It's 2019, and we're back with yet another Utah adventure. This time the trip focuses around my good friend Chris Hatko and his family unit. That's right, we've got a good chunk of the Hatko clan - Chris, Gillian, kids Katie and Evie, and even sister Anna. Non-family joiners included myself, Jenn, Brian, and Alana. A big group this time!
Given the Hatko-centric focus, I hereby christen this trip.... UtaHatkotastica!
Given that Evie and Katie were still pretty young (especially Evie at five years old), we needed to give consideration to difficulty levels, and to that end, I crafted an itinerary that was not precisely dead-easy, but was comfortably within the zone of relatively easy doability: no super-long distances in one go, nothing requiring large elevation gains, and nothing very technical. There is still so much in southern Utah that fits these criteria and which are still incredibly beautiful and rewarding, that it wasn't that hard to put something together.
Motel 6 Departure
To the Wedge
Sunday, April 14
So let's get right to it. What did we do? For our first course, I chose something in the San Rafael Swell, part of which we explored last year during Brian's Reefy Retirement Adventure
. I chose an area in the Swell's far north, in an area known as Utah's "Little Grand Canyon". It's a region with a canyon system carved by the San Rafael River, and none of us had ever explored this area.
I chose the Little Grand Canyon area because it offered a lot of primitive first-come/first-serve camping on public lands (something known colloquially as boondocking
), and because I'd read of a nice hike that threaded its way along the rim of this Little Grand Canyon and which was virtually flat. And not far from the boondocking. Thus, it ticked many good boxes (new, not hard, good for kids intro, cheap camping, scenic).
Rural Water Waystation
Perhaps the only downside to the northern San Rafael Swell was that it was quite far from Las Vegas, our arrival city. That meant our first day required a long drive up into Central Utah - about six hours of driving in total. Along the way, we stopped for groceries and a few other supplies, readying ourselves for our week-plus Hatkotastic adventure.
Rural Water Waystation
The winter had been cool and extended in the high desert of the southwest this year, and there was much snow in evidence at higher elevations. Deep, fresh white snow could be seen on the highest of the peaks along our drive.
The specific area to which we were headed is known as "The Wedge". It is an area of high plateau bordering the northern edge of the Little Grand Canyon, and offers some commanding viewpoints. It also was the location of that nice hike I had mentioned up above.
Big Wide Western Interstate
We turned off paved highways in the town of Castledale and headed east into the northern Swell on what I can only describe as the most un-dirt dirt road I have ever been on. It was soaked with some sort of oil and packed down hard, and as a result, it was extremely smooth and virtually rockless and dustless. It was as closed to a paved road as it could have been without actually being paved.
We arrived in the vicinity of "The Wedge" about 30 minutes later. Along a dirt road leading up to the actual Wedge Overlook are a number of primitive campsite locations - all first-come/first-served. There are eight in total, and we started at the far end (#1) and worked our way backwards. Site #1 taken (really scenic, site number one), #2 taken, #3 taken....
In the end, we found that about half of the sites were already taken. We chose site number six. Like all of the sites on this high desert plateau, there was ample space for parking and many wide open flat areas for placing tents. Perfect, and completely free.
Chris and Katie at Site Six
A nice late sunset meant we had lots of time to set up tents and have our camp dinners with light to spare. Then, with our "setup" day all finished up, we turned in for the night. Outing number one first thing the next morning!