We've been wanting to take a late winter trip to the desert for some time, and earlier this month we were able to! The Roots invited us to join them and James and Amber for some exploring of the San Rafael Swell, one of their favorite places on earth (they wrote about this trip too). It might well be one of mine now.
The weather had worried us; Thursday and Friday it stormed and snowed everywhere. We stayed Friday night at the completely unfantastic Ramada Limited in Green River. Its continental breakfast made all others look like manna, and put a new spin on dried-out two-week old hard-boiled eggs. It was an experience that won't bring us back, thanks. But we left rested anyway and took our cars down a dirt road into the wash that is Black Dragon Canyon. The sun came out shining and snow and mud still covered everything. The whole day was gorgeous.
We parked and hiked along the snowy canyon floor.
a short hiking distance to the Black Dragon pictograph panel
Strangely and naively vandalized, all the Black Dragon pictographs are outlined neatly in chalk. Bizarre. Someone thought they were doing us all a favor. Though unnecessary and destructive, it does help bring out the shapes.
Tyler told us about a cave up above the panel. Some of us older kids tried to head up there, but of course our little trio wouldn't be left behind.
inside the cave
Filled with the dust, the sandstone cave was shaped like and reminded us of the Ballroom Cave Anasazi ruins. At one point Jarom lifts us his hand and says, "A credit card!" Yes, in this remote cave he found someone's brand new, unused debit card. He can find money or its equivalent anywhere.
This is the actual "dragon," though pretty faded and hard to see
our snow-covered return
Then we took Highway 24 south to head to Goblin Valley State Park. We've driven by it before, and it's always called out to us--we just hadn't made it down yet. So this was exciting.
A section of the more-than-beautiful San Rafael Reef, just jutting out and up skyward.
At Goblin Valley we quickly got out into the windy cold, snacked, drank and bundled up, and headed down into . . .
this. Virtually sheer heaven.
Amy loving on a goblin
So here's what I did: I started jumping. I was showing off for Oey doing self-described "Spider-Man jumps"--I had already done a few by the cave--big crazy leaps from rock to rock. Hey, I always do this, I'm good at it, I'm capable. So I do a couple and start to walk off and my right leg collapses. The back of knee (my kneepit, per Amy) swelled up twice its size and I was out of commission. I lay here for a while, Oey nestled against me, and thankfully Tyler came to rescue, ran back to his car and got a hiking pole and a plastic bag to fill with snow. I tied up my handkerchief against my leg with the bag of snow, and hobbled off. Frustrated. Annoyed. But mobile still. (I strained/tore my calf pretty bad, I figured out later, although I hiked another 3 miles afterwards.)
look at the size of these things
There was a small runoff creek meandering every which way through the dirt.
Old man Beatty. Amy said she had visions of our future, me struggling after some grandkids.
almost left this guy behind
we found Bella like this, randomly playing Sleeping Beauty
venturing into beauty unmatched (we hiked up into the valley behind that wall-like outcropping)
playing in the stream
A miniature waterfall. Almost looks intentional, landscaped.
On the somewhat famous turtle rock. The guy on the right is a perfect turtle imitator.
best family picture of the trip
colors and sky and two kids loving the sunny sand
Oey found someone's glove on the hike back. Immediate Spider-Man recognition.
After we left Goblin Valley we headed a little further west, into the swell, to see the famous slot canyon Little Wild Horse Canyon.
our dirt road and view
we passed this honorable gnarled cottonwood in the wash at the start of the hike, and we all admired it
entering a slot!
Tyler hooked us all up and carried Orion in their pack (because I was disabled), while poor Alene had to carry sleeping Bailey in her arms! One tough family, and it shows.
a little slot sunlight, every now and again
once down, Oey trailed us all, content and consistent
holding it up
some spots were sketchy, required help for the kids to scale big boulders and obstacles
the sun once more peeks through (on the way there)
. . . and on the way back. We hit some pretty deep water and decided to turn back not halfway up the canyon. We will come back again, explore the whole loop maybe.
walking back up out of our colored paradise
every dimension perfect
the snowed-over reef, love for the desert and Utah
We left Little Wild Horse and drove out further into the swell, to Tyler and Alene's favorite campspot, an empty circular area out over cattle-driving roads, tucked under a wall of the reef.
a hike up in the twilight caught this dusk view
down below they started a roaring little fire
closer shot of the action
A few of the went rappelling. I definitely would have tried it, but . . .
came down warmed myself by the fire
Here's Oey trying to roast a marshmallow. A solid attempt. We pretty much loved this.
always tending to the fire
We drove home in the dark and slept soundly that night. A sweet pre-springtime March adventure. Can't wait for what's next.