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[pics] Hiking in the San Rafael Swell – A ModernJeeper’s Tale [pics] Hiking in the San Rafael Swell – A ModernJeeper’s Tale
By Pete Kaufman, Special to ModernJeeper I retired in 2011 after a career in mechanical engineering at a research lab at Penn State University... [pics] Hiking in the San Rafael Swell – A ModernJeeper’s Tale

By Pete Kaufman, Special to ModernJeeper

I retired in 2011 after a career in mechanical engineering at a research lab at Penn State University in central Pennsylvania. In February 2012, I moved to Moab, Utah to pursue more outdoor adventures in a warmer and sunnier place.

As an avid hiker, mountain biker and aspiring cannoneer, I wanted to live somewhere with great access to these outdoor activities and many more.

In the summer of 2012 I ordered a 2013 Jeep Unlimited Rubicon allowing me to get to remote locations where I wanted to find adventure.  After about a year of driving it in stock configuration, I began modifying it to better meet my needs, primarily with Metalcloak, suspension, bumpers and armor to run 35-inch tires.

It is now configured so I can get to just about anyplace I want to explore, including a recent hike into the San Rafael Swell.

Exploring the Swell

In the latter part of September, I had the pleasure of joining a group of hiking friends into the San Rafael Swell for some very remote exploring.

As it is a long drive west of Moab, some of us planned to camp over Saturday night and continue with our exploring the next day before heading home.  Most of the drive was on the highway but my trusty Jeep was needed to get to the trail head and primitive camping spot.  This is exactly why I bought my Jeep… to get to places where I can explore.

The Swell is a large geologic feature located in south-central Utah about 30 miles west of Green River, Utah.  There are rock art sites as well as many interesting geological features. This trip was primarily to look for some natural arches.  There are few trails and most of the hiking was exploratory and hiking on rock and wash bottoms.

The first day’s hike started in a canyon wash and then went up a steep rock slope to get to the rim of the canyon.  We then walked the rim and checked out a slew of arches – it always amazed me how many arches there are in Utah — incredible geological features.

Eventually we dropped into a side canyon to see a large natural bridge.  As we continued up canyon, we climbed up the rim on the left to traveling past some large pour-offs.

We cut across some fins to get to the next arch and drop back into the canyon to view it in it’s glory.

The way back was essentially following the way we came up back, but unfortunately a few of the group who headed back early got off track and weren’t back when we got back to camp.

Of course, we were pretty concerned and searched until right before dark when finally we found them on an old Jeep road that they found when traveling too far west.  The lost souls were a little dehydrated and tired but otherwise ok.  None of them were going to stay over anyway.

After an amazing dinner and a beer, it was great to look at all of the stars and almost full moon… no man-made light to ruin this night.

The next morning after breakfast, we headed back up the canyon wash but this time headed up the slope to the right to do some more searching for obscure arches.  After some steep climbing and rock hopping we found our way to a nice pothole arch.

Attached to a nearby tree was a rappelling anchor that had likely been used to rappel through the arch.  We had none of the gear to do it ourselves but my adventurous side still rope was needed and where we would have ended up.

We stopped to take in this amazing view and enjoy lunch, then worked our way back to camp, where I packed up my trusty Jeep and headed home.

On the way home, we all stopped in Green River to buy some famous Green River melons.

Another great adventure in southeast Utah.




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  • Scott says:

    There is so much to see in Moab; so many people get there and only drive on the listed trails and back into to town. Thank you for showing us some of the unique landscape that can be found by getting out and doing a little exploring on foot; I am sure it is pretty important to have a good map an compass when out doing this type of adventure as seen in the story of your misplaced friends. Glad your tale had a happy ending for everyone Pete.

  • Bryan says:

    Nice article Pete! I am happy to see you enjoying retirement to it’s fullest.

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