Petroglyphs on the Cliffs of Capitol Reef National Park, April 23, 2012

(Torrey, Utah, April 23, 2012) Dawn broke beautifully this morning at the Red Sands Hotel as we readied ourselves for another day of learning about the lands we are exploring today. In the context of the millions of years it took to form these spectacular rock formations, we have learned to think of ourselves as the short-term tourists we really are. But, thanks to Chrystal and Marc, we aren’t letting that insight spoil any of the fun.

Dawn at the Red Sands Hotel, Torrey, Utah, April 23, 2012

Today we are visiting Capitol Reef State Park, a gem in its own right, even if it gets less attention than Zion or Bryce Canyon. Leave it to Road Scholar to make sure we experience all of Utah’s geological wonders. Our morning features a hike up Grand Wash Trail, a favorite escape route for Butch Cassidy when he needed one. Which, we hear, was often.

Ross and Karen Armstrong on the Grand Wash Trail. Today is Ross's birthday.

It’s a streambed, really, but not like the ones in your town, or even nearby. There are sheer rock walls, and behind them more cliffs and rock formations you may have seen in Western movies. They’re way better in person, not to mention when you have a geologist alongside you to tell you what happened, or to let you know what to expect in the next million years.

Arlene Paul in Capitol Reef National Park. Ask her about her Road Scholar Rose Bowl program.

Lunch just outside the park was one of the best picnics you can imagine — a small green oasis in Fruita, a grove of peach, apple, and other fruit trees that had just bloomed in the valley between Capitol Reef’s time-keeping cliffs. If you visit in the fall, you can pick all the fruit you can eat. But don’t forget the park’s two enormous cottonwood trees. Hug them. They won’t mind.

The views in Capitol Reef National Park are spectacular.

Our day ended with an archaeological lecture by Larry Davis, who just happens to be the former curator of the Anasazi Museum in Boulder, Utah. There’s no shortage of qualified faculty on Road Scholar’s programs, in case you were wondering. Oh, and don’t forget to ask them questions. They just might research the answer overnight and prepare a short presentation for you and your fellow participants. Marc Deshowitz did just that about why aspen’s leaves quake. But you’ll have to ask him.

The cottonwoods in Capitol Reef National Park

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