Cedar Mountain, Gooseberry Spring

Gooseberry SpringEarly last week I began planning a trip into the San Rafael Swell for Saturday, but my plans turned into a series of hikes that would take a couple of days to complete, so I decided to put it off until the last weekend in August. That left me with nothing to do this weekend, and the weather forecast called for rain, so I started looking for somewhere close to home where my family and I could go to have some fun. I wanted something close just in case we got rained out–I didn’t want to burn half a tank of fuel only to get turned around when we hit the dirt roads. I have hundreds of waypoints marked in Google Earth for places I’d like to go in the future, so I fired up the program and browsed through them all. I saw the waypoint at Gooseberry Spring on Cedar Mountain and remembered how awesome that place was two winters ago when I first went there. Conditions weren’t ideal for hiking around in that terrain in the winter, so I filed it away as a place to return to in warmer weather.
Pond on Cedar MountainTraci had a church function to attend earlier on Saturday, so we didn’t leave town until about 1:30 p.m. Because of all the recent rain, we decided our first stop on Cedar Mountain would be a cow pond that we’d been to before. I brought along a 1-gallon clear plastic jug, and we all caught some tadpoles to bring home. Michael and Bradley have never caught tadpoles or watched them turn into frogs, so I thought it would be a fun experience for them. We were all catching them and nobody was keeping count, so we ended up bringing too many home. I gave some to my sister for her kids to have, and we kept six of them in a fish bowl.
After a brief stop at the Cedar Mountain overlook, we kept driving past the radio towers and the landing strip and stopped at Gooseberry Spring. It really is quite an amazing place. The spring itself comes out of the bottom of a semi-circular cliff, and the bowl formed by the cliffs is filled with aspen and large juniper trees and a single ponderosa pine. As soon as we arrived it began sprinkling lightly, but I wasn’t going to let a little rain stop me from exploring the area. We all set out to find a route down to the bottom of the cliffs, which I expected to be a tough scramble. Instead, we found an obvious and easy trail leading down into the trees. To everyone’s surprise, there was an old dilapidated cabin in the bottom of the cove not too far from the spring. The rain had gradually gotten heavier as we hiked down, so by the time we found the cabin we were getting soaked. We took refuge up against a large boulder under some trees, but it only provided a little protection. The dark cloud passing overhead didn’t look very big and I expected the storm to pass quickly, but after ten minutes of huddling against the boulder we grew tired of it. As soon as the lightning grew closer and louder, we decided to make a run for the truck. The trail had gone from merely moist to completely muddy, so we were not only wet but also filthy by the time we got back to the truck. We were all in good spirits though, and it was actually fun getting caught in the rain.
The truck parked at Gooseberry SpringAfter sitting in the truck for a while, drying off and waiting for the rain to subside a little, I got out and hiked back to the cabin while Traci and the boys stayed in the truck. I had wanted to place a geocache there, but I needed time to find just the right spot. I knew from experience that the boys wouldn’t have the patience to wait while I searched for a good hiding spot, but we’d brought along notebooks, pencils, and crayons so they could keep occupied. I tried getting to the very base of the cliff where the spring comes out, but between the mud and the boulders in the way, I gave up. Every time I would grab the trunk of an aspen tree to catch my balance on the slippery rocks, I would get showered by water falling off the leaves. I made my way back to the cabin and placed the cache nearby, then high-tailed it back up to the truck because another lightning storm was quickly approaching.
We made one more quick stop at the top of an ATV/motorcycle trail that leads down to Chimney Rock Flat, then we decided to get off Cedar Mountain as quickly as we could because an even larger storm was approaching from the northwest, and the road back toward home follows the highest part of the plateau on the mountain. The drive home was very muddy in places, but I noticed a huge difference in handling with the new tires on the truck. As anybody who has driven off-road with me can attest, I almost always have to stop to turn the hubs in just to get past what seem like easy obstacles in the road, but not once did I have to use 4WD on this trip. I was also reminded why I rarely wash the truck–I can never keep it clean for more than a few days.

2 thoughts on “Cedar Mountain, Gooseberry Spring

  1. Sounds like a good trip. I know what you mean about washing your car and then getting it dirty the next day. That is why I just spray my car off, on rare occasions I use soap.

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