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Day 3: Temples, Capitol Gorge, and Zebra Canyon

After another sunrise at the Temple of the Sun, I hiked the Capitol Gorge, and then drove toward Escalante, where I had set my sights on Zebra Canyon, a beautiful slot canyon reached by a short hike.


Another sunrise at the Temples

After a completely cloudless sunrise the previous day, I was hoping for a few clouds to liven up the sky in the sunrise shots. I got a lot more clouds than I bargained for. For a while, there was some hint of clearing on the eastern horizon. It was going to be a boom or a bust. It turned out to the latter with the sun never illuminating the clouds from below as I hoped for, but it still made for a different atmosphere entirely than that I experienced the previous day. Hopefully, I will get lucky the next time...

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Morning visitors Gray sunrise temples BW temples Blue sunrise temples Temple of the Sun
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Setting up Photographers Swirly clouds Dodge and the Temple


Morning

I said good bye to the Temples and Cathedral Valley for good, and drove back toward Fruita. It was still quite early, and I decided to make an extra stop in the central part of the park.

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Glass Mountain and Temple of the Sun Juniper in the badlands Cows in the desert? Capitol Reef highway Aliens
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Petroglyph lookout Highway 24


Capitol Gorge

Capitol Gorge Trail is accessed from the end of the Scenic Drive on a 2.4 mile dirt road, aptly named Capitol Gorge Road. It is fun to drive as it winds its way through the narrow gorge. The trail itself starts from the parking lot and descends down a wash at the bottom of the gorge. Even though there are several warning signs prohibiting no long vehicles or trailers, a pickup with a superlong trailer made it down to the parking lot. As I was packing up for my little hike, I watched with amusement as it was trying to turn around in the little open area between the cars in the parking lot. Stupid is as stupid does.

The gorge is wider and more open than the Grand Wash that I hiked the day before. After about a mile, I made my way up the left side to the Tanks, an area where a stream creates numerous waterpockets. I enjoyed seeing both reflections of the towering sand stones cliffs and toads swimming in the ponds.

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No trailer zone Buddhist monk Pioneer carvings Capitol Gorge Hike to water tanks
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Black pond Drying out Reflection Water Tank Pond with tadpoles
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Dome Wildflowers Clouds Lizard Water pond Smooth rocks
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Capitol Gorge Parking lot


Zebra Canyon

Highway 12 connects Capitol Reef to Escalante. It traverses the flanks of Boulder Mountain as it rises from the desert through coniferous and aspen forests. Henry Mountains can be seen rising from the Colorado Plateau to the east. On the Escalante side, the highway passes a very scenic area near Calf Creek. Zebra Canyon trailhead is reached after making a turn a few miles short of Escalante to the washboarded Hole in the Rock Road. I parked in a small parking lot by the road. As I was getting ready, occupants of the last other car arrived. I was going to have Zebra all to myself.

The trail, which is about 2.6 miles one way, starts from the other, left, side of the road and descends to Harris Wash. It then follows the wash a bit up stream. The entrance to the slot canyon is on the other side of the valley and would not be necessarily easy to find, but in the age of GPS navigation, no one can miss it. As expected, the canyon has water in it. It never rose much about my knees, but still made the footing when lugging my tripod and camera that much more precarious.

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Henry Mountains Calf Creek valley Gulch Livestock fence
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Harris Wash Sandy creek bed Ripples Zebra Canyon entrance Ominous bone
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Flooded entrance Sculpted rocks Zebra Slot Canyon Layer of rocks


Return from Zebra Canyon

Zebra Slot Canyon does justice to its name - it is a narrow slot canyon, that requires some effort to get through in places. It also features streaks of multicolored rock that give it its name. I had fun exploring, and the only thing I was missing at times was a companion to give a sense of scale to the rocks.

It was late afternoon when I got back to the trailhead. I drove to Escalante and after checking in to a motel, I collapsed on the bed. The hiking and early starts took their toll.

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Trail Dodge alone


Previous part: Day 2: Cathedral Road, Grand Wash, and Cassidy Arch | Next part: Day 4: Devils Garden, Willis Canyon, and Kodachrome Basin
Last updated: May 10, 2019
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