‘The Wave‘ hike in Coyote Buttes on the Arizona/Utah border is one of the most popular hikes in the whole of the southwest, and in order to protect the fragile landscape, hiking spaces are limited to 20 people per day. As you can imagine bookings fill fast, so unless you book well in advance be prepared to bring every lucky charm you own with you as there is an alternative. You can turn up to the Ranger station in Kanab where you’re able to enter the daily lottery to secure one of the 10 daily places given to the lucky punters to hike the following day.
Photo courtesy of ‘Greenster‘…unfortunately lady luck wasn’t our friend that day
The first day we arrived early to people running in to sign up at 8am on the dot, which we found funny as the draw isn’t until 9 o’clock. Walking into the room with the balls in the basket, we soon realised that our chances were very slim, with 94 people cramming in 48 applications. You’re only allowed one entry per group so obviously the math didn’t quite add up here, as most people were in pairs or groups of three. Draw done and missing out on a place we made the executive decision to still use our day hiking and headed one and a half hours north to Bryce Canyon.
With it’s unique rock formations, a constant in all of Utah’s magnificent parks, Bryce Canyon is pretty breathtaking. As Sarah had been here several years ago and couldn’t hike to the bottom of the canyon due to lack of time, we started the descent amongst the watching Hoodoos. Taking the Navajo and Peek-a-boo loops into the heart of the natural amphitheater and up to the Queen’s Garden, using your imagination it’s possible to find a vague resemblance of ‘Her majesty’ Queen Victoria in a certain rock formation.
The views from below the rim are so strikingly different to the views from above that it’s a shame so many people barely make it below Sunset Point. Guns n Roses could have easily been talking about Bryce Canyon when they sang ‘She’s got eyes of the bluest skies’, as neither of us had seen skies this blue before, the red rock surrounding you making the blue seem even more unreal. The combination of altitude (9,000ft), lack of air and light pollution make this one of the best places to view the night skies, and the local Dark Rangers have numerous nighttime hikes and observations throughout the year to take advantage of this.
Arriving back after covering over 10km (overtaking the horse riders at one point, giddyup!) we headed for Sunset Point to join the crowds and watch the view change as the disappearing sun elongated the hoodoo shadows. As Sarah was moving to get a better view point she walked past two mature German men who proceeded to fart extremely loud then giggle about it for the next 15 minutes. Having skipped out on showers at Zion as they were $5 for five minutes, we decided to head to the store located in the campground as we’d heard their showers were excellent. Turns out it’s true. $2 for eight minutes of the hottest shower we’d had in weeks, followed by a couple of $1.50 4% beers and we were in heaven (as it’s a National Park there’s no laws about having to order food with your beers here either).
Finishing for the day we thought we’d try our luck again for the Wave hike permit so headed back to Kanab, opting to sleep on the side of the road just outside the carpark so we could have a lie in and watch the race for signups in the morning. Arising the next morning, we were this time squeezed in with 112 people for the lottery of ten spaces. We again missed out though were more than happy to this time, as a pair of Japanese blokes that had met at the lottery had missed out for five days in a row, finally coming up trumps winning the last two places on their last day of trying before they had to return home. The jubilation these guys felt was instantly transferred to all in the room, as one guy jumped up yelling in celebration, and we all erupted into a round of applause happy that they had won on their last shot at it.
Disappointed, though with another story to share, it was down to the laundromat to freshen the sheets and perform some maintenance on Porckhop and the bikes. Chores done and hankering for some more hiking, we headed for the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument on the way to Capitol Reef National Park. Obviously guys this isn’t really a ‘staircase’, but an area where Mother Nature has worked to expose a unique geological cross section of the earth from eons ago, stretching all the way from the Grand Canyon to Cedar City. There’s a great diagram of it here. Driving along we found the landscape quiet unremarkable, proclaiming to each other at one point about our nonchalance, when suddenly turning a corner we were completely bowled over by astonishing views stretching to the horizon, with our road winding it’s way right through the middle of it.
Opting just to enjoy the views and skip any hiking we managed to make it to Boulder, stopping at the Burr Trail Grill to relax for the late afternoon. A small and friendly establishment, they have a license to serve beer stronger than 4% (damn Utah State law), so with a slice of peach and ginger pie we were soon in conversation with both travelers and the locals.
Asking the guys if we could make the carpark home for the evening, they were accommodating enough to even offer us a power hook up gratis. In conversation with Di (a local lady whom lived on a properly not 10 mins down the road with her husband Chuck) she promptly offered up her place to park the car and stay the night with a few more beers. Asking around to see if it was all kosher, us and a couple of local kids made the drive to Chuck and Di’s.
Arriving just the two of us and killing the engine the noise was soon replaced with the rip of a chainsaw starting up. Instantly turning to each other a dreadful emotion of death tapping at the car door soon took over. This combined with the trailer house and hoard of barking dogs behind the front door, we wondered how long on this planet we had left. Finally both leaving the car at precisely the same time, our fears were only slightly alleviated once the chainsaw stopped and the dogs behind the door continued to bark viciously. All being hesitant to be the first through the door, Sarah finally grew a pair and asked if she could go in and ‘pat the dogs’.
Once the door swung open we were confronted with a pack of overly excited ankle high dogs that couldn’t wait to get their saliva all over us. Concerns soon passed and the closet to death we had come was by being licked. So hanging out in the trailer for the next few hours getting loaded with locals, again, the supplies of beer had come to an end and sleep enveloped us in a wave. Di, bless her, was so accommodating that she offered up the other trailer (holiday house we guess) for us to crash in. Walking into the entrance we promptly were smashed in the nostrils with the pungent smell of damp and mold with, through the dim lighting, piles of junk? We presume junk though you know, ones man trash is another mans treasure. Needless to say we politely turned down the generous offer and retired to the van for the night, happy the next morning to be breathing in the fresh, clean Utahan air.