Upper Muley Twist
After climbing Mount Ellen in the Henry Mountains of south-central Utah on 12 October 2016, Zosia Zgolak and I entered Capitol Reef National Park and were planning to camp at Cedar Mesa Campground that evening.  This is the only campground (free with pit toilet, picnic tables and fire rings) at this end of the park, but for some incomprehensible reason, it has only five available sites.  Naturally, all sites were full when we arrived, and after some discussion, Zosia and I elected to continue driving south until we reached the junction with Burr Trail road.  Turning west, we drove up a series of well-constructed switchbacks, each one providing more jaw-dropping scenery than the previous one as we climbed from the valley bottom to the upper plateau.  We finally stopped at the trailhead for Upper Muley Twist Canyon where we camped for the night.  Although a couple other cars were also parked here, we saw no one else for the rest of the evening.  Zosia and I enjoyed a nice dinner in solitude surrounded by spectacular rocks and a colourful night sky.
The sign reminds me of a tombstone... Zosia appears joyous at entering Capitol Reef National Park.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

What a crazy place to build a road! The Burr Trail road takes a daring line up through the cliffs of Burr Canyon.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Although camping is illegal here, it is okay to park cars overnight... A few cars are parked at the first trailhead for Upper Muley Twist Canyon.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Zosia is an expert when it comes to boiling water! Zosia boils some water for dinner near the trailhead.  Behind her is Peek-a-Boo Arch.
Red sky at night, a sailor's delight! The sky is very colourful after sunset on this evening.
On the morning of 13 October 2016, Zosia and I got up before dawn to eat breakfast and hike the Upper Muley Twist loop.  Although I considered driving another 4.7 kilometres to the Strike Valley Overlook trailhead, the access road was rough enough near the beginning to discourage me from continuing on, and we simply walked from the initial trailhead.  As we would find out, the access road turned out to be mostly in good shape, but there were enough rough spots along the way to allay any doubts I had about leaving my car behind.  Just before reaching the loop junction, we ran into a couple who had camped overnight and did the loop counter-clockwise.  They expressed a lot of grief over the return through the "narrows" near the north end of the canyon.  After taking a short break at the loop junction, Zosia and I opted to do the loop clockwise and continued northward up the canyon.  We later spotted some cairns and followed a route which bypasses the difficult "narrows" on the east side.  Beyond this section, we dropped back into the canyon briefly before reaching a sign pointing the way to the east rim.  A short climb with some easy scrambling took us to the top of the east rim where we were rewarded with far-reaching views of the Waterpocket Fold (the geological feature which defines Capitol Reef National Park) and the Henry Mountains.  We continued to follow cairns as we hiked southward atop the undulating east rim until we reached a sign pointing the way back down into Upper Muley Twist Canyon.  The trail was easy to follow, and we had no issues descending to the loop junction.  The ensuing long walk back to the trailhead was a bit wearisome under a hot afternoon sun but otherwise uneventful.

Upon returning to our car, we drove westward and eventually ended up spending the night at another trailhead in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
I don't think it's officially named, so I'll just call it the Cyclops! This hole in the rock is easy to miss along the road between the two trailheads.
Not the best shot, but I was too lazy to go find a better angle! Saddle Arch is located near the loop junction.
Apparently the name comes from the tendency for mules to get all twisted in this canyon. Zosia continues hiking into Upper Muley Twist Canyon.
Look for cairns! Zosia hikes up the route which bypasses the "narrows", a purportedly difficult section of the canyon to navigate.
Scrambling on slickrock is a lot of fun! Parts of the bypass route require some easy scrambling.
Unusual indeed! These unusual rock formations are located near the north end of Upper Muley Twist Canyon.
Did you bring your helmet, Zosia?? Zosia scrambles up an easy rock step on her way to the top of the east rim.

Better than the Grand Canyon...maybe!

The Waterpocket Fold is revealed as Zosia strolls along the top of the east rim.  In the distance is Mount Ellen.


It's steep enough to be dangerous under wet or snowy conditions. Under dry conditions, these rock slabs are no problem for Zosia to walk up. do we get back down into the canyon from here?? Zosia peers over the edge into Upper Muley Twist Canyon.
Notice the arch? Sonny admires the view of the canyon from the east rim.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Whew! It's getting hot now!! On her way back to the trailhead, Zosia hikes below some impressive cliffs.
Peek-a-Boo, I see you! Seeing Peek-a-Boo Arch again means that the trailhead is near.
A full day of walking, but it never gets dull! Total Distance:  24.1 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  7 hours 56 minutes

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