Category Archives: Motorcycle

San Rafael Spring 2018

For the 28th semi-annual San Rafael geocaching event, I mixed it up and tried out a new location near the Willow Springs Overlook in the southwestern San Rafael Swell. Campsites are scarce in that area, so when Traci and I arrived on Tuesday at the spot I’d chosen earlier in February, I was alarmed to find a group already camped there. In a fortunate turn of events, however, we were able to drive farther down the dirt road to find an even better spot that was inaccessible in February, thanks to the Emery County Road Department having graded the road within the last couple of months (thanks, y’all!). We set up camp and enjoyed a quiet evening without the kids, who were still at home and would join us after school on Friday.

View north from camp over Rock Canyon toward Emery
View north from camp over Rock Canyon toward Emery

Hilgard Mountain
Hilgard Mountain

Camp on Tuesday evening
Camp on Tuesday evening

On Wednesday morning I rode my motorcycle into Capitol Reef National Park. I had visited Capitol Reef a couple of times, including one trip a couple of years ago when I checked out upper Cathedral Valley. I missed out on the lower valley that time, so that was my goal on this trip. Since there were high winds in the weather forecast the next two days, I wanted to get the ride out of the way early in the week. I began the ride at about 8:30 in the morning, thinking it would take the majority of the day. While passing Birch Spring I noticed some rocks that seemed likely to hold some inscriptions, and there I found a couple dating to the mid-1940s. I entered the park at around 10AM, feeling nervous even though I was pretty certain my street-legal dirt bike was perfectly fine to ride in a national park (I’m always concerned about uninformed park rangers). Less than an hour later I was at the Lower Group, as it’s called, which includes Glass Mountain and the Temples of the Sun and Moon. I walked around both Temples, then headed back toward camp and found some geocaches that I’d passed on the way into the park. At Middle Desert Wash I took a different route than I’d taken into the park. I was immediately presented with a muddy wash crossing that I was certain would send me crashing to the ground, covered in mud, but I made it through the wash without incident. The rest of the route deviation consisted of very sandy roads, with which I have very little riding experience. By sitting far back on the motorcycle seat and applying judicious amounts of throttle, I was able to avoid dumping the bike in the sand. I did come across one spot where, judging by the marks in the sand, a fellow motorcycle rider had apparently laid his bike down and struggled to pick it back up, but I felt pretty good about not dumping my small, light bike. I returned to camp at about 1:20PM–much earlier than I’d hoped–after covering about 72 miles for the day.

View from Piano Hill over the Last Chance Desert
View from Piano Hill over the Last Chance Desert

Solomon’s Temple
Solomon's Temple

Dewey Jensen inscription from December 22, 1947 near Birch Spring
Dewey Jensen inscription from December 22, 1947 near Birch Spring

Rancher hauling a small excavator near Birch Spring
Rancher hauling a small excavator near Birch Spring

Entering Capitol Reef National Park
Entering Capitol Reef National Park

Volcanic dike and the Little Black Mountains
Volcanic dike and the Little Black Mountains

Glass Mountain and Temples of the Sun and Moon
Glass Mountain and Temples of the Sun and Moon

Temple of the Sun
Temple of the Sun

Temples of the Moon and Sun
Temples of the Moon and Sun

A pretty cool geocache (GC51XZE)
A pretty cool geocache (GC51XZE)

Road cut through a volcanic dike
Road cut through a volcanic dike

Rock Springs Bench
Rock Springs Bench

Spot where a fellow biker apparently went down in the sand
Spot where a fellow biker apparently went down in the sand

Cliffs near Solomon’s Temple
Cliffs near Solomon's Temple

72.1 miles on the odometer
72.1 miles on the odometer

Late that afternoon Traci and I went for a drive in the truck. We were seeking a spot I’d noticed in Google Earth that looked like perhaps a fence and a building foundation. What we found was much better. The “fence” was actually a retaining wall, and the “foundation” was another retaining wall at the entrance to an apparent underground explosives bunker used by the nearby Civilian Conservation Corps camp. The CCC built a lot of trails, roads, and livestock ponds, so surely they must have needed some explosives to move rocks and dirt out of the way.

Gnarled, dead juniper near camp
Gnarled, dead juniper near camp

Culvert built by the CCC
Culvert built by the CCC

CCC explosives bunker
CCC explosives bunker

CCC explosives bunker and rock wall
CCC explosives bunker and rock wall

On Wednesday evening several friends arrived. The following morning Ken and I hopped in his Jeep and took a trip westbound on I-70. There were several places I had been wanting to check out along Ivie Creek and in Salina Canyon, and since we were camped close to that area we set out to check them out. Our first stop was at a coal mine and cabin marked on the USGS topo map high above Ivie Creek. We crossed a creek and hiked an old road up to the cabin, which was still in good shape and looked relatively modern, with knob and tube wiring. The walls of the cabin had been insulated with cardboard, most of which had weathered away. Other than the coal spillage down the hill, there was little sign of an actual coal mine.

Cabin above Ivie Creek
Cabin above Ivie Creek

Tree growing in front of the cabin door, possibly an indication of the cabin’s age
Tree growing in front of the cabin door, possibly an indication of the cabin's age

Old cardboard insulation in the cabin
Old cardboard insulation in the cabin

Coal below the cabin
Coal below the cabin

Red Creek running red
Red Creek running red

We followed the frontage road up over Emigrant Pass to the Salina Creek side of the interstate. There, we parked along the highway and hiked up what appeared to be a very old road, but some rails along the way identified it as an old tramway used to haul coal to the main canyon before I-70 even existed. We didn’t find the coal mine–though coal littered the ground much like the previous site–but the nearby cabin appeared to be much older, with more primitive construction methods and much older cans littering the ground nearby. The distance from any road has helped to preserve this cabin and its contents. Artifacts included a wheelbarrow, old stoves, broken porcelain plates, a chicken coop, and many other items. Some rough weather moved in while we were checking out the cabin, and by the time we returned to Ken’s Jeep sleet was starting to fall. We abandoned two other planned stops in the canyon and instead cruised into Salina for fuel, then headed back to camp where it was surprisingly sunny. That evening several more friends showed up. Chris brought some non-geocacher friends who turned out to be way cool, which added to the fun for the weekend.

Swallow nests in a tunnel below I-70
Swallow nests in a tunnel below I-70

Rail from the tramway
Rail from the tramway

Stove
Stove

Coal pile below a cabin and mine
Coal pile below a cabin and mine

Can dump
Can dump

Wheel barrow
Wheel barrow

Kinny_Cabin? Kinny_in_a_Coal_Mine?
Kinny_Cabin?  Kinny_in_a_Coal_Mine?

Makeshift table at the cabin
Makeshift table at the cabin

Various ceramics
Various ceramics

Initials carved into the cabin
Initials carved into the cabin

Vaseline and Band-Aid lids
Vaseline and Band-Aid lids

Outers Gunslick Rifle Kit
Outers Gunslick Rifle Kit

Well-used and weathered sledge head
Well-used and weathered sledge head

Tiny stove
Tiny stove

Chicken coop
Chicken coop

Shelved items at the back of the cabin
Shelved items at the back of the cabin

My plans for Friday involved a hike up an old stock trail to some amazing pictographs. Everyone who was so inclined piled into my truck on Friday morning and we drove to the starting point of the hike. The trail, supposedly built by the CCC, was one of the best-constructed trails I’ve ever seen. The width of the trail and the amount of construction that went into the retaining walls certainly points to the CCC being involved in its construction. The rock art, which a friend had told me about, was still a huge surprise when we eventually found it. I’d seen photos of the pictographs, but didn’t realize they were so tiny. In addition, the enormous boulder upon which the rock art was painted had fallen down sometime after the art was painted, leaving the pictographs in a near-vertical position. After visiting the rock art, we returned to camp and had a fun evening.

CCC-constructed stock trail
CCC-constructed stock trail

Lower portion of the trail
Lower portion of the trail

Retaining wall along the upper trail
Retaining wall along the upper trail

Gate on the trail
Gate on the trail

Thin triangular slab of rock
Thin triangular slab of rock

Final climb to the rock art
Final climb to the rock art

Fallen boulder with pictographs on the right
Fallen boulder with pictographs on the right

Pictographs
Pictographs

Tiny Barrier Canyon Style pictographs
Tiny Barrier Canyon Style pictographs

On Saturday I led the entire group–seven vehicles and 20 people–on a loop drive south through the Last Chance Desert and then back across Mussentuchit Flat back to camp. I’ve been on the loop a few times and knew of several interesting places to stop, including a couple where I’d placed geocaches twelve years ago. I think the most fun was had wherever we found sand dunes! We had a potluck dinner at camp that evening, then enjoyed some time around a camp fire with some gallon cans of vegetables thrown in for fun. Our first can didn’t explode after 30 minutes, so I had to disarm it with my handgun. We threw a can of corn in later and it produced the desired effect.

The group at Piano Hill
The group at Piano Hill

Volcanic dike at Mussentuchit Flat
Volcanic dike at Mussentuchit Flat

Chris attempting to sled down a sand dune
Chris attempting to sled down a sand dune

Convoy parked near the volcanic dike
Convoy parked near the volcanic dike

H. and Brent descending the narrow ridge
H. and Brent descending the narrow ridge

Volcanic dike and sand dune
Volcanic dike and sand dune

Red Point
Red Point

Convoy at Mussentuchit Reservoir
Convoy at Mussentuchit Reservoir

Playing on the Mussentuchit Dunes
Playing on the Mussentuchit Dunes

Playing on the Mussentuchit Dunes
Playing on the Mussentuchit Dunes

Bradley about to wipe out on the dunes
Bradley about to wipe out on the dunes

The group at Mussentuchit Flat
The group at Mussentuchit Flat

Brent, H., and Chris
Brent, H., and Chris

Mussentuchit petroglyphs
Mussentuchit petroglyphs

Mussentuchit geoglyph
Mussentuchit geoglyph

Butch Casady inscription
Butch Casady inscription

Most of the group headed home early on Sunday. Even Traci and the kids wanted to leave early, so they helped to pack up camp before hitting the road. I stayed behind with the dogs to do one final hike. Since we had been camped on the southern rim of Rock Canyon, it had been calling to me all weekend for some exploration. I drove around to the north side of the canyon, where Torrey, Boulder, and I dropped in to check it out. There were a couple of obvious Indian/cowboy camps just below the rim, where I found an overhang with many lithic flakes. Dropping into Rock Canyon, there appeared to be a faint constructed stock trail leading into the bottom. Along the way were many inscriptions dating from the 1890s to the 1930s.

My parking spot above Rock Canyon
My parking spot above Rock Canyon

Shallow overhang showing signs of use
Shallow overhang showing signs of use

Broken point
Broken point

Eroded stock trail into Rock Canyon
Eroded stock trail into Rock Canyon

Hulett Guill inscription
Hulett Guill inscription

Elmer Peacock inscription from 1935
Elmer Peacock inscription from 1935

Leo Madsen 1897
Leo Madsen 1897

Will Keele, June 6th, 1915, and John Gunderson, Moroni, June ??, 1914
Will Keele, June 6th, 1915, and John Gunderson, Moroni, June ??, 1914

Route of stock trail through the cliffs
Route of stock trail through the cliffs

H.W. Bensh, Feb. 15, 1910, Salina
H.W. Bensh, Feb. 15, 1910, Salina

The bottom of Rock Canyon was a rocky, brushy mess! In the bottom of the canyon was a spring from which the dogs enjoyed long drink. Across the canyon from our drop-in point were more inscriptions and another overhang with a huge worked point lying on the ground. We only went a short distance up the rough canyon before I gave up and began looking for a way out without backtracking. I led the dogs up to the rim, climbing ledges and boulders until we reached level ground. From there we hiked cross-country back to the truck, where I saw the most dense lithic scatter that I’ve ever seen. Flakes of flint were everywhere! Before reaching the truck I ran into a woman and her young son from Springville who were looking for a specific plant (I didn’t ask why). She asked me if I’d noticed the huge lithic scatter, which told me that she was a well-informed outdoors-person. We chatted for a few minutes, then the dogs and I proceeded to the truck and then back to camp where I finished packing up and then headed home. It was sure nice spending time in a new part of the San Rafael Swell, including an excursion into Fishlake National Forest. It turned out being a great area to explore and I’m sure we’ll back again in another couple of years.

Heavy bushwhacking in Rock Canyon
Heavy bushwhacking in Rock Canyon

Torrey and Boulder at a spring in Rock Canyon
Torrey and Boulder at a spring in Rock Canyon

John Anderson, June th 6, 1920, Still on the Job
John Anderson, June th 6, 1920, Still on the Job

Large worked point
Large worked point

The aptly named Rock Canyon
The aptly named Rock Canyon

Rock Canyon near my exit point
Rock Canyon near my exit point

Rock Canyon
Rock Canyon


Photo Gallery: San Rafael Spring 2018