on the Burr Trail, the road climbs a series of steep and sharp switchbacks. Very impressive! Following the Burr Trail to Boulder, the road passes through a series of spectacular canyons and slickrock country in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument before ending at Scenic Byway 12 in Boulder, Utah.

Here are a few photos from our trip along Waterpocket Fold and the Burr Trail:

A few days after our trip along the Burr Trail, we braved the road to Cathedral Valley. We first checked the Fremont River ford crossing, but the crossing still looked very bad, with little sign of others having passed the ford. We next tried the Caineville entrance with more success. The road had dried out, only a few rough and rutted  patches where others had driven when muddy. All arroyo and stream crossings were passable, if rather rough in places. Enough traffic had used the roads to cut paths into the crossings where the banks had been cut.

We traveled about 26 miles up to the Upper Cathedral Valley, stopping at the monolithic cathedral formations of the Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon, as well as the Glass Mountain. The last few miles into the Upper Cathedral Valley were extremely rough following rocky sections of the stream bed and through heavily rutted muddy areas. We took a few photos, enjoyed the scenery, then reversed our course and bumped and bounced the 20+ miles back to the highway.

Finally, I’ve taken several evenings to do some night photography around Capitol Reef and Torry. Here are a few night photos of rock formations along the road to Waterpocket Fold and of a nice hoodoo rock pillar located along Scenic Byway 12 on Boulder Mountain.

That’s it, for now. Until next time…

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