Partway along our drive south towards highway 24, we turned off to visit another couple of cool monoliths - similar in nature to the ones in upper Cathedral Valley. Known as the Temples of the Sun and Moon, they are attractively spaced and arranged on a flat plain with a line of cliffs as a background. Nearby there was another super interesting attraction (technically outside of the park boundary) known as Glass Mountain. It wasn't really a mountain, being only about twenty feet high, but it was super interesting: composed entirely of huge selenite crystals, it looked jarringly out-of-place. Like a little bit of superman's arctic ice fortress poking out of the desert.
Temples of the Sun and Moon
Closeup, Temple of the Sun
It was now approaching mid-afternoon, and we decided that it was time to stop with the exploring and start with the travelling: i.e. making our way back towards Salt Lake City. There weren't any major named attractions along our route south of the temples in any case (although there's plenty of interesting desert scenery) between where we were and the junction with Utah 24, which we reached around 2:30 pm.
End of the Road
This had been an excellent introduction to Northern Capitol Reef. It was indeed a very beautiful, very lightly visited place. I think that apart from remoteness, one of the reasons why we've never visited the northern end of Capitol Reef is because there aren't any long trails, no descriptions of long backpacking routes. It really is qute an undeveloped area. In fact, I think it gets visited more by 4X4 adventurerers than hikers and backpackers. Looking at the topo map of the area reveals lots of interesting looking topography. Is the next Coyote Gulch hiding around here somewhere, waiting to be discovered and described?
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Northern Capitol Reef Visit - click map to view
It was not an overly long drive back from mid-Capitol Reef to Salt Lake City: east on scenic Utah 24, past the always-imposing Factory Butte, a quick stop in Hanksville for gas and a snack, and then north to the I-70 and on to the highway leading north through Price and into the greater Salt Lake City area. Perhaps three hours of driving in total. A bout of inclement weather was moving in, and as we approached normally dry Salt Lake City, it started to rain. This was great timing for us (as in, it didn't rain on us on our trip).
A Final Burger
A quick stop at the perennially-favorite In-N-Out Burger, then to our motel near the airport for some last minute packing.
So, we come to the end of another adventure. One full of new places and remote corners. The focus on the "reefs" of Central Utah had worked out quite well, keeping the driving down to a reasonable level. Overall our outings had been pretty easy-going - nothing super strenuous. An excellent introduction for Brian's retirement years.
Bye bye, Brian
Speaking of Brian's retirement years, well... he was immediately taking advantage of his new-found freedom: he was not flying back with us. Instead, he had rented a car and was planning several more weeks of travel in the desert southwest - first by himself, and then with a buddy he knows that lives during the winter months in the town of Mesquite, Nevada. He was going to help his friend drive his truck back north to Canada for the summer. How... retirement-ish!
Thanks for reading, and best of luck to you, Brian, on your continuing adventures. Hope you enjoyed your "Reefy" retirement Introduction!
As a final flourish, I present a fast-paced video summary of our fast-paced trip. Turn up the sound and go full screen!
Video, Brian's Reefy Retirement Adventure. - Click on video above to start