Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lost in the Swell

Ever heard of it? Yeah, us neither. We headed into Utah without really a plan or even a clue as to what magical landscape this part of the country held. We've seen pictures and heard stories but one can't even imagine til standing deep within a red walled canyon. Layer upon layer of the earth's different sediments above you.
The Swell is desolate desert badlands with Native American rock art panels thousands of years old and dinosaur fossils over 100 million years old, hidouts and evidence of shoot outs from Butch Cassidy, canyon gorges rising 1000 feet below you or mesas towering 1000's of feet above you. No paved roads to be seen and 2000 miles of roads on BLM to explore. Now how could you pass a place like this up.
We picked up a nifty brochure at a small local museum with self guided driving tours inside. The route we picked would eventually drop us out to I-70 in southern Utah leading to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. It is labeled as a day drive. HA!
We drove down the Swell as it was getting to be dinner time. We didn't make it far in and found a nice pull out with a fire ring already made. We explored a small canyon at camp, had dinner and a nice big fire. As we slept that night the wind started to pick up. Seems to be the theme for us while camping in canyons. The next morning we decided to brave the winds, put on some sunglasses to block the flying sand and head around the bend to hike up a canyon known as Furniture Draw. It winded through canyon walls and while I enjoyed to view, I couldn't help but become paranoid as the clouds north of us showed rain and I swore a flash flood was going to round the bend at any moment sweeping my family away. We've all heard the stories.
We braved the wind and sand storms back to the motorhome to venture on. We read that just beyond our camp was a dinosaur footprint on top of a sandstone ledge. Avery just couldn't get over this. I think it's been her favorite spot on the trip thus far.
We camped just down the road from here and the local sheriff that patrols this land got a kicked out of us only accomplishing a mile a day. We were really cruising if we got past 2.
The highlight of this road is a panal of petrogyphs over 2000 years old. The "artwork" was done by Barrier Canyon people. Little is know of these people and they are still a mystery to us today.
We took the opportunity to have "art class" here and the kids pulled out their journals and spent time sketching the wall.

We drove as far as the dirty San Rafael River that night. We pulled into a camp early and hiked up a cayon along the river. We were having a blast til we were somewhat deep in and found some cougar skat. We paused, thought about it for a minute and carried on. On our way back we walked along the riverbed. 1/2 a mile from camp we found what looked like drag marks in the sand, from a BIG animal. Lets say perhaps an antelope or bighorn sheep was at the river drinking earlier that day and the cougar whos' scat we found was hungry, snuck up behind it, grabbed it and drug it into the bushes. That's exactly what it looked like to us. And it seemed to be pretty recent. For a moment Jay thought he was The Crocodile Hunter as he followed the drag into the bushes. Then the lightbulb in his head clicked and he quickly turned around and let's just say we made lots of noise, walked much faster back to camp as I told the family we would be going INTO the RV as soon as the sun went down. :) (Bawk, Bawk).

The next day we drove to the The Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry. The Quarry is a National Landmark and home to over 15,oo0 bones excavated from the Jurassic period. I'm still new to traveling and don't always complete my homework so it was a surprise to us that we are now in the "off-season" and museums we want to see aren't open every day in late fall. We were a bit disappointed, but being the adventurers that we are, took another dirt road, hopped out and hiked around the desert. We did our own digging and Kaleb found what we were latter told to be a fossilized dinosaur tooth. Jay found a turtle shell. So we may not have been able to go in, but we didn't leave empty handed. Shhhhh......

4 days had gone by and now we were ready for a little bit of civilization and hot showers. We opened out to I-70 and drove onto Moab, Utah.

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