Monday, December 19, 2011

December Trip West - Day 5 - The Wave

Today was the long anticipated hike to the "Wave".  I'd been watching the weather report for Page for the last week and up until a few days ago the prediction was rain/snow.  As today got closer the forecast got better and better.

I hit the road this morning about half hour after sunrise after having gotten a good 8 hrs of sleep that I really needed.  There were a few beautiful clouds but generally clear.  Sure looked like it was going to be a nice day and it was.  Drove the 38 miles or so from my Motel 6 room and turned off on House Rock Valley Road.  It was 26 degrees as I drove the road to Wire Pass trailhead.  The road had been a bit of a mess before it froze solid during the night.  In some places I thing I could have taken my hands off the steering wheel and the wheels would have followed the tracks in the mud.

Arriving at the trailhead I saw just 2 other vehicles in the parking lot.  I'd wondered if we were going to get the full 20 people that are allowed to visit each day but it was still relatively earlt in the day.  I got my 3 quarts of water strapped on to my camera bag and threw a bunch of snack bars in a pocket.  Made sure I had my Spot, GPS and permit.  Attached Thule and we were off.

This hike is recommended for experienced hikers.  Well I could lie to myself and call myself an experienced hiker but the truth of the matter is I'm not.  But I'm smart enough to outfit myself with some electronics and do some advanced planning that balances things out a bit.  Prior to embarking on the trip I found  a GPS track to The Wave.  I got that loaded into my GPS and had a bread crumb trail to follow.  I say I had a bread crumb trail to follow but that's not to say I always followed it.  The first part of the hike is down a wash which is easy enough to follow.  So easy I didn't look at the GPS and missed the turnoff from the wash so I had to backtrack.  Once off the wash the trail was easy to follow.  Easy to follow as long as the trail was on sand.  Once it went over slickrosk all the foot prints disappeared.  Back to the GPS and I was doing well so I put it back in my pocket.

The trail is kinda a trail but not really.  With your permit you get a set of 10 pictures with some instructions.  Five pictures show landmarks to head to to get you there and five to get you back, this is where being the experience pays off.  Since it had snowed prior to my visit there were some snowy areas where one could see a foot path, this along with the trail over sand was the only marking.  Over the slickrock there is nothing.  So having a GPS bread crumb trail was helpful.

I didn't keep my eyes glued to the GPS and found myself getting really far off the track so was constantly adjusting.  There really isn't one way to get there but as long as I knew I was heading in the right direction I was fine.

The whole valley where the Wave is located is almost like stepping onto another planet.  It is very barren domindated by slickrock.  I've seen images of the valley and the Wave and they just don't do justice to what you see when you see it in person.

Entering the wave is like taking a journey.  The sweeping lines flowing up and down and around corners.  I walked around quietly taking in this wonder.  Since it had recently snowed much of the rock was snow covered.  I could only imagine what it would have looked like if there were no snow and the Wave was fully exposed in all of it's glory.  With what was exposed I would spend the next 2 1/2 hours photographing and just enjoying.  The main part of The Wave is relartively small but there are surrounding areas that are just as interesting.  Being just a few days before winter solstice the days are very short.  With much more time one could really explore the area.

I counted a total of 10 people at the Wave today, including me.  Seemed like everyone but me got their permits the day before at the Kanab ranger station.  I know that the 10 online lottery permits were already given out but I guess those people just decided to not come.  It does seem pretty easy to get permits during this time of year just by walking in to the Kanab office.  Everyone I met there that day were friendly except for the two photographers.  Guess they just didn't want to be disturbed.

Given the shortness of the day, and the hurried feeling I've been having, I wanted to get to the Wave as soon as I could.  With a longer day and a slower pace, the hike would have been alot more rewarding.

Travis and I will be going on our annual trip to "sleep with the cranes" at the Rowe Sanctuary in Nebraska  next Mar/Apr.  We have both entered the online lottery to hike the Wave.  Hopefully one of us will luck out and I'll be able to go back when there isn't any snow, well shouldn't be, and we'll have a longer day.


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