In mid-November 2018, my friend Chris and I headed into the San Rafael Desert for a couple days of camping and hiking in Keg Spring Canyon and Wolverton Canyon. Our goal was to hike as many old trails as we could. We ended up hiking four different trails and locating a fifth for future exploration. We met at my house on Friday the 16th, loaded the Jeep, and headed south. We arrived at camp near the west fork of Keg Spring Canyon after dark, started a campfire, and drank some beer before dinner. It wasn’t too chilly at night. We awoke when the sun rose on Saturday morning and the temperature was already quite comfortable.
After breakfast we started hiking right from camp. This was Chris’ first long hike since breaking his leg earlier in the year and he did quite well, never complaining despite some scrambling and a lot of ups-and-downs. We walked the rim of the west fork, finding many grinding slicks, petroglyphs, and inscriptions close to camp. One of the inscriptions was by Mont Caldwell, and I’d found many other inscriptions by him in my travels. There were also a lot of moki steps in the area, most of which appeared to serve no purpose. We dropped into a small canyon near camp and viewed some more petroglyphs before returning to the canyon rim and heading downstream.
We dropped back down below the rim to check out a promising cliff covered in patina but didn’t find anything there. Across the canyon, however, were a couple of 1934 inscriptions by Harold Twitchell, whose name I found scratched in lower Moonshine Wash five years earlier. We found our way to the top of the Andy Moore Trail, which I only roughly knew the location of but ended up being easy to find. Some of the sandstone cliffs above the trail had been drilled and blasted, presumably to create enough material to fill in the ledges below. Using that trail we entered the bottom of Keg Spring Canyon and then headed upstream into the middle fork of Keg Spring Canyon. There we found several rock walls designed to contain livestock, as well as a curious stone marker that simply said, “R.I.P. Solitude.” We thought (and hoped) it was a memorial to a horse. Chris and I also quickly visited a cave in the middle fork that I’d been to before.
Next we briefly entered the east fork of Keg Spring Canyon to try locating the Wolverton Trail. We located the trail easily and followed it to the canyon rim. I’d read that this trail was used to carry minerals from a mine near Keg Knoll down to the Green River, but after hiking the trail I think it’s likely that it was only ever used to get sheep from grazing lands above to water down in the canyon. It was certainly no thoroughfare for pack mules hauling minerals.
We returned to the middle fork and ascended it until reaching another constructed trail that I’d been on before. From the top of the trail it was a relatively short walk back to the Jeep.
We drove a while to the rim of lower Keg Spring Canyon and checked out a couple of water tanks. We also located the top of the Chuchuru Sheep Trail but didn’t feel like descending it all the way to the canyon bottom, so I’m saving that for another trip.
After some more driving we arrived at Saturday’s planned camp spot at the Wolverton Overlook but found a vehicle there. There’s only room for one group to camp there, so we approached the two fellows to see what their plans were. They were from back east somewhere and were only there for the evening to fly drones above the Green River at sunset. Chris and I decided to give them some space and went for a short drive, then returned at sunset. We hiked out to the overlook for some photos, then set up camp and enjoyed the evening. It sprinkled on us briefly, but we slept out on our cots and had a comfortable night.
On Sunday morning after packing up camp we set out for one last hike. I parked the Jeep a short distance from camp and we started down an old two-track road for a bit, then cross-country toward Wolverton Canyon. We took a slight detour when I saw some cliffs that caught my interest. There we found a couple of metates but no other signs of habitation. Farther down the canyon we had to bypass two dryfalls before reaching the top of the constructed trail in Wolverton Canyon.
The top of the Wolverton Trail had only a little construction. We reached the bottom of the canyon and couldn’t tell where the trail went. Chris set off into a boulder field, while I searched the opposite side of the canyon. I found where the trail ascended the other side and then continued down-canyon just below a cliff band. Along the way I spotted a small inscription by C.H. from one hundred years earlier. We followed the trail down to the Green River. The lower section was heavily constructed and could have served as a wagon road, except that there was no way for a wagon to get through the upper section of trail!
We poked around the mouth of the canyon hoping to find some inscriptions or rock art but unfortunately came up empty. With our exploring done, we ascended the trail by the same route we’d come in on, got back in the Jeep, and headed home.