Kanab and the Wave

The recent trip me and Liz took to Utah turned out to be incredible fun. The weather was over 110 most days, and not being 6am starters, we hiked in the heat of the day, but even that was fun in a Man vs Wild way!

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We spent our first night camping at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. We were in the middle of a sea of sand dunes, I’d never seen anything like it, especially as the sun was setting. It was an unusual crowd at the camp ground, the park is open for off-road vehicles like dune buggies, so almost everyone else was there for that. It felt very Mad Max! I managed to get a fire lit using flint and steel, after figuring out the knack was to scrape slowly, but with a lot of pressure.

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The next day, we went to the Wire Pass trailhead, which involved an eight mile drive down a really bumpy dirt road. From the trail head, we hiked about a mile down the wash until it narrowed, and we entered the slot canyon. This was truly something else, in places it was two feet wide, with sheer walls going up several hundred feet. These are carved out by flash floods, and there’s long sections with no escape route, so we were glad to be out by the time a thunderstorm started in the afternoon!

I highly recommend Michael Kelsey’s book on hiking the Paria River area, which includes lots of fun asides, like stories of murderous Mormons, and rants on the BLM’s permit policy, as well as being the best guide to the trails.

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Our trip was inspired by pictures of the Wave, but we knew actually getting to it was a long shot, since only twenty hikers a day are allowed in, and there’s only ten permits available by lottery the day before. We went along to the Paria River BLM office when it opened on Friday morning, and were lucky enough to find someone had just cancelled, and so we were able to go right away!

According to Kelsey, the Wave was popularized by a German film in the 90’s, and sure enough most of the handful of people we met were fellow Europeans. The hike there was only three miles, but was across slick rock most of the way, and only an excellent handout from the BLM and our GPS stopped us losing our way. The weather was hot, around 110, and I got through about 1.5 gallons of water in just a few hours!

The Wave itself was like something from another planet, as you can see from the photos, but the whole hike was full of amazing areas. Even if you can’t get permits to the Wave, I’d recommend hiking outside the restricted area, there’s plenty to see. You get there from the same Wire Pass trailhead as the slot canyon we went to the day before.

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Saturday was our last day, so we went for a less taxing hike, to see some rock formations known as the Toadstools. It was only about a 1km hike from where we parked, across a plateau to the edge of some cliffs, but it was hard to find our way. The view across the desert was worth it though.

After that, it was just a simple matter of driving 700 miles back to LA! If you want to see more photos, you can check out Liz’s site.

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