While the rest of the world was struggling with the Coronavirus, I had a bad case of cabin fever. Antidote: Drive down to the San Rafael Swell for a day of hiking in the sandstone canyons.
By packing sandwiches and snacks, I could drive down, hike and drive home again without interacting with any business or sickly soul. This is my idea of practicing ‘social distancing’.
The highways were rather empty with most of the traffic being represented by long haul truckers. However, I noticed that there were also a LOT of travel trailers coming and going. Cabin fever must be going around.
March came in like a lamb and went out like a lion in Utah, leaving very few warm and sunny days to enjoy. The bad weather finally broke and I took the last day of March to escape. I arrived at the southeast rim of the San Rafael Swell (a few miles north of Goblin Valley State Park) and found the temperature at exactly 70 degrees. Unfortunately, there was a steady wind for most of the day so I had to carry a jacket just in case it felt cold in the canyon.
I was heading west up Farnsworth Canyon to visit the pictographs hidden there. It had been probably twenty years since I had last hiked this canyon. Back then I was heading for the three natural arches hidden in the side canyon near the head of the canyon. In those days, you could drive jeep trails to the top of the canyon. Now only a designated motorcycle track will get you there.
I passed one travel trailer set up on the way into the Farnsworth Canyon trailhead. I didn’t see a single soul for the rest of the day until I was back on the highway again. Nice!
The one mile hike up Farnsworth Canyon was very pleasant. There are some slot canyon-like narrows several hundred yards into the canyon and it looks like it could have been a muddy mess just a few days before. I was able to stem around the few remaining mud pits.
I didn’t have an exact location of the pictographs so I spent some time scanning the north cliffs with binoculars until I was able to locate them above a deep crack in the cliffs.
The climb up to the pictographs required boulder scrambling and getting pictures required unsteady balancing on precarious boulders. Still, they were interesting pictographs and I felt like I had one more item checked off my bucket list.
My only regret was not finding a good, comfortable flat rock in the sun to take a nap on at some point during my hike. I had to make do with an uncomfortable flat rock. (They just don’t make flat rocks like they used to.)