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Weekend Adventure 4/25/15 – North San Rafael Swell

by dave

For this week’s adventure, we had been planning it for a week. Camp out on an old volcano in the west desert, soak in some hot springs, and go collecting crystals in the mountains on Saturday. Sadly, the weather cancelled this entire plan. Everywhere within 2-3 hours looked like it was going to be rainy and cold.

But we looked at the weather radar, and found one hole in the storms, on the north end of the San Rafael Swell. So we decided to try it. I had never been to that area before, but it was only about 90 minutes away, and we figured that it was worth a try.

We packed up, grabbed some dinner in Price, and then headed south, pretty much just going directly south for about 20 miles. We started to drive through some more interesting terrain… lots of sandstone cliffs and smaller rock formations. We saw RVs parked on every small turn-off, so we weren’t the only ones in the area.

We wanted to be away from the RVs and ATVs, so we drove until we weren’t seeing anyone else, found a large cliff that looked interesting, and parked at the base of it to camp:

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And this is what children look like when they hop out of the car and realize that not only is is not raining, but there are rocks and hills to climb:

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K and T quickly ran off into the hills. Once it started getting dark, I called for them to come back, and they did… eventually.

We set out some chairs, watched the sun go down, and slept in the back of the car for the night. It rained all night. I checked the weather radar again around 2 AM, and it said the rain should stop by 3, and it was right – the morning was free of rain, even if the ground, our camping chairs, and my jacket were soaked. I have no idea who left my jacket outside…

We woke up at dawn, had some breakfast, and started exploring. Well, I started exploring… the kids started shooting their bow and arrows, wandering all over in search of arrows once they had been launched into the distance:

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I had never seen much written about this part of utah, in terms of rockhounding, and I discovered why – it is all sandstone, and the ground is pretty much just… sand. We did find a few interesting rocks which I wasn’t able to identify, but I brought home ot investigate later. But mostly, there was grass and cactus:

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As I walked around, I realized I should have driven another half mile the night before. We went around the side of the cliff, and found that there was an even more interesting place to camp on the other side, with cliff faces surrounding a small valley on 3 sides. We spent a few minutes yelling in all directions, as the echoes were impressive.

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No matter how much I wanted to explore, the kids were pretty much focused on only two things — climbing rocks and shooting arrows. But everyone had fun.

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Weekend Adventure 4/18/15

by dave

Springtime is here. It is time to escape the home on the weekends and getting outdoors. We have a lot of choices here in Utah, but we’re starting with a simple rockhounding trip close to home.

Just east of Eureka, UT is a fairly well-known spot to collect agate. IT is listed in the rock hounding books and guides, and  there are quite a few posts about it online, so I expected it to be fairly well picked over. But it turned out OK.

The turn off is easy to find – if you drive west of of Santaquin, a few miles before Eureka, there is a sign with a flashing yellow light, warning you to slow to 30 mph for upcoming curves. Turn right onto the dirt road right before that sign.  The road will switchback down to the valley below, and just after you reach bottom and the road turns north, you’ll see a road cut off to the left. It will be very clearly a less used road – it was very washed out when we got there, and I would not even attempt it without 4WD. But with 4WD, it was just fine.

Follow that road for a bit (half a mile?) And you’ll see a sharp uphill stretch in front of you, enough to make you think twice if you want to drive up it. There are a few places you can pull off the road on the right here, and that is what we did. You can also cut to the left, and the road will keep taking you up towards the rocks, but we thought we were close enough, so we got out to walk.

Walk up that hill – you’ll see a nice rock formation at the top, but we didn’t find much of interest there. Turn right down the road from that point,  following the power lines, and you’ll see another small rock cliff. Walk down to it, and then you’ll see yet another rock cliff farther down. Go to THAT one, and follow it for about 30ish feet, and you’ll see a spot with chipped and broken rock collected at the bottom of the cliff. That is the spot, and those broken rocks are all the leftover bits from prior visitors. There are interesting bits there, or you can go up the hill a bit to break off new pieces. There is still quite a bit of agate left.

Here, K had a good lesson in safety in the mountains – do not climb on loose rocks. He climbed up, then started knocking rocks down on E and I, and I told him to come down. He did… putting his foot on a loose rock, which gave out beneath him and sent him slipping down to us, maybe down 15? vertical feet, sliding past E and I, and coming to stop down by our backpack.

Now, when you see you small child sliding down a small rock face, you want to help. But you only have about a half second to react, and sometimes the desire to help surpasses your logic. At this particular point, K was coming down towards a 3 foot high vertical drop, where E was standing. I thoughtlessly suggested to E, “Quick! Catch him!”  Yeah, right… the 35 pound 5 year old should catch the 75 pound 7 year old. Luckily, E did not comply.

So K was bleeding and scraped up, but no real injuries, thankfully. We had some talks about safe climbing techniques.

At the end of this little adventure, we sorted through the rocks we had found, in theory to choose only the best ones. In reality, the kids wanted to keep them all, ans said, “Dad, these are heavy. Can you carry them back to the car?” Just as well that I did – the boys slipped and fell a few times coming back down that steep part of the road. And they now understand why I recommend wearing jeans when exploring rocky terrain, no matter how hot it may be. They both bled their way back to the car. And we decided to pack a first aid kit next time.

We drove around a few of the other dirt roads in the area, but didn’t find anything of much interest. The only other spot we stopped was an old mine just inside the turn off to the main road. It is quite a large mine shaft, and has been covered with a mesh of rebar and some large beams to prevent people getting into it. But you can stand at the edge, look down it, and see some of the old piles of rock nearby from the original mining. We had some brief talks about how they dug the rock out, how they got the valuable metals from the rock, etc.  And more talks about safety, of avoiding mine shafts, but also avoiding bright un-natural blue or green rocks or pools near mine shafts, as those are often leftover poisonous materials from the mining.

But as both boys were scraped up at this point, and none of us has built up any hiking strength for the season, we headed home and got some lunch.