Water in the San Rafael Desert is not as rare as one might think. We find many pools and water pockets in the sandstone canyons. These water sources are not on any map, but many of them are reliable all year.
One of the many small springs makes a handy place for a drink. Some of these are on maps, but many are not. Also, the maps are often inaccurate, sometimes placing a spring several miles away from the actual water source.
Water that hides in the shade of a sandstone shelf will satisy a thirsty animal.
Sometimes water can be found at the base of a cliff, a pour-off pool that gathers from melted snow and spring rain.
And of course green grass goes with water. The horses love that!
The wildflowers are just getting started in mid-April.
A claret cup cactus brightens up the rock and sand.
Milkvetch (purple) and wallflowers (yellow) bloom between the scattered juniper trees.
A Fremont's mahonia bush grows near a spring.
Here is a closer view of the yellow flowers.
This one is my favorite, a Showy Stoneseed. The lackluster name comes from the seed with an extremely hard, thick, impervious shell, which must allow survival of the species through winter cold and summer drought. I think it's the prettiest of the desert flowers.
The Indian paintbrush is a close second for color and beauty.
Most of our San Rafael Desert rides are cross country, sometimes following the ghost of an old two track for part of the way. Above is a distant view of the Head Spur (a triangular shaped peak) that makes a good landmark. It's about 2 miles away in this photo.
Here's the Head Spur in a closer view. The peak looms 400 feet above the desert floor and is about 1000 feet wide at the base. Up top is a square formation that looks a bit like Stonehenge. The top is unreachable by horse. A climber might be able to get up there.
The going is rough in places.
And very rough in others.
Here's Coco taking a careful look down a break in the rock, 50 feet down the Moqui Creek pour-off. Below is the Spur Fork of Horseshoe Canyon. Believe it or not, we found a way to get down, but NOT in that particular spot!
We stop at an ancient pictograph site that we have visited before. It is located under a rock ledge where it has been protected from sun and weather through the centuries.
The dragonfly art is unique.
Three granaries are nearby, complete with rock lids.
We locate a few pot shards,
and some jaspar chippings. Jaspar was used to make arrow points and other tools. We leave our finds on the closest rocks. Taking anything from an archeological site on public land (BLM in this case) is illegal.
Gathering storm clouds follow us back to camp, but only a few raindrops fall.