Thread: COOPER DISCOVERER (ROUND 3): Goblins, Hoodoos, and Soccer (San Rafael Area)

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Location
    Denver, CO
    Posts
    15

    Default COOPER DISCOVERER (ROUND 3): Goblins, Hoodoos, and Soccer (San Rafael Area)

    When I was seven or so, I remember tramping through the woods one day back home in Alabama, gathering leaves and pine straw to make my own shelter and bed. As I layed in my nest, looking up at the sky through the cracks, I felt so far away, deep in the jungle on my own - an explorer with only my wilderness skills to keep me alive.

    Years later, that memory was crushed when I went back and wandered around the area again. I realized that my magical forest, at the time known only to me, was in reality just feet away from the mowed grass of my brother's soccer game and that my parents were likely watching me the whole time. My perception of my surroundings was far from the truth, but I still remember that excitement and trepidation when I thought that my life (…or death) was literally in my 7-year-old hands.

    Elementary and middle school was full of similar misinformed adventures – SCUBA tanks made out of soda bottles, bikes with motors, that sort of thing. Just a few days ago while ruminating on my past, I told my wife that, between 7 and 14 years old, I fancied myself an explorer. Fueled by 30 year old National Geographics I bought at the thrift store and reruns on the Discovery Channel of Alby Mangels running around in his short shorts, I knew that's what I wanted to do (I even bought some short shorts and started wearing flip flops just like Alby).

    Fast forward years later, after traveling around South America, Europe, and Asia, my wife and I have moved to Colorado (her hometown) and have settled into a more routine-based life (for the time being at least) with weekend trips around the state. And like many on here, Utah’s deep canyons, otherworldy formations, and good spring weather (ie, no snow) continually tempt us away from her home state.

    On one such recent trip, we took a day off work and drove the 8 hours from Denver to the San Rafael Swell area. It felt wrong to be driving through Colorado, past Moab, to somewhere you’ve never been and, therefore, unproven in worth. In my mind, I kept saying to myself “I hope this drive is worth it, cause we are passing some incredible stuff”. We drove our little 1997 Rav4 - whimpy by most standards, but with AWD and some larger ATs, it fit our needs (and budget) about perfectly.

    After arriving and quickly setting up camp in a high-walled sheltered canyon, we drove the short distance to Goblin Valley State Park. It’s hard to describe the experience of Goblin Valley.


    There are no trails or roads and the park map itself only has a few landmarks noted. The entire area is basically a wash covered in sand, mud and rocks with giant round hoodoos or “goblins” covering everything in eyesight. Constantly shifting, the scenery changes every time it rains. It is, in essence, a huge playground where you can explore all the tiny desert intricacies and large swathes of orange sculpture. We spent hours wandering with no real purpose - following dried out creeks, studying weird plants, exploring strange caves, and looking for water sources under the sand (which we found!). The best part - once out of a short walk from the entrance, we were alone for hour upon hour.

    Searching for water

    Rock frenzy!



    As the sun sat we retreated back to camp for a relaxing sleep nestled like lizards in their rock holes. The next morning I woke up in the chilly early morning of the desert and tried to lie completely still in an attempt to not find any new cold spots in my sleeping bag. Finally the sunlight hit the tent and we got up and drove to a different area of the San Rafael Swell for a hike through Little Wild Horse and Bell slot canyons. A first for both of us - we took picture after picture of us climbing through dry waterfalls, wading through cold canyon water, the huge expanses of cliffs above us, and the swirls, stripes, holes, and features of the rock constantly enclosing closer around us. It’s really quite amazing that the same phenomenon that caused Goblin Valley - namely erosion - caused these very different formations just a few miles away.


    There was still some snow on the ground too. Cold!!


    Beautiful patterns everywhere you look




    After another relaxing night, it was time to pack up and head out. On our way out, I had found a short offroad trail back to the highway that I thought our little Rav4 could handle. Molly’s Castle, an easy 6 mile, mostly flat sand and dirt road. After a comfortable paved drive to the beginning, we started the trail and soon tensely followed mile upon mile of sandy, deep washboard while our car creaked, banged and groaned. Scared we’d get stuck in the sand if I stopped to enjoy the scenery and take pictures, I kept a brisk pace the entire time. To be clear, this trial would be absolutely nothing for 90% of trucks on this forum - but it was somewhat nerve-racking for us. However, we’d put the little trucklet through worse and in the end we had nothing more than some jumbled nerves and bones.



    No 4x4 or high clearance, but we made it!

    Thinking back, I realize that nothing crazy happened on this trip. We didn’t break down, we didn’t get attacked by a bald eagle, we didn’t do some intense, axle-breaking trail, no hidden treasure. We just drove someplace amazing, explored what was around us, and enjoyed each other’s company. No tricked-out truck, no expensive gear (although recovery tracks would have been nice). It was almost like I was 7 again, exploring the woods in Alabama with a good friend next to me. In the end, what more to overlanding is there?
    Last edited by beansandrice; 06-22-2016 at 10:20 PM.
    ________________________
    2003 Chevy Astro AWD, 113k

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    Park City, Utah
    Posts
    1,838
    Thanks...nice TR. Looks like you guys had a blast!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Location
    Denver, CO
    Posts
    15
    Thanks man! It was a blast!
    ________________________
    2003 Chevy Astro AWD, 113k

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