I took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather last Saturday and did some ATV riding and hiking in the Coal Wash area. It’s been a favorite place of mine in the winter months, though with the lack of snow on the ground and the warm days I wasn’t sure whether I’d see any ice like I’ve seen in the past. I staged at the north end of Coal Wash and took a quick side trip to the degree confluence at N 39° W 110°. It was cold enough that early in the morning that I stopped a couple of times to warm my hands on the ATV exhaust. Although (judging from the tire tracks) many people have driven up the wash from the road to the confluence, I parked the ATV on the side of the road and walked in. That warmed me up a bit, then I did a little hiking around on the rocks near the confluence.
After that, I rode back past where the truck was parked and started up Coal Wash. I was pleased to find plenty of ice at the Drips. At the fork in the canyon I took the north fork and then stopped to hike up a side canyon. There are a lot of interesting side canyons in Coal Wash, but this one was relatively short and I only spent about 20 minutes hiking. I then rode to the Devil’s Racetrack turnoff and started searching for some old cowboy inscriptions that I heard about. I didn’t have coordinates, just a verbal description, but I found the spot easily. There was an undated “L. Swasey” inscription and another from Joseph Swasey from 1875. I found huge amounts of chert flakes scattered over an area hundreds of feet in every direction from the inscriptions. I wandered around hoping to find a complete arrowhead or maybe some rock art, but the chert flakes were all the evidence I saw of native Americans.
From there I reversed course and started toward Cow Canyon, but along the way I had to do some donuts on the sheet of ice formed by a natural spring in the bottom of Coal Wash. Torrey merely tolerated it, while I actually had fun. I parked the ATV at the fence where Cow Canyon joins Coal Wash and began hiking. As I hiked along the main Cow Canyon I searched for rock art along the cliffs, but found none. I took the first right fork in the canyon and hiked to its end. The side canyon started out with a flat, sandy bottom, but the higher I got the gnarlier and rockier it became. At the head of the canyon was a large ice-covered pool, with natural springs creating huge icicles above the pool. This would be an amazing place to be during summertime. I spent more time exploring the side canyon than I’d planned, so when I returned to the main canyon I headed back to the ATV. I took a quick lunch break, though it was nearing 3:00PM so when I finished my snack I just headed back toward the truck and then home. I didn’t take the time to ride up the South Fork of Coal Wash to look for some rock art I heard about, so I have a good excuse to return another day.