Travelog IV || The Wave
We've got a golden ticket to Mars! WhooHoo!
Ever imagine what it feels like to be on Mars? You can imagine being there by being at the Wave. The Wave is a red flowing sandstone rock formation located within the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument near the Utah-Arizona border. Even before you can consider riding the Wave, you'll need to apply for a permit...four months in advanced (and cross your fingers for good luck).
The permit process goes like this:
You put your name into a lottery system with a non-refundable $5 with your prefer dates; only 20 people are allowed at the site per day, 10 are issued online and 10 are issued as walk-in permits. The success rate of being chosen for the Wave depends on the amount of applicants. If you enter the online lottery, attempting to obtain a permit for April-June and September-November, the odds were about 4 to 5% for 2013. For other months (off-season), the odds vary from 8% (August) to 25% (January). My friend and I entered the lottery back in April at the same time in order to better our chances. I didn't win but my friend did, and I was lucky enough to be invited for the ride.
When preparing for the Wave, you'll need to take into account of the possible harsh desert heat and dry condition. I had to be over-prepared for this hike since Cooper was going to take part on this lucky adventure with me (dogs are allowed). The well-being and safety of my dog are the most important priorities. Our permit was for August 26 (Saturday), which nears the end of summer and the weather can get up to +100°F by noon. There were a lot of prepping and planning in order to survive the Wave round trip. The plan was to start the hike before sunrise and back to the car before noon (when it gets to +100°F).
What we packed:
Tips: Each person should carry at least 1 gallon of water for the hike. If you're bringing a dog, carry an extra 1 L of water. Having a cooling vest for your dog will immensely help them survive the journey with ease, also bring dog shoes in case the sand/rocks get too hot.
I traveled to Kanab with 4 friends and 3 dogs (2 shibas and 1 corgi). We rented a car for the weekend and book hotels in Kanab. On the day of the Wave, we all woke up in the middle of the night at 2:00 AM and checked out of our Rodeway Inn room at 3:30 AM. The drive to the Wave's parking lot was only an hour away so we made it there at 4:30 AM, where everything was still pitch black. We were all blanketed under the starry night sky and turned on our portable lanterns to begin our journey to the Wave.
The entire round-trip hike can be from 5 miles to 8 miles, depending on the path you take to get to the Wave. The start of the trail from the parking lot was mostly flat and wide, big enough for two lanes of cars to drive by. But once we made it to the beginning of the Wire Pass Trailhead, the trail got narrow.
The terrain started off with mostly red sand and shrubbery desert plants, there was a clear path that we were able to follow. Once we reached the end of the sandy trail (1 mile in), we came across a row of dunes. This was when we needed to rely on notable landmarks in order to get a sense direction of where we needed to go. When we obtained the permit, we were given a map of the trail with landmark images to help guide us. There are no distinct trails that leads you directly to the Wave. Truth be told, the map wasn't as useful as a downloaded Google map trail of the Wave, especially when you're navigating without any sunlight in the desert wilderness.
Tip: Download the above Google Map to your phone prior to hiking in order to navigate the general direction to the Wave. Chances are, you might get lost even with the map and directions that they gave you.
At the end of the Wire Pass Trailhead, we had to climbed 600 ft over a ridge. We got lost at first trying to figure out which dunes to climb over and which was the correct direction to take. Once we found the right ridge, we climbed it and the landscape opened up. Getting to this terrain took us an hour since we were navigating in the dark with just our lanterns and it was hard to see notable landmarks that was shown in our map.
The flat sandstone terrain made it easier to walk. There were cacti everywhere so we had to be careful of our steps. I was extra cautious since I had Cooper with me and didn't want him to step on any spiky plants.
Since our hike started at 4:30 AM, we were gifted with a spectacular sunrise (7:00 AM) right on the open terrain. The sunrise illuminated the landscape in redness (let there be light!). It reminded me of those darkroom where you develop photographs. Everyone took a water and food break while we watched the sun rise over the dunes and buttes.
After our quick break, we continued our hike along the open terrain. In the distance we saw a large rock face with a fissure (buttcrack) and that gave us a clear indication of where our general direction needed to be. That was our destination...that was the Wave. And so, to the buttcrack we go! We continued to pass through more small dunes and red sand. The final push to reach the site of the Wave required some more climbing. And we knew that this....was the final climb.
"WE MADE IT!" exclaimed John.
After 3 hours of hiking, getting lost, navigating through darkness, and climbing more dunes than we should...we made it to the Wave. This was everything I could dream of and more. No crowds, no city noise, no responsibilities. Just pure Mother Nature goodness out in the desert wilderness. The privacy and exclusivity of the Wave made the experience all the better since I was able to etched everything into my memory without any distractions.
Everyone settled down their heavy backpacks and we all began to explore the site in different directions. There was a pool of water right at the entrance of the site that gave off the most magnificent reflection. It added extra oomfph to the overall incredible beauty of this natural wonder. Also, there were hundreds of tadpoles swimming in the water that we could see! We made sure to make used of our time during this once in a lifetime visit before heading out at 8:30 AM.
The trek back was more difficult since we were off track and found ourselves lost...again. We had to climbed more ridges and dunes in order to get back on the general direction since we were off track from the path we came from. Our goal was to make out at 11:00 AM, which was when the weather heats up to +100°F. The longer we stayed out in the desert wilderness, the hotter it gets and that could lead to potential heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Honest to goodness, I didn't think we make it out by 12:00 PM. I, for sure, thought we would keep getting lost and wouldn't be able to find our way back. But with a slight sense of direction and the magical wonder of Google map, we managed to find ourselves back on the right path. We all made it out alive right at 11:30 AM and the weather read 93°F.
Cooper did amazing during the entire trip, he was full of energy and his adventurous spirit kept him moving forward. He wore his Ruffwear swamp cooler the entire time since the start of our early morning. With the extra water that I had carried, I was able to drenched his cooling vest to keep the cooling technology activated while the sun was beating down on us as we headed back from the Wave. It was far better to be over-prepared than under-prepared when you're doing these types of trips.
Would Cooper and I do this again? Yes. 100% Yes. But during the winter next time, when there's snow. I hope this inspired you to enter the lottery and get lucky enough to gaze upon this magnificent natural wonder. It is truly a spectacular sight to behold.
Wishing you all the best of luck!