West Trip Day 11 – Grand Staircase Escalante

The Sun-n-Sand Motel was where Janet had stayed during her last visit to the area, and is an interesting enough place that it was kind of the destination in and of itself. The next morning, we got to meet Wayne in person, and the reviews are accurate – he is a character, if a bit unkempt. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g57030-d1229438-Reviews-Sun_n_Sand_Motel-Kanab_Utah.html

In talking to Wayne, he mentioned that we should get tickets to The Wave (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wave,_Arizona), which was true – if we had known we would still be in town that morning, we should have gone the previous morning and put our names into the lottery. I believe only 20 people are allowed in per day, as a means of preserving it, and it’s a very well known destination for photography. Unfortunately, we weren’t planing on being there a second day, so we didn’t have tickets.

We also didn’t completely have a plan for what we were going to do beyond this point in the trip. We had originally considered going around to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, but with that out, had some extra time. We had started looking up other things to do while in Moab and had come across a lot of recommendations to visit some of the other slot canyons in the area.  Antelope Canyon and Buckskin Gulch were the most common recommendations. Antelope Canyon was far away and Buckskin Gulch almost required an overnight hike with the potential to require climbing gear and a high likelyhood of being quite unpleasant after the rain that had hit a few days earlier (this information brought to us by Wayne).

The other two that came up were Bull Valley Gorge and Willis Creek, both in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. We headed North out of Kenab hoping to pay a visit to both. We had a couple questionable moments out in the middle of nowhere with very poor road signage and almost as poor of roads; The Frog really wasn’t designed for rough dirt roads.

Grand Staircase Escalante Road

The GPS guided us as accurately as one would expect, but I’m not sure it took the optimal route given what we were driving. We eventually did get to Bull Valley Gorge and hiked around the upper rim for a while looking for the route into the canyon as these were not really well documented places. The most famous aspect to Bull Valley Gorge is the bridge that the road passes over. It’s no so much an engineered bridge as a place where enough rocks and rubble have packed into the canyon to allow driving over it. Some time ago, a pickup truck missed the bridge, crashed into the canyon, got stuck part way down and thus became part of the landscape.

After a bit of searching, we did find the entrance into the canyon. As mentioned before, there’s not a lot of documentation on the area, so we started down the canyon rather carefully, meaning that any time we had to go down a rock we had to make sure we could get back up the rock as well. Some other people had apparently done this as well, because there were some conveniently placed logs to facilitate the return.

We didn’t end up making it as far as the bridge since we came to some sizeable areas of standing water in the canyon (which Wayne had hinted would be there). We made it around the first one with some effort, but realized that we weren’t going to get much further without at least some knee high boots.

Bull Valley Gorge

Second stop was Willis Creek Slot Canyon, which ended up being a cool place, with no real requirements (like climbing gear) other than the ability to walk. We arrived in the little parking lot to find other people there with portable awnings, grills, etc., so apparently it was used kind of like the local park.

We hiked down the creek bed, which was more or less just a trickle, for probably three or four miles, though the real interesting canyon area was within the first mile or two. We took a good long time, mainly for me to take all my pictures.

After getting our fill of slot canyons, we found a place in Tropic, UT to stay for the night, which was about 12 miles from Bryce Canyon, our destination for the next day.  We once again explored the three-two beer offerings of Utah when we went down to the combination gas station, general store, restaurant for dinner.  Dinner was good, but it’s still weird eating at a place attached to a general store and gas station.  I think there wasn’t much in the way of options though, because the place was pretty busy.

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About norconkm

I'm a person. I live in Grand Rapids, MI and work as an Electrical Engineer. My hobbies at the time of this writing are kayaking, skiing, archery, photography and maybe biking. As this is my personal blog, my hobbies are likely the primary topics about which you will be reading.

One Response to West Trip Day 11 – Grand Staircase Escalante

  1. Pingback: Willis Canyon - The Norconk

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