San Rafael Reef between Iron Wash and Mormon Tanks

Udink

Just enjoy the ride.
Joined
Jan 17, 2012
Messages
1,493
My last few trips to the San Rafael Reef were done with a particular destination in mind, but this time I just picked a canyon at random and hiked up it. I drove down after work on Friday and made a quick stop in Iron Wash. There's an old pioneer signature there that I wanted to see, and I found some other undated initials carved in the sandstone that looked pretty old. I also found a shallow cave with grinding marks and sharpening grooves, plus plenty of soot and old charcoal inside, but unfortunately no rock that I could see in the area. After leaving Iron Wash I drove a short distance and found a place to camp near the canyon that I wanted to hike up. I built a fire pit and got a fire going so I could cook some dinner, then set up my tent and relaxed around the fire and read a book. Watching the waning full moon rise over the La Sals was a treat.


Parked at the barricade in Iron Wash


J.A. Watt signature


Small cave in Iron Wash


Grinding marks at the mouth of the cave


Sharpening grooves


View out of another cave in Iron Wash


Getting a fire going


Camp fire


Tent and truck


Moon rising over the La Sal Mountains


My shadow in the moonlight



I was up early on Saturday morning and started hiking at about 8:00AM. The lower part of the canyon was not terribly interesting, but I took it slow and kept an eye out for rock art, which I can't help but do in this area. :) Farther up the canyon there were some large pools of water, which my dog couldn't help but take a dip in. I came to a large pool that gets no direct sunlight this time of year and had some sand-covered ice in the bottom, and a large dryfall above it that looked impassible. I had to do a steep scramble around one side to get past it, and it took some effort to shove my dog up ahead of me. Just above the dryfall was a narrow side canyon full of water. If it had been dry, I would have loved exploring it. In the main canyon above the first big dryfall were several smaller ones that were impossible for me to climb, but again I found a way around them by scrambling out of the drainage. Not far after getting back into the main drainage was yet another dryfall that I simply couldn't get around--well, my dog couldn't get around it, so that was where I turned around and headed back down the canyon looking for another way up to the canyon rim.


Early morning at camp


An old spur I found near camp


Starting up the canyon


A shallow cave with a few signs of ancient habitation


Small arch in the canyon wall


View up the canyon


Torrey in a pool


A large row of Fremont's Mahonia


Just after scrambling around the first big dryfall


Water in a narrow side canyon


A series of small potholes that I went around


Crazy concretions on the canyon wall


Another dryfall that completely halted my progress


This was as far as Torrey would go when trying to bypass the dryfall



I backtracked more than half a mile before finding a spot to climb out of the canyon. On the way back down, though, I found an arrowhead that I'd walked right past without noticing earlier in the morning. After climbing out of the canyon, I dropped down into the next canyon to the north and started ascending it. Once I saw ahead that the canyon narrowed up and became choked with brush and trees, I started following the ramping sandstone wall on the north side that led to the canyon's rim. After scrambling up and down some sandstone fins and following some brush-choked cracks, I found myself overlooking the canyon I'd originally started hiking up, though I was about half a mile upstream from the dryfall that had stopped my progress earlier. I stopped there for lunch and scouted the canyon below me.


An arrowhead lying in the bottom of the canyon


An adjacent canyon that I dropped into


Lots of rockfall in this canyon


Looking back at the ramp I used to hike out of the canyon to the rim


View into the canyon where it narrowed up


Descending a fin


A crack that I hiked through


Aiming for the gap in the center


Bushwhacking ahead


View from my lunch spot, looking down the first canyon I'd ascended


View up the canyon



After seeing what kind of country was ahead of me if I wanted to continue up the San Rafael Reef, I decided to call it a day. The route up to that point had been pretty convoluted, and it was only going to get worse if I kept ascending. I didn't want to follow the same route back, so I continued a little farther up the Reef before rounding a corner and descending back into the section of fins. I exited the Reef through the second canyon I'd ascended, then walked along a dirt road just over half a mile back to camp, where I packed things up and headed home.


I followed this ledge between cliffs to the point on the left


Nice view into the upper canyon drainage


View down my exit route


Many more potholes on the descent






Cutting across some fins


Hiking up a fin


The dirt road back to camp



Full photo gallery:
https://picasaweb.google.com/Dennis.Udink/SanRafaelReefBetweenIronWashAndMormonTanks

Google map & KMZ:
http://g.co/maps/62s8b
http://udink.org/geo/SanRafaelReefBetweenIronWashAndMormonTanks.kmz

Featured image for slideshow:
slide.jpg
 

Tyler

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Joined
Jan 18, 2012
Messages
464
Very nice Dennis. You always find some of the coolest items (the spur, signatures, etc.) and you visit the coolest places out there that you won't necessarily find in a guidebook. Bravo.

So did this canyon even have a name? Where was it located along the reef? I'm guessing it's north of Temple wash near Farnsworth/Old Woman?
 

Udink

Just enjoy the ride.
Joined
Jan 17, 2012
Messages
1,493
So did this canyon even have a name? Where was it located along the reef? I'm guessing it's north of Temple wash near Farnsworth/Old Woman?
Nope, it doesn't have a name that I'm aware of. Mostly just the canyons that cut fully through the Reef have names, but this one has its headwaters on top of the Reef instead of on the west side. This one's a bit north of Old Woman Wash, and just south of Iron Wash.
 

Nick

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Joined
Aug 9, 2007
Messages
12,923
Sweet trip. Amazing what you find when you go someplace no one else really goes. That spur is awesome and always amazing to spot an arrowhead. Great stuff!
 

Tyler

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Joined
Jan 18, 2012
Messages
464
Looks like Torrey was having a good time. How was that pack he/she carried? Did you have dry items in there when he/she took a dip in the water?
 

Udink

Just enjoy the ride.
Joined
Jan 17, 2012
Messages
1,493
Looks like Torrey was having a good time. How was that pack he/she carried? Did you have dry items in there when he/she took a dip in the water?
So far I like the pack a lot, but this was our first back country trip using it. Before this weekend, she'd only worn it on a few 2-mile long walks along dirt roads near town. It's the Mountainsmith dog pack, size small, that ibenick recommended in this thread. Each side had a 1/2-liter water bottle and a package of moist dog food, and even after repeated dips in the water, no moisture got inside (but she never went for a full swim, either). I checked, and a 1-liter Nalgene will fit in each side with room to spare for food or whatever else, but I think Torrey will need to work up to carrying that much weight.
 

Nick

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Joined
Aug 9, 2007
Messages
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I thought that looked familiar! Sweet dog pack, IMO.

So you just made me think. For people who have dogs that are always going for a swim, just store the dogfood INSIDE a couple of nalgene bottles. You'd know exactly how much to feed them by the measuring marks. Hmmm...
 

Don

Never nude.
Joined
Feb 8, 2012
Messages
84
Very cool. Love the pics, especially that old spur.
 
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