Gee, That’s Swell

Day Four, September 16, Mileage 382, 2008 total


I woke at first light, a habit that will follow me over the next couple of nights. Without a campfire or a conversation partner, it is easy to be early to bed, early to rise. Benjamin Franklin would approve.

I started off by making my way in the State Park for free, given that I rolled through shortly after 7am. I checked out the campground that I missed out on the day before and briefly stopped to visit the sanitary facilities. I almost decided to take a shower to wash off my sweat and grime from yesterday’s hike, but I had too much guilt, especially since I didn’t even pay to get in the park.

I then headed to the Goblins. It was as advertised – a large area of beautiful hoodoos that, if you squinted real hard, looked like a bunch of little people with big heads.

After hiking around these delightful creatures in the slowly warming day, I was tempted to play a bit of disc golf. Yes, that’s right. They have a course here. It looks simply amazing, so maybe I’ll come back to play it. If you want to see someone teeing off into the abyss, check out this video.

What you see in the background of the video is the reason that the slot canyons are there: the San Rafael Swell. It is a geological feature caused by an anticline, thrusting up a section of crust above the surrounding area. This area is almost devoid of paved roads except for where Interstate 70 slices through the middle of it. It does, however, have plenty of nice unpaved roads. Being the adventurer I am, I decided to drive through the swell, selecting a route that took me around 4 hours to drive.

This was a drive through the absolute middle of nowhere. I saw three other vehicles the whole time and no other sign of civilization. In other words, I was in paradise!

It was filled with scenes like this through my windshield.


Even though this was a gravel road, you would occasionally see a information sign that gave you a better sense of what was in front of you.


I saw plenty of pronghorn antelope, though I’m sure there were even more I didn’t see, given the way they blend into the sagebrush.


One of the highlights of the drive was getting to the Wedge Overlook. You see below you a beautiful canyon (that you just drove through) that takes your breath away. That is the San Rafael river, the namesake for the Swell.


And all of this was seen and experienced by myself. No other cars, no other people, no other noise. An experience that you just can’t get by staying on paved roads today.

At one point in Buckhorn wash was a spectacular set of pictographs. Simply amazing to see these works of art that in some cases are thousands of years old. You can actually go right up to them and see some of the incredible details.


All this driving did tend to transform my car into a camouflaged vehicle. I sure hope my dad doesn’t see this….


I finally made it back to pavement (and cell phone reception!) in the small town of Castle Dale, population 1630. From there I high tailed it down to I70, hit the showers at a truckstop ($11 for a very nice room with clean towels and fancy soaps), then pushed on to Nevada and my favorite highway 50, the loneliest highway in the US.

From there it was a short trip to a campground inside the Great Basin National Park. At 7800 feet I knew it was going to be a cold night, and yet again my stargazing was foiled by the moon.


I happily relaxed in the silence of the mountains, looking forward to waking up to the challenge of more vertical feet.

Categories: Travel

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