A worthy substitute for “The Wave” – White Pocket, Utah

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One reason for extending our stay in Kanab was to get a spot on a guided tour at White Pocket Recreation Area, situated in the Paria Wilderness within Vermillion Cliffs National Monument.  Some parts of this vast and unusually beautiful area in southern Utah are remote and isolated, and just getting to them on unmaintained backcountry roads can be as challenging as the hike!

At the top of the list of well-known natural wonders for many hikers and adventurers is the unique landscape of “The Wave” near here on the Utah/Arizona border.  Because of its appeal and delicate nature, it’s protected and currently only 20 hikers per day are allowed access.  Lucky for us, we won the BLM’s lottery for a coveted spot there in 2017, and here’s my post about that amazing trek. Continue reading

Back to the fiery red rocks of southwestern Utah – Kanab

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On our drive down from Jacob Lake to Kanab we were presented with a view of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  We could actually discern the series of plateaus that descend from Bryce Canyon (the top “stair” at over 9,000′ elevation).  It’s followed by the other vertical drops at the Pink Cliffs, Grey Cliffs, White Cliffs, Vermillion Cliffs and Chocolate Cliffs.  And that staircase-like landscape is how the national monument got its name and this is the best spot to really see and understand why.

The technicolor cliffs of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

We had passed through Kanab in 2016, coming from Zion National Park to Lake Powell, Arizona.  The richly-colored vermillion cliffs bordering Highway 89 between Kanab and Page were stunning, and we made a mental note to come back one day.  Here we were three years later, finally making Kanab our home base for some red-colored fun!

Kanab is surrounded by the distinctively sculpted sandstone cliffs that define southwestern Utah.  It’s on the second “step” up (the Vermillion Cliffs layer) in the five-step Grand Staircase.  So here’s a warning that you’ll definitely be seeing red by the end of this post!

Red cliffs overlooking our site at J&J RV Park in Kanab

Johnson Canyon

Steve has managed to get me hooked on the old “Gunsmoke” TV series, as he has been for years.  One of the first things we did in Kanab was check out what’s left of the old movie sets from the show.  Much of it was filmed in Kanab, and the remaining decrepit structures are on private land along Johnson Canyon Road.  Now we both yell “Been there!” when we see one of the structures on the show’s reruns.  Yes, this is what our life has come to…

It’s sad that the property owners have let the fictional Dodge City go to ruin, Steve wants to get out there and fix them up!

We actually included a stop at the real Dodge City during our journey through Kansas.  All of the original main cast members are deceased now except for “Newly O’Brien” (Buck Taylor, now over 80 years old), who was occasionally returning to Dodge City to meet fans at that time.

Sad to see them like this, but we still recognize the structures and the hills behind them when we watch the show

With this beautiful backdrop, Marshall Matt Dillon must have loved looking for bad guys here!

There were other interesting things along Johnson Canyon that we enjoyed during our drive:

White cliffs lined Johnson Canyon Road

Hitting the trails –

Hiking is only one of the many adventures to be experienced in Kanab, but it was our main focus.  You see, trekking the red rocks of southern Utah is pretty much the pinnacle of hiking, in our humble opinion.  Steve was excited to try some of them with his new Oboz boots, which he really likes.  But we’ll have to come back to explore even more of this beautiful area!

The rocks are almost as red as his shirt! …but really look at his hiking boots 🙂

If you have time for only one hike while in Kanab, the Squaw Trail might be a good choice.   It was rated easy, but since we climbed 800′ in 1.5 miles with some steep areas we would rate it as moderate.  Ascending up the switchbacks, we were rewarded with expansive views of Kanab and up-close encounters with the red rocks:

The climb begins, where else can you see colors like this?

In a few thousand years this might become an arch

Taking a break to view Kanab from above

The 2.5-mile trail ended with a view of the White Cliffs in the distance

On our way back we saw a Jeep that looked familiar,  were our friends spying on us? 🙂

It turned out not to be John and Pam’s Jeep, but they’d been here a couple of weeks before and suggested we hike the Cottonwood Trail.  It’s a 9-mile out and back trek that they couldn’t complete because of bad weather and high water, but we were able to complete it and can report to our hiking buddies that it was a winner!

The trail greeter seemed glum to share his space with us

Now that’s a cool picnic table ensemble!

There were lots of ups and downs as we crossed several ravines and washes

There were many splashes of color along the way:

But it was the meadow of desert sunflowers at the end of the 4.5-mile trail that made us gasp:

We were so happy that we could go all the way, or we would have missed this

The Mansard Trail was a 5-mile round trip that ended at an alcove near high cliffs:

That’s our destination

We followed the same trail that John and Pam had earlier, here is their excellent description of the hike and I’ll just include a few of my photos:

We saw a creepy black spider and many rainbow-colored stink bugs, ewww!

Staring at the cliff and coatings that looked like dripping paint and yellow stripes made us walk right by the alcove:

Desert varnish is a thin coating (patina) of manganese, iron and clays on the surface of sun-baked cliffs

Yellow stripes could also be patina

Nature’s bridal bouquet!

We backtracked and looked up – we had finally found it!

This alcove is thought to date to the Anasazi period, 0 AD to about 1250 AD

There were writings and petroglyphs on the floor, which is uncommon.  We had only seen similar ones at Hueco Tanks State Park in Texas:

Rock art hidden in the blow sand around the base of the floor

Looks like fish bones to me

Looking out from the alcove, we saw views that the Anasazi people must have enjoyed so long ago

Back down we go!

Our car was still all alone in the parking lot – perfect!

It turned out our planned one week stay wasn’t long enough and we extended a couple extra days to explore the area as fully as we could. But still there are more trails to be had, another list for our future revisits.

And if you think you’ve seen “red” on this post, wait till you see what’s up next!

 

Next up:  Rugged and remote red rocks!



 

Catching “The Wave!” – Kanab, UT

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In late February I mentioned in a post that I had won two coveted hiking permits to hike Coyote Buttes North – aka “The Wave” – on June 4th in southern Utah.  I was giddy and jumping with joy, as these permits are not easy to get.  When Steve was diagnosed with cancer several weeks later, my hopes for making the hike dimmed as we focused on his health situation.  But he wanted us to do the hike and made it a goal by working extra hard to prepare for it after his surgery.  Our normal outdoor activity was walking the roads in the RV park, but to see if he could do a “real” hike we spent some time on the trails at nearby Sabino Canyon.

Sabino Canyon

Steve met a “twin” that day on Esperero Trail in Sabino Canyon, look how they’re dressed!

After completing 5.5 miles of moderate hiking he felt ready to tackle The Wave.  So we left Betsy behind in the scorching heat of Tucson and drove 450 miles north to our hotel room at Page, Arizona.  The trailhead to The Wave was another hour away near Kanab, Utah, so off we went at 5:00am the next morning to beat the heat.

A quick update on Steve:

He’s now into his second week of daily radiation treatments, with 5 more weeks to go. Because his Oncologist warned that food will soon taste like cardboard with loss of appetite and possibly severe pain when swallowing, he has been on a food binge of epic proportions, eating all of his favorites plus anything in the RV that doesn’t move.

He got a big boost when we stopped on our way back to Tucson for a visit with good friends Al and Ingrid of Live, Laugh, RV.  They indulged us with a wonderful pasta dish, followed with more yummy desserts than Steve had ever eaten in one day.  Not that he was complaining!  They also gave us a container full of yummy sweets to take home, and I felt obliged to help Steve finish it, just to prevent a possible sugar overload 🙂

Steve is starting to “feel the burn” of the radiation with more swallowing problems, so there are tough times ahead.  But his attitude is good and we will beat this beast.

Ingrid’s delicious cake didn’t last long.  Eat up, Steve!

BLM Permit for The Wave

Coyote Buttes PermitThe Wave is a famous geologic feature in what’s known as Coyote Buttes North, on the north edge of the Paria Canyon – Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness.  The area is along the Utah/Arizona border near the town of Kanab.  Because of its popularity, it is being protected and access is  limited  by lottery drawing selection.  The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) allows only 20 permits each day, 10 via online lottery (four months out), and 10 that are distributed to walk-ins at the GSENM Visitor Center in Kanab for the following day — also by lottery.  If you’re interested and want to find out everything you need to know about Wave permits, click the links below:

The hike

There is no obvious trail to The Wave, but the BLM office sent us a helpful photographic guide with land features and GPS coordinates to show us the way.  A couple of days before the hike a park ranger called to warn us that the forecast for June 4th was for temps in the 90’s and to bring lots of water.  We started super-early of course, as we’re not conditioned to hiking in 90º conditions with no shade.  We did overlook the one-hour time difference between Page, AZ and the trail in Kanab, UT.  So we started the hike at 7:00am Utah time instead of 6:00am Arizona time and realized we would not have wanted to start any later.  It got very hot by the time we headed back to the car.

Lake Powell, AZ

A calm sunrise over Lake Powell, AZ as we set off, the promise of a beautiful day

The hike is moderate, with a distance of 5.6 miles round trip gaining 487′ of elevation to The Wave.  Where there were footprints in the sandy areas we followed them, otherwise we treaded on slick rock and rocky terrain, constantly referring to the official map for guidance.  The fact that there’s practically no shade is a factor with temps commonly in the 90’s and higher this time of the year.

North Coyote Buttes

North Coyote Buttes

The landscape

The vast expanse along the way has incredible features, and we were in awe as we trudged on.  There is so much to look at – up, down, and all around.  It’s a kaleidoscope of formations with outcroppings of small sandstone domes and fascinating colorful swirls everywhere.

Over the first ridge, the land opens out to reveal a huge expanse of sand and slick rock, with a long, high ridge to the right.  A vast open area of sand and scattered rock domes fill the middle distance, and larger, more concentrated red rocks to the left rise up to a mesa which forms the edge of Buckskin Gulch.

North Coyote Buttes

Cross-bedded butte

One of the many amazing buttes here.  We’ve never seen such a variety of shapes in one place

North Coyote Butte

Sandstone domes along the way

North Coyote Buttes

Distant views of the “Teepees”, the general name given to these conical sandstone mounds

The wave trail

Some wildflowers were still blooming

North Coyote Buttes

Colorful, swirling strata in shades of pink, red, yellow and white along the east side of Coyote Buttes Ridge

The wave

The Wave is located just this side of that shaded vertical crevasse

The wave

Looking back at Buckskin Gulch and the sandy wash below the entrance to The Wave

In and around The Wave

At the entrance we were immediately astounded!  The waves and colors were amplified because of the sun’s reflection from the other side.  Our arrival time was perfect.

The wave entrance

We’re here, baby!

Slot at the wave

A fiery slot due to sun reflection

As you may have guessed, my camera was on overload!  So pardon me with all my wavy pictures, but take your time viewing these one-of-a-kind fascinating and exotic rock formations:

The wave

For two hours we wandered around the cliffs and gullies, then climbed up further

From a higher vantage point the area looked like a gallery of gruesomely twisted sandstone, resembling deformed pillars, cones, mushrooms, cushy pillows, dinner rolls  and other odd shapes that continued to amaze us.

The wave

Other lucky hikers have arrived

The wave

Top Arch and the fiery south ridge, can you spot Steve?

This place completely blew us away as we observed the display of textures, shapes, colors, curves, and layers all in one place!

The wave

Nature’s artwork of lichens and molds all over the rocks

The wave

The Wave

Doesn’t it look like recently-baked dinner rolls?

The wave

Looking down at the reflection-lit entrance

And peering closely, the details are exquisite as well.

Finally, the main feature, the Wave!

The Wave is actually a small ravine between eroded sandstone domes formed of amazing rocks containing thin, swirling strata.  It’s situated at the foot of the north slopes of Top Rock, formed of white Navajo sandstone.  It’s hard to imagine that billions of years ago the area was flat and covered with sand.  As usual, wind and water eroded, carved and smoothed to reveal the layers of sand remaining.  Finally, those layers were compacted and mineralized to reveal what we see.  Amazing!

the Wave

The wave

 

The wave

The wave

I was so happy that Steve insisted on making this trip, even though he wasn’t exactly in top hiking condition.  We both enjoyed the change of scenery, and he had promised to do something that would show how he appreciated his “lovely caregiver” during the past few weeks.  He couldn’t have picked a better way to make me happy !

The wave

Riding the wave, baby!

Words and pictures are not enough to describe what we experienced here, it’s at the top of our list of geologic finds.  We recommend that folks come here either March-May or September-October, and enter the lottery as soon as possible or take a chance as a walk-in during those times.  This place is beyond amazing!

And with this post we’ll be on temporary hiatus as Steve’s recovery continues.