Normally this time of year finds me working away at reviewing the past season, posting blogs, photos, info, and adding new web pages to the Desert Explorer website. The cold of the winter usually keeps me indoors, and thus affords the time for writing and planning for the coming summer. But this winter proves to be quite busy- with the holidays, new business ventures, and a notebook full of things to do, my time has been taken up elsewhere. My apologies to those looking for new info from Desert Explorer.
The Next Trip
Nicolai and I had planned to take a trip to Utah before Christmas, focusing on Horseshoe Canyon and a few other points of interest around Hanksville. But the cold put us off. My five-year old is quite tough, but the constant low temperatures and snow forecast for the area made both of us think twice about 8 or 10 days out in the bush at this time of year. At this point we have re-scheduled our trip for mid-March, once the temperatures start to rise and the days are longer. We are both really looking forward to the trip as we always are; Nicolai now brings up ‘going to Utah’ as much as I do.
As for our itinerary, we are planning a couple of hikes in Horseshoe Canyon, with an overnight up a side canyon (camping is not allowed in the Horseshoe Canyon unit of Canyonlands). We are also planning a recon of trailheads and entrances into a couple of canyons in the San Rafael Swell and a look at the river for a future float, some hiking in Robbers Roost Canyon, a day or two of canyoneering in North Wash, and some time looking at the geology of the region.
The area around Hanksville has some very interesting geologic features. First there is the Factory Butte area with its mesas of Mancos shale capped with sandstone. Near Factory Butte, on the road to Hanksville, you can see fossilised oysters in the exposed Mancos shale and Dakota sandstone. There is Goblin Valley to the north- Entrada sandstone eroded into animal, human, and various other sculpted forms. There are the igneous lacoliths that make up the Henry Mountains. And there is the Dirty Devil River canyon and its tributaries, starting in the Entrada formation and emerging at Hite in the Moenkopi formation. If you are interested in the geology of the region, one of our favorite books is Halka Chronic’s Roadside Geology of Utah.
Rabbit Hunting and Primitive Weapons
Nicolai is very excited about the prospect of hunting rabbits on this trip. He has been practicing his tracking and stalking techniques on the countless squirrels, and the few cottontails, that inhabit our neighborhood. He has been talking about shooting a rabbit and eating it for months now. He plans to eat all the meat, the marrow (which he already does with chicken bones), keep some of the bones for tools, and keep the hide to make a bag for his tools. I am not averse to killing and eating a rabbit, although I can honestly say I haven’t done it in many years. I am not sure if we will use our primitive weapons for the task (I am not even sure it is allowed in Utah). Most likely we’ll take a long a rifle. Either way I think it is an important task for him, something I remember doing when I was his age. It will help further his understanding of the power of a rifle and its uses, the concept that we use all we can of an animal if we kill it, and even death itself and our responsibility for the life of an animal. I think these are all concepts that are overlooked by most people, and are too far from the lives of most children these days where meat comes from the supermarket.
We have finally finished hafting an obsidian blade on a handle and a point on an arrow shaft. I collected chunks of hardened pine pitch recently on a couple of mountain runs, and we melted it down in a can in our fire pit. We then painted the sinew holding the point and blade with the liquid pitch and dusted it with clean, dry, white ash from the fire. The white ash causes a reaction when it contacts the warm pitch and creates an epoxy-like bond. Whether or not we use the tools on our trip, Nicolai now has them in his tool kit.
For more information on primitive weapons and skills, Utah trip guides, and desert hiking and backpacking, visit the Desert Explorer website.