This trip was five years in the making. A friend told me about some rock art at Paradise Flats several years ago, but with a combination of procrastination and bad weather I kept putting the trip off until now. I’d been really feeling my mid-40s and decided this was the year to make it happen before I was too old to make the hike. It really wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. I hooked up with Chris and we took my Jeep to the trailhead on Friday evening. It was a long drive in, and we got to our intended camp spot in time to see a nice sunset through the dense ponderosa pine trees.
We got up early on Saturday and hit the trail. Although the trail was well-defined it was pretty rough in spots. 20 minutes later we entered Capitol Reef National Park. The trail wended its way through some pinyons and junipers for a bit until we caught our first view into Paradise Flats. After a rugged descent we were finally in the flats near the head of Paradise Draw. The first point of interest we ran across was a basalt rock wall topped with dead junipers. Just beyond that we reached the first rock art panel.
A little farther past that panel we discovered the jumping cactus. There were little fingerling cactuses that would stick to one shoe, and upon the next step they’d firmly attach themselves to the opposite calf. We spent much of the rest of the hike either trying to avoid the cactus or picking it our of our skin. A month later I was still picking tiny, hair-like cactus needles out of my legs.
Next we reached the largest concentration of rock art of the hike. There were a couple of different styles, as well as differing levels of repatination. Along with spotting some metates and manos, we also saw some signs of cowboys or early explorers having spent some time in the area.
We pressed on and found some more rock art that my friend apparently didn’t discover on his trip. Everything up to that point I was expecting to see, but this last panel wasn’t on the agenda. It was on a narrowing ledge that petered out to nothing, and not somewhere I’d have expected to find more petroglyphs.
Everything had been downhill until this point, and Chris and I had to climb out all the way back to the Jeep. We took a different route and checked out some different cliff bands on the return trip, but didn’t find anything new to us. We got back to the Jeep and encountered an unexpected problem. I had the Jeep in 4-low and the transmission started slipping a minute or two after starting the drive out! I tried to take it easy and we proceeded driving back toward civilization, and we never did have any more issues, but it caused a great deal of stress. To top it all off, we ran into a cattle drive coming up the road as we were descending. We had to stop several times to let the cows and cowboys on their horses pass. We made it back to pavement without any more issues and drove on toward our next destination, Jorgenson and Pleasant Creek flats.
Photo Gallery: Paradise Flats