What a whirlwind weekend (literally a whirlwind with the wind we experienced on Thursday and part of Friday)! Over the 120 hours we were on vacation, we spent about 26 hours in the car and 40 hours sleeping – I need to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night or I turn into a monster. That left 54 hours for adventuring and I think we made the absolute most of it.
The trip started with a 4:30 am wake-up call to hit the road to Kanab, UT. I-70 was closed in Glenwood Canyon because of a massive rockslide, so we took the longer, more scenic route on US-285 and US-160. This meant slower driving but much more scenic views and both Jason and I were able to check off towns we had never been to before. The trip could have been derailed only an hour outside of Denver when I was pulled over for driving very fast and speeding past an undercover police car. Luckily the officer was very understanding about the very long drive we had in front of us and let me off with a warning if I promised to follow the speed limit the rest of the way. I did and we just made up the time by only stopping three times on the entire drive – twice for gas and once for lunch! For those of you who have ever been on a road trip with my dad – yes I do take after him!
After 11 hours in the car we made it to our hotel in Kanab, UT in time to relax a little bit before dinner. When booking the hotel I decided to spring for the in-room jacuzzi and it was definitely worth the extra $10. We had a whole extra room for the jacuzzi and the hot water and bubbles felt amazing on my injured ankle and knee (and the rest of my sore muscles from letting Jason relax while I drove the entire 11 hours). The hotel staff was also very helpful and recommended a nice Mexican restaurant, Escobar’s, for dinner. The restaurant was tiny and there was a line out of the door, but service was speedy and we were quickly seated and enjoying a delicious burrito (me) and tacos (Jason). After another dip in the jacuzzi, we headed to bead with dreams of getting a walk-in permit to visit the Wave dancing in our heads.
The next morning we woke up early to eat breakfast, pack up, and head to the BLM Wilderness office to try and get two permits for the Wave. Although we were unsuccessful in the permit lottery, it was a surreal experience. There were 88 hopeful people packed in a tiny back room of the Wilderness office, 78 of which left disappointed when their number was not drawn from the lotto ball spinner. We made the best out of the day though and headed to the Wave trailhead with a different, less populated destination in mind – Buckskin gulch. Buckskin gulch is the longest and deepest slot canyon in the United States, and may be the longest in the world. We planned to access Buckskin gulch from Wire Pass, which I mistakenly believed was an actual pass. We made it into what I thought was Buckskin gulch but turned around when we encountered a decent sized boulder-clogged pour over. I wasn’t confident in my knee and ankle since this was my first jaunt out since the injury and we were definitely out of cell service. We turned around and headed above the slot canyon towards what we thought was Wire Pass. The views were stunning, especially the clouds signally a rapidly approaching storm. We headed back to the car and completed the drive to Page, AZ. Once we had internet access again, I did a little research and it turns out that we were actually in Wire Pass (a slot canyon – not an actual pass) and that we needed to continue 0.25 miles farther to reach Buckskin gulch. You live and you learn I guess.
Since we didn’t want to waste our time, we regrouped and then headed out to see Horseshoe Bend for sunset. The wind was really strong and I was thankful we were wearing sunglasses to protect our eyes from the whipping sand particles. Horseshoe Bend did not disappoint and although the crowds were a little overwhelming, and we weren’t even there during busy season! I felt like I was back at Mesa Arch for sunrise or False Kiva for sunset with the quantity and quality of cameras surrounding me. There was even a group who carried a wheelchair through 1/2 mile of sand and then had a perfectly capable girl (who had walked alongside the wheelchair for the entire trail with no issues) sit in the wheelchair for some very professional looking photos. Anyways, it was so much fun trying to find the perfect spot, even though my cell phone camera was unable to capture all of Horseshoe Bend at once. We ended up leaving before the sun technically set, but as we were making our way back to the car the sky lit up beautifully.
After a great dinner with some awesome ladies from one of the trail running Facebook groups I’m a member of, we headed back to Horseshoe Bend by the light of the moon. The parking lot was completely empty and the moon was bright enough that we didn’t need headlamps to navigate the trail. The wind had died down and the stars were twinkling in the inky darkness. One thousand feet below us on the banks of the Colorado river we could see the distinct glow of a camp fire and watched as people slowly abandoned the fire for their tents (and even saw what looked like a Big Agnes mtnGLO tent) until faint smouldering of embers remained. By that time Jason had finished taking pictures (I tried but my cell phone only captured darkness) and we headed back to the hotel for some much needed rest.
In attempt to keep this post readable, the rest of our trip will be in Part 2 (link after I write and publish the post).