San Rafael Swell -- Spring 2014
For the first time I did a solo camping trip (Its funny how few people think hiking sounds like fun!) and I brought all five goats and the dog, just to see if I could manage all of them on my own. I was hoping for very few other hikers, so I went early in the season when it is about 30 degrees at night and still before the Easter rush (Heading to the sandy country is an Easter tradition in Utah). It turns out to have been a great idea, since I encountered very few people to confuse the goats and break-up the herd in the narrow canyon confines.

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I started out by camping at the entrance to "crack canyon". I was not sure how far into the canyon I could make it with the goats and dogs, but I wanted to give it a shot. Once I parked and I scoped out the camping options, we headed right in.

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The goats are particularly athletic early in a trip and they want to play on every interesting formation they find. The youngest two had never been on sandstone before and were learning how keeping their footing is harder than on the granite in the Rockies. They did a couple spectacular crashes right in front of a couple other hikers who seemed to be doubting the legend of goat climbing abilities after seeing Woodstock biff it.

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Here is an awesome boulder field within the canyon. Crack canyon is absolutely full of obstacles. These ones were easy.

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I try to get at least one glamour shot of each individual goat. Here is Victoria.

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Crack Canyon is well named. Unlike Little Wildhorse, which has great wavy narrow slots, this one has sometimes a deep crack in the canyon floor which hollows out almost like a cave.

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The trees were just beginning to get their green leaves. I'm sure in the summer it'll be even prettier. I was hoping to see some wild flowers or cactus blooms, but only the Indian Paintbrush was in bloom.

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Perfect goat habitat. Dont you wish you had rocks like this for them to play on at home?

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Here is Shelby GT looking down from that upper level. I'll talk about how annoying that is later.

We hit obstacle after obstacle. Some made me worry I'd have trouble getting back! Before I went down, I had to be sure I had a plan for the goats and especially the dog to get out again. One difficult one led to another and another until finally I hit one I couldnt get past-- It had a rappelling rope! Usually there was some way to climb up the sides, but this one had smooth walls. A human could shimmy up by pressing against both sides like a ninja, but it was a no-go for the quadrupeds. I didnt get a picture of it because I didn't want to risk the goats daring to jump down. This is where i turned around and had the fun of getting everyone back up all of these obstacles. I had to heave the dog, Sasha, on many of them. Sometimes the younger goats would have trouble finding the right path, or in one case Bacchus just chickened out for no good reason and I had to boost him up. This was a great learning experience for them though! I discovered that Amelia Goat-hart, my small and useless-for-packing female is unstoppable and has wonderful balance and path finding skills, while the yearling packers are not as awesome as they claim to be when the time comes to show their stuff.

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It turns out my camping spot was just down the hill from some old uranium mines. There were even some excellent yellow, crystaline uranium rocks out front. There's an old uranium mine on my gold claim in Moab that produced similar rocks. They're more radioactive than my geiger's test sample, so I dont suggest using one in your fire pit :o)

I didn't take a picture because I didnt bring a tripod, but I slept under the stars and got to see the 'blood moon' in its full glory. It was AMAZING in that setting. It was so bright when it rose over the plateau, and then over an hour the bite out of it grew until it was fully red. I didnt sleep well since the goats never actually sleep their first night out and fidget a lot.

The next morning I figured out I had left half of my food at home, so my rations would have to be stretched. I had a little ice on my sleeping bag, but its a Wiggy's so I was plenty comfy even though its just the shell to my main bag. After a small breakfast I packed up and we headed off to Big Wild Horse Canyon.

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Woodstock's glamour shot.

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Amelia Goat-hart's glamour shot. Note that she is on an arch.

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Bacchus' glamour shot.

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Wild Horse is a little different than the other canyons as it hits a giant cliff wall and moves along this cliff for quite a while before turning and again making its way outside the reef.

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We were fortunate enough to find a little water. One watering hole was dried out by the goats! I brought extra junk shoes thinking we might encounter large puddles and watery zones, but fortunately there was nothing like that even in mid April.

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Now if you remember I was complaining how annoying a certain kind of obstacle can be-- Where you have a shelf that slants upward and a crack that wanders through it. Sometimes they end in a dry waterfall like this one, so you're glad to go up the side slope and bypass the falls.

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Other times you NEED to travel through the crack, but the goats always seek the highest path. They get higher and higher and then cant figure out how to get to you when they're 15 feet up! Thats right, they're too stupid to go back. I found this to be the only REAL obstacle-- the goat's pathfinding software really sucks at this task and I got mighty cranky every time it happened. Once Victoria actually had me pretty worried as she got down a curve too far and I feared she'd break something if she went over the edge. I had to climb up and lure her back up (with the other goats following me and the dog staying down below). Finally I decided to just grab their collars and drag them with me until the edges got too high to entice them upward.

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This one was easy to bypass.

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I had to hike way up the side slopes to get past this one. While up there it seemed like a good time for a break.

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Everyone felt like resting.

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And I'm sorry, Shelby, but this is your glamour shot!

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As I exited the canyon, I had hoped to find the trail to Wild Horse Window. I followed the wash for a while until I found the parking lot full of RVs at the main entrance.

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I had missed it somehow. I backtracked cross-country and found the wash that I think would lead to the amazing cave made of giant arches and full of Indian art, but I decided that due to the delay and everyone getting a bit tired, I'd tackle that the next day. Sasha seemed particularly tuckered, but she was wonderful and leading the way home and even found some turn-offs that I would have missed without her.

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As I cooked dinner it became obvious that Sasha was used up. When she finally got up again she was limping just like last year after day 2. I guess her old German Shepherd hips can only take so many steps before they get sore. I knew that there would be no more hiking this trip. I figured I'd still camp the night as a learning experience for everyone.

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As the sun set, tiny gnats swarmed us. There was not a single one at crack canyon, but this camp site was filled with them! There must have been a gnat gnest somewhere nearby. I finally could not take it anymore and decided to hit the road rather than camp. And why not-- That cozy bed was waiting for me!
What an amazing trip! Thank you so much for sharing it with us! Lovely, lovely photographs. I'd have loved to see the blood moon in such a setting. We watched it from our front porch and it was lovely, but it feels so different when you're out in the wild with no one else and only the light from the stars.

I hear ya on that "goats on a ledge" problem. We ran into that with the youngsters last year. Your goats should grow out of it eventually. Cuzco is smart enough he either doesn't take those routes in the first place, or he just quietly turns around and backtracks when his trail peters out. We usually don't even realize he took the wrong path because he makes no fuss about figuring it out. Of course, now he's so old he wouldn't be able to climb past most of those obstacles any more. His leaping and clambering days are long gone and we have to stick to trails with wheelchair ramps. Wink

I love that poor, "useless" little Amelia Goat-hart is the one who can find a path around anything. That's how I feel about my Lilly. She's got legs bent every which way and walks like a camel, but she's more athletic than all the other goats combined even when she has an enormous udder swinging along behind. It was funny to see her going places and doing things last year that even the babies wouldn't. Petunia *could* (physically she's probably our most athletic goat) but she doesn't have her mother's bravery and drive. Isn't it great how all their unique personalities, talents, and limitations come out in these treks?
Wow! Excellent photos and what an adventure so close to home! Makes me envious of your location.
Goatberries Happen!
I love the Canyon Lands. That looks like a wonderful hike.
How old is Bacchus????

When that youngster turns four I want a PHOTO of him for my Ultimate Pack Goat photo book that Im working on. He looks like he's going to be excellent. I have a thing for Alpines.

" Long Live The Pack Goat"
Curtis King
Wow. Talk about a neat trip. Put a lake with some nice fish in it and I think Id fall in love Smile Thanks for posting
Pack Goat Prospects For Sale.

S.E. Washington (Benton City)
What an awesome trip. Thanks for sharing it with us. The photos are fantastic!
Curtis: Bacchus is about 13 or 14 months old. I agree with you, he's going to be one handsome boy! And big too. He's a bit of a puppy and loves human attention and petting, and he's not spooked by much (which makes it hard to find a way to deter him). He and Shelby and Woodstock are going to make some wonderful packers. Of course as long as this board is around, I'll be posting pictures!
13-15 May 2014

Another trip to the desert!

This trip was to the northern part of the San Rafael Swell. As a 12 year old scout I visited the area and I'd wanted to retrace my steps. This time the goal was Calf Canyon, a large branch off of the larger Buckhorn Draw canyon which we played capture-the-flag in after a longer trek out around Assembly Hall Plateau (Which I plan on doing another time). This trip was just me, Sasha the dog, and the five young pack-goats-in-training, Victoria, Shelby GT, Amelia Goat-hart, Bacchus, and Woodstock.

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We arrived after lunch and I set up my new Hennessy Hammock on this gigantic ancient tree. It seemed like a good spot at the time. Other than being in a wash, (no rain expected) can you tell me why this is a bad place?

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Victoria's glamour shot.

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We set out hiking around 2:30 and started toward Calf Canyon. This area is rather green compared to the canyons on the southern side of the Swell. Of course its spring and things are green, but did you know that the Swell only got 22% of normal rainfall this year?

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Goats playing on rocks. There were some human rock climbers across the way in a camping area. You could see them climbing up cracks in the sandstone face, and you could hear them taunting death when they survived yet again.

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The camera really doesn't do the cliffs justice. I'd need to take telephoto to give the sense of scale that you get when you're there.

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An oasis. This place really is beautiful!

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Its hard to tell but somehow I feel like someone once tried to make a reservoir here. There are reasons to think it is not a natural feature.

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Of course we had to go check out these formations.

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The reason there are no Indian dwellings in here is that they're under 20 feet of rubble. Well. Who knows... I could be right! It was a good place for a break though.

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I dub this "Sasha Arch"

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They say this sandstone is 180 million years old.

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For some reason I am reminded of a scene from the latest King Kong movie...

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A little left over from the spring torrents for the goats to drink. Judging from the debris stuck in the branches the water was about 8 feet deep in some places.

So back at camp I made some dinner and let the goats run around grazing while I rested in my hammock. WHOMP! Woodstock climbed up the old tree trunk and jumped on to the top of my hammock's rainfly. It just busted a redundant plastic clip. From then on I folded that side of the rain fly back when the goats were off leash. I'll write a review of the hammock later, but in short I think I like it for goat trekking. I slept quite well compared to all other outings, which says a lot about it.

Thats it for now. I'll post again with pics from day 2, walking up Buckhorn Draw, later.
What a great trek! I love the story of Woodstock jumping on your rain fly. Big Grin
What wonderful areas you have to hike! Keep those photos and stories coming!
Goatberries Happen!

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