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After a month in California (blogs on this to come) we had to head back east for The Long Bike Back screenings and we decided to take our time and drive across the Utah/Arizona border because there are so many amazing things to see there. I have seen The Wave (in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument) on a couple of ‘top 10 places to see in the world’ lists and since it’s right on the Utah/Arizona border we scheduled it into our meandering drive east.
Unlike Pearson, I’m normally a planner; scheduling out every detail of a trip and researching all of our options for things to see and do. But in our current travels, I’ve become more ‘fly by the seat of my pants’. So for The Wave we had no plans other than the day we were going to be there. We had no idea how long a hike it was, if we would need a map, where we could park, or any other details about getting to The Wave, we just knew its approximate location from google maps.
On Thursday we spent the day in Zion National Park and then made our way towards The Wave, stopping for the night at an RV park in Kanab, UT (it was the sketchiest “RV park” we’ve stayed in yet, really just a broken-down trailer park with a junkyard and camping area).
I woke up early Friday morning and decided I should look up hiking directions to The Wave. I did a web search and found out, much to my dismay, that you need a permit to hike to The Wave and only 10 are issued per day (an additional 10 are issued online in advance). There is an in-person lottery each morning for the next day’s 10 permits at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Visitor Center in Kanab. Registration for the 9am lottery begins at 8am so we quickly got dressed and headed over there. When we arrived it was already packed.
As we filled out our permit application, we were warned that the hike to The Wave is a strenuous three-miles across rugged and dangerous terrain without any trail markers. (It’s probably a good thing we didn’t just wing it).
There were 33 permit applications for groups of 1-6 hikers, more than 70 people vying for 10 slots, so we knew our odds were low. While we waited for the lottery to begin, I started looking for other cool things to see in the area. And by the time the lottery started we had resigned ourselves to not going to The Wave.
At 9am the Rangers got out a bingo ball cage and assigned each group a number for the lottery, we got 3. They spun the cage, pulled out the first ball, and called “3”. Pearson and I were in shock! And we kind of felt bad, like we didn’t deserve to go since we had done so little research. But we didn’t feel guilty enough to turn down our opportunity. Two other couples, a group of three, and a single man also got permits.
The Park Ranger cautioned us that getting to The Wave is a challenge that shouldn’t be taken lightly. You have to drive 40 minutes down a rutted dirt road that washes out when it rains, then hike three miles each way across unmarked backcountry. In addition to the Ranger’s verbal instructions, we received a map with pictures of landmarks and detailed directions.
After gathering as much info as we could, we headed to Lake Powell where we planned to spend four days (and which luckily is only about an hour past The Wave). Lake Powell is an amazing place and we had a blast camping there, it will have its own blog post soon.
We woke at 4:45am the next morning, excited for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see The Wave!
After a long and bumpy ride, we finally arrived at the Wire Pass parking lot and started our three-mile hike just after 7am.
We were so excited and the morning light was gorgeous. When we cleared the first ridge the landscape totally changed. There was untouched rocky high desert as far as we could see full of breathtaking colors and forms.
We hiked quickly to The Wave because we wanted to be one of the first there, knowing we would take our time coming back.
We arrived at The Wave before 9am and were speechless.
To be continued…
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