We Were Not Prepared… for Cedar Breaks

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Caution: Long post ahead. Grab a beverage and some snacks, then settle in to enjoy the adventure.

Although we’ve been to Zion National Park before, and David and Emily went to Capitol Reef National Park during 2007’s Daddy Camp, none of that counted as far as Al Denty’s statistics are concerned. We are very strict about our rules around here, so no exceptions could be made, even after having moved out of Utah.

It was with these rules in mind that we planned a trip to Zion and Capitol Reef. Zion is one of the most popular of Utah’s Might Five, so we felt quite lucky to snag a campsite at Zion’s South Campground (although we really wanted one at Watchman Campground). Capitol Reef is probably the least well known of the quintet, but despite that we still felt pretty lucky to get a spot at its Fruita Campground.

Unfortunately, as the day of our departure got closer, we learned that Zion’s weather forecast was calling for daytime temperatures of about 157°F. With no hookups in the campground, we would need to run our generator to use the air conditioning in the Basecamp, but the campground rules only allowed for generator use during 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the late afternoon. David called the rangers in Zion to find out if, in light of the heat, they would allow generator use throughout the day. When they said no (respect to them for not laughing at the question in the first place), we needed to find someplace else to stay for the nights we would be camping there.

After a good amount of time on the Internet (by which we mean about 38.4 hours), David happened upon Point Supreme Campground at Cedar Breaks National Monument. We had never been to Cedar Breaks despite the infinite number of times we’ve seen it mentioned on signs along Interstate 15, so that was a plus. Also, the forecasted weather up there at 10,000′ was far less Hades-ish than the temps in Zion. Another plus.

Reservations in hand, we packed up Al and headed toward Utah. Our first stopover for the night was at Teec Nos Pos, Arizona, at the eponymous Trading Post. We arrived after the trading post was closed for the day, but they have a huge parking area so we found a spot to settle in for the evening, giving the other Harvest Hosters that were already there plenty of space and privacy. Teec is located at the crossroads of what are two fairly well-traveled roads on the Navajo Nation. The Teecs Nos Pos gas station is also quite well used. As a result, it was not the restful night for which we had hoped. Despite that, we made sure to stop in and make some purchases from the trading post before heading out toward Cedar Breaks.

Leaving Teec Nos Pos, we headed toward Page, Arizona, where David’s family used to rent houseboats in the summertime to go on boating vacations on Lake Powell. Come to think of it, houseboating is not too dissimilar from bareboat sailing or from RVing. Hmmm… But we digress.

David’s parents recently gifted us The Trading Post Guidebook by Patrick Eddington and Susan Makov, and we’ve been trying to visit or at least drive past (many are no longer in business) as many as we can. One of the most acclaimed trading posts in the book was located in Page but, unfortunately, it was no longer open. Disappointed, we filled up the gas tank and headed toward Horseshoe Bend, where we did the short hike to the viewpoint and took the obligatory selfie. It really is a beautiful spot that has been a bit tarnished by the attraction of influencers.

Back on the road, we enjoyed our drive up Highway 14 to Cedar Breaks where we found a great campsite, cool temperatures, beautiful scenery, clear skies for Starlink Internet (although we did have to stretch the antenna cable way out into a meadow to avoid obstructions) as well as for star gazing at night, and a complete lack of crowds. Once we got settled in and started exploring, we found out that…

We were not prepared for Cedar Breaks.

As the National Parks History website so aptly said, “If Cedar Breaks were anywhere but in this region, it would be picked as one of the world’s greatest scenic wonders.” That’s because the so-called, “amphitheater,” at Cedar Breaks has similar elements, geology, and scenery to the region’s National Parks, including the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce. We took some amazing hikes at Cedar Breaks, and the scenery there makes any photographer’s job that much easier. Here is the track from our favorite hike at Cedar Breaks:

Someday Cedar Breaks National Monument will become Cedar Breaks National Park. When that day comes, we will walk run there as fast as we can to get our passport stamped and to enjoy Cedar Breaks once again.

Somehow we were able to pull ourselves away from Cedar Breaks to make the drive to and from Zion National Park for the day. We headed back down Highway 14 to take the back way into Zion so that we could enjoy driving through the Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel. Along the way, David listened live to the Apple Keynote in which they announced the iPhone 14 Pro and its ability to handle emergency communications via satellite. Sold!

Having been to Zion several times before (including when Donna’s dad and Becky worked there), we didn’t feel the need to spend a lot of time on this trip. Our feelings were reinforced by the time we reached the valley, experienced the heat for ourselves, and saw the throngs of visitors. We both remarked that it was as bad as some of the busiest days we’ve seen at Disneyland. So we saw and savored the sites in the valley, and then headed back toward our refuge at Cedar Breaks, this time taking the route through Springdale and Cedar City.

The next day we headed out on the road again, this time northeast to Capitol Reef National Park’s Fruita Campground where, due to the popularity of this particular campground, we had two separate reservations. One for a single night and another for 3 nights. The first site was very nice and well-shaded by the campground’s well-loved trees, but those same trees caused enough obstructions for our Starlink antenna that we were unable to do any video conferencing with our work colleagues, er, Donna’s work colleagues. Knowing that we had only planned to be in this site for a day, we broke camp and headed out of the park to Bureau of Land Management land east of the park where we set up camp for the night. The site was right next to a little river and the other campers were far enough away so that everyone had their privacy. Oh yeah, and Starlink worked great there.

There were only three issues with that site:

  1. It was warmer at Capitol Reef than it was at Cedar Breaks, we had all of the windows open to help cool the inside of the trailer. At some point that afternoon, a dust storm blew through. By the time we got the windows closed, everything was coated in sand and dust. It took us forever to get it all cleaned up.
  2. Later, after we’d gone to sleep, a small critter found its way into the trailer to get into our trash bag. We both woke up during the night and interpreted the sounds it made differently (Donna thought it sounded like chewing, but discounted what she thought she heard; David thought it was water dripping off the trailer from dew or light rain). In the morning, it was clear that a small rodent had enjoyed a light repast, after which it departed. We removed everything from the trailer, sanitized literally everything, left baited traps out for weeks, and never saw so much as a single dropping.
  3. Some time after dark, a motorcycle tourer decided to vroom into camp and pitch a tent about 10 yards from us. Once the vrooming was over, he or she was imperceptible. I guess we were too, because that person continued sawing logs long after we left the next morning. And we are not exactly quiet in our departures, especially when we think we’ve had a mouse in the house.

The next morning, we once again pulled up stakes and headed back to Fruita, this time to a campsite that was much more open and which was also much better for internet. Not that we really needed it because the weekend was upon us. Oh well…

Capitol Reef is a really underrated park and we enjoyed all of it, including the amazing Fruita Campground. We drove all over the park with our usual guide from GyPSy Guide GuideAlong. We also took several hikes here, our favorite of which was this one:

Oh yeah, and lest we forget, we had some great meals in nearby Torrey. The first was our visit to Capitol Burger, a food truck in town. Here is what David said about it on Yelp:

Wow! One of the best burgers I've ever had. Really! This family run food truck raises their own cattle and grinds the meat fresh every day. All of the other ingredients are super fresh as well. And they easily accommodated my wife's celiac disease! For those of you who need to eat gluten free, you'll be pleased to know that the fries are safe! This amazing food truck is definitely a recommended stop if you're in Torrey!!

The second was at Hunt & Gather, where we enjoyed a really great meal on their back patio. This restaurant used to be called Cafe Diablo. David & Emily ate there together during Daddy Camp when they shared a rattlesnake appetizer (by which we mean that they ate an appetizer that was made from rattlesnake meat, rather than that they ate a starter that would be appropriate for a snake’s dinner). If you’re every in Torrey, definitely try Capitol Burger and Hunt & Gather!

As our weekend came to a close we headed out toward our final campsite for the trip, which was supposed to have been the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Arizona. Only we changed our minds and drove all the way home to Santa Fe. Along the way, we stopped at the Cow Canyon Trading Post in Bluff, Utah, where we purchased some earrings for Donna and a really lovely little Navajo weaving.

The drive home from Capitol Reef was only about 10 hours. Plenty of time for us to talk about how surprised we had been by Cedar Breaks.

Total Miles: 1,250

Tips:

  • Go visit Cedar Breaks National Monument before anyone else hears about it. You can thank us later.
  • KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) If you can’t get Internet at your campsite, take your satellite dish elsewhere or go find a coffee shop. Don’t break camp and move!
  • OTOH (On The Other Hand) – Sometimes when you move you find some really great spots to camp. Just watch out for dust storms and hungry critters.

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