I always have a camping/geocaching event each October, and I usually try to avoid fall break when the schools statewide are out Thursday and Friday and a lot of people go camping that weekend. This time, however, an annular solar eclipse was happening on the Saturday of fall break and I wanted to plan the event around that. The path of the eclipse took it over the southwestern half of the San Rafael Swell, and I drove down after work on Monday to secure a spot along the Moore Cutoff Road. I worked remotely Tuesday and Wednesday but didn’t do much else, besides walk the dogs along the dirt roads near camp. By Wednesday evening my wife, her mom, and five of my nieces and nephews had arrived.
I had Thursday and Friday off work, and on Thursday morning I left the dogs with my wife and went for a hike. First I explored a couple of canyons that seemed interesting and I found some red and blue pictographs.
Next I hiked through two more canyons where a friend had told me there was some rock art. In the first there was an overhang with some red squiggly line pictographs. While I was there my friend Jim texted me saying he’d just showed up at camp and learned that I was on a hike and wanted to join me. I sent him the coordinates for my truck and said I’d meet him there in a bit. I crossed over into the other canyon and found a lot more than I was expecting. The friend who told me about the rock art only mentioned a bear print petroglyph, but there there was a huge, unusual panel there as well!
I went back to the truck and found Jim there waiting for me, and he hopped in with me and we drove to the next spot I planned on visiting. This was a rock art panel I’d been to before, the “Fairy” pictograph and some others. We checked it out, then I took Jim back to his truck and we stopped at the Dry Wash snake petroglyph before going back to camp.
More people arrived at camp on Thursday and Friday, and I stayed most of the day Friday just hanging out with everyone. I did take a short drive to visit the very first pit house I had ever seen, 15 years earlier. At the time I’m not even sure I knew what it was, but this time it was fun to return and look around for artifacts (of which I found none). I decided I should practice taking photos of the sun before the eclipse and they turned out okay, especially considering I’m just using a point-and-shoot camera with disposable eclipse glasses in front of the lens.
Saturday morning came and more people arrived to watch the eclipse, and we had 25 people total there. We all sat around and chatted while watching the eclipse progress, and the daylight became eerily darker and it grew colder. The cold surprised me the most. After annularity those who weren’t camping left, and the rest of us stayed at camp all day and played games, then had a potluck dinner that evening.
On Sunday I wanted to hike in upper North Salt Wash and I asked around for anyone else who wanted to go, and ended up with a group of five. We took two trucks and parked at the upper end of the canyon, then dropped in and started hiking downstream. I had already hiked the portion farther downstream near Sid and Charley, but I hoped this southern section where it cuts through the Curtis Formation would hold some more rock art. We hiked about two miles, which was about as far as I’d planned on going, but Brent talked the group into going a bit farther to see some rock art that I’d already been to. We got to the rock art and took a rest/snack break nearby. I decided we should walk the road back to the trucks since it was more direct and less shwhacky–in hindsight we should have just done a one-way hike with a vehicle shuttle.
Everyone left by Sunday evening but I stayed and worked on Monday, then took Tuesday off work and went home that morning. That was my last RV camping trip of the season and it way a good way to end it!
Photo Gallery: A Swell Eclipse 2023