San Rafael Swell Hiking Trip: Day 4

Well, so much for early-morning stargazing; we awoke to cloudy skies, so it was a good excuse to sleep-in. The day started out promising as the clouds started to break and the sun came out. However, the weather report on the radio was predicting snow by afternoon, so we knew this wasn’t going to last. I began to get concerned about the remaining amount of fuel in the Xterra. I was down to half-tank of gas and we were using quite a bit with all the driving around. We decided to make a run to Hanksville, about a twenty-minute drive from the entrance to the San Rafael swell, and get more gas in the vehicles and a couple of food items we were getting low on. As we approached the town we could look out to the west and see the approaching storm. We didn’t want to get caught hiking in one of the canyons in the middle of a snow storm, so we decided to head straight back to camp and wait it out.

Campsite in the Snow

By afternoon, the snow arrived. I took a look at my thermometer and the temperature at 2:00 was 18 degrees. Larry crawled into his sleeping bag and Vince and I hung out by the fire and watched it snow. We placed our water jugs up against the fire pit to keep them from freezing. Good thing we have this large awning to cover our camp; otherwise we’d have to spend the day in the car. Not having done any hiking today, we felt we needed to get out and stretch our legs. So, we walked up the basin above our camp and went as far as we could get to the base of the Family Butte before the canyon cliffed-out. We hiked back towards camp, then up a small saddle that overlooks the next drainage. Through the falling snow, we could see numerous holes dug into the canyon walls, the remaining

Family Butte in the Snow

evidence of the uranium mining that occurred here 30 years ago. We were the only people around for miles and there wasn’t a sound except for the falling snow hitting the ground and trees.

 By sunset, there was a couple of inches of snow on the ground. By 9:00 PM the snow stopped and the stars came out. Looks like we might have a good day for hiking tomorrow.


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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