The desert is a beautiful place and there really is no place like the deserts of Southern Utah. From the wide open vistas, to the red rocks, the hoodoos, the towers and monuments it is such an incredibly unique area of the planet that has a lifetime worth of adventures to be had. In my opinion, The Swell is one of the most underrated areas to explore in Southern Utah. The Swell is not a state or national park and none of the roads are paved and because of that, it does not see a the traffic in comparison to a place like Moab, UT. This particular trip, my good friend Jeff and I left our house in Salt Lake City and made the easy three and a half hour drive after getting off work last March. As expected, we had the place mostly to ourselves. We woke up to a couple inches of snow on the ground but the warm morning sun quickly melted all of that away. We consulted our map and made plans to hike through Chute Canyon and traverse across open desert to hike back through Crack Canyon. The beta we received informed us that some navigational skill was required to find Crack Canyon from the open desert route we decided to take. Jeff and I both laughed this off thinking this was said to deter “tourists” from attempting this route. We even made multiple more jokes about this beta during our hike through Chute Canyon before we reached the open desert route finding part of the hike. Karma is a bitch!
We exited Chute Canyon and were greeted immediately by the wide open desert complete with big fluffy clouds and no trail and no other humans anywhere to be found. It always is a liberating feeling to be out there and away from all forms of civilization but this particular time I remember feeling incredibly exposed and kind of had a weird feeling. From the looks of the map, it did not look like there was supposed to be a lengthy traverse to find our next canyon to hike out of. We hiked and hiked and made multiple wrong turns up canyon washes that we thought were Crack Canyon only to be deterred by our gut feelings saying, ‘this does not feel right’ and ‘turn around this isn’t the place.’ After the second wrong turn and with the hot afternoon sun beating down on us, Jeff and I sat down and discussed turning back. We were both convinced we should have reached Crack Canyon by this point and with every wrong wash we hiked up our confidence had been reduced to next to none. We concluded that we definitely were past a half way mark and so with little faith, we continued on our way looking for this phantom wash.
At last, we finally came across a wash that was bigger than any of the little ones that we mistook for Crack Canyon. We looked for the easiest way into the canyon and to our relief, there were footsteps, lots of footsteps. This felt good. We both had good vibes about this canyon and we celebrated a little bit because we had finally made it. This excursion left me with a new perspective and respect for how disorienting the deserts of Utah can be. It turned out that some navigational skill was required. The most difficult part of navigating this landscape was that you cannot see these washes until you are right on top of them. From far away looking out, the desert looks flat with not much terrain. Then you come across a wash that can have steep walls that you must navigate down and back up the other side. It honestly seemed like these washes would appear out of no where. This adventure will be one I’ll never forget and I’m stoked with how this photo turned out. One of my favorites. This is Jeff hiking in the San Rafael Swell across the wide open desert in between Crack and Chute Canyons.