Tuesday, December 27, 2011

December Trip West - Day 7 - Wahweap Hoodoos

There are two exclamations I wish to make after today.  The first is I just love my Forester and I'm glad I got the AT tires before the trip.  The second will follow.

The day started with a few options but the place I'd wanted to visit since I got to Page was the Wahweap Hoodoos so that was going to be my destination.  I'd never been to the hoodoos but I've been eyeing them for some time, they looked kinda cool.  I didn't get going until about 10am.  The only possible fly in the ointment was the forecast for rain/snow.  The skies were mostly cloudy but it didn't look like we were in for any severe weather so after filling up with gas I hit the road.

I had researched the route to the hoodoos before leaving on the trip and loaded in a GPS track.  While the main road was pretty obvious there were a number of side roads and having the track to refer to was a bit of a help.  Getting to the hoodoos one travels from Page into Utah to the Cottonwood Canyon Road.  A few miles down that road you get to BLM 431, this is where the fun driving begins.

My last solo trip to this area was two years ago when I was driving my Prius.  Now the Prius gets really good gas mileage but the cars clearance is like 2 whiskers, well it's actually more than that now since I've taken it on roads I shouldn't have and some of the underside is gone.  But I couldn't really go where I wanted and always had to be really aware of the roads.  So last winter I bought a Subaru Forester that served two purposes.  It is all wheel drive and a great winter vehicle.  It is all wheel drive with high clearance that will let me drive on roads I otherwise have to avoid.  Well this road to the hoodoos was one I no longer needed to avoid.  In fact I was amazed at how nice it went over the creek beds, washouts and deep ruts.  There were a few times I was sure the front or rear bumper was going to hit but it was not to be.  Did I say I love the Forester.

At the end of the road there is a nice area to park your car right next to the Wahweap Wash.  It's a very wide wash and I can only imaging the ferocity of a summers thunderstorm downpour running down that wash.  The hoodoos are about 1 1/4 miles down the wash.  The time of year the wash is an easy walk sinces the sandy areas are firm from the moisture and colder temps.  I'd read that the hoodoos were just beyond a cliff that jutted out and I had that cliff in sight.  Rounding the point there was nothing but I could see a trail leading off in the distance so we kept going.  After a short distance we created a rise then.

WOW (the second exclamation that I literally said out loud).  The images I'd seen hadn't prepared for the amazing sight before my eyes.  Seems that those of us pursuing photography, at whatever level, are always on the lookout for the really spectacular places.  Well this is one that surpassed my expectations, it might not surpass yours but it did mine.

It's amazing to see these rocks balancing on top of white spires that are 160 million years old.  The first area of hoodoos, there are three, is the most impressive to me.  The white sandstone appears to be melting momentarily freezing only to melt some more with the next rain.  The white sandstone with their brown caps extended up the side of the plateau.  What really intrigued me was all of the lines and patterns in the white sandstone as it 'melted' away.  My most used lens was my 70-200 and wish I'd had my 100-400 with me instead.  Of course there were the broader shots including my wide angle at 17mm which I really like.  But I kept coming back to the closeups.

I hiked down to the second set.  They were less impressive to me since it seemed like the white sandstone was harder than the first.  There wasn't the sense of 'melting' with the seconds set.  I also found it alot more challenging finding compositions although I did make a few.  I think I got down to the third set although I was loosing interest in what I was seeing.  It would have been different if I'd started at the third and worked my way to the first but I was anxious to get back to the first group.

I spent about 4 hours exploring the area.  I kept wondering how much longer this area would be open to unrestricted visitation.  You need a 4WD high clearance vehicle to get to the wash but other than that it's very accessible.  I just hope future visitors will leave it as they found it, undisturbed.


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