Yesterday’s trip through Buckhorn Wash turned out to be great fun for everybody, and it was a surprisingly relaxing day. We took our time getting ready in the morning–ate breakfast, packed a lunch, gathered up cold weather gear, and got the GPS and cameras ready. On the drive down we saw some amazing clouds/fog surrounding the Hunter power plant near Castle Dale. The road we were on was about 13 miles from there and I don’t think it would have been worth stopping to take photos from that distance, but I decided that I’d take a different road on the way home so we could get a closer look. Before turning off onto the Buckhorn Wash road, I drove past the turnoff a short distance to get another photo of the power lines across Buckhorn Flat (compare to this shot from about a month ago).
We then turned down Buckhorn Wash and stopped to find the Echo Canyon geocache. I needed 4WD to get up the short road leading to a campsite where the trail to the cache begins. The trail led up a steep rocky hill that was tricky with all the snow, then through a short “tunnel” formed by some fallen boulders. After the tunnel, there was a flat with a huge cliff to the north. There were some petroglyphs on the cliff, and the geocache was hidden nearby. After finding the cache and photographing all the rock art, we proceeded farther up the canyon to a small cave/alcove that I wouldn’t have known about if it wasn’t for Scott’s photo of it from two weeks ago. There was still quite a bit more of the canyon left to explore, but there would be more to see without the snow, so I’ll go back after it melts to explore some more.
We headed farther down Buckhorn Wash to find another cache near the San Rafael River bridge, and on the way we saw some desert bighorn sheep. At the bridge, I noticed that the BLM had constructed a new campground on the north side of the river, opposite the existing campground on the south side. I suppose that since people were often camping for free on the north side, the BLM decided to make some money off them. Many of the sites in the campground were nice, and plenty big for a camp trailer. I was surprised to see a family camped there in a big sheepherder’s tent. I wish I could get my wife interested in winter camping. 😉
We ate lunch at the southern campground (and saw the G-Gang elders while we were there), then drove back across the bridge and let the kids play on and under the old bridge while I hiked up and found another geocache. After returning to the bridge, I walked out onto the ice covering the river in an attempt to get a photo of the bridge from below. There wasn’t much flow to the river and I couldn’t tell exactly where it was flowing under the ice and snow, but it felt pretty solid. Eventually, though, my feet broke through the ice. Luckily the water there wasn’t deep enough to come up over the tops of my boots, but it gave me a good scare. We’d kept the option open to drive down the Mexican Mountain road to find one more cache, but it was getting later in the day and continuing would have put us driving home in the dark, so we’ll save that one for another time.
On the way home, we saw some deer grazing in Buckhorn Wash. That’s only about the fifth time I’ve seen deer in the Swell. I drove to Castle Dale to see the strange clouds/fog around the power plant, but they weren’t as pronounced as they’d been in the morning. There was still a thin layer of smoke or steam from the plant spreading out between two layers of air, and it made for some interesting photos.
Buckhorn Wash Photo Gallery