Thursday, March 29, 2012

Into The Valley of the Goblins

The Drive Down

Can you believe snow?
(Note: Click on photos for larger view.)

2012-03-23 & 24 - We left Post Falls early Friday morning expecting to travel through rain, snow and ice.  Linda had walked out of the house this morning and immediately returned pointing out the fact that there was two inches of snow on the driveway. 

Our trip was easy and event-less.  No snow on the roads, no rain on the windshields; it was clear sailing all the way.  We drove through Montana and back in to Idaho.  We stopped for the night at a KOA in Pocatello, took showers and rested. 
Our BLM campsite.

We left the KOA at a little after 7:30 AM and continued on down through Salt Lake City.  We hit bumper to bumper, stop and go traffic just out of the big city and it slowed us down a great deal.  We figured we lost over an hour in that mess and were glad when we finally got through and made the turn leading to Price Utah.

We arrived at the area just outside of Goblin Valley State Park.  This BLM land is open to public camping and since we didn’t have reservation in the park we found a spot and camped there for the night.  While we approached the park Linda had contacted the ranger and he gave us some great advice about where to camp and that he recommended we check in at the park early the next morning if we wanted a camp spot there.

We slept hard that night and at 9:00 AM we drove in to the park and was able to secure a spot.  We paid for four nights, set up camp and enjoyed a hot shower.

Swasey’s Cabin & Dutchman’s Arch

2012-03-25 - On Monday the winds blew.  If you have never been in a sand storm this would have been one to be initiated by.  We woke up at about our usual time. Linda took a run and the winds were bad but not bad enough that she felt she should postpone her training.  I made the usual coffee and tea and sat back and read a bit of my book.  Linda returned and just about that time, the wind picked up a couple notches.  It blew hard enough to shake the camper with its two back stabilizers down.
With the wind as bad as it was we felt we needed to avoid hiking on the open sandy trails around Goblin Valley so we decided to do a couple drives that we had read about.  We got our gear together as we watched the numerous campsites fight to get their tents or tent trailers folded away.  The group next to us was made up of four bicyclists who rode in the day before.  They got up and fought the wind, readying for their ride.  We felt so bad for them, and watched as the wind beat against them as they departed.

We ate our breakfast and packed the rest of the items we needed for the day, last item we loaded was Kobi.  As we drove the 12 miles out from Goblin Valley State Park the wind whipped up the desert sand causing virtual white out conditions.  We kept thinking about the bicyclists but with the wind at their backs they made it to State Highway 24 before we over took them.  At this highway we went left and the bike riders went right towards Hanksville, we never crossed their paths. 
Our first destination was located off I-70 two miles to the west.  At mile post 147 we left the highway and Linda opened a fence.  I drove through and we continued on along a wash to a particular area known as Black Dragon Wash.  We parked the Jeep and took a short walk up the canyon where we could see some pictographs.  The wind was not as bad up in this area, but there were a few blasts that got your attention.

From there we drove back to Green River and ate lunch at the Tamarack Café.  When we were full, we got back in the Jeep, drove to the station and filled it up with gas.  Our next drive would take us farther away from the road and we wanted to make sure we had the fuel for the trip.

The early cattlemen of this region were rugged and tails of the exploits have live on generations after their passing.  The Swasey boys were four of those men and their legends live on amongst this regions inhabitants.  We read a few of the tails about the boys and noticed that numerous landmarks bear their names.  Through the dust and wind we drove and ended up at Swasey’s Cabin an old wood and mud structure that stands just below Broken Cross pinnacle.  We walked around the area noting how rugged the land was and thinking how tough a life you would have lead back in the days of the Swaseys.

As we drove back from the cabin we took a detour under the freeway and drove to Dutchman’s Arch for some final photos before we returned to Goblin Valley.  The arch is within plane sight of the freeway, but sits at just the right angle that very few people actually see it.  The Jeep road to its location was very sandy but our little Stinky Jeep made it just fine.  We drove back to our campsite and took our afternoon showers.  We settled in and by 8:30 PM we were ready for bed.

Goblin Valley

2012-03-26 - Morning brought calm blue skies and we were up and ready to venture into Goblin Valley.  We tied Kobi up, gave him food and water and made sure that he had shade for the day; then we drove up to the State Park’s parking lot and hit the trail.

One of the books we read suggested that we hike the Entrada Trail from the parking lot to where it intersected with the Curtis Bench Trail and then we hiked to the end of the CBT and viewed the lower part of the valley.  This guide book also said we could drop down into the lower valley and work our way back up through the middle of the valley and return to our vehicle through the upper part of the valley.  We looked for quite some time, but could not find an appropriate dropping off place anywhere.  We understood that hiking in this valley is more like freestyle wandering, but we did not feel comfortable just shooting off the trail in the this valley of the golems.

We followed the bench trail back to the sign pointing out the entrance trail into the valley and entered it via the middle point.  This is and amazing place!  We hiked and climbed all over this middle section.  Best of all, we were all by ourselves!  We hiked for over an hour before we saw one person and we ran into them when we were starting to explore the top of the valley.  Both Linda and I agreed that when we come back we will take more time to explore the lower and middle sections of this wonderful state park.

We exited Goblin Valley and hiked the trail to Molly’s Castle and the overlooks that abound there.  By this time we were a bit tired and ready for some food so we hiked back to the Jeep and returned to camp.  Kobi was happy to see us and we got a great report from our neighbors about how he behaved while we hiked.  Turns out Kobi basically lays around, eats, drinks, and even gets up sometimes and greets the folks who walk by our camp site.  Everyone said he was a great camp host.

Bell & Little Wild Horse Canyons

2012-03-26 - Up a 6 AM and ready for the big hike of the trip.  Our plan was to check with the ranger as soon as they open and see what the weather called for.  One of the guide books said that this was a good idea when you go to hike Bell and Little Wild Horse Canyons, flash floods could mean disaster in these areas and the sky has been a bit over cast as the wind moved through.  The ranger gave us the thumbs up but told us to always play the “Where would I run now?” game as we hiked. 
We drove to the trail head and were the second vehicle there.  The first one had camped in the parking lot, and it looked like they were still sleeping when we took off.  The hike through Bell Canyon which then connects to Little Wild Horse Canyon via a part of the Behind The Reef Road is a nine mile hike. 
Our early start gave us the hopes that we would not see too many hikers during the early goings.  We entered the tail out canyon and within ten minutes hit our first pour over.  We must have looked funny because we wandered all around looking for as the guide book said “bypass it on the left”.  There was no “bypass it on the left”!  It was up or nothing.  We kept thinking about the descriptive opinion from the guide book, WOW Guides Utah Canyon Country, that stated that these hikes were “Canyoneering 101” or as they wrapped up their descriptive opinion, “Welcome to Slot Canyons For Dummies.”

These two dummies took about ten minutes for figure out the first chokestone.  We use our hands, feet butts and knees, but we made it to the top!  The hiking was fast and easy.  We had to climb several rock blocks, but each time things got a bit easier.  That first one was completely mental if you ask me.

Bell Canyon is 2.5 miles long and has an elevation gain of 350 feet.  The hike was beautiful with washed rock faces that tell of years of wild erosion.  At points the cliffs above towered 300 feet above us and the walls closed in so tight you could touch each side if you held out your elbows.

When we exited Bell Canyon we immediately intersected a Jeep trail.  This trail is part of a long and very tough OHV trail and it connects us to the Little Wild Horse Canyon.  The hike hits it maximum elevation of 5660-Ft giving us a total elevation gain of 710 feet.  As we descended along the road we came to the trail sign for our final canyon, took a right and entered.

Little Wild Horse Canyon is spectacular.  It winds through the towering walls of the wash, all the time staying about five feet or less wide.  This canyon exemplifies what a true slot canyon should be.  Several times we shouted “Where would I run now?” and started laughing because the only exit would be straight up! We spent the entire time marveling and wondering what this place must look like when the water rushes down its serpentines

At about 3 hours 15 minutes we came upon our first hiking group.  A father and his two kids greeted us with big smiles and I had to ask if we were the first people they had met today?  We were, so we talked about what we had seen and exchanged info about what to expect in each direction. 

We continued on down the wash and our meetings with others became more frequent.  Our 9 mile hike was never like the guide book stated, it wasn’t a “carnival” at any point, just a wonderful 4 hour hike through time.

The Road Home

2012-03-27 - I once again sit at the KOA in Pocatello.  Our trip today was fortunately uneventful. Our final plans are to drive home tomorrow and hopefully be there by about mid afternoon.  One of the things Linda and I always do as we drive home is to talk about what we saw and then we rate the adventure.  This one rates very high! 

Goblin and Little Wild Horse are well worth the trip and we plan to return and explore further.  Linda looked at me as I drove and said “I’m glad you made us come down this year.”  She had expressed doubts about the long drive and we actually tried to come up with an alternate spot, but were unsuccessful.  Two years of coastal rain was the defining fact that pointed us down this way.  No regrets about this adventure. We had sun and warm weather, yes some wind, but we were in great country all the while.


This blog post comes with a bit of great news that I received just prior to leaving home for my Boston Trip.  For the past several months I have been working on my plans to retire from North Idaho College.  I have been working at NIC for over 33 years and have finally decided that it is time to have fun.  The planning has taken place for many years, but for the past several months I have been dealing with our public retirement system trying to figure out the exact date.  For the past two years the information given to me stated that I could retire on November 1, 2012, but just before we left I got confirmation from the person in charge down at PERSI that they had made an error and that my actual date of retirement is August 1, 2012. That means I’ll be able to post more in the blog, go fishing, and work on the house a bit.  I changed the retirement countdown at the bottom of the page to reflect the new date; I must admit I am pretty excited about the future.


More to come.