San Rafael Swell – The North side of I-70

Read on for more information about the North side of the swell from a local.

Popular meeting place

Ah the swell, the desert, my playground and where I love to go the most near my home.

My usual day visits are on what the locals call this side of I-70. This is where most of my mini adventures play out. We have “The Wedge” or Little Grand Canyon, Cedar Mountain, and several pull off spots for petroglyphs, pictographs, and even dinosaur footprints. Not to mention the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, scenic Buckhorn Wash, and the Swinging Bridge, amongst many other neat-o things to see. 

 Just a few things to do out here

The geocache stashes out here are unreal too. I plan on adding to the geocache population out on the San Rafael Swell myself this Spring! Check out my post on a DIY geocache stash swag

Camping is the best out here if you’re into primitive camping. You should see it around Easter! The landscape becomes full of campers, RV’s, tents, and plenty of ATV rides in all sizes. The locals call it “Easter’n”. Come sunshine, rain, and most times snow and freezing temperatures, most of the Emery County and Carbon County population go out to camp and recreate in the San Rafael Swell for Easter. 

During the Spring runoff period and if we have a good winter, floating the San Rafael River is an adventure must. Check out my post on my experience with floating the river. I plan on doing this again at any chance I get. 

There aren’t a lot of designated hiking trails on this side but plenty to explore on your own. However, ATV trails are in abundance.

Geology in the Swell 

You’ll find a lot of the same formations that are scattered throughout Utah. Some of it looks like the formations found in Zions National Park, Moab, Bryce Canyon and Capital Reef National Parks. In fact when I visited Capital Reef National Park, I said it looked like “our” desert but more red.

History in San Rafael Swell
Markers identifying The Old Spanish Trail

Native Americans, settlers, and miners helped develop this land and cultivated a story or two.

Of course we see the presence of Native Americans through the strange and wonderful paintings, carvings, and artifacts left behind. First used as a trade route and running from New Mexico to California, The Old Spanish Trail runs through the swell. There are people who still navigate the trail to this day! Old uranium mines remain, but dangerous to explore. They would be a fascinating part of history to see first hand but please don’t put yourself in harms way. 

Wildlife

You can expect to see antelope pretty much year round and abundantly in Buckhorn Flat. Deer, prairie dogs, and even wild horses and burros in some areas. I’ve spent plenty of time out on the swell and only in the last couple of years did I get the pleasure of seeing bighorn sheep up close and personal. They really are magnificent creatures, but if you spot some, please be smart about approaching them. They will run from you, and are extremely fast, but you never know.

Best time to visit

In order to get a good visit in especially if you’re traveling far, I would recommend anywhere between April to about mid June. In the summer, it can get pretty hot and most of all buggy.

Then try September to whenever it decides to snow on a regular basis. I made pretty frequent visits up to December and January this year and had gorgeous weather.

Let me tell you, when you’re hanging out in the desert in February and you actually see winter coming, you should probably start packing up your picnic stuff because it comes fast!

WINTER’S COMING!

Check out the video for a little time warp of Buckhorn Wash in the Winter for your viewing pleasure!

Geocache swag ideas, wooden dominoes

Supplies needed

  • Wood craft sticks 1.25 in X 10 in – purchase at a craft store
  • Wood burner – These can be purchased at any craft store and range in price depending on how fancy you want to get with your wood burning.
  • Small hand saw
  • Fine sandpaper – I used 220 grit
  • Pencil
  • Ruler

Steps to creating your dominoes

Take a craft stick and draw a line down the width of it where the rounded end stops and then measure 2 inches down the length of the stick until no more can fit. I was able to get 4 pieces out of each stick, so you will need at least 7 sticks. Extra pieces may pay off in case you mess up on the wood burning process.

Grab your saw and hang it over the edge of something sturdy and score on each line. If you do this right and carefully you should be able to just score and break each piece off. You can also score and then start sawing through at an angle carefully.

You’ll need 28 pieces for a regular dominoes game. After you have all your pieces you can start filing the rough edges with the sandpaper. I would just lay the sandpaper down on a table and move the pieces back and forth on the sandpaper until smooth.

Do a quick online search for what each domino should look like and draw with the pencil on each one.

I used the rounded tip attachment that came with my wood burner set. 

Heat up the burner and burn over your pencil marks.

I then burned around the edges to give it some pop!

Do an online search on gameplay and print, or type up your own instructions.

All done! Put all the pieces in a bag with instructions on how to play dominoes.

Alternative to wood burning

If you wanted, you could paint the dots on the wood pieces and then clear coat spray them all.

DIY Geocache swag idea, Tic-Tac-Toe

Let’s say you want to make some geocache swag of your own to start swapping.
Or perhaps you’ve decided to start some caches of your own.
Read on for a Do-It-Yourself Tic-Tac-Toe mini game.

Supplies needed

  • Cloth bags about 5” W X 6-1/2” L 

Now if you’re really crafty and/or have the supplies/time, you could make the bags yourself. I’m not however, so these bags were purchased at a craft store.

  • 10 rocks

This geocache swag idea might take a little time to gather materials. These rocks were on hand because my sister is a little more of a rock freak than I am, so she had these rocks already. When you’re out and about, on a walk, hike, fishing etc. take a look at the ground and find rocks that are somewhat smooth, flat, and round or oval.  I’m sure you could buy these too, but in my opinion that going a bit far don’t you think?

  • White acrylic paint
  • Small paintbrush
  • Matte clear coat spray – I used Rustoleum Matte clear enamel. I don’t know if it will do much good to clear coat them, but I figured WTH it can’t hurt anything

Get it together

First have some cardboard or card stock handy to put inside your bag so the marker or paint doesn’t bleed through. 

Next take a permanent marker or some dark acrylic paint 

(marker could bleed on certain material) and measure, dividing evenly, then mark 9 spaces. 3 across, 3 down, etc. or eyeball it like I did! 

Wash your rocks and let them dry fully. Now grab your paintbrush with paint and either freehand X’s and O’s on the rocks or you could pencil them on first if the rocks are light enough to see the pencil marks. 

Let the paint dry and spray with matte clear coat if desired.

I’m putting my rocks in little baggies and then everything in another clear bag to put in the geocaches.

Yay! You’re all done. Comment below for any questions or let me know how yours went!

Alternative to using rocks

Use those glass gems in two different colors. Or get the bigger clear gems and Mod Podge or glue decorative paper on the flat part. You could even paint right on the gem if you wanted.

10 fun and creative things to do while camping

Read on for some nature Lovin fun!

For me camping is a great way to get in a bunch of ATV rides, hikes and even geocaching in. You can do those things all day and don’t have to go very far to get back to cook and sleep. But not everyone does or likes those things, so here’s a few ideas to keep yourself and kids entertained.

  1. ATV rides – Like I said, this is my number one choice. Even if I don’t want to go on a long ride, it’s great to use the side-by-side to get from camp to wherever.
  2. Hiking – Locate a hike you’d like to do in the area before hand. I’ve also just drove around until I found something that looks promising and hiked it to see what was up. That can be a little risky so do your research before you go. Check out my post on hiking tips!
  3. Make your own walking stick/roasting sticks – On your ride or whilst on your hike, look around for a perfect walking stick or marshmallow roasting stick to take back to camp to carve up later. You can put in some really cool designs in your walking stick with just a good knife. If you have kids at the camp, you can carve some up for them. Maybe if they’re old enough, you can let them do it with supervision. That’s entirely up to you though! (scary)
  4. Go geocaching – Look at the map at geocaching.com in the area you’ll be camping to see if there are any near geocaches to find. I’ll bet there are! Check out my post about geocaching.
  5. Go fishing – If fishing is your cup o coffee – by all means get your fish on. Camping and fishing is another pair of outdoor activities that go hand-in-hand. Make sure you know your states fishing guidelines before trying it if you don’t already know.
  6. Outdoor games – Or yard games they may be called. Games like horseshoes, Ladderball, Bocce ball, frisbee toss, corn hole, giant jenga, or even badminton.
  7. Play cards – This is a great one to do if you have a camper or tent to go in if it starts to rain. You can also hold a poker tournament outside on camping tables or if you’re at a camp site with picnic tables. That is if the wind isn’t blowing too bad!
  8. Set-up a photo scavenger hunt – This can be a photo thing like the one I have posted here. Or you can look around real quick at your surrounding area at camp and write down some things the kids can go find. Give them each a little baggie and the list. That should keep them busy for a while. 
  9. Stargaze – This is nice especially if you’re not allowed to have a fire due to restrictions. You can download an app for your phone to help you find and decipher what you’re looking at.
  10. Make Ice cream – That’s right! I said make ice cream. A long time ago I purchased some ice cream balls that you put ice and rock salt in the middle stainless steel cylinder. Then evaporated milk and any soda pop you want on the outside. Toss the ball around to each other and in no time you have some delicious homemade ice cream. This is especially popular with kids.

I also look at camping as a great way to unplug. As best as you can (I know it can be hard if you have service) try not to use your phone, except for photos or music. Try not to even look at it to see what time it is. It’s kind of nice not knowing I think. 

Like the song by A Perfect Circle says, “Time to put the silicon obsession down, take a look around” 

I LOVE MAYNARD!

How to Geocache

Who doesn’t love an outdoor adventure involving treasure hunting?

First off let me explain a little about what a geocache is. In its simplest form, a geocache is a container hidden by someone, outdoors with items inside that have been put there by the owner of the cache, and by people who have found it over time. It has a GPS coordinate and details about it like the size, and where it is located on a map at geocaching.com 

Then you log that you found it on the website. You may trade items inside by taking something and leaving something in return. There’s a log book in each cache you can sign and leave comments. You have to have a membership to use the website.

Now that we have that explained, there’s more to it than that.

It’s like treasure hunting. You don’t know what is inside until you find it. And looking for it is the funnest. Another benefit you get from going geocaching is you get the opportunity to see a new place and maybe even discover something you never knew was there. I’ve found this to be true countless times and those geocaches near something of interest are my favorite. 

Popular types of caches

Regular geocache

There’s the regular geocache that is classed as regular, small, or micro size. Regular size is like an ammo box, pencil box, or a large plastic container with a lid. Small is usually like a Play-doh tub or something the size of a cup. And Micro is like a film container or a tube. 

Earthcache

An earth cache has no physical container to find. It’s a geography lesson really. You navigate your way to the GPS coordinates listed on the website and once you are there you have to look at your surroundings and answer the questions listed on the website. Then you give your answers to the cache owner in whatever way they choose. They will review your answers to see if you got them correct and you will then get credit for finding the cache. 

Multi-cache

It’s a series of caches or steps you have to take to find the final cache. Directions are listed in the details on each one.

Mystery cache

These involve puzzle solving in order to receive the coordinates for the cache. 

There are a few more types of caches than this but these are the most popular.

All you need is a geocaching.com membership, a GPS device or GPS enabled smart phone, and a way to get around and you have yourself a whole lot of adventure time on your hands! 

Ideas for mini adventures

Get outdoors for a mini adventure!

Say you don’t have a whole week, weekend or even a whole day to spend getting your adventure on. Maybe you just want something to do while being outdoors.

You’re bored and tired of being stuck in the house. I have some ideas for what I like to call mini adventures.

Geocaching

One of my favorite things to do for a mini adventure, is to pick an area near where I live,  and go find a few geocaches. It’s a great way to see something new, hike somewhere you’ve never been, and maybe even learn something new through an Earthcache. Check out my post about geocaching!

So grab your GPS device and go caching!

Go out to eat

No not out to a restaurant! Gather some food to cook along with the essential cookery, and head out to the hills or to a picnic spot. You don’t have to be camping to cook outdoors and enjoy it. You can get as simple or as complicated as you want with this mini adventure. Listed below are some ideas of what to cook and what you’ll need to cook it.

  • Weenie roast – Get some hot dogs or sausages, with or without buns and fixin’s, and some roasting sticks or plan on finding a sufficient stick to use while you’re out. Depending on where you go, you need to obey the rules and regulations. So if you can have a fire, great! Make sure you bring fuel, a lighter, maybe wood if you aren’t able to gather it in your area, or charcoal briquettes. Just make sure there aren’t any fire restrictions in your area.
  • Grill it up – You really need a portable grill for this one. Take the required fuel and fire building items for it. You could grill up hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages, any meat really, veggies, you could put together a quick salad for a side dish. As far as food goes it’s really up to you. What ever you want to deal with while you’re outside. Setting up at picnic table would make this process a lot easier obviously.
  • Tinfoil meals – These are my go to when I’m camping. I always do the tinfoil dinners at least one night. All this requires is whatever food you want in your tinfoil, wrap that up in tinfoil, take some long handled tongs for handling them, a fire grate or grill – whatever you have or prefer, or you can just throw them shits right in the hot coals of a fire. Like I said before, make sure you know your areas fire regulations before hand.

Go out for a cup o coffee – Don’t go to Starbucks or a coffee shop for this one. You may need to acquire a few supplies for this one. I take a little backpacking stove, a French press, and of course ground coffee with small containers of cream and sugar. Don’t forget your favorite travel mug and head out to a favorite spot, or take your supplies in a backpack and hike. Take a coffee break!

Photo scavenger hunt – Grab your phone or camera and drive out to an area you know will be great for photos. This is better with several people involved so you can compare photos and turn it into a game. Here is my post for photo scavenger hunt ideas.