Spring at the Wedge 2016

There was a great turnout at this spring’s semi-annual San Rafael Swell geocaching event. All told there were 37 people, 10 dogs, and 4 birds in attendance. I pulled the camp trailer down after work on Tuesday to secure the camp spot I wanted. I arrived to find the spot empty, set up my camp, then enjoyed a hoppy beer or three. There was a brief touch of color on the bottoms of the clouds at sunset. After dark I took a few night photos with the help of the nearly full moon, then settled in and read a book until bedtime.

Shortly after arriving at camp
Shortly after arriving at camp

Enjoying a beer after setting up camp
Enjoying a beer after setting up camp

Brief but brilliant colors at sunset
Brief but brilliant colors at sunset

Camp after dark
Camp after dark

On Wednesday morning I took the dogs for a nice loop hike connecting two tributaries on the east side of Good Water Canyon. I hiked down a side canyon I’d never been in before, finding a small slot along the way, and below the slot were some turkey tracks in the sand and a broken stone point. My travel down the side canyon ended at a big dryfall and I had to backtrack a bit in order to cut over to the next drainage to the south. This drainage I’d been in before and it is a wonderful place, with a couple of springs and some ponderosa pines. I looped back to the truck by traveling up this canyon and found yet another mylar balloon to pack out of the backcountry.

Shh, don’t tell anyone I took dogs on the trail
Shh, don't tell anyone I took dogs on the trail

Walking in a small wash to avoid the crypto
Walking in a small wash to avoid the crypto

Steep sandstone sidehill around a slot
Steep sandstone sidehill around a slot

Turkey tracks
Turkey tracks

Ooh, a pretty rock!
Ooh, a pretty rock!

Above a big dryfall
Above a big dryfall

Paintbrush
Paintbrush

Fallen ponderosa pine at a spring
Fallen ponderosa pine at a spring

Pups getting a drink
Pups getting a drink

Skinny watercourse and ponderosa grove
Skinny watercourse and ponderosa grove

After lunch back at the trailer I rode my motorcycle to the Wedge Overlook. For a weekday afternoon there were quite a few people there, every single one of the with out-of-state license plates on their vehicles. I spent the evening reading once again.

Motorcycle at the Wedge Overlook
Motorcycle at the Wedge Overlook

Little Grand Canyon
Little Grand Canyon

Thursday was a lazy day. I drove the truck to the Wedge Overlook and spent a couple of hours just peering through binoculars from several vantage points into the San Rafael River gorge and Good Water Canyon. The only interesting thing I saw, besides the pictographs along the river that I already knew about, was a couple that had hiked up from Cane Wash, over a saddle, and into the San Rafael River drainage. They spent quite a bit of time at two spots at the base of a cliff taking turns posing for photographs, which leads me to wonder if there’s more rock art that I’m unaware of. In the evening while walking the dogs near camp I spotted first one, then several more of the endangered San Rafael Cactus. Throughout the day 11 people had arrived for the event and I enjoyed having company.

Color during Thursday’s sunrise
Color during Thursday's sunrise

San Rafael Cactus (Pediocactus despainii)
San Rafael Cactus (Pediocactus despainii)

Full moon rising
Full moon rising

On Friday morning I went for a hike with Ken, Mark, and two of my nephews into Good Water Canyon. Eight years ago I’d placed a geocache above the big dryfall in the main fork of Good Water and it had gone missing. There are so few people who even attempt to find it that there were only five finds in all that time. I’d originally reached the location from the west side of Good Water Canyon and had a very difficult time of it, but most of the finders had found a route in from the east, and that’s the approach we tried this day. It turned out to be quite easy and we all made it to the dryfall. I replaced the missing container and we hiked back to camp, spotting a lone pronghorn on the way.

Entering Good Water Canyon via a side canyon
Entering Good Water Canyon via a side canyon

Pool at the main course of Good Water Canyon
Pool at the main course of Good Water Canyon

Ken crawling out to peer off the dryfall
Ken crawling out to peer off the dryfall

View down Good Water Canyon
View down Good Water Canyon

Below a smaller dryfall in the main canyon
Below a smaller dryfall in the main canyon

Claret Cup bloom
Claret Cup bloom

Pronghorn seen on the hike back to camp
Pronghorn seen on the hike back to camp

That afternoon Ken took me for a ride in his Jeep. We drove to the top of Little Cedar Mountain, visited some rock art at the base of the mountain, and then Ken had his first view from the Wedge Overlook. In the evening I went for a short motorcycle ride after dinner and happened to catch a quick glimpse of the colorful sunset that I probably wouldn’t have noticed if I’d stayed at camp.

View from Little Cedar Mountain
View from Little Cedar Mountain

RUB14ME at the Wedge Overlook
RUB14ME at the Wedge Overlook

Sunset patrol
Sunset patrol

Many more people had arrived at camp on Friday, including my wife and kids. On Saturday people broke out into several groups and did their own thing. Many went into Castle Dale to find some geocaches in and around town, while others stayed in the Swell and enjoyed the scenery and/or found geocaches. I set out alone on my dirt bike for a ride into Buckhorn Wash. It was my first time riding in windy conditions and I was surprised by how big an effect the wind could have on a motorcycle! Once I got into Buckhorn Wash the wind was more manageable. I stopped and looked at an 1854 inscription in the canyon that I’d been near a couple of times but didn’t know it existed until recently. I visited the pictograph panel in the canyon and spent quite a bit of time enjoying it. I guess I’ve sort of ignored it in the past since the rock art is so well known and easily accessible, but there are some fascinating figures painted on that cliff. Jan and Ken pulled up in their Jeep just as I was about to leave, so I stuck around and visited with them while they looked at the rock art. Next we met up again at the San Rafael River bridge before heading back to camp. I ran into Ken on my ride back and chatted for a bit before we continued on. At camp that evening we had a potluck dinner with all sorts of wonderful food. I made a vegetable stir-fry, and there were many Dutch oven and BBQ dishes, along with salads and desserts. There was a large group around the camp fire after dark and it was another late night for me.

1854
1854

Buckhorn Wash pictograph panel
Buckhorn Wash pictograph panel

Buckhorn Wash pictograph panel
Buckhorn Wash pictograph panel

Buckhorn Wash pictograph panel
Buckhorn Wash pictograph panel

Jan and Ken at the Buckhorn Wash pictograph panel
Jan and Ken at the Buckhorn Wash pictograph panel

San Rafael bridge
San Rafael bridge

Camp on Saturday evening
Camp on Saturday evening

A lot of the group left camp early in the day Sunday but a few of us stuck around and did some rappelling in Buckhorn Wash. Many in the group just observed but four of us–Chris, me, Ken, and Karin–rappelled a couple of times. We returned to camp and found it nearly deserted so the rest of us packed up and left as well. I was the last to leave at around 4:30PM. This was perhaps my favorite of the geocaching events in the Swell. The location had a lot of great recreation opportunities and the large turnout made for a nice diversity of old friends and new faces.

Rappelling in Buckhorn Wash
Rappelling in Buckhorn Wash

Karin beginning the rappel
Karin beginning the rappel

Chris going for another round
Chris going for another round


Photo Gallery: Spring at the Wedge 2016
GPS Track and Photo Waypoints:
[Google Earth KMZ] [Gmap4 Satellite] [Gmap4 Topo]