Day Seven – Wednesday, 19 May
Lower Bowns campground to “camp under the tree…”
After an exceedingly good night’s sleep in my hammock, I sleep in a bit beyond sunrise, enjoying just lying there, while watching the comings and goings of the little campground.
Across the access road are the pit toilets, and there is an access road to the lake/reservoir at the bottom of the hill. There was a good amount of cars and pickups driving down to the lake – most to go fishing; and a couple with kayaks…
I get up when I hear commotion in Glenn’s T3, and start preparing the coffee. After some freshly brewed coffee, we put together a quick breakfast of “eggs and bacon,” and start packing our gear.
Once done, we head roughly East on “Pleasant Creek Road” (FS-168), until we hit the paved park road; with a fun treat right at the end: fording Pleasant Creek right before we get into Capitol Reef proper… Since I was in the lead, I stopped at the pit toilets and shot a quick video of Glenn:
The park is a madhouse! Due to “the Rona,” they waived the entry fees, and apparently that is an open invitation to overrun the National Parks…
But let’s revisit Pleasant Creek Road before continuing with that rant. The beginning of that trail is very easy – basically just a packed dirt road with some lightly sandy stretches. This is while you’re traversing some flats. There are also plenty of nice dispersed camp spots along this section.
Then, about halfway through to Capitol Reef, you start to climb up a rocky stretch out of Tantalus Flats, before dropping back down into the South Draw, now on South Draw Road. While the rocks are not large, this section does require more high-clearance vehicles, and some good tire placement skills. There are also some pretty deep ruts in the road, along the cliff – these are not for the faint of heart. Definitely would classify this stretch as moderately difficult.
After passing this middle stretch, you descent back down a bit into the South Draw and follow this dry creek bed for some time, before arriving at Pleasant Creek, which crosses the trail right before entering Capitol Reef. You are now back on Pleasant Creek Road.
After hitting pavement, we decided to wait to air our tires back up until we make camp that afternoon – we just need to take it nice and easy driving on the public road, and hopefully will be able to find a good camp spot quickly. Once on the scenic drive, I make the mistake of suggesting we “explore” Capitol Gorge Drive – unfortunately, two-thirds of the country apparently had that same idea. We drove all the way to the end before we had an opportunity to turn around, then make our way back to the “scenic drive” amongst hords of sedans and crossovers with absolutely no knowledge (or skill) for driving non-paved roads…
When we finally make it to the park entrance, it’s a real madhouse greeting us. No parking available, and the Visitors Center is – of course – closed. I spot a popup canopy at the T-junction of the scenic drive with UT-24. Pulling to the side of the road, I get out and walk over to the two rangers manning the “tent,” and ask if they know of any dispersed campsites nearby. They point me to the East on 24, where we should see a dirt road turning off of the road. On that dirt road, there are multiple dispersed camp spots…
Indeed, after a rather short drive East on 24, we find the turn-off, and drive down towards Fremont River. Of course, the best spot – very shaded, protected from the wind, and right next to the river – is already occupied. So, we turn around and backtrack a little. Here, we find a somewhat secluded spot under a large cottonwood tree. Checking for widow makers, we can’t find anything that looks ‘iffy,’ and the winds aren’t supposed to be too bad over night. So we set up camp under the tree, down a little hill, protected from the road and trail. Only disadvantage – it’s too far to walk to the river…
We set our vehicles up in a ‘flat V’ configuration, and Glenn puts his tent on the far Western side of the spot, while I opt to hang my hammock from my GOBI roof rack on one side, and the big cottonwood tree on the other. Instead of deploying Glenn’s tarp, I just use my ARB awning; I do use his underquilt, though.
Once set up, we both just make some ramen for a quick supper – our ‘fresh stuff’ provisions are running a bit low by now. After dinner, we sit around with a couple of cold ones, shooting the breeze. Speaking of “breeze.” While there are no storms in the forecast, we do get a nice breeze blowing; fortunately, due to us being in this lower area behind the tree, the majority of the wind (and sand) doesn’t reach us in our spot. Nice.
We turn in soon after; off-roading, especially the slightly more technical kind, requires concentration, which in turn drains your reserves quicker. Needless to say, I have another great night sleeping in the hammock!
Leaving Utah in direction of Colorado for a 2-day camp before heading back home.