In late September I took my family camping on Buckhorn Flat near the base of Cedar Mountain. I put out a last-minute invite on Facebook, and the only people who could make it on short notice were my sister and her family who were trying out their new-to-them camp trailer, and my mother-in-law. Everyone arrived on Friday afternoon, and that evening we all drove to the Wedge Overlook to watch the sunset above the Little Grand Canyon.
Mark and I left everyone else at camp on Saturday morning and went for a hike along the San Rafael River. There’s a prehistoric circular structure in a small side canyon off the river that’s visible in Google Earth that I’ve known about for over a decade, and I wanted to finally check it out. We drove across the San Rafael River at Fuller Bottom and I was very surprised to find no flowing water there. We drove a little farther, parked the Jeep, and began our hike. The structure is on an almost abandoned meander of a small side canyon a short distance from the river, and I wasn’t certain whether we’d even be able to reach it. In the satellite imagery, it looks like an island surrounded by steep sandstone walls. We dropped into the small canyon via a series of Navajo Sandstone ledges and then looked for a way on top of the island. Along the way we found a couple of inscriptions by Clarence Winter and Lon Seely. We found the one and only way up to the top of the island: a steep talus slope followed by an even steeper slickrock climb. Once on top we checked out the structure but found nothing else on top. No lithics, no potsherds. Nothing. Interestingly there was mortar between the lower layers of the structure wall. I’d guess the upper layers were rebuilt by other people in modern times. This structure reminded me of some others I’d visited on Horse Bench last year.
Mark and I descended from the island and hiked down the canyon to the San Rafael River. I had a waypoint saved in Google Earth named “San Rafael River petroglyphs,” which I assumed were the same petroglyphs I’d already seen on an earlier hike to the Sorrel Mule Mine. We arrived at the waypoint and saw some petroglyphs that I hadn’t seen on that trip, so I’m not sure where I even got that waypoint from. It was nice seeing some new rock art, though. Since I thought we were close to the petroglyphs I had seen on that earlier trip, we hiked downstream to try to locate them.
I located the petroglyphs easily and took some new photos of them. However, this time I climbed a little higher in the cliffs and found a new panel that I hadn’t noticed on my last trip there. It required a sketchy climb to even get close to the new panel–I shed my backpack, stuffed my camera in my pocket, and made the climb to get a closer look. It was a pretty interesting panel, and I was glad that we had decided to go downstream to see what I thought was some rock art I’d already seen.
We returned to camp and, that afternoon, took everyone for a quick visit to Hamburger Rocks. Everyone spent the rest of the evening at camp, enjoying some good food and a nice night around the campfire with an almost-full moon.
Sunday morning rolled around and Sam and Mark had to head home early. I had plans to hike Furniture Draw, so my kids and dogs and I set out in two vehicles to get ‘er done. We parked the Jeep at the mouth of Furniture Draw, then drove the truck to the head of the canyon and started hiking down. The upper section was pretty nondescript, but once the canyon began to cut through the Navajo Sandstone it got interesting. There was only a short section that anyone would consider to be a slot canyon. The kids and I were able to easily stem over the parts filled with water and mud, and the dogs happily wallowed straight through those sections. Near the mouth of the canyon I spotted some petroglyphs that I’d wager were fake. After an easy two-mile hike, we were back at the Jeep. We retrieved the truck, headed back to camp, and packed up and drove home. The weekend went by much too quickly, but it was some quality time with my family that I treasure as my kids get old enough to fledge out on their own.
Photo Gallery: San Rafael River and Furniture Draw