Wednesday, May 7

San Rafael Swell

San Rafael Swell @ I-70

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.
San Rafael Swell

San Rafael Swell
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.
San Rafael Swell 078

We're really getting into the good stuff now.
San Rafael Swell 082

No more dusty desert. Looks like someone actually oiled down the roads.
San Rafael Swell 089

Watch out for the bicyclists!
San Rafael Swell 094
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....2000 yr old pictographs
2000 yr old pictographs
2000 yr old pictographs
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.
San Rafael Swell - Wedge Overlook
We came up out of the canyon to see Utah's Little Grand Canyon. The views were spectacular!
rock bridge out to overlook
The walk out was only for the brave.
holding on for dear life
Can you say vertigo?
San Rafael Swell - Wedge Overlook
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.
San Rafael Swell 141
We found it!
Jewel & Jonas w/ Dino print

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.
ufo San Rafael Swell 150
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....
Claretcup Cactus
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.

Desert Paintbrush
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.
UFO San Rafael Swell 182


Mary Ann said...

You got to see the dinosaur tracks!!! Yeah!

Deanne said...

How cool to find the dinosaur track! We saw some in CT one time, but there was a whole building "enshrining" them. ;P

Madeline said...

wow. I love your life too. I showed my dino-loving boy, Jesse, and he was very impressed. That must feel amazing walking in his footsteps (I'm hearing Sting). I love the cacti pictures too.

craftymama said...

I miss being out West! We are done our big trip and are back home. I have been glad to be home until I came back to your blog! You all/it looks great- Keep on truckin'- Sarah

Wabi Sabi Me said...

Beautiful photos! A few gave me vertigo -- you need to put up warnings LOL!

Anonymous said...

We love the San Rafael Swell here at Child's Play...but haven't as explored it in such depth (yet!). Great pictures!

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