Communing with Nature in Cohab Canyon

I am happy to be hiking again! After a couple of weeks driving across the heartland to make the View Rally, tag my last two remaining states, and get back across the Mississippi River and the Continental Divide, my hands on the wheel have done more movement than my feet on the ground. It’s always a bit of a panic, as my mantra is “Move I must! If I stop, I’ll rust!” Had two weeks behind the wheel caused me to rust?   Six miles up through Cohab Canyon and across Frying Pan in the first day tells me all is not lost.

The road down from Torrey into Capitol Reef National Park is the “big reveal” that I am finally back in SW Utah!

The scenery takes my breath away.

I am surprised to see snow on the distant mountains, something I didn’t see last time I was here.

Effects of the earth’s upheaval, the Waterpocket Fold are evident long before I reach the park.

Twin Rocks..last chance for AT&T signal without a booster.

That’s Chimney Rock in the distance.

I’ve talked before about how I enjoy the “ready made hikes” of the national parks as much as I used to enjoy those wide, well groomed blue-dot cruising runs down Utah’s nearby slopes. Little chance of injury, and almost no chance of getting lost. I love a good bushwhack when I am with others, but as a solo hiker, if I can remove the element of risk in being lost or having to do route-finding, I can achieve the more meditative aspect of hiking that I have come to enjoy.

It’s good to be back in Capitol Reef again…I had forgotten how stunning it is.

The moon will reach the full phase while I am here, an added treat.

Thinking back on when I really learned to love to hike, I can pinpoint it exactly to the days following September 11th, 2001. Having had my entire work neighborhood obliterated, it was two months before we could return back to the office in lower Manhattan. Even my gym, complete with my gym clothes and “Sony Walkman” were gone. That left a whole lot of idle time on my hands, with absolutely nothing to fill it but depressing news, worry, and anxiety. I had gone from an 80 mph job to a screeching halt overnight, and no way to channel that frenetic energy.

My dear friend and co-worker Deb Marrazza had a car. So we began seeking routes out of the city to find a way to expend the energy while calming our frayed nerves and worried minds. We would go just about anywhere to escape the acrid burning smell of lower Manhattan…and worse yet, thinking about what made that smell. Many may not realize it, but just across the Hudson are some beautiful trails. They don’t call New Jersey the “Garden State” fuh nutin’!

As Deb and I would wander through the woods, I found the more I walked, the more soothed I felt. It became almost a daily ritual in those two months following 9/11, like a walking meditation.  I quickly learned the rhythm of my footsteps, the musty autumn smells of the woods, and the soothing sounds of nature were better than any therapist I could have paid in Manhattan, or any combination of anti-anxiety drugs. Seventeen years later and I am still seeking out the soothing, meditative high that comes from a beautiful hike.

Just across the road from the Fruita Campground is the Cohab Canyon Trail.

The trail through Cohab Canyon is only about 1.7 miles, but it links to the longer Frying Pan trail, which can be hiked all the way to the Grand Wash.

There are some really nice overlooks at the end of Cohab Canyon.

People hike for many reasons. Some do it for fitness.  Some do it for fellowship. I find it’s tough to do both, as levels of intent, intensity and commitment vary.  As one who spends 95% of my time alone and therefore enjoys the fellowship, I can tell you that asking a single person to go for a hike only to sprint off and leave them feels like being invited out for a pizza, only to ask the hostess if we can sit at separate tables. If this is “fellowship,” then I am content to be a solo hiker.

During my first visit to Capitol Reef National Park in 2014, I spent most of my time on the trails chasing boot heels. I can barely remember any of it.  So I am looking forward to “sauntering” while contemplating the geological wonders of the Waterpocket Fold. i.e. “the reef.”  As John Muir said, “…now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.”

So on to some serious sauntering….

It’s misting rain the first part of my hike into Cohab Canyon.

There is NO ONE around!! I think I saw 4 people on the entire hike.

The red dot on the left is my backpack covered with its rain-fly. This was a perfect spot for lunch.

There are two beautiful overlooks along the Cohab Canyon trail.

The North and South overlooks peer down into the canyon, and across the town of Fruita.

As I continue on, the rain stops and the sun starts to come out. See the skinny rainbow?

It pays to look up!

Cohab Canyon was named for the “cohabitationists,” the then name for polygamists.

From NPS website, “In 1882, Congress passed the Edmunds Act, making plural marriages illegal and empowering federal marshals to seek out “illegal cohabitation” and prosecute violators to the fullest extent of the law.”

Local lore has it that when the law would come around, these “cohabs” would retreat and hide out in the canyon, ergo the name “Cohab Canyon.”

Once the sun came out, the rocks began to radiate light.

Okay, I will let you finish the rest of the hike in silent meditation…

12 thoughts on “Communing with Nature in Cohab Canyon

  1. We hike for many of the same reasons as you. Partially for the exercise but mainly for the solitude and just being in awe of what nature has provided. Looking at your beautiful photos makes us miss the SW but hopefully we will find equally as stunning scenery out east this winter!

  2. Love all the pictures from Utah! It’s been so long since we have been there and they were only short trips. I just have to persuade the “old guy” to make a hiking trip out there after harvest some year. When is it too late in the year to still have decent weather?

    • Hi, Mindy. It’s really tough to say when is “too late” here. The past two days have been nothing short of perfect. But so much depends on the wind at this time of year, which can make a warm sunny day turn blustery and miserable in a hurry. I’ve spent Thanksgiving sitting by the pool, and have also spent it winterizing the rig, so it’s tough to call. But I think overall, more beautiful days than not. Hope Chris’ leg is healing nicely!

  3. What a beautiful orange, green and blue hike you took me through on this gray, biting cold morning in middle Tennessee! Sauntering and meandering are the sweeteners added to nature’s cup of tea… 🙂

  4. I hike for fitness, but most of all, for the spirit soothing properties. Like you, I prefer a pace that allows me to immerse myself in the beauty and peace of my surroundings. If someone else feels the need to charge full speed ahead, I let them go on, and slow down until they’re out of my sight and I don’t feel compelled to keep up. Unless it’s Eric, and then I tell him to slow down, haha!! His legs are twice as long as mine. 🙂 Capitol Reef is so gorgeous, and your photos are wonderful.

  5. When we lived in Sedona amid those stunning red rocks we would hike with a friend who always raced from start to finish. I vowed then that I would never succumb to hiking purely for the sake of exercise. What he missed along the way! Hiking has always been meditative for me, which is why I don’t often hike in large groups. Most of my time out in nature is spent in a contemplative state, which is just the way I like it. Your photos are stunning Suzanne!

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