Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Snowy desert, the San Rafael Swell

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.

climbers, naturally

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.

7 comments:

Amy Beatty said...

Nice honey. I love waking up to your blogs. We had so much fun climbing and playing in our own "Where the wild things are" playground. All we need is puzzle piece sand/mud for O to pull apart and big rocks to climb and our very own willy wonkas chocolate waterfall. Hope your leg gets better soon so we can go play.

Life on Pelican Street said...

Awesome trip! The dessert can be mesmerizing. I hope your leg heals up!

Elijah Nielson said...

Hey, Beattys! I am actually an avid follower of your blog but have never left comments. And although I'm not anywhere near as gutsy or outdoorsy brave as you all are--your adventures inspire me. I can always justify putting my law school studies on hold when you have a new post! I hope your leg heals up soon, Matt.

Redferns said...

You're such a good momma. Always taking your kids to the coolest places:)

moonshinejunkyard said...

wow mattie, what a place to get an injury! i love that picture of you relaxing amongst the goblins with oey. can't believe you hiked 3 more miles, wonder if that was bad or good for it? i am glad that the result of your crazy antics is just a pulled muscle as opposed to a fall down a waterfall or cliff, my worst nightmare when beatty boys are around.

these destinations are so incredible. does edward abbey write about wild horse canyon? cause it sounds familiar. i love the goblins so much, and that photos with the perfect layers and the one of the boys in the distance playing in the sand with the great scope of natural radness around them. i want to go to the desert! i've been craving it. i'm hoping for a quick jaunt to moab when addie and dad and i come out to see you guys. i know it's a busy time for you but i just need to get my fix. both of smith-beattys and of desert magic.

and again i will say this: you are an excellent travel writer. it should be your job without a doubt. have adventures, take notes and then publish articles or books about them. i love how you include tidbits about the hotel...and its yucky breakfast, so descriptive!

hooray for early camping trips. i can't wait for one myself in the warming sun. love and miss you guys. thanks for brightening my morning exponentially.

mooncowboy said...

Elijah! Good to see you here. Thanks for commenting, for reading, for being inspired! Glad to help pause the schooling--I know how that can be. Hope all is well with you guys.

Heather, thanks for the kind kind words. I'd love to travel write, just to write in general. At least I get to do it a little bit. :) Hiking the additional three miles on my leg wasn't good for it, but it was worth it. And yes, I'd rather tear a muscle than plunge down a waterfall (but that's a great way to go). I don't think Edward Abbey writes about Little Wild Horse Canyon--not sure though--but I'm sure he would've! Thanks for the photo compliments, it's such beauty there. HEY I'm so glad you said you're coming! We didn't know if you were. A desert trip is most surely in the cards, for as long and as far as we want. Definitely. We're never too busy for it.

Thanks everyone for the well wishes on my leg! It's getting better, but still pretty nasty. Huge fat green-purple knots where part of my muscle should be. Painful massaging, but getting much much better. At least I don't limp anymore.

Heidi Daniels said...

I hear Seattle was nice and toasty this past winter ;) Hehe. I think Jarom is destined to either win teh lottiery, or be a CEO of a big company....one name Jarom's Credit Lenders. They will specialize in finding peoples debits cards, and having to sell them back to the rightful owner. Kidding!