Wednesday, May 7
We're still in Utah's Castle Country, and no visit to Castle Country would be complete without exploring the San Rafael Swell. With over 2000 miles of trails, I chose a loop that took us on 100 of those miles, including four different trails. The kids were armed with three Nintendo DS's, two Gameboy's, twelve games....but best of all, an explorer's spirit. No matter what, it was going to be a good day.
We hiked to the top of the viewing area off I-70, taking in the massive views of the reef, but being unable to get fifty miles of reef into one shot....didn't even try. Did take advantage of everyone being in one spot together, though. Smile.
After driving right through the center of the reef westbound on I-70, we got off at the Cottonwood Wash exit, and began our stirring of dust for the next eighty miles. We saw lots of dirt, monoliths, including the tallest free standing monolith in America, cows, sagebrush, a large sinkhole, and then out of nowhere the lovely San Rafael river appeared.
We're really getting into the good stuff now.
No more dusty desert. Looks like someone actually oiled down the roads.
Watch out for the bicyclists!
I know, I didn't see them coming, either.
According to my guide book, there was a large pictograph panel at mile 22.7, and since we figured out how to set the tripometer (by pushing the button, just like every other car we've owned), I was pissed when we passed mile 23 and didn't see the pictographs and someone wouldn't turn around to go look again. As I'm pouting, we hit mile 24.7 and....
Archeologists say these pictographs were painted by a culture of peoples known as "Barrier Canyon Culture", over two thousand years ago.
Next stop I wanted to make was to find a large dinosuar track, but we got all the way to the end of the trail and never saw where it could be, so we continued on to the next trail, Wedge Overlook.
We came up out of the canyon to see Utah's Little Grand Canyon. The views were spectacular!
The walk out was only for the brave.
Can you say vertigo?
I had the same feeling the other day when I'd swing real high, then lean way back tilting my head upside down, and then come up real fast. I did that three times in a row and thought I was going to throw chunks. That's kinda how standing on those rocks, looking down, made me feel.
We had to pass within two miles of the dinosaur track on our way back so we decided to give it an honest try. We were looking for a sandstone ledge 10-15 feet above the road.
We found it!
The track was hiden under some big boulders. I remembered reading that people often do that thinking they're preserving it, when in fact it's "sanding down" the edges. It was surreal to step into the track and know we were standing in the exact same spot as this dino. It's a much bigger impact than just seeing their fossils in a museum. I love my life!
The last leg of the day was back home via the Green River Cutoff Road, and along with views of the familiar Bookcliffs we see a U.F.O.
Or as someone so kindly pointed out to me on Flickr, it's a lenticular cloud, but it's really much more fun to think you're following a U.F.O.
For a minute we got side tracked by these odd huge black boulders, totally out of place, hiding a cactus that I almost sat on while taking this picture....
Of a Claretcup Cactus.....I only saw flower....that's my life in my rose colored glasses, I only see the pretty, and not the thorns. Luckily, I'm fast.
This Desert Paintbrush could be the exact same flower the Indians used to paint their pictographs.
It was another great day, learned some geology and history, and plain wore ourselves out. You'd be surprised how tiring bouncing down eighty miles of gravel can be, especially when mixed in with a couple miles of hiking in, around, up and down boulders.
Our people guided us safely home.