I spent yesterday in the San Rafael Desert exploring Keg Point. I’d only made vague plans to do something on Saturday, but on Friday evening Michael came down with a high fever. I resigned myself to staying home rather than leaving Traci at home with a sick kid, and I even got up very early Saturday morning to give Michael some more medicine to keep the fever down. I slept in that morning, but I was awakened at 8:30 by both kids playing and making a lot of noise. Michael was feeling much better and his fever was down. Yes! I decided then to hurry up and get ready for a quick trip into the desert, and by 9:30 I had eaten breakfast, gotten the camera and GPS ready, packed a lunch and all my gear, fueled up the truck, and was on the road heading south. My plan was to check out a cave that was listed on the USGS topo map near Keg Spring Canyon. It’s in the same area as Colonnade Arch, which I’ve wanted to see for quite some time, but the lighting this time of year would have been poor by the time I got there, so I settled for seeing this cave.
As I drove south the amount of snow on the ground diminished, and by Green River there was very little snow compared to the several inches we still had in Price. I was optimistic that my hike would be great with so little snow, but then as I drove south from Green River the snow depth increased gradually. I made a stop at Chaffin Geyser hoping to see a large amount of ice built up around the geyser, but instead I found just a thin sheet of ice covering about the same area as the minerals that normally surround the geyser. The snow-covered dirt roads south of Green River had seen a fair amount of traffic and the driving was easy in 2WD, but when I reached the Keg Point turnoff, there were no tire tracks in the snow. I didn’t want to stop the truck to get out and lock in the hubs, so I pressed onward hoping to get to the trailhead in 2WD. I made it there with a lot of tire spinning but without having to stop. It was beautifully sunny and the few clouds in the sky were amazing when I began hiking.
There were some deep snow drifts in the low points among the slickrock, but there were also bare spots where the snow had completely melted away. The north-facing slopes were all still covered in snow, and since the first half-mile of the hike was downhill to the northwest, there was a lot of slipping and sliding. I reached the flat area near a fork in upper Keg Spring Canyon and the going became much easier. From that point on it was a pretty easy, flat hike, with only occasional pockets of deep snow. I reached the general area where the cave was supposed to be, but I couldn’t find it near the rim of the canyon where the topo map indicated it would be. I began to worry that the cave was actually accessible only from the bottom of the canyon, but standing on the canyon rim I couldn’t see down below me to tell for sure. There was a pillar of rock that stood apart from the canyon wall which was separated by only a few feet, but the drop between the canyon wall and the pillar was about 40 feet. The jump alone wasn’t too scary, but the penalty was steep for a wrong move. I foolishly jumped out onto the pillar anyway, and sure enough, I was able to see the “cave” at the bottom of the canyon wall. It was more like a shallow alcove, hardly worthy of being called a “cave” and being included on a USGS topo map. Disappointed, I jumped back across the gap (cursing myself under my breath) and continued walking the rim of the canyon to get a good glimpse into Keg Spring Canyon.
The canyon itself was beautiful, and I eventually reached a point with a very nice view down-canyon. On the way I passed a small natural arch that, naturally, I encouraged Torrey to climb upon to get a photo of her on it. The view down the canyon was great, though with the way the canyon zig-zagged, I could still only see the canyon rim disappearing into the distance rather than the bottom of the canyon itself. That alone is good enough reason to return and hike through the bottom of the canyon, once I actually find a way down into it. I placed a geocache there at the viewpoint, then reversed course and followed my footprints through the snow back to the truck. I’d been worried all day that, due to my late start, I’d run short on time and end up hiking in the dark. That fear turned out to be unfounded. I made great time driving down there, and I hiked at a quick pace (thanks to the cold weather) and made it to my destination and back to the truck with plenty of daylight to spare. Back at the truck I ate a quick snack and fed Torrey, then headed west toward UT-24.
Although I’d made it to the trailhead in 2WD, I’d gone down some steep hills that I needed 4WD to get back up. I took it easy this time instead of barreling through the snow. On my way back to the pavement, I stopped at the sand dunes southwest of Middle Canyon and also at Little Flat Top to check out the Entrada Sandstone formations there. The sand dunes were much less interesting in the winter than they were in the summer the last time I was there. The sand was well-consolidated due to the moisture from the snow, and there were no picturesque ripples from the wind blowing the sand around. It didn’t help that a new winter storm was rolling in and the clouds were obscuring the setting sun. At Little Flat Top I could see as far as Factory Butte while the sun set and shone a small amount of colorful light through the clouds, but after that it was an uneventful drive home. Near UT-24 I saw the only vehicle I’d seen all day since leaving the pavement near Green River, which was a truck pulling a horse trailer that eventually turned off the main dirt road onto a minor road, and I was left trying to imagine where the guy was going that late in the evening. The remainder of my drive home was in the dark, with the heater on high and my window rolled down a few inches. For as little planning as I put into the day, it was very fulfilling.
GPS Tracklog and Waypoints (Google Earth .KMZ Format)
GPS Tracklog and Waypoints (Google Maps)