Preparing for the AT with some Southern Utah Day Hikes
When Will Winter End?
Since my last post about snowshoeing in the Idaho backcountry at Castle Rocks State Park, it’s been a bit hectic in my life. Winter has seemed to have taken a proverbial chokehold on much of the Western United States. Deep snow, heavy rains, flash floods, extreme winds, and colder temps that are paired with that wind have sidelined any training other than the morning routine at the Prison Gym (I work in Corrections.) There hasn’t been any true training happening on the trails here in Utah.
Well, with winter giving way for about two weekends this March I was able to escape to Cathedral Gorge State Park, Goblin State Park, and somewhere in San Rafael Swell. This was a much-needed break from the monotony of home and work life for a breather and to get some sand under my feet and a few miles to get these legs moving.
Here are those adventures!
Cathedral Gorge State Park
Just a quick drive of 4 hours over to the Nevada State line near Cedar City, Utah is a small state park known for its amazing geology that formed because of a fault line that split forming the valley that it sits in and the lake that was formed and since dried up creating the dramatic landscape in the mountains of Eastern Nevada.
I arrived after some heavy rains on my way to the park. I was worried because the area had many flash floods and hazardous conditions the weeks prior and was wondering if it would continue into that day. Well, the good news is it didn’t! I made my way to the parking lot past the miniature slot canyons that make their home in the State Park. Which I’m shooting myself for not taking more pictures of. But it’s worth the 0.25-mile side trail and dead ends in the slot canyons! However, depending on the black wall of clouds that were heading my way I was unsure if I would be doing much hiking and settled for only the 2-mile in-and-out trail to the overlook of the park. After about 150 stairs over the geological formations to get to the top the view was worth it from what I could see of it. Then I made my way back down the trail junction to the Juniper Draw Trail. I contemplated because the clouds had slightly loosened their grip on the landscape and decided to commit to the 6-mile trail around Meadow Valley as it’s known. If only it had backcountry camping, it would have the best backdrop for sunsets, sunrises, and a night tucked away in the valley!
At the end of the day it was worth the 8-hour drive from Salt Lake City and the 2.5 hours of hiking.
Goblin Valley and San Rafael Swell
After another weekend of snow storms that battered Salt Lake and the Wasatch Front where I live in the Salt Lake Valley, another weekend showed some promising weather. I called up my friend Luc who always drops everything when he’s not on the slopes or training for MMA to join me on excursions into the wilderness. We made the three-hour drive down to Goblin Valley State Park with the hundreds of other outdoor lovers who welcomed the 50-degree sunny skied Sunday afternoon. We found that even though there were trails in Goblin Valley State park they had all but been washed away so everyone was doing their own thing. We did our best to leave only footprints and respect the geography of the State Park. We dodged some quick mud here and there and meandered through the wadis to find ourselves looking over a beautiful butte we sat atop and the desert below. The picture does not do this landscape justice whatsoever.
We decided to call it a day when the masses made their way to us atop the butte because we wanted to beat the incoming storm that would be there at nightfall and did not want to get stuck in the passes on our way home.
Well, we got sidetracked and decided to do one more hike in San Rafael Swell on our way home as we saw something magnificent from the road. We parked along a Forest Service Road and followed a less-than-traveled cairn-marked trail up the side of red rock that turned into giant white granite rock formations. At that point, there was no trail or cairns. There were remnants of them for those that didn’t have the eyes or know what to look for. We followed it up by crossing sand dunes, wading through pools of water, and meandering through juniper trees that were in these rock formations til we found something magnificent.
We found ourselves in a sacred place to Native Americans. We didn’t know it at the time, but it was amazing needless to say. The natural acoustics of this place were unlike anything I had ever seen and heard. There was a circular arch over one of the cutouts in the rock that allowed sunlight to hit a perch and that’s when I saw the Native American Pictographs along the wall. It seemed like a story of their people and the struggle they endured to get to this place. It gave it more meaning than that of a place with stellar acoustics. It then made sense that this place was sacred to the people. Pottery, arrowheads, baskets, and other artifacts were in the sand or shattered by looters, the elements or only the people who called that place sacred would know. Then and only then did I figure out that this place was sacred and had meaning. My entire demeanor changed and I enjoyed it a little bit more. My friend and I both felt the same presence of this natural temple and holy place to these people. We took some photos, cleaned up some trash that was left behind by others and left our footprints in the sand, and had an extremely spiritual visit to this place.
I hope that you found this reading wonderful! I’ll be hitting the Appalachian Trail on April 29th and hope you’ll. enjoy me in the weeks coming whenever I start posting about my journey on the trail! Until then, Thanks for stopping by and if you’d like to check out any of my other content on Youtube or Instagram follow the link here (linktr.ee/hatfieldjr.scott) and follow along not just for the upcoming Appalachian Trail Hike, but everything before and after!
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