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The Wave 2009

I call this trip The Wave 2009 because it was the highlight of this trip.  We packed alot of sightseeing and hiking into a 36 hour period.  We went to four destinations in which 3 are considered the most photographed in the world.  Now that may be an exaggeration but after visiting them I can see why each would draw photographers to shoot them.

Horseshoe Bend

We left Phoenix at 6:30am and headed to Page, AZ which was a 4.5 hour drive.  About 3 miles before Page, we arrived at Horseshoe Bend.  I’m sure many of you have seen a photograph of this and just didn’t know what it was called.  Unfortunately you need a wide angle lens to capture the entire bend in one shot.  The shot below was the best that I could do with my 18mm lens.  This viewpoint is a short 3/4 mile hike from the parking lot.  No big deal.  This was considered one of those, we’re driving right by it, we might as well stop and take a look.


Antelope Canyon

The next stop was Antelope Canyon.  Antelope Canyon is also a famous photographer’s spot.  Known for its sunbeams and rich colors its a very popular tourist destination.  Even Britney Spears did a video inside Antelope Canyon.  You also cannot visit the upper region without a tour guide.  Our tour cost $32 and was about 1.5 hours.  Because everybody, including us wants to see the canyon when the sun rays coming straight down into it, going at noon is super crowded.  The tour guides do a good job of crowd control so you can take photos with no people in them.

We paid our $32 and hopped onto the rear of a pickup truck.  They drove us about 5 miles on a sandy road to the entrance of the canyon.  There were probably 20 other trucks there as we parked.  As soon as you get there you realize why its so popular.  It’s really hard to screw up a photo in the canyon.  It was very crowded at the entrance and it felt very unnatural.  Something about waiting in line while inside a canyon doesn’t feel right.

The tour guide would clear people out of the way so you could get a good photograph.  He would also tell you where to put your camera and what shots to take.  He would also throw sand into the sunbeams so that they would show in the photos.  If I had to do it again, I would go to Lower Antelope Canyon.  It’s less crowded and you don’t need a tour guide to get in.

This picture below the guide called, Monument Valley.  This was shot looking straight up.


The Wave

The next stop was the Wave.  This is a little known but very popular destination.  The BLM gives out only 20 permits a day, 10 are given in advance and 10 the day before.  I applied for the lottery on April 1st and was lucky enough to get 4 permits for August 1st.  The wave is located just south of the Utah border in Arizona.  It is about 45 miles from Page, AZ and requires about 10 miles of dirt road driving.

We arrived at the Wire Pass Trailhead at 4:00pm.  The hike to the Wave is 2.9 miles and has very little elevation gain.  It’s easy to get lost going there but we had a map, longitude and latitude coordinates and photographs of the terrain.  The hike itself is very scenic.  About a mile into the hike you come to the signin box for the wave hike.  The first part of the hike is on a sandy trail in a green brush field.  There is a ridge that you have to hike over and once over the ridge the scenery dramatically changes to rock formations and rocks everywhere.  It really looks like you’re in another world.

Before the ridge

Once over the ridge

About 1/2 mile from the Wave it started to rain.  I had flashbacks of our mountain biking trips because the rain water was cold.  It wasn’t the warm Phoenix rain we normally get.  Middle of nowhere, rain turning into hail, no warm clothes…  The rain was intermittent and it really changed the landscape colors.

You can see the wave from a few hundred feet away.  That’s when you begin to see it’s features.  It really is beautiful and unbelievable.  The fact that you are the only ones there also is great.  It was totally opposite of Antelope Canyon.  We stayed for about one hour just snapping pictures.  The wave is not very large, but moving a few feet in any direction changes its look.  Even laying down and tilting your head sideways makes it look totally different.  It was like being in a fun house.

Entrance to The Wave

We didn’t get to see the Second Wave.  We were told it was far, but when I got back I did some research only to find that it was 300 yards west.  While we were at the Antelope Canyon tour office they had some photos of waffle shaped rock formations that are supposedly at the Second Wave.  I haven’t been able to find any mention of them online.

We left the wave and hiked it back to the car in an hour.  We arrived at sunset and headed off to Zion National Park.  Yes its still the same day!

Zion National Park

We forgot that going from Arizona to Utah is a timezone change even though we just went straight north.  We lost an hour which sucked because it meant that we would have one less hour of sleep tonight.  The plan was to wake up and hike the Narrows, come back to the room and shower and then checkout and leave.

I didn’t get to sleep until 1:30am because I was busy uploading wave pics to Facebook.  I set my alarm for 6:30am.  Of course, the alarm did not go off.  We all woke up at 7:30am and got breakfast at Zion Lodge.  Since we had a late start, we would have to shorted our Narrows hike time.  We hopped on the shuttle bus and arrive at the Temple of Sinawava at 9:15am.  It was actually a cool morning for August at Zion.  I had a thin fleece jacket on in the morning.  The narrows trail starts as an easy paved trail for about a mile.  It ends at a drop in point where you will get wet if you go any further.

narrows drop in

The water was clear but fairly cold today.  The last time I went to the Narrows, the water was muddy and warm.  This time I brought trekking poles which made hiking in the water much easier.  As we hiked in the water got deeper.  It was much deeper than last time.  Jessica wasn’t too happy about this since I told her that the water would come to her knees.  There was a spot where we watched a 6’2″ guy cross with water to his waist.  I really thought that this was our turn around spot as it would have been 2 vs 2 if put to a vote.  But Chikara wanted to go forward.  So she trudged on holding her camera and shoes up high.


In our hiking democracy, this made the vote 3 to 1 against Jessica so she begrudgingly hiked into the waist deeper water.  Once past this point, the water was shallow again.  We reached Mystery Falls and snapped some photos and moved on.

Because we got a late start.  We were unable to get very far in the Narrows.  We had to turn around and check out by noon, so at 11am we turned around and headed back.  We got back to our room at noon and changed into dry clothes.  Nobody took showers, so we could have just checked out and hiked the Narrows without time constraints.  Oh well, live and learn.  I still haven’t made it to Orderville Canyon in the Narrows.  The third time’s a charm.

We began our 390 mile journey home.  We stopped in Kanab, UT for some lunch at Grandma Tina’s Cafe.   Someone who will remain nameless ummm let’s say stressed the toilet.  The lunch was “meh” which is being nice.   The rest of our drive was uneventful.  We got home around 7pm on Sunday.  It was a very long 37 hours but well worth it.

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Posted in Arizona and Hiking and Utah and Zion National Park
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  1. Debbie Nov 19th 2010

    Beautiful, beautiful pictures!!!
    The people shots showed the viewer the awesome perspective.
    And did you notice how ‘true’ the flesh tones were of the faces
    once you were down in the crevices? Just pure natural light.
    I want to go right now and experience this natural wonder.
    And Jessica (I think that’s your name) aren’t you glad you went
    ahead and waded the water? I know you all had such a fantastic
    trip. And thanks so much for sharing.
    It’s on my ‘bucket list.’

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