Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Part 3: Coyote Buttes and The Wave
An extraordinary set of circumstances occurred when I returned to the trailhead from my morning in Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch. I had decided to drive to a different trailhead for an afternoon hike since my planned all-day excursion in Buckskin hadn’t quite worked out. And with this in mind, I arrived back at my car and was drinking some water when a woman approached me and asked if I knew the way to The Wave.
The Wave is a famous, oft-photographed sandstone formation in the Coyote Buttes which shares the trailhead with Wire Pass. Twenty permits per day are issued by lottery, ten of them four months in advance, and ten the prior day at the BLM office in Kanab. Rangers patrol the area and regularly give out fines up to $5,000 and six months in jail. There are no real maps to The Wave though there are a couple landmarks apparently. If you are able to secure a permit, the BLM provides you with these and with GPS coordinates. The three mile trail out crosses open desert and more than a mile of slickrock towards the end, so following footprints is impossible after about halfway. Getting lost is very common.
I did not anticipate hiking The Wave (certainly not that day since I didn’t have a permit) and thus was not able to provide much help to the woman inquiring though I was able to tell her where I thought the trail broke to the buttes broke off from the wash that led into Wire Pass. I asked if she had a permit because I was pretty certain that they gave you information and she told me that she had showed up that morning to get a permit but because of the government shutdown they were not issuing any. And – LOOP HOLE – because the area wasn’t technically closed until noon (it was just after 11am), she was told that she could try it on her own. There would be no rangers would patrolling for permits because they were furloughed. This was a once in a lifetime set of coincidences. I don’t know what happened because I’m really quite the loner but I heard the words come out of my mouth: “Can I go with you?” Judi immediately said that yes, of course, we would do it together! And that was how I came to hike The Wave.
Well, we were able to follow footprints for a while but as soon as we hit rock, we took a wrong turn. There were intermittent footprints that we thought were a promising, but that were apparently left from other lost hikers. We finally saw another group walking the in the distance across a shallow canyon towards the direction of the trailhead but then a few minutes later we saw another group heading away from the trailhead, along much the same path. We chased them down. It turned out that this group of three were also unpermitted but seemed to have a better idea of where they were going. They were at least going in the right direction; the five of us were assured this about fifteen minutes later by another group returning from The Wave. Somewhere after that point we all got lost again but luckily as we were wandering around we encountered more people who were able to point us in the right direction. And so, after about three and a half hours, we had found The Wave.
This landscape is otherworldly. Coyote Buttes is one of the most inconceivable sections this planet: the sandstone is fantastically striped and twisted and vivid. The sky is impossible blue. It is heavenly. Here are approximately 1% of the total pictures I took:
The whole trip took us a little over five hours round trip It should have been a six mile roundtrip hike but was probably closer to nine or ten miles. However, as I told Judi, I consider this the scenic route – because the scenery was some of the most amazing I’ve ever seen. In fact, some of the landscape we saw beyond The Wave was just as amazing as the famous formation itself.
It was such a wonderful afternoon and I am so thankful that I met such an awesome person. Together, and with help from a few groups of people we met, we made it. It was truly spectacular.
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Isn’t it otherworldly! This is called being at the right place at the right time. 😊
I was lucky to win the permit and experience this place.
It’s still one of my favorite places I’ve seen, AnnaJ. Glad you got to experience it too!
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What a great set of events to line up! (Sorry, I’ve gotten a bit behind on your posts! I had a lot of exams line up perfectly to where I’m constantly studying.) I have always wanted to do this hike, and those photos, whew… You need to make a book of photos of the Southwest the minute you get home! These are so incredible! I hope the journey is still going well! Love and well wishes from Missouri!
Spectacular is an understatement. Not only did the stars align for you but, planets, spirits and whatever else. I am so very happy that it came together and it was beyond amazing. Safe trails and thank you for sharing such amazing photos. I hope you are looking to publishing a book as well.
Yes, everything really did align, Suzanne! It was an amazing day. Thanks for reading!
oh my gosh, meghan! what a story! what an experience! the stars really did line up just right for all of this to happen. i am so very happy for you and so excited you got to have these incredible moments! your photos are as phenomenal as normal, of course. 😉
you go girl! way to seize the day, live your life, and all that shit! love and peace to you. xx
Thanks, Liz! The stars truly aligned for that one. I am so happy I got to do this hike and meet such a cool person as a bonus. Yeah, it was pretty great. Thanks! 😄