Friday, May 27, 2016

Winning The Lottery in Vermillion Cliffs National Monument

I wonder how many people have ever heard of Vermillion Cliffs National Monument (VCNM) in Arizona. It's called Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument on the Utah side. Situated just north and east of Zion and Grand Canyon National Parks, respectively, it's a lot less crowded, and really, really cool.

This area is well known for it's slot canyons and an amazing sandstone formation called The Wave. On our first day visiting VCNM, we hiked through a stunning slot canyon, Buckskin Gulch. According to Wikipedia "it's the longest and deepest slot canyon in the southwest United States and may be the longest in the world". A slot canyon is a narrow canyon, formed by the wear of water rushing through rock and can be quite dangerous during a rain storm. There is a giant log jam in the slot 40 feet up - that's at least how deep the water gets during a flash flood. Crazy. Lot's of pictures below:

We had to climb down/up some rocks to continue our hike

I love imaging how this giant tumbleweed got into the canyon
Not for the claustrophobic

This was our only exit if it started to rain

This log was carried by water through the slot

Shoe-sucking mud that never sees the light of day

You didn't think we'd leave here without a jumping picture, did you?

During our route-planning, we specifically decided to visit VCNM to see "The Wave". Due to a lack of planning, we learned a week before we arrived that we needed a special permit, and only 10 (!!) people per day get one. We felt pretty defeated, but decided that we would go through the process of entering the lottery. We drove 70 miles round trip to enter the lottery the day before we wanted to hike. There were 147 people vying for 10 spots. The process was hectic and crazy. I couldn't believe it when our number was picked first!! We won the lottery! Pictures below:

The hike out to The Wave
Had to do it
When we approached The Wave, Scott said "I think this is it" and snapped a picture - it was just the entrance...

Not "the" wave - just some cool stuff near it

All alone at The Wave

A different view from higher up

One of the "winners" who arrived as we were leaving

The hike out

It's only a 3 mile hike out to The Wave, but navigation is intentionally difficult to discourage wave poachers. We crossed paths with some of the other winners, and a disturbing number of lottery losers trying to find the path, but we were never hanging out together at The Wave. Wow - all alone! This was also during the week of my birthday - what a perfect sandstone birthday gift.


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