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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A Swell Winter Hike

The dragon of Black Dragon Canyon

Strange art work in Black Dragon

Spirit Arch in Arch Canyon
I resolve to do more hiking and fishing during 2008. And I'm off to a good start - I did a very enjoyable New Years Day hike in search of rock art in the San Rafael Swell. As a bonus, we saw some impressive natural rock arches.

The day dawned clear and cold over Utah. Our southern desert country was bitter cold during the early morning, but I knew it would warm up nicely during the afternoon. We slept late, ate a leisurely breakfast and then drove down Hwy 6 toward paradise.

There was considerable snow on the ground as we cruised past Price, and the noon-time temperature was a frigid 12 F. As we caught our first views of the northern part of the Swell, there was snow everywhere. For a moment I wondered if the white stuff would jinx my hiking plan. But we quickly left the snow behind and the temperature warmed considerably as we approached Green River.

We did easy hikes into Black Dragon, Petroglyph and Arch canyons, which push into the San Rafael Reef just north of I-70. The sky was a deep blue, the sunshine felt warm as we hiked and we had the whole world to ourselves, or so it seemed.

We did bump into one other hiker, a guy from San Francisco who was spending a week hiking the desert. He was traveling with his black lab, a dog he affectionately called "Utah."

As we probed these canyons we moved from sunshine into shade and temperatures dropped a little. While hiking in sunshine we had unbuttoned jackets but in the shade we buttoned them up again. We adjusted our plan as we went, making sure we had plenty of time to get back to our vehicle before sunset. It would not be fun to be stranded in one of those canyons on a cold winter's night.

As you can see from my photos, we found fascinating rock art panels. All in all, it was a great hike and a great start to the new year.

We are now in the coldest part of winter but hiking is very pleasant most days. During warm spells in January, daytime temperatures may climb into the low 40s. There will be days in February when temps reach the upper 40s or low 50s.

And I'm talking about the desert regions from Moab through Arches, Canyonlands, The Swell, Capitol Reef and Grand Staircase. Over around Zion and St George, temperatures will be at least 10 degrees warmer.

Occasional dangerous winter storms hit these area, so take care.

All in all, hiking is great this time of year.

- Dave Webb


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