The area near the Wickiup in the central San Rafael Swell was the setting for this spring’s semi-annual geocaching event. I usually show up alone early in the week to secure my desired camp spot, but this time Traci followed me in the Jeep and we left the kids at home (under periodic supervision by their grandmother). Tuesday evening was windy with a light sprinkling of rain, though having my lady there with me made it all bearable.
On Wednesday Traci and I drove to check out some pictographs between the lanes of I-70. Although I’d heard that these pictos somewhere along I-70, I had no idea of their location. A quick Google Earth search landed me a couple of probable locations, the first of which panned out. Along with the rock art there were several inscriptions, one belonging to Warren Allred from 1929. Little did I know this would be the first of many Warren Allred inscriptions that I’d see throughout the weekend. We also visited Dutchman Arch and found more inscriptions, then wandered over to Locomotive Point to view the amazing pictographs there.
That evening I hopped on the dirt bike and rode a short loop across Jerry’s Flat, Rattlesnake Bench, and Sinkhole Flat, seeing some wild burros along the route. Ken and Jan also arrived and we enjoyed each others’ company for dinner.
Thursday morning I drove solo back to Locomotive Point to see the rest of the pictographs that we skipped the day before. I also visited a couple of alcoves that showed signs of both prehistoric and historic occupation. The first had another Warren Allred inscription, but several other inscriptions had been abraded off the sandstone. The second alcove was pretty amazing considering its location. Inside were several metates–some were small standalone pieces and others were set in a small boulder. It’s a wonder that so much grain processing would be done in such a dry location with no apparent water sources nearby. Carved in the boulder metates were a couple of inscriptions, one by the ever-present Warren Allred. That evening it rained again briefly. I took the dogs for a walk near camp, rode my dirt bike, and photographed the storm clouds as they passed by.
On Friday we had a good group at camp. Seven of us set out in three Jeeps that morning to drive through Eagle Canyon. Along the way, near Home Base, we stopped to check out a wild horse trap/corral with 1/4-mile long brush fences that would direct the horses into the corral as they were being stampeded. While stopped at Swasey’s Cabin we hiked a short distance to an alcove with some cowboy inscriptions and possible signs of Indian occupation.
The descent into Eagle Canyon and the drive through the canyon bottom went smoothly–I had the Jeep in 2WD the entire time. I had to stop when I spotted some inscriptions dating back to the early 1900s. We drove under the I-70 bridges and found a geocache that Bradley and I had found in 2009, the day after Bradley’s 6th birthday. The climb out of Eagle Canyon to Secret Mesa required 4-low, and the Jeep scraped a skid plate on one ledge, but otherwise it was a breeze. Back at camp we found that more friends had arrived and enjoyed a fun evening.
Saturday was our big group activity. I led a large group of eight vehicles–four Jeeps and one each of a Bronco and Ford, Dodge, and Toyota pickups. We crossed to the south side of I-70 and entered Red’s Canyon, and made stops at the Lucky Strike Mine and Tomsich Butte before eating lunch near Muddy Creek. A drive across Taylor Flat completed the loop and we stopped for many geocaches along that stretch. In the evening, before a big potluck dinner, I went for a ride on my dirt bike across Cliff Dweller Flat to a super nice spot overlooking upper Eardley Canyon.
I saved the best for last. On Sunday morning a few of us drove a short distance toward the Wickiup with the intention of hiking to the summit. We parked about a mile shy of the Wickiup and hiked along a ridge to the base, and then only about half of the group continued up the steep slope toward the summit. I had hiked to a geocache just below the summit in 2005 and I’ve since regretted not scrambling up the last steep, loose chute to the summit. It was sketchy enough just getting to the geocache this time. I stood below the summit chute for several minutes trying to get up the nerve to make the final climb. It wasn’t the climb that had me worried, though. Getting back down without losing my footing and sliding off a cliff was going to be a challenge. Kenny was the only one in the group that made it to the summit, a job well done! We stumbled and slid back down more easily than the ascent. During the hike back to the vehicles I again began to regret not trying harder to make the summit! Returning to camp, everyone began to pack up and head home. We’d had a great turnout for the event, with several good adventures, and for once I wasn’t depressed to be leaving all my friends. See you all again in six months!
Photo Gallery: Swell Spring 2017 at the Wickiup