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  • I waited forever for the apricots to ripen and the Rangers to open the gates to the orchard.

    Capitol Reef National Park is a unique place for many reasons, but one of the most delightful is that the campground and visitor's center is nestled in a little valley with creek-irrigated orchards, and according to the park's charter, they have to be tended and opened to the public, using the same traditional methods as the Mormon farmsteaders that planted and tended them for decades.

    And then one day I walked into the visitor's center and one of the rangers told me that the apricots were ready! I couldn't wait for the end of my shift. It has just rained, so the ground was a little muddy. I traipsed around in the red mud and used a long pole with a wire basket at the end to pick them, and I filled up my rucksack.

    Then I made a huge vat of jam. I ran out of mason jars and a ranger friend of mine heading into town said he would buy me more. I used whatever I had on hand, including a glass jar that once had tomato paste in it.

    We ate Capitol Reef apricot jam long after I returned from the park and the red sand of Utah. We ate it even after the red sand in the car's wheel wells finally stopped bleeding onto our driveway.

    One day I got home and my wife was making tomato soup and she said something seemed wrong with the tomatoes. She didn't realize they were apricots. I imagined that, at that moment, the ghost of a Mormon farmsteader was chuckling out west.
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