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Capitol Reef National Park, near Torrey in Utah, owes its name to two of its natural features: whitish rock formations that look like the Capitol dome in Washington, DC; and the giant Waterpocket Fold that stretches from North to South making the rock walls pushed up from the earth look like reefs. There was no easy way to cross the area from East to West until Highway 24 was built in 1962.

View of Capitol dome from Highway 24 at Capitol Reef National Park.

View of Capitol dome from Highway 24 at Capitol Reef National Park.

Capitol Reef National Park at sunset and moonrise.

Capitol Reef National Park at sunset and moonrise.

Beginning of trail to the Golden Throne at Capitol Reef National Park.

Beginning of trail to the Golden Throne at Capitol Reef National Park.

I drove on the paved section of Notom Road which ran for 34 miles (54 km) on the East side of Capitol Reef. That’s where the Waterpocket Fold rock wall stretching for miles was clearly visible.

Rocck formation by the side of Notom Road. The long Waterpocket Fold wall is visible on the lower right side of the photo.

Rock formation by the side of Notom Road, with the long Waterpocket Fold wall seen on the lower right side of the photo. On aerial photos, the fold is clearly visible as it is nearly 100 miles (160 km) long.

Despite these geologic obstacles, Mormon pioneers began settling in the area in the late 1870’s. They established a community named Fruita along the Fremont River, planted fruit trees and raised animals. Fruita is now within the park boundaries and the Mormons have been bought out and moved away, but the orchards are still productive with about 3,000 trees. In season, visitors can pick and eat fruit for free, or pay a small fee if they take it home.

Mormon barn in Fruita, near the Visitor Center at Capitol Reef National Park.

Mormon barn in Fruita, near the Visitor Center at Capitol Reef National Park.

The Gifford family was the last family to be bought out by the government in 1969. Their house now serves as a museum where souvenirs, fruit pies, and ice cream are sold!

My Fruita lunch: apple pie and strawberry ice cream.

My Fruita lunch: apple pie and strawberry ice cream.

The following morning, the sun put on a beautiful sunrise. I took these photos from the hotel which was only 2 miles from Capitol Reef.

Sunrise over Capitol Reef, as seen from hotel.

Sunrise over Capitol Reef, as seen from hotel.

Sunrise over Capitol Reef National Park.

Sunrise over Capitol Reef National Park.

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