This may very well be the first weekend out of many that I don’t get outdoors to play in the snow. I woke up to more snow this morning and suddenly lost the will to do anything today. We’ll see how tomorrow goes. Lately I’ve been giving a lot of thought to one of the best camping trips I’ve ever been on, to Justensen Flats in April 2006. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about the hike to the San Rafael Knob, which is the highest point in the San Rafael Swell at 7,921′. At the time, I dedicated a scant half of a paragraph and six photos to that hike on this website, but it deserves more.
We started our hike at 9:30 on the morning of Saturday, April 22nd, after a short but rough five-mile drive from our campsite at Justensen Flats. I wasn’t feeling well (in all likelihood hung over), but didn’t want to miss out on any action. I rode on the back of Cortney’s 4-wheeler, and I remember hanging on for dear life for part of the ride to the Knob. We parked as close as we could get, which was a mere 0.2 miles as the crow flies from the highest point of the San Rafael Knob, but the hiked turned out to be 1.2 miles round trip. The first part involved steep and loose scrambling up a heavily-wooded slope. About halfway up the Knob we reached a flat ridge that we followed around to the north side of the Knob, skirting around the bottoms of some nearly vertical sandstone cliffs. At the base of the cliffs there was still some lingering snow that hadn’t seen direct sunshine all year and was slowly melting.
We reached the northeast side of the San Rafael Knob, and the going got really tough. There were two spots where the route was nearly vertical, and we sent our strongest climber up each, who then lowered a rope that the rest of us used as a hand line. Once we got past the tough parts it was a relatively easy stroll over to the high point, which we reached about an hour after starting the hike. We spent about an hour on top, taking in the views and finding the geocache on the far west side of the upper plateau. It took about an hour to get back to the vehicles using the same route and having to handline down the two bad spots.
At the time I remember thinking it was a difficult hike, but with some more experience under my belt I think it would be much easier for me now. I’m hoping to do the hike again this year, but considering all the snow we’ve gotten lately it might not be until May when the snow has melted off the steep northern slope of the San Rafael Knob. One of the best parts was the teamwork involved, so I’ll have to see about putting the same or similar team back together for a repeat of this hike. The geocache we found on that day hasn’t been found since, and it would be fun to return after four years with the same crew of usual suspects.
GPS Tracklog and Waypoints (Google Earth .KML format)