Skyline Drive & San Rafael Swell
9/2 - 9/4/2006
(Photos by Kurt & Candace Williams)

Day 1 - 9/2/06:

Jason came over to our condo, where Candace and I were just about finished with the loading of the rig. We made a quick stop in Orem to add Steve to our caravan. From there we made the trip to Tucker where we planned to meet Richard. Just as planned Richard was waiting for us at the trailhead. A couple minutes of chat and we were heading south on Skyline Drive. The trail doesn't waste anytime climbing up to 10,000 feet where you stay for quite a bit of the trail. Just as we entered the south stretch of Skyline Drive, Steve radioed that he had a problem. We maneuvered around on the narrow trail and turned back to Steve's location. A broken spring hanger left his Scout wounded. The options were deliberated and Steve decided to turn back into Fairview where he would get it fixed, and meet us either later that night or the following day.

We encountered numerous hunting parties; just about every campsite form Tucker to Fairview Canyon was full. Amazingly we were able to find a great spot just below the ridge above Joes Valley Reservoir. We settled in for the night and woke up to another gorgeous day. 

Day 2 - 9/3/06:

We fired of the guns for a few minutes, amazed by the arsenal Richard can fit into his pockets. Candace and I took advantage of the Cruisers hot shower while Jason and Richard drove back up to the ridge to try and make contact with Steve. To our amazement he was waiting for us in nearby Castle Dale. Camp was packed up and we were back on the trail. Just as quick as we climbed to 10k ft, we dropped, about 4000 feet in 25 minutes as we made our way to Castle Dale, passing the scenic Joes Valley Reservoir along the way.

We had a quick lunch in Castle Dale at the city park, and moved out into the swell. Our first stop was to head down to the Wedge. A stellar view for sure, the area was pretty crowded for a Sunday afternoon, but nothing out of the ordinary for a holiday weekend. From there we were off to find a campsite for the night. We checked out a spot in Furniture Draw just south of Buckhorn flat… we took a short hike up the narrow slot canyon to see if it would reach the head of the draw.

With threatening clouds in the sky, we decided to move along and look for something on higher ground. There were some mines/tunnels that we had planned to visit after a suggestion from a friend (thanks Corey!). The MK Tunnels were very interesting, the manpower needed and the shear size. It seems these tunnels have become a sort of “rite of passage” for the local kids to write their names on the walls, literally thousands of names. 

Brief history on the MK Tunnels, courtesy of the Richard Shaw - Sun Advocate:
“In late 1947 military personal suddenly appeared in the Buckhorn Flat Area, provoking widespread speculation and rumors that were further fed by the atmosphere of Cold War secrecy. Eventually it was announced that explosives were to be detonated deep underground to test the structure of the rock. The Morrison Knudson Company began tunneling in 1948 with a sizable crew, some of whom were housed in temporary structures on-site while others lived in Castle Dale. The project was completed after several years with the detonation of some 320,000 pounds of high explosives, but its ultimate purpose, if any, was never revealed. Locals believe the purpose was for a complex similar to that of Cheyenne Mountain and the sandstone failed to pass the tests.”

From the MK Tunnels we were in search of a good campsite for the night. Knowing we planned to explore the area to the northeast of the Green River Cutoff Road, we made tracks for that area. We only wasted a few minutes wandering before we had found a decent campsite. We set up camp and spent the night storytelling around the fire.

Day 3 - 9/4/06:

Candace and I woke up Monday morning and once again took advantage of a nice hot shower to get the day started. PB & J for breakfast, cleaned up camp and we were off exploring. We had camped near a historic railroad grade and decided to continue to exploring it. The grade was built from 1880-1883 by the Rio Grande Western Railroad, however the tracks were never laid. The project was abandoned in favor of a more northern route along the Price River. The grade consists of numerous cuts, culverts and built up grades. It was amazing to see the amount of effort (and dollars, over $200k in 1880) that was expended out in the desert.

We followed the grade back to the main Green River Cutoff Road where we planned to head back to Buckhorn and see the Buckhorn Petroglyph Panel. After a few minutes at the panel, and checking out a few other historic stops along the way, we decided to check out the CCC San Rafael River Bridge built in 1938 and later restored in 1994. Its neat to see such an old piece of history in tact & preserved, despite the fact a new much wider bride replaced it in the 80’s.

From the bridge we decided to check out the Mexican Mountain Road which heads southwest. The 16 mile road is surprisingly well groomed and high speeds were easily achieved with the exception of the tight turns and sandy wash bottoms. The road is gated at the border of the Wilderness Study Area, sadly the clearly historically road continues for several miles within the “wilderness” area. After a quick snack we were once again on the trail headed back to the Buckhorn/Cottonwood area.

In my endless search for western lore, I was interested in finding a few markings from notorious figures. I had read numerous times about the Matt Warner tag, and it was spotted with the help of Steve who had visited it before. Warner rode with many notable outlaws including his protégé Butch Cassidy. In addition to Matt’s signature, we found the inscription “Herring”, its possible this inscription belonged to John Herring, another outlaw associate of Cassidy. There was another signature “Shambrick” that was in the area during the same time as the Wild Bunch. To date I haven't been able to find anything regarding his history. 

Brief history regarding Matt Warner, courtesy of Westernoutlaw.com:
“Born Willard Eratus Christiansen in Ephraim, Utah to Mormon parents, he used the alias Matt Warner after he left home. Matt thought he had killed a fellow teenager and left home to become a cowboy. He fell in with rustlers and his brief career as an outlaw began. During this time in the outlaw hideouts of Utah, Matt Warner met Butch Cassidy. With Butch and Tom McCarty, they robbed a Telluride, Colorado bank. After several more robberies with Tom McCarty, Matt settled down on a ranch in Utah. While on a prospecting trip Matt with two other men were ambushed. In a gunfire sequence that Hollywood would love. Matt killed two and wounded a third. After serving four years of a five-year sentence for this shootout, Matt became a justice of the peace, a deputy sheriff and a detective in Price, Utah  Matt Warner is buried in the Price Cemetery in Price, Utah”

We made one last stop in the Buckhorn Flat area at the site of what seems is an old BLM campground, it looks very unused though a slow season could give that appearance. Within the fenced area was also a small storage “shed” essentially a 3 sided room built into the hillside with an earthen roof. Once again I was unable to find much in regards to the history of this building, though it is probably of a much later era (1920’s-1940’s) judging on the construction.

We were well into the afternoon so we decided to start our voyage for home. From Buckhorn we traveled back into Caste Dale where we took Highway 10 into Price for lunch and fuel. After a quick lunch stop and a fill-up of fuel, the trip was on the downward stretch. With the exception of a short stop at the Helper Mining Museum, the trip ended without a hitch. I hope my fellow travelers had an enjoyable time as did Candace and I; it wouldn't have been the same without them… Thanks Steve, Jason & Richard.


Skyline Drive, Utah

Skyline Drive, Utah

Skyline Drive, Utah

Skyline Drive, Utah

Skyline Drive, Utah

Skyline Drive, Utah

Skyline Drive, Utah

Skyline Drive, Utah

Skyline Drive, Utah

Joes Valley Reservoir - Skyline Drive, Utah

Joes Valley Reservoir - Skyline Drive, Utah

Castle Dale, Utah

San Rafael Swell, Utah

San Rafael Swell, Utah

San Rafael Swell, Utah

The Wedge - San Rafael Swell, Utah

The Wedge - San Rafael Swell, Utah

The Wedge - San Rafael Swell, Utah

The Wedge - San Rafael Swell, Utah

The Wedge - San Rafael Swell, Utah

The Wedge - San Rafael Swell, Utah

"MK" Tunnels - San Rafael Swell, Utah

"MK" Tunnels - San Rafael Swell, Utah

"MK" Tunnels - San Rafael Swell, Utah

"MK" Tunnels - San Rafael Swell, Utah

"MK" Tunnels - San Rafael Swell, Utah

"MK" Tunnels - San Rafael Swell, Utah

"MK" Tunnels - San Rafael Swell, Utah

"MK" Tunnels - San Rafael Swell, Utah

"MK" Tunnels - San Rafael Swell, Utah

San Rafael Swell, Utah

San Rafael Swell, Utah

San Rafael Swell, Utah

San Rafael Swell, Utah

Old Railroad Grade - San Rafael Swell, Utah

Old Railroad Grade - San Rafael Swell, Utah

San Rafael Swell, Utah

San Rafael Swell, Utah

San Rafael Swell, Utah

San Rafael Swell, Utah

San Rafael Swell, Utah

San Rafael Swell, Utah

San Rafael Swell, Utah

San Rafael Swell, Utah

San Rafael Swell, Utah

"Mat Warner" writing, San Rafael Swell, Utah

"Shambrick" writing, San Rafael Swell, Utah

"Herring" inscription, San Rafael Swell, Utah

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