Navajo Knobs has been a hike in Capitol Reef National Park that I've wanted to do for a long time. I've continually put it off because it's longer than so many other nearby hikes and yet so easy to access. Given that our family visits the area so often, I've always said to myself: It'll be there next time. That next time finally happened.
Normally I would shy away from hiking in the desert in mid-summer where water sources don't exist along the way, especially higher mileage hikes. However, being at the top end of the Grand Staircase, much of Capitol Reef sits well over 5000 feet in elevation. This helps cool down temperatures overnight and in the early morning to make hiking more pleasant, even in the dog days of summer. Considering that and the fact that the trail leading up to Navajo Knobs runs along the west side of some higher cliffs, I knew there'd be shade for much of the way if I got an early enough start on the trail. With Jess's OK, I got up and drove down the road from Torrey to the trailhead in the Park and got started on the trail just before 7 am. It would have been a half hour sooner, had I not left my phone with its all important camera back in Torrey, causing me to turn around to go back and get it.
The Navajo Knobs trail shares a trailhead with the much more popular Hickman Bridge, and with that being such a popular hike, and the trailhead only being able to accommodate a couple dozen vehicles, the trailhead can fill up quickly. As true for most other hikes, not only is starting early the ticket to beating the heat, it's also the ticket to beating the crowds and securing an easy parking spot.
Moments from the start, I arrived at the fork. One way continued on to Hickman Bridge, a point I had been to a few times before, while the other would lead me up unfamiliar territory the rest of the way. I made the turn for the latter.
Every now and then, as I ascended up the trail, I'd look back to see what the sun light was doing. One reason was just to be sure I didn't miss a nice picture. The other reason was to keep track of how much shade I'd have left to keep cool in.
I made one brief stop at the Rim Overlook where I surveyed historic Fruita down below, but didn't tarry long, because again, shade. I wanted to maintain as much of it as possible for the ascent up.
So onward I went as I continued to progress this beautiful high desert ascent.
After a couple of miles, I found myself staring down at another iconic landmark of Capitol Reef, The Castle. Have been used to see it from below and passing by it so many times on the countless drives I've made along the highway through the park, it was neat to see it from a new angle well above it. My destination, Navajo Knobs, was also now visible along the top of the cliff above it. It was a "so close, but still so far away" moment.
And before I knew it, with the sun now fully out, I was standing at the base. I sized up the knobby rocks for a moment. Looks like a fun climb.
As it turns out, it was a fun little climb. The route, which leads up the back or west side is just some real simple class 3 climbing with little to no real dangerous exposure. And just like that, I was all alone at the top taking in yet another breathtaking view across all 360 degrees of the horizon.
Since it was Independence Day, I thought it appropriate to snap a few pics of the nation and state flag. It made me extra thankful to live in a country and a state with such a variety of majestic landscapes that has been preserved and protected for the recreation and enjoyment of the public. More importantly, it's a blessing to live in a land of abundant freedom and liberty.
I couldn't resist detouring up to the site of a little radio tower that sits along the edge of the rim overlooking Fruita. It offered some fantastic views down at the Visitor Center and on up the Sulfur Creek and Fremont River gorges.
I also made another quick stop back at the Rim Overlook.
Nearby was one of the many lizards that were consistently sighted along the trail. I became jealous of how easy it was for this little guy to find shade. The heat of summer was definitely starting to manifest itself.
One last little side spur off trail revealed an overlook to Hickman Bridge.
I also enjoyed views of Pectol's Pyramid.
Pectol's Pyramid gets its name from Ephraim Pectol, the great-great-grandfather of my wife, Jessica. As noted in another recent post, he had been among the first residents of modern day Torrey, Utah. He raised a large family, explored much of the surrounding landscape, compiled quite a collection of ancient artifacts from his explorations before the antiquities act was passed making it illegal to do so, owned and operated the Chuckwagon shop and motel for a time, served as a Mormon Bishop, and was eventually elected to serve the Utah State Legislature.
While a member of the the legislature, he and his brother-in-law, Joe Hickman, worked at securing federal protection for a section of what is now Captiol Reef National Park. The efforts were successful in getting President Franklin D. Roosevelt to establish a national monument in 1937. The monument later evolved with acquisition of additional land and ultimately became a full fledged national park when President Nixon signed a bill making it so in 1971.
Thus, Ephraim Pectol can appropriately be attributed as father and founder of what is now Capitol Reef National Park.
Passing by the marker for Pectol's Pyramid also meant the trailhead where my car awaited was nigh. Just a half mile or so of descending back down to the banks of the Fremont River before I was able to conclude the hike.