A four night road trip to Northern Arizona and Southern Utah. This was motel camping! One night in Flagstaff and three nights in Page, Arizona. We even had great Chicago-style Stuffed Pizza in Flagstaff! The main goal of this trip was to visit South Coyote Buttes, a special management area of the BLM. Only 20 people a day are allowed, 10 walk-ins and 10 advanced reservations. We got our permit on December 1 of last year. This area is a photographer's dream!
We left ABQ Wednesday afternoon March 21 and drove to Petrified Forest National Park for a quick visit. They actually close the park road at 5pm and herd you out! There is definitely a LOT of petrified wood laying about and some really big tree trunks.
After our night in Flagstaff, we drove north to Page, but not before doing a quick detour west to see the Grand Canyon at Desert View. That big ditch is always awe inspiring. We also stopped at a Navajo scenic viewing area to see the Little Colorado River Gorge. Not very much water in the Little Colorado River!
We arrived in Page early enough to get in a 4+ mile hike a short drive northwest of Page in Southern Utah: Bucktank Draw and Birthday Arch. It was cloudy with a few sprinkles but no rain. We hiked up the draw, scrambling up a couple of small dryfalls and bypassing one larger dryfall. Birthday Arch was easy to find, high up on a mesa rim above us. We stayed above the draw on the way back with interesting sandstone formations and colors.
Friday was the big day: South Coyote Buttes. On the way, we stopped at Marble Canyon and got an unexpected bonus! Several California Condors flying and on ledges in the canyon. These threatened birds have been transplanted to the Vermillion Cliffs area and appear to be doing very well!
The South Coyote Buttes permit area is not as famous as the North Coyote Buttes ("The Wave"), but some say it is more picturesque overall. You can be the judge of that from the following photos of the colorful Cottonwood Teepees formations.
The South area is also harder to access. Miles of rough dirt roads with deep sand and high centers. A good 4x4 with high clearance is a definite requirement. We outfitted the Xterra for self rescue: sand traction boards, shovels, big air compressor if airing down. Luckily it actually rained the night before (but not much), so the sand was firmer and easier to drive on. No getting stuck in the sand.
The weather started out mostly cloudy but cleared up considerable while we were there. The colors were outstanding, the formations fantastic. There were even dinosaur tracks! It hard to imagine how erosion could turn out these weird and fantastic "rocks".
Saturday's hike was down Buckskin Gulch to "Edmaier's Secret". This area is in Southern Utah, just north of yesterday's hike. Edmaier's is a region of "brain rocks", sandstone "waves" and fantastic thin fins of rock and "honeycomb" forms. Again, how does erosion create these weird and wonderful "rocks"!
Buckskin Gulch is a world famous slot canyon further south, but shallow and wide for our hike. There was a little flowing water in the Gulch, so we had to carefully find crossings to keep from getting muddy boots. After a couple of miles, you just turn East and there is the "Secret". Wander at your leisure finding the treasures.
We had time for a couple of stops on the way back from Edmaiers. The Smoky Mountain Road is a long gravel/dirt track that heads off North in the Utah badlands. Different looking scenery with gold rocks and black sediments for lower mesa layers. We were looking for the HUGE hoodoo we had encountered several years earlier just a few miles off the highway. Looking at the first hoodoo image, you don't realize how big it is. But with Stef standing under it, realization strikes!
It was getting close to sunset for our second stop. Good for evening lighting! Studhorse Point is on the edge of a high mesa with a very picturesque group of hoodoos. Also very good views of the desert valley below.
The dirt roads were very good until we got close to the Point and encountered a hill with deep sand. We didn't make it up the first time! We just backed down the hill since the wheels hadn't been buried. Our second attempt was successful with a running start and no slowing down.
Sunday was the long drive back to ABQ, but we did get in a short morning walk in Cathedral Wash back in the Marble Canyon area. The trailhead is right off a paved road. Easy to get to!
A very picturesque canyon. We had planned to hike down to the Colorado River, but were thwarted. There were several dryfalls to navigate/bypass via ledges and downclimbs. But the final dryfall was very deep and the downclimbs looked a bit hazardous so we bailed. A nice hike none the less!
It was a 6-7 hour drive from Page back to ABQ, mostly on Interstate 40. Probably our least favorite highway due to all the semi's. The old Route 66 is very popular with the big trucks!