Not many things compare to the feeling of snuggling into a sleeping bag, instantly warming as it shielded me from the clean, crisp, desert air. After hours of driving to get to this magical place, I was finally able to pull the draw string on my mummy bag close around my face, just enough for my eyes to peer out and feast upon the mesmerizing night sky full of stars. A place this remote is perfect for a night of star gazing. A few shooting stars flitted across the vast sky when my eyelids became too heavy to keep open and I fell fast asleep.
Morning is always a great surprise of things you didn’t see when you pulled up the night before. This was when I got my first glimpse of one of nature’s greatest wonders, San Rafael Swell, an amazing place rich in history. With my group of friends, we set out to explore the slot canyon called The Squeeze. The Squeeze starts out hiking down a beautiful winding river called the Big Muddy, with walls that shoot up hundreds of feet into the big blue sky.
As the canyon opens at the bottom, a trail leads you off to the right and up a sun baked mountain side which climbs out and on top of the plateau. Once on top, we navigated our way down some loose rocks all the way to the top of The Squeeze. As we hiked through the twisting and turning sandstone that has been eroded over thousands of years, we were able to witness surprises around every turn. Towering walls stood on each side, sometimes only one foot wide. Round keeper holes full of soft sand made for a perfect spot to stop for a mid-day lunch, usually consisting of some sort of tuna or energy bar.
After a needed break, we headed toward the end, where we were met with a few more surprises like ten different rappels. One consisted of a 100 foot drop, nothing compares to zipping down a long rope. Finally we make it back to the Big Muddy, and it feels good to be out of the tight canyon, like you can breathe more freely now. Hiking back up the four miles of the Big Muddy river was not as fun as going down, but you can never get enough of the beauty these canyons offer. Knowing camp isn’t too far away and a nice hot Mountain House dinner awaits is enough motivation to get moving.
Ten hours hiking was enough for one day, that night around the camp fire was shared with lots of good memories of our favorite parts of the day and past camping trips. As the sunlight faded into the mountains the stars came out again. Tonight was different, tonight I was able to enjoy the crackle of the warm fire. As I sit in my camp chair catching an occasional yawn, I feel so content with a full belly and another fun camping experience. This is why I love the outdoors.
By Jake Hortin