The last week and a half of our three-week stay at Torrey, Utah passed quickly. We enjoyed a visit with long time friends, checked out a few local restaurants for lunch and dinner, and took several more day trips and outings for night photography.
A highlight of our stay was a visit with our good friends, Ron and Kathy Schroeder. We used to work with Kathy and Ron at ESRI and have stayed in touch with them through the years after they moved to the Salt Lake City area. Ron and Kathy met us at Richfield for the afternoon. We enjoyed lunch at a great little Mexican restaurant in Richfield, a short day trip to the Fremont Indian State Park and Museum, and a nice long visit with them back at their hotel.
The next morning, Ron and Kathy visited us at the RV park for a short time. During their visit, we were reminded of the importance of handicapped access to RV park facilities. A severe health issue a few years ago left Kathy with very limited mobility; this was a real problem for her trying to use the RV park facilities where no consideration to handicapped access had been given. We really wish more RV parks would give thought to the needs of their handicapped guests.
During our stay we sampled several of the local area restaurants for lunch and dinner. We can heartily recommend the Torrey Grill western barbecue dinner at the Thousand Lakes RV Park ($$), dinners at the Rim Rock Cafe($$), Rim Rock Pizza & BBQ($), and the Cafe Diablo for southwestern-fusion cuisine($$$). We also enjoyed lunch at Slackers Burger($). The Rim Rock Cafe and Rim Rock Pizza restaurants feature wonderful views of the rim rock cliffs near Capitol Reef. Jasmine and Pepper enjoyed joining us for pizza on the outdoor patio at Rim Rock Pizza.
One evening I took a drive out to Cathedral Valley for a night photography session. I photographed the blue moon (second full moon of the month) rising over the Temple of the Moon, as well as several other photos of the Temples and valley in moonlight.
During the last of our stay, several intense weather systems passed through the area, bringing monstrous thunderstorms and flooding to the Capitol Reef and San Rafael Swell areas. Flash flooding around Caineville pushed flood waters over Highway 24. Roads through Cathedral Valley, Waterpocket Fold and the Burr Trail were again rendered impassable. I experienced some of the most intense storms during an overnight photo trip to the San Rafael Swell and the Wedge Overlook. More on this, later.
As mentioned above, I had planned an overnight photo outing to the San Rafael Swell area to photograph several rock art sites, as well as the Wedge Overlook at sunset and/or sunrise. Rock art sites I planned to visit included the Rochester Panel, Moore Cutoff Snake Petroglyphs and the Buckhorn Wash Panel. The weather forecast was for thunderstorms in the area and I was looking forward to these conditions, keeping in mind the Ansel Adams quote, “Bad weather makes for good photography”.
From Torrey, I took scenic highway 72 north through Fremont and the Fishlake National Forest as far as Interstate 70. From there, the route was via highway 10 through Emery and Castle Dale. Accessing the Rochester Panel and Moore Snake Panels required a detour from Highway 10 on side roads around the small community of Moore.
The drive along highways 72 and 10 did not disappoint. Highway 72 is an especially scenic route with vistas of sagebrush, alpine meadows and aspen groves as it climbs over a mountain pass, around 9000 feet elevation. At the summit of Highway 72, the Desert View Overlook offers stunning vistas of the desert to the east, including views of the San Rafael Swell ridges, Factory Butte, Cainville mesas and badlands, and the distant Henry Mountains.
Highway 72 passes through the Fishlake National Forest, an area that is open range and hosts much wildlife. When driving this road be very careful and watch out for animals crossing the road; be especially watchful for cattle, deer and elk.
Highway 10 runs from Interstate 70 to Price, Utah, through an equally wild and scenic valley with towering cliffs to the west and the San Rafael Swell to the east.
I arrived at the Rochester Panel in the early afternoon. Skies were looking ominous in the area, but I had not had more than a few sprinkles, so far. While photographing the panel a small, but intense thunderstorm rolled over the canyon rim with accompanying rain, lightning and some hail. I had noted a rock shelter close to the panel and sheltered there, rather than hiking back to the truck in the downpour. Here are some photos from the Rochester Panel.
After the thunderstorm passed through, I finished photographing the Rochester Panel and moved on to the Moore Cutoff Snake Petroglyphs. I photographed these in the afternoon, moved on to Buckhorn Wash and the Wedge, but returned around sunset to photograph the snake panels after dark. Here are some photos from the Moore Cutoff Snake Petroglyphs, including night photos.
In late afternoon, I arrived at the San Rafael Swell Wedge area. I drove down Buckhorn Wash, a wild and scenic canyon of massive sandstone cliffs and scattered cottonwoods, and photographed the Buckhorn Wash Pictograph Panel, as well as another nearby rock art site.
After Buckhorn Wash, I moved on to the Wedge Overlook. This is a wedge-shaped area of the San Rafael Swell delineated by the canyon of the San Rafael River and other tributaries. The rivers have carved deep canyons into the sandstone, earning the moniker “The Little Grand Canyon”. While at the Wedge Overlook, I identified a campsite I planned to return to later that evening. Conditions were very overcast and it did not seem that sunset would be of interest, so I left the Wedge and returned to the Moore petroglyphs – about a 45 mile drive.
I photographed at the Moore petroglyphs after sunset until moonrise. Conditions were so overcast that the waning moon, just a few days past full, did not give much light. I considered moving on to the Rochester Panel, but quickly reconsidered as rain was starting and I could dimly see much heavier rain on the way.
I drove back to the Wedge in a torrential downpour. The road surface to the Wedge had been in excellent condition, otherwise I never would have considered returning. I was only worried about one arroyo crossing, but this was no problem – the wash crossing, floored with concrete, had little water flowing at the time. (I could see the next morning that a much larger volume of water had flowed through the wash later during the night.) The last few miles to the Wedge was increasing in elevation and I was suddenly out of the rain, but now was in heavy fog. No problem, just very slow going. I spent the rest of the night at a campsite at the Little Grand Canyon Overlook and photographed the sunrise.
The drive back to Torrey the next day was very scenic, but uneventful. A day after I returned from the photo trip, both Kim and I took a day trip back to these locations. We had a nice time enjoying the scenery and just taking a few snapshots.
One of our last day trips in the area was back to Factory Butte. Passing clouds and early afternoon thunderstorms made for very photogenic conditions at the butte. On our way back, we explored several side roads around the Fremont River and into an area of colorful badlands. We had a nice picnic while on our drive, let the dogs have some exercise and took a few photos. Here are a few images from our outing.
That’s it, for now. We enjoyed our visit to the Torrey area and look forward to returning some day. Until next time…