San Rafael Swell Hiking Trip: Day 3

What a difference a day makes! We awoke to crystal clear skies. The temperature had dropped significantly during the night, but the sun was out and that’s all we needed for a fine day of hiking. I suppose it’s because we’re here on a weekday in November, but we’ve seen almost no one else in the area. We decided for the remainder of the trip, we’d drive two vehicles in case one breaks down. With no cell phone service and no one else around, a vehicle breakdown miles from camp would be disastrous.

Larry and Vince in Chute Canyon

Our original plan was to drive the Behind the Reef Road to the northern end of the Little Wildhorse/Bell Canyon Loop. We got as far as the Chute Canyon trailhead and discovered the road was so bad it wasn’t passable with our limited four-wheeling skills. So, we decided to just do a down-and-back hike of Chute Canyon. The wide-open canyon narrows significantly after a couple of miles. The walking is very smooth with no scrambling requirements. At the end of the canyon on the south side of the reef, we hiked a short distance up a side wash and found a Fremont pictogram that resembles a bulls-eye. If we were to stay in this wash, we could have eventually made it to the mouth of Crack Canyon and hiked there to the Behind the Reef Road. This would have involved a three-mile hike on the road back to the cars, so we decided just to hike back up Chute Canyon to the trailhead.

Our Desert Observatory

We arrived back in camp just before sunset. The skies were still clear, so we decided to break out Vince’s telescope for a bit of desert stargazing. He had just bought the scope from me, but hadn’t had a chance to use it yet. So, I helped him get it set-up just in time for a brilliant sky full of stars to appear. The perfectly clear sky made for some excellent viewing. However, the cold temperatures required us to make regular runs back to the camp to warm up by the fire. By 9:00, we decided we’d had enough of the cold, so we shut down the scope and spent another hour by the fire before hitting the sleeping bags. We planned to get up around 4:00 AM to do some additional viewing with the telescope, assuming the clouds don’t move back in.


About Mike

I have a passion for adventure travel that began in 1989 with my first overseas trip: climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Having never been to a foreign country, Africa felt like being on another planet; I knew then and there I was hooked on travel. Since that time, I have visited all seven continents and dozens of countries. I’m using the experience I’ve gained in planning my own trips to help my clients plan their own adventures through my adventure travel company ( After working as a firefighter for the US Forest Service in California and Wyoming for three years, I moved to Durango, Colorado where I graduated from Fort Lewis College with a degree in accounting. After graduation I moved to the Denver area where I worked in a Big Eight accounting firm to obtain my CPA license; soon afterward I began a career as an auditor with the Colorado Department of Education. My background in accounting helped me develop detailed-oriented skills that have been extremely useful in researching and planning my own travel over the years. I think this provides a unique asset to my clients in putting together their adventure travel plans. I currently live in Golden, Colorado with my wife Valerie, who shares my love of adventure travel. I’m an active member of the Colorado Mountain Club where I lead trips for club members and have taught ski lessons in their Telemark Ski School. I enjoy skiing, mountain hiking, trail running, photography, and astronomy. I take any opportunity I can get to explore new places, whether it’s on the other side of the world or just down the road.
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