I should have known better. When I pulled the drapes back the following morning the landscape wore a cape of misty, uneven fog. Light rain mist, as the forecasters now describe it. I peered outside again twenty minutes later to find beams of light spotlighting the surrounding cliffs, but after I dressed the weather deteriorated to a cold, impersonal rain. Like some mornings in Oregon, when all you crave is strong coffee with a teaspoon of weak sunlight stirred in.
What Ulrich and I required then was caffeine, and breakfast. After check-out at The Rimrock Inn we drove up the hill to the junction of Highways 12 and 24; there’s a collection of small businesses there, including Castlerock Coffee and Candy, which was drawing people inside like a magnet. I soon understood why—fill a warm, comfortable space with friendly people waiting out a storm, give them good food and lattés, and they’ll soon be working at their laptop computers or sharing stories across the tables, troubles (and rain) forgotten.
After an hour the sky brightened, a signal to everyone to hit the road again. Today was The Day to drive through Capitol Reef National Park, to the eastern entrance to the Cathedral Valley Loop road, but as we neared the park, where the Fremont River and the highway are funneled through a narrow gorge, I knew we weren’t going anywhere that couldn’t be reached by a paved road. Inside the park Visitor Center anxious travelers stood three-deep at the information counter, learning as I did that yes, the main highway was open again and no, the scenic drive was still closed because of trees that had fallen. A ranger said they’d received almost an inch of rain that morning—virtual waterfalls lined the cliffs above park headquarters.
I didn’t bother asking about the Loop road (I learned later it had washed out). What was it villains exclaimed in old movies, after their plans fell apart? “Drat, foiled again!” I knew how they felt.
The storm had moved northeast towards Hanksville, where we’d spend the night—along Highway 24 evidence of heavy rainfall was everywhere. Hours after the brunt of the storm the Fremont still ran swiftly, red with soils that had washed down from the canyons. Anyone foolish enough to pull off the road would be stuck within six feet in the gray-black bentonite muck, so we drove along slowly, stopping only in well-graveled turnouts, snapping shots of slick rocks.
In Hanksville, an hour of daylight remained after dinner, so instead of folding our hand we gambled on sunset at Factory Butte and drove back to watch the day end.