Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Horseshoe Bend, Page AZ - A Memorable Sunrise

My daughter and I spent 3 Incredible Days Exploring Canyons and Iconic Views of the Southwest - This is the second post of our adventure

A Memorable Sunrise

After a long day hike through Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch I asked my daughter if she wanted to visit Horseshoe Bend at sunrise.  It would involve us going to bed right away (around 9:00 pm - no problem as we were wiped) and rising around 4:45 am to be on the road by 5:15 am.  We would have to drive only a few miles outside of Page, wear our warmest clothing and hike in pitch black with our headlights for about 1/2 mile in an effort to be at the canyon by 5:45 am.  Sunrise around 6:25 am.  The other option was to visit the Bend in the afternoon with the 1000’s of other spring break tourist groups when the sun would be at its highest and bleaching out a lot of the colors.  Was she up for a pre-sunrise excursion in the 36 degree darkness?  You better believe it!!

We arrived at the edge of the Bend and had the best setup options with only a couple other die hard photographers in sight.  Then we watched the earliest rays of light tinge the sky and start to unveil the massive expanse before us.

Horseshoe Bend is a popular destination for photographers and is located just south of the City of Page, AZ. The mighty Colorado River exits Lake Powell and begins its long and winding journey to the Grand Canyon. Horseshoe Bend is quite remarkable as the river takes an almost 360 degree turn around the deep canyons that it helped to create.  See letter "A" in the map.

Visit part 1 of this trip:  Slot Canyon Adventure - Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch
Visit part 3 of this trip:  Antelope Canyon
Visit Part 4 of this trip:  Monument Valley
See Part 5 of this trip:  Canyon de Chelly National Monument
See Part 6 of our Northern Arizona Adventure:  Grand Falls, Arizona (aka "Chocolate Falls")

Visit my other trip to Horseshoe Bend in the 2014 winter at dusk (funny story included:)  Horseshoe Bend at Sunset

For more information on Arizona Excursions, visit:  Arizona Excursions @ Blaze-A-Trail.com

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Slot Canyon Adventure - Wire Pass Trailhead to Buckskin Gulch (Arizona/Utah border)

My daughter and I spent 3 Incredible Days Exploring Canyons and Iconic Views of the Southwest - This is the first post of many to come

We took an amazing journey exploring some of the most unusual and eye popping landscape of the American Southwest.  Like the picture taken in Wire Pass (above and right), my daughter and I were in awe thinking about the force of the flood waters that flow through these slot canyons annually.  In our 6-7 mile day hike, we only explored a small portion of these slot canyons.  

Perhaps we'll return one day and make the full trek as described below:

"The Hike - No one’s died here–yet. But the odds mount every time a dark cloud crosses the sky. This tortuously twisting sandstone bottleneck is the longest, deepest slot canyon in the Southwest (and probably the world). Its narrow walls carve a 12-mile gash through the southern Utah desert, although most hikers bypass the first of those pinched miles by starting at Wire Pass, a tributary that enters Buckskin from the south and plunges them right into its tightest squeeze. The extended exposure to flash flood danger makes Buckskin one of the country’s most dangerous slots: Rarely more than 10 feet wide, the eerie corridor is 400 feet deep at its junction with the Paria River. Most chilling: The entire length of sandstone wall is virtually insurmountable–except for a single escape hatch at the Middle Route, about 8 miles in from Wire Pass. Should thunderstorm-bloated flood waters come charging down the tunnel, you’re no better than a bug in a firehose."  Excerpted from Backpacker.com "America's 10 Most Dangerous Hikes - Buckskin Gulch, UT" 

A piece of drift wood is lodged 50-60 feet up the canyon walls in Buckskin Gulch.

After researching all the stories about this remote slot canyon, we planned for a day hike but packed gear to survive multiple days in the event of an emergency.  The trailhead is 8 miles off the highway on rough forest roads.  Depending on the season and recent weather events, the slot canyons can have water flowing making them impassable without hiking through it, at times as much as thigh deep.  Sturdy water shoes and multiple layers were worn in anticipation of possible water crossings.  We carried more water than needed for a day hike.  Medical, survival gear, food/snacks extra clothes, fire starters and items to make a temporary shelter were also carried.

We also discussed what to do in the event something happened to me.  My daughter needed to be aware of her surroundings and know how to hike back to the car alone to seek assistance.  She carried a spare key to the car and was instructed on how to start the car for heat and/or drive slowly on the forest road back to the highway.

Too funny:  Upon arriving to the trailhead, we were greeted with about 30 cars in the parking lot!  As remote as this place was, spring break and good weather brought many to enjoy the slots.  Most hikers had packs like ours but we actually ran into a foreign tourist who was alone and carrying nothing.  We discussed the unnecessary risk this woman was taking with no water or gear.

Since the day she was born, my daughter has always searched for heart-shaped rocks, clouds, flowers or other things in nature.  It’s something we do together wherever we go.  She appears in the middle of a heart on the canyon wall in Wire Pass. 

Trail leading to Wire Pass Slot Canyon:

A Great Day in the Gulch
There was so much to be thankful for.  We had great weather.  The sun above painted the canyon walls in the most beautiful colors.  Everywhere our eyes searched was met with wonder - very few people on this planet have experienced something as truly remarkable as this.

Perhaps we will return to Buckskin Gulch.  Perhaps we will hike the entire length of Buckskin through to Paria Canyon one day?  Or, perhaps this is the last time we’ll ever be here.  No matter what, we will always remember the hiking adventure and time spent together in one of the most unusual places on earth.

"I’m thanking you, God, from a full heart,
I’m writing the book on your wonders.” Psalm 9:1

Visit Part 2 of this trip:  Horseshoe Bend
Visit Part 3 of this trip:  Antelope Canyon
Visit Part 4 of this trip:  Monument Valley
Visit Part 5 of this trip:  Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Visit Part 6 of this trip:  Grand Falls, Arizona (aka "Chocolate Falls")