Our Everyday Adventures

We are not adventurers by choice but by fate – Van Gogh

San Rafael Swell ~ Utah ~ Slot Canyons

Post by:  Jake
6/9/12

Over Memorial Day weekend, Veronica and I organized a bunch of friends and drove out to the desert for a long weekend of hiking and rappelling.  What started as a beautiful desert evening Thursday night, soon morphed into a biblical sand storm by Friday afternoon.  As we hiked away from our base camp Friday morning, the weather was calm, sunny, and overall fairly uneventful.  Five long miles later and deep into a slot canyon, we were struggling to stay on our feet as the wind pelted our bare legs with sand and pea gravel.  Hoping that somehow the slot canyon we were hiking was simply concentrating the wind, disappointment greeted us as we turned the last narrow corner and walked into the open desert where the wind seemed equally strong, if not stronger.  Immediately I felt a pit form in my stomach, knowing full well that we should have taken down our tents before leaving in the morning.  Wishing for the best, but expecting the worst, we headed back to our camp to find the following: 1 tent, precariously teetering over a cliff face, held fast by a single stake and a guy line; 1 tent perfectly fine, although nearly completely filled with sand; 1 tent with 2 of the 3 poles broken and protruding through the formerly waterproof fly; and 1 tent missing entirely.  Finding the missing tent a while later several hundred feet away at the bottom of a ravine, we were at a loss for words.  The group simply sat around on rocks, completely demoralized, trying to figure out our next move.  Move camp to a more sheltered location? Nope, the wind and blowing sand penetrated every crack of the desert equally; there was no place of refuge.  The wind continued, as if blowing salt into our wounds.  Staring at each other with blank, expressionless faces, we decided to throw in the towel and opt for a motel room in nearby Green River.  Booking one of the last rooms in town, we threw our tents and gear into the cars and dashed to the safety of 4 solid walls and a comfortable, sand free (nearly) bed. I contemplated the hardships of the early explorers and pioneers as I relaxed in the hotel’s hot tub, jets pounding into my sore shoulders and tired muscles.

The next day we woke to winds even more intense than before.  Although we certainly can claim no prizes for toughing out the storm in our tents, we also could not simply sit idle in the hotel room, through what was supposed to be an epic Utah adventure.  So, we hopped in the car, and following the directions of the hotel owner, we made our way out to Sego canyon where the wind seemed slightly less intense.  Ancient rock art panels and a beautiful desert canyon landscape filled our morning.  During the afternoon, we set a climbing rope and rappelled through the ceiling of a natural bridge cut into the sandstone.  Drop after drop, we hooted and hollered like a bunch of kids; and for a while even forgot about the intense wind.

Sunday morning, the wind had finally blown itself out and we ventured back to the San Rafael Swell to set up camp and hike to another incredible desert wonder, a massive cavernous alcove cut out of a tall sandstone cliff.  Sunday afternoon, we crossed into Goblin Valley State Park to explore the giant coliseum of cartoon characters that appear to have been frozen in time, preserved into a valley of sandstone hoodoos.  One step into the valley of goblins is enough to bring out anyone’s inner child. Before we knew it, we were calling out shapes of turtles, clowns, lions, tigers, and bears; all the while scrambling up and down blobs of sandstone. Back at camp, we toasted up a feast of Hobo Pies, and sat around the fire late into the night; watching embers burn into the starry night sky.

Monday morning dawned late as we were camped against an east facing cliff.  Originally we had planned to simply pack up camp and drive back home; however the allure of one more “quick” hike was too strong, so we hiked out and squeezed in one last slot canyon.  Driving home, the only thing any of us could think about was coming back for another adventure.  With endless slot canyons to hike, ancient dwellings to explore, and shapes to pick out of the sandstone hoodoos, it’s just a matter of time till were headed back to the desert.  The desert can be brutal and unforgiving; but even during the worst weather there’s always more adventures to be had.

 

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Posted in Adventure Sports and Life and Travel.

1 comment

One Reply

  1. Jake, you guys are true adventurers. Lesser people might have given up and gone home after finding a destroyed camp and miserable wind-blown sand. But you make lemonade from lemons once again! Your pictures and description give us readers a sense of what that was like, as well as another great example of “never give up”. thanks for sharing!
    kai


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