I arrived on Tuesday evening at the semi-annual San Rafael geocaching event to find that Ken and Jan were already there holding down our camp spot. It was a good thing, ’cause the area was pretty busy for a weekday! Dave and I had convoyed down to the Temple Mountain/Goblin Valley road junction together. We set up camp and had three RVs at camp that night. Sunset that evening and sunrise on Wednesday morning were wonderful, as always.
On Wednesday morning I took the dogs for a walk to my favorite arrowhead hunting spot. I’d previously found two arrowheads within a short distance of each other, years apart, in the same wash. I was only somewhat surprised when this time I found yet another arrowhead in the same stretch of the drainage. I also stopped by a nearby area where I’d found a very nice metate years earlier and was happy to find it where I’d left it.
That afternoon I took a spin on the dirt bike and then hiked part of upper Wild Horse Canyon. A friend had told me about some possible rock art at a sharp bend in the canyon. I searched and searched but came up empty. I did find an alcove with a recently collapsed ceiling, and I hope the rock art wasn’t in there.
After lunch on Thursday I went for another ride, this time to the northeast to revisit some rock art I’d discovered the day after Christmas in 2011. While hiking to the rock art I ran across a spot where somebody had been prospecting for copper. There was a large pit dug in the Navajo Sandstone with greenish rocks full of copper ore all around. I visited the pictographs and then continued up the canyon that I hadn’t had time to check out on my previous trip.
The watercourse ended at a dryfall with a large pool at the bottom. Nearby were two sets of cement tanks that, based on previous experiences, I assumed were used in the manufacture of moonshine during prohibition. Similar tanks exist in Moonshine Wash that many people assume were used to make moonshine. Since returning home and doing some research, however, I reasoned that such cement tanks would serve no purpose in the moonshine process. The tanks were likely built by sheepherders for their livestock. On my way out of the area I found a broken metate and mano, and decided that I need to return once again to do a very thorough exploration of the area. Since I was nearly overdue and Dave was keeping an eye on my dogs at camp, I ended up riding my dirt bike on the pavement along Highway 24 back to camp.
Several more people showed up that night. We stayed up around a nice camp fire and tried a little night photography.
On Friday Kenny drove his Jeep and Chris and I hopped in with him to do some exploring to the south. I’d heard about a spot along the old wagon route between Green River and Hanksville where wagon tracks were still visible across the slickrock. We found the spot easily, but the tracks were more visible in the satellite imagery than on the ground. We checked out some nearby sandstone pillars rising from the desert floor and found a few inscriptions. Near Well Draw we visited a corral built between some narrow canyon walls, then climbed through some cracks in the walls to reach the Curtis Formation sandstone domes on top. Finally, we made a stop in Hanksville for fuel and to check out Wolverton’s mill at the BLM office.
In the evening we did our usual shenanigans–beer and exploding vegetables.
For Saturday’s group activity several of us set out to hike to Wild Horse Window. Once we made it to the alcove/arch and spent some time there, I continued farther while everyone else headed back to camp. Two years earlier I had spotted an alcove that I tried accessing from Wild Horse Canyon but was denied by some cliffs. This time I tried a different approach and managed to get there pretty easily by hiking up the San Rafael Reef. I was bummed to arrive and find that the alcove wasn’t accessible, but I did find some faint incised glyphs and a natural arch near the alcove. I tried descending into Wild Horse Canyon but ran into the same cliffs I’d been stopped by a couple of years earlier. It was a long and hot hike back to my waiting motorcycle.
Our last night at camp was a late one. Chris and I lit up some steel wool for some night photography, and a few of us stayed up visiting until stupid o’clock around the fire.
Sunday was a typical last day at camp. Everyone had a longer drive home than did my family and I, so they boogied out early in the morning. Traci took the kids and dogs home around lunch time while I stayed behind to load my motorcycle and button up the trailer, and make sure camp was cleaned up. It’s becoming increasingly depressing to leave these gatherings at the end of the weekend, but I’ve always got the next one to look forward to in six months.
Photo Gallery: San Rafael Fall 2016