Once in a Lifetime – North Coyote Buttes: THE Wave
Trip Dates: February 15th, 2018 – February 19th, 2018*
*Part One covering February 15th, 2018 & February 17th, 2018
How this trip came to be is just about as multifaceted as the multiple itineraries we had for every possible situation imaginable: if we win the lottery, if we don’t win the lottery, what if we win it for Friday? Saturday? Sunday? Monday? The possibilities were limitless! SPOILER ALERT: Apparently, Derek has a lucky horseshoe inside of him and we did, indeed, win the lottery: we were going to see THE WAVE!
Somehow it all started when I obtained a permit for Coyote Buttes South. I guess it didn’t matter that the permit was for one person, Jeremy and Derek were on board to press our luck and try to do one of four or five itineraries. And so it goes… We made the rookie mistake of leaving Los Angeles a bit too late and were destined for traffic for quite a while on the way to stop number one: Las Vegas. Perhaps traffic seemed worse than usual as the Fancy Dinner of the Month was at the coveted Gordon Ramsey Steak inside of the Paris hotel and I was already salivating just thinking about the signature Beef Wellington. Remember when I said I was a foodie at heart? I was not lying! I’ll skip the details but just know the Wellington and experience of the steakhouse are both worth the price. Stuffed to the brim, it was time to say some prayers and catch some zzz’s at the Tuscany Suites & Casino in anticipation of trying our luck in the impending lottery.
I guess we could say we were up before the crack of dawn and way too early for normal folk but we had a three-hour drive ahead of us; we needed to make it to The Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument Visitor Center in Knab, Utah by 8:30am to enter the lottery for North Coyote Buttes aka THE Wave. Mission accomplished, tenfold. Out of 350+ entries into the lottery for the holiday weekend, Derek’s lotto number was literally the first ball out of the bingo machine and we were all completely shocked. Here I must repeat: thank you Derek for being SO lucky (this was Derek’s third time seeing The Wave, unreal – I know). The timing was perfect, we won the permit for the following day which allowed us to explore the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness/Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument/Coyote Buttes North area for the rest of the day and still get a ‘good’ night sleep before our epic day.
Note: A blog post about our time after the lottery and before The Wave + our National Park adventures after The Wave is coming soon. In the meantime, see the photo on the right for a sneak peak and just know we like to have action packed trips...
Finally, the day I had been dreaming about was upon us: I was going to a completely magical destination: The Wave. We departed the Wire Pass trailhead at 6:00am, about an hour before sunrise which was perfect timing to experience the alpenglow on the red rocks. For a brief moment, I felt like I was on Mars. After the epic sunrise, a sprinkle of fairy dust, and a somewhat sketchy/slick incline, we reached our first stop, Lace Rock. Like so many of the things in the Coyote Buttes area, Lace Rock seemed particularly fragile. We had to tread lightly so as to not crush any of the fragile formations. At times, I felt as though the rocks were as fragile as glass.
From Lace Rock we came back down to the typical trail and explored the Fins or as we like to refer to them, the ‘flakey things,’ that were in the wash before the sand dunes. We explored some “uncharted territory” and came to the realization it’s possible we were like Christopher Columbus exploring new land for the first time. And with that, I proclaim the area we explored be named after “The Porter’s!”
And without further ado, the grand not-finale: THE WAVE. Seeing the entrance from down below and knowing we were almost there pretty much gave me goosebumps. Getting up there and seeing the red, pink, yellow and white Navajo sandstone? I was in disbelief. I simply could not believe that Mother Nature could make stones/rocks look like this! Apparently, the stripes are lithified eolian laminae… aka… rock layers made of windblown sand. As the Jurassic wind patterns changed, different sand dunes blew across the desert and cemented into the striations that make The Wave so magical. The water drainage that played a part in carving out the two main chutes has since dried up, making the wind The Wave’s primary erosional force. It literally took millions of years for The Wave to form and with Derek winning the lottery, we were able to see and experience the magnificent rock formations with our very own eyes. I honestly could have stayed in this one area ALL day but alas, Derek was on a mission to show us some other unique formations in the area.
Jeremy and I struggled to approach and get onto the [basically] cliff but eventually we did and were rewarded with The most pristine Alcove and Melody Arch and The Grotto. So many hidden gems in the Coyote Buttes North area.
After The Grotto I was getting a bit… hungry? tired? aggravated? from wandering around the desert (in my opinion) rather aimlessly. Alas, there was more to see such as the ‘infamous’ Hamburger Rock. But, as I mentioned, I was over it and was not about to trapeze any longer, particularly in search of a rock that looks like a hamburger. No, no, especially because I wanted a REAL hamburger at that point! Derek continued on while The Porter’s waited and complained. Mission accomplished? Who knows, who cares!
On the way back to The Wave, we stopped at The Second Wave and took some more photos. It was neat to visit this area because earlier in the day, it looked like we were so far away from it and as the lighting changed throughout the day, at one point it sincerely looked like Dr. Seuss land with coloring that reminded me of cotton candy. The Second Wave is nearly as impressive as the main attraction, albeit slightly smaller.
Hiking out of The Wave area (and not before we took some more photos – the lighting changes the coloring of it by the hour), we did a little cross-country navigation to also visit Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch. Of course, it’s important to note Buckskin Gulch is a slot canyon and if there is any forecast of rain whatsoever, the area should be avoided. Wire Pass has filtered light bouncing off the highly textured walls which makes for fabulous photos that I just could not capture. Anyways, another area I enjoyed was the large alcove as we left the first slot canyon. The petroglyphs on the canyon wall were fascinating and just beyond those was the confluence of Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch/Wash. We didn’t walk too far into Buckskin for a couple reasons, including but not limited to: it was getting dark, I was hungry, and the water was fairly deep in seconds. I would like to someday return to this area as Buckskin Gulch is actually one of the longest continuous slot canyons in the world and passes through roughly 16 miles of unique formations and undulating sandstone walls.
In true Krista fashion, this epic experience visiting The Wave was only half of the trip. What to know what else we did? Check out my next blog post, highlighting our visits to the Wahweap Hoodoos, Toadstool Hoodoos, Capitol Reef National Park, and Bryce Canyon National Park!