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GROUP HIKE! -- One Week In The San Rafael Swell - Printable Version

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GROUP HIKE! -- One Week In The San Rafael Swell - Charlie Horse - 09-28-2019

The first to arrive were my sister Sarah, her husband Zak, and two daughters Saskya and Coleena on Friday.  I was still busy packing, but we made time for a quick hike nearby in the Entrada sandstone band which, around here, they call the "Red Ledges". 

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Saturday morning we did a pony ride next to the house.  I have no idea where my pony saddle is-- I think one of my other sisters ended up with it, while I ended up with the pony.  We made due with a bareback pad.

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RE: GROUP HIKE! -- One Week In The San Rafael Swell - Charlie Horse - 09-28-2019

Saturday afternoon Nano and Phil arrived.  We had to deal with an  exploded brake pad on their horse trailer.  Then Robert and Connie, Taffy, and Eldon and Debbie arrived and stayed the night in their campers in the field next door.

Sunday morning we visited the Morrison for a rock-hounding hike.  First we had to go under the road through a culvert.  The other side is a real wonderland of colorful balancing rocks, from house sized boulders to pebbles each on their own pedestals.  

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Connie walking through the agate fields.



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The above two goats are Blackie and Sprite, who just love sampling the desert weeds.  They had their own adventure and climbed up a plateau to try the untouched bushes up there.  I'd always wanted to see what was up there and this was the day I got to check it out.  I found a great dinosaur bone deposit and Phil and Robert helped to drag the wayward goats back to rejoin the group.


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Eldon and his super cute little guys pose for a picture.


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Robert and Connie by some colorful boulders. 


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After lunch we arrived at the goal-- The unlikely and intense yellow and purple zone.


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Heading back


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I brought Woodstock and Victoria on this trip.  Woodstock was originally Sarah's goat, and Vickie doesn't get to go out as much since she started growing big udders for no reason.  Thanks to Sarah milking her, she got a fun outing!


RE: GROUP HIKE! -- One Week In The San Rafael Swell - Charlie Horse - 09-28-2019

Saturday evening we headed to the Wedge Overlook.  I hadn't been there since I was 14, but I thought it would be a great place to camp and watch the sunset.  The dirt road was long, and you sometimes wonder why you're driving through such boring desert scrub... Then you come over the hill and see the view!

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Here's Sputnik standing on the cliff overlooking "The Little Grand Canyon".


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Fin hanging his toes off the edge...  Goats really do love a good view!


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I had stopped by the house on the way past and swapped Woodstock and Vickie for Bacchus, my boss goat.  This was his first overnight in a while and he did great.


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While the rest of us camped across the road from the edge, Eldon and Debbie parked feet from the cliff edge.  Now THAT is an epic camp site. 

The night was warm and the stars were out in full, but the sunset and sunrise were  lacking due to some haze in the distance, alas.


RE: GROUP HIKE! -- One Week In The San Rafael Swell - Charlie Horse - 09-28-2019

Next we drove down Buckhorn Draw.  We'd planned to camp on a small plateau overlooking the San Rafael River surrounded by giant cliffs and plateaus that would remind you of the old cowboy movies.  On the way, we stopped for an easy hike in Calf Canyon.  I scouted the campground while people got their goats ready, and I was back in time for the hike.  Along the way we stopped for a quick look at the big Freemont Indian pictograph cliff.

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The cliffs get really high here since its near the high end of Buckhorn.


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I climbed up to look at some green minerals and caught a great shot of Bacchus and Luna.


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On the trail.  It was getting a little hot today.


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We did lunch in a shady area near a year-round seep.  The goats were competing to be king of this rock so we had to tie them up.  Calf Canyon goes on quite a bit more, but we turned back here.


RE: GROUP HIKE! -- One Week In The San Rafael Swell - Charlie Horse - 09-28-2019

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Here's our caravan leaving Buckhorn and heading east on Mexican Hat Road toward our camp spot, which I dibbsed (Hey spellchecker, that IS a word!) with my cot tent earlier.  While this road goes for another 25 miles and hooks up with I-70, not a single person passed by while we camped.


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Robert and Connie being pestered by Bacchus, who tried to fill everyone's shoes with dirt as he dug himself nest after nest.


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Bacchus wasn't the only one ready to relax!


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Taffy had the great idea of bringing paint-pens and we painted some rocks to hide on our trip to Wildhorse Window later in the trip.  She also brought her patented giant chololate pumpkin pistachio cookies which ruined everyone's low carb diets!


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Eldon had this great little pen made from portable panels.


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As I had hoped, the sunset became epic on this night.  Perfect for all the plateaus, mesas, and cliffs! 


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The sunset lasted an hour or more.


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To my surprise, there were coyotes out in the river bottoms. They started singing well after dark, and just before dawn.  There was one yap-bark-singing nearby, and a family half a mile away, and another family way down river.  Luna didn't give any sign of being on alert.  Good thing the little goats were in the pen and I was nearby in my cot tent, just in case a 'yote got some ideas and tried to climb up our plateau. 

Tuesday was our travel day, so we had a great brunch at JR's diner in Castle Dale, fueld up, and shopped a little.  I swapped Bacchus out for Shelby GT, re-packed my cooler and we all met up in town for the trip to the south side of the Swell.  We took I-70 and then followed the "Reef" which is the long chain of sandstone pushed steeply upward along the south side of the Swell.


RE: GROUP HIKE! -- One Week In The San Rafael Swell - Charlie Horse - 09-28-2019

Goblin Valley went very smoothly.  It was 15 minutes from our campsite by paved road, and was mostly empty when we arrived early in the morning.

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Robert and Connie pose with their goats-in-training under a fantastic goblin hoodoo.


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Our group broke up, and re-joined depending on our whims.  Here you see Nano and Phil finding myself, Rob and Connie exploring an area to the South which I'd never seen before. 


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This was a really neat area with some tall and thin hoodoos.


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Nano and a noble goat.


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Goblin Valley is flat for those that want an easy hike, or you can climb some dirt slopes and explore closer to the cliffs.


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Here's Sprite.  I heard Eldon let his goats climb a cliff area near a cave we'd visited in the past.  The goats had a blast!


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I'm pretty sure we're entering an unexplored area.  We may be the first white people to see these sights!  There are hardly any footprints and I suspect they may be moccasin prints.


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Shelby GT radiating pure mojo and charisma...  Those hoodoos are nowhere near as charming and they know it.


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Connie and Blackie prove it is possible to explore mars without an oxygen mask.  I don't think she needs that jacket either-- Then again they're from Texas and were wearing jackets when it was 85 degrees so I could be wrong.


RE: GROUP HIKE! -- One Week In The San Rafael Swell - Charlie Horse - 09-28-2019

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Nano and Sputnik take the high road.  Thats what I love about this place-- You can always find a new path that leads to who-knows-what.


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We met up with Eldon and Connie and did lunch.  Taffy had gone off on her own and we all met up at the parking lot around the same time.  Some tourists had arrived and we had a chance to preach the truth of pack goats to a lot of Europeans.  Eldon really makes a good evangelist for pack goats.  His are the cutest, too.

We headed back, but only Taffy turned into our campground since she wanted a nice nap.  The rest of us continued on to the "Back of the Reef Road" also called  "Chute Canyon Road" for our next adventure.


RE: GROUP HIKE! -- One Week In The San Rafael Swell - Charlie Horse - 09-28-2019

The road had always been kinda crappy, but I think its gone a bit downhill.  The hike for the 2nd half of the day was "Crack Canyon".  This canyon is one I explored many years ago when my goats were youngsters and I had a different German Shepard.  Its a fantastic canyon, but there is a series of 'dry falls' or drop-offs.  One of them is smooth on all sides and has a rope hanging to climb.  This is the turn-around point for goats. 

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We saw this guy on the way in.  There were tiny lizards everywhere, but this guy was a bit bigger.


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The trail from the cars to the mouth of the canyon was sorta hot.  Once we got in, we found shade. 


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This is the opening of the big crack in Crack Canyon.


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Crack Canyon indeed.  But funny thing-- I remember this canyon differently, and when I look at old pictures from my previous hike, they don't match.  I think there was a lot further down that we didn't get to this time since we never bypassed even one dryfall.


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Here's a shot for a sense of scale!


RE: GROUP HIKE! -- One Week In The San Rafael Swell - Charlie Horse - 09-29-2019

The next morning we did the "Wild Horse Window" hike.  This one was the main goal of the trip for Taffy, Eldon, and Connie.  It was the only hard hike due to the fact you must hike up the front of the reef.  While smooth, you do gain altitude and the rock can be lumpy in places.  In other places, the sand is soft and slows you down.

I scouted ahead but couldn't find the official trail-head everyone thought must be there by looking at the map, but our campground was close, so we left from there.  I saw plenty of 'lost' vehicles trying to find a good starting point later, so I am not the only one!

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Here's the group as we began heading up.


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There's no actual path since its all hard stone.  You look for cairns as you plan your ascent.  If you get on the wrong finger of rock, you may have to backtrack to cross a deep, steep crevasse.  


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The goats really love this kind of hike.  Someday I want to camp up on the reef.


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Taffy couldn't do this hike last time because she had a bad knee, and we started from the other end of Wild Horse Canyon, making it a dozen miles of hiking.


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Debbie is an amazing artist and painted this rock while looking at Bacchus resting the day before.



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We started hiding our painted rocks at this point.  The one of Bacchus above  got hidden in this formation to enjoy the view.  I hid my scorpion rock where someone might step on it.  Others got placed in sandstone pot-holes, nooks, and crannies.



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Taffy taking a break with Bourbon.  That goat is soooo loyal to her!  I really admire him as a pet and as a pack goat.



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Bourbon again, starring in his own art-shot.


RE: GROUP HIKE! -- One Week In The San Rafael Swell - Charlie Horse - 09-29-2019

We made it!

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Wild Horse Window is 2 giant caves, one with a hole in the roof and Freemont Indian paintings on the walls.


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Taffy has this little stuffed animal that is like the roaming gnome and appears in pictures all over the place.


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These little guys love each other, unlike my alpines.  Alpines don't have goat friends.  Just frienemies.


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You can see the Indian paintings on the wall.  They're different than others-- They're made of smeared mud or something.


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The view from the cave is amazing, and of course, its nice and shady-- The perfect place to relax a bit.

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