I find it hard to select the one thing that most thrills me about my drive from Vernal, Utah to Capitol Reef National Park. A narrow, twisty, two lane shoulder-less, ravine lined roller coaster of a road, Hwy 191 awaits me on this journey. But I don’t know all that until I get on the mountain. The thing that has me all worked up in advance is the 6%, then 8% grades over 6 or so miles that I have to climb. Or maybe they are the other way around, but at any rate – STEEP!
Highway 191 is clearly labelled as challenging in my book of mountain roads to try to avoid. Internet posts from other RVers and truckers suggest that I avoid the section of this road between Helper and Duchesne at all costs. Great – now I am truly terrified! On previous trips, I have been able to route myself around most difficult roads without prolonging my day’s ride too much. But for this trip, a less mountainous route is not an option.
A Long Climb and Slow Descent
I have only had a little practice over the last year managing the heat of my engine when climbing and saving my brakes when descending. Not yet ready for the advanced stuff, I feel like am an preparing for the final exam. I am extremely concerned about the unavoidable vertical climbs and rapid descents on this road. Seeking guidance and reassurance, I call my brother-in-law, Weldon, for some advice.
The RV will climb any grade without overheating he explains . As long as I am willing to downshift and slow down I will not overtax the engine. Perhaps, he suggests, that Stormy (surely this can’t be true) may not have wanted to patiently and slowly ascend choosing instead to cope with rising temps. Weldon contends that the worst that can happen is that I wind up climbing at 5 mph in 1st gear but with engine temps in normal range. Thank goodness it does not (quite) come to that.
The truck and auto drivers queued up behind me probably use all sorts of descriptive words to convey their pleasure at my 25 mph crawl up the mountain and matching descent back down. The one thing I clearly remember from Truck Driving School is to use the same gear going down as I had to use going up. Terrorized, I can barely stand to look while winding my way along this road course. Up, down and sideways like a giant snail I creep toward southern Utah. But I can’t really comment on the scenery between Duchesne and Helper. Although I can say with great certainty that the lines on the left and right side of my lane are extremely clear, but much too close together.
A Capitol Time
Once I unload the Jeep and can maneuver more easily, Matt, Sherry and I explore Capitol Reef National Park. The views here are magnificent. I think we all agree that Cathedral Valley, a lonely off-road trek that ends with a ford up the Fremont River, is the most scenic. Although not a very technical drive for the Rubicon, some very deep sand on the way out gives us a thrill. The photos below capture some of my favorite sights from this adventure!