Capital Reef National Park is an interesting park.

If you are playing the tourist and your wheels never leave paved roads, you will drive into the park on Utah state road 24, visit Fruita and the area around the visitor center. You may even stop to hike a few of the established trails. It is all very impressive and you will leave having seen about 20 percent of the park.

If you are a little more hardcore, have a LOT more time and have a vehicle that is up to challenges, you may extend your exploring south from the visitor center along the east side of the Waterpocket Fold another 52 miles to the Lake Powell area. Along the way are hundreds of canyons and miles of slickrock wonders to discover. Or you may choose to travel north along the east side of the Waterpocket Fold another 20 miles to discover entirely different types of country. This is where the Cathedral Valley area is found. You will then leave the park knowing that you have seen another 40 percent of the park that most visitors never see.

The part of the park that interests me, is the parts of the park that almost no one ever sees. Especially the deep sandstone canyons north of Fruita and the Vistors Center. This is the area drained by Polk Creek and Deep Creek.

Having explored all the possible access points along the south, east and north sides of this area. I decided to explore the west side to see how close to these hidden areas I could get easily. This meant driving the dirt roads and jeep trails on the east side of Thousand Lakes Mountain.

I first drove to Frement Utah.

Fremont Rock Church

I then drove north on highway 72 to the turnoff for Forsyth Reservoir. Insteading of turning west towards the reservoir, I turned east. Near Geyser Peak I was stopped by a Forest Service roadblock. The ranger there advised me of forest fires in the area. When I told him the direction I would heading he let me pass.

Once on the east side of Thousand Lakes Mountain, I started exploring the roads and trails around Elkhorn Campground. There was actually a short road that took me to a ‘Deep Creek Overlook’. (The air was choked with forest fire smoke so pictures were hazy.)

[Click on picture to enlarge]

Without bringing my ATV to ride the ATV trails, this was as close as I was going to get.

Dang! I wonder what is hidden in there.

Driving home to Orem later that afternoon was even smokier. Especially in Price where it was almost night like though the sun was still up.

The highway through Spanish Fork Canyon was being closed off and on as the visibility conditions changed. I managed to get through though I did stop to watch the fire approach the road with only the train tracks between us. Suddenly, here comes the Amtrack train rumbling by. I’ll bet those passengers got a real fright suddenly seeing flames outside their window.