Looking at the red rock cliffs that surround you when entering Capital Reef, the last thing you expect to find is a beautiful valley of fruit trees, and a picturesque brook where we unexpectedly stayed for over an hour. A beautiful deer that didn’t seem bothered by our presence watched us from a safe distance the entire time we spent on the river. Fruita is a wonderful little area that has historic buildings, orchards with about 3,000 trees, a natural science center with fun activities for the kids, and a beautiful picnic area. Mormon settlers made Fruita their home in the late 1800s. There is a historic schoolhouse which dates back over 100 years. The last class graduated in 1941!
We also came across the the Gifford Homestead. As described in the NPS website: “The Gifford farm lies in the heart of the Fruita valley, a desert oasis described by Wallace Stegner as “…a sudden, intensely green little valley among the cliffs of the Waterpocket Fold, opulent with cherries, peaches, and apples in season, inhabited by a few families who were about equally good Mormons and good frontiersmen and good farmers.” The 200 acre Fruita Rural Historical District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.”
An unexpected bonus was coming across the Freemont Petroglyphs just off highway 24 past the schoolhouse. It was fascinating! My first time seeing petroglyphs and it only too me 44 years!
We took a short hike near Chimney Rock and explored some of the trail before heading on.
Our new friend followed us down the river and kept a watchful eye.