Buckhorn Wash Camping

Buckhorn Wash CampingI really didn’t think I would be motivated enough to go camping this weekend, but I surprised myself Thursday evening by gathering up my camping gear and getting everything ready for an overnighter. As soon as I got off work on Friday, I loaded all the last-minute items into the car and set off for Buckhorn Wash. I’d already used Google Earth to pick out my camping spot, and during the drive I kept hoping that nobody had taken it yet. After turning off of the pavement near Castle Dale and hitting the gravel road, I only saw three other vehicles the entire night, and they appeared to just be passing through–I had the whole place to myself.
The place where I wanted to camp had a lot of red ants right where I would have pitched my tent, so I went to the next spot just 400 feet down the road. It was smaller, but there was still plenty of room for my car, tent, and a campfire, and the ground was much softer. The first thing I did there was prepare a fire pit and throw some wood in it. As I was doing that, I just happened to look up and noticed a desert bighorn sheep staring down from a cliff 300′ above me. I got out my binoculars and stared back for a few minutes, then got back to work on the fire pit. When it was finished, I set out on a short hike along the ledges above camp. Shortly after I started, I found an Indian granary that was built into a small alcove 20′ up a cliff. I tried climbing up to the granary, but the cliff was nearly vertical and the hand- and footholds were too few, so I pressed on and scrambled higher up some more ledges. After about an hour of hiking, I returned to camp, lit the fire, and set up my tent. By the time I had camp all set up, the coals in the fire were ready for cooking. I had prepared some potatoes and fish in separate foil pouches, and I just set them on the coals and then started in on a six pack of beer while dinner cooked. The sun set just as I was beginning to eat, so by the time I was finished it was starting to get dark. I got a little bored after that, but I just relaxed in my chair and finished off the six pack while I enjoyed the evening. I went to bed at 11:30 p.m. and slept fitfully most of the night.
At 7:30 a.m. I gave up trying to sleep in. I toasted a bagel over the camp stove, then heated up some coffee that I’d made the day before and brought in a thermos. I quickly ate breakfast, then began another hike that lasted two hours. I covered some of the same ground that I’d hiked the evening before, but this time I was attempting to get to the top of the cliff where the bighorn sheep had been. From below it appeared that I could scramble all the way up, but there was one questionable section near the very top that I wasn’t certain about. I took my time getting up, keeping an eye out for rock art (however unlikely it would be in this location) and other ruins, and trying not to break an ankle on the steep and rocky hillside. Upon reaching the questionable section near the top of the cliff, it was apparent that I couldn’t make it all the way. The last 10′ was purely vertical, and though I think I may have been able to climb up it, getting back down would have been very difficult.
The hike back down went very quickly, and by the time I reached camp the sun had cleared the east canyon rim and was already heating things up quickly. It took me 30 minutes to take down the tent and stow all my gear in the trunk of the car, and by that time I was sweating profusely. The A/C felt good. πŸ™‚ I drove very slowly back through the canyon, stopping many times to look through binoculars at interesting features and possible future hiking locations. Twice I stopped and hiked around areas that I found interesting, including one place right across the canyon from where we had spent an evening early last week. There I saw a small rock wall built in front of a small alcove, with a shallow cave nearby. Even through binoculars it was unclear whether the rock wall was genuinely Injun, or whether it had been built by kids playing around. After a short hike and upon closer inspection, the wall looked poorly built and probably wasn’t legit. The cave was interesting, but the bottom was full of rodent droppings and nest material, and the smell alone was enough to dissuade me from entering.
I stopped to look at two other caves on the way home, one of which could easily be climbed to, but the heat was getting to me so I’ll leave it for another day. The other cave was up above a cliff and probably can’t be reached from the bottom, but after studying a topo map and Google Earth I’m pretty sure I can hike in from the road to the Wedge and reach the cave from the top. That’ll be at least a two mile round-trip hike, so it’ll have to wait until fall/winter.
Up until now my idea of camping has pretty much always involved a camp trailer with all the comforts of home. Even as a kid, when my family went camping it was always in a trailer (at least as far as I remember). This weekend’s trip was at least as fun as trailer camping, but it was considerably less work. The only thing that would have made it better is some company around the fire in the evening, so perhaps next time I’ll recruit a friend or two to come along. One thing’s for certain–there will be a next time.

5 thoughts on “Buckhorn Wash Camping

  1. When I was a kid, my family had a trailer “permanently” staged in a campground in central Wisconsin that we used to go to several times every year during the summer months. Aside from the few times I went tent camping with the Boy Scouts (and 1 very short time with an ex-girlfriend (ha!) during Memorial Day weekend in 2000 that involved the Wisconsin DNR officers kicking us off the land at 5am), that’s been the extent of my camping experience. You’re braver than I am…I would never even consider going camping by myself, especially in the middle of nowhere! LOL Still, I think it’s very cool that you have areas out there that you can do that and truly “unplug” for a little while.
    Awesome pictures, too!

  2. Great write up.
    The I have only seen big horn sheep once in the swell, we were hiking The Ding / Dang loop and spotted 5 sheep high on the west side of Ding.
    I am really feeling the need to go down south.. Headed down that direction this weekend but I doubt we will leave the comfort of the mountains for the heat of the desert.

  3. Tom: I think I know what you mean. When I’m out hiking or camping alone, I often get this generally uneasy feeling, sometimes worse than others. I’ve cut hikes short in part due to this. I don’t know if it’s a normal human instinct, or if I’m just a big puss. πŸ˜€ But I go prepared for just about any possibility, so that in itself provides some comfort.
    Bill: This weekend was only the third time I’d seen bighorn sheep. I was lucky enough to see a herd of them this winter in the same area, and a few years ago I saw a couple of them in Saddle Horse Canyon. The heat down there is definitely killer–Friday evening and Saturday morning were pleasant, but in mid-day I spent most of the time sightseeing from the car with the A/C blasting.

  4. Camping is so much fun I sure miss it alot like when I was a kid I remember my Dad and all his friends camping all the time especially at Easter in San Rafell. We should go camping sometime but I only have a tent.

  5. Daniel, we should definitely try to put a camping trip together. I’m pretty sure I’ll try a couple more camping trips this summer by myself (without my wife and kids, anyway) with just a tent, and this fall I’ll be taking the whole family with me in the trailer on several trips. Whenever and wherever you want to go, let me know and we can try to get together. And when I make any solid plans for another trip, I’ll let you know. πŸ™‚

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.