Hiking the Utah

Every year in May we meet up with friends to hike southern Utah. One year it was Arches National Park (and the surrounding area), then it was a canoe trip down the Green River, and this year it was the area between Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon. Over the years I’ve had to get my “sea legs” so to speak and learn how to backpack and car camp. Sure, we car camped as children but children aren’t responsible for their gear, food, bathing, etc. As an adult, however, you are. As for backpacking: my first experience was in Glacier six years ago. I’d bought the gear, read the books, took the REI class, and still I had a lot to learn. Now, however, it’s not so hard. Or at least, I know what to take and what to leave at home, I know how to “bathe,” and I know how to poop (yep…).

So this year was a bit of a surprise (and relief, if I’m being honest) to learn that we weren’t going to backpack. Nor were we really going to camp. Instead, we car camped, and for two nights even camped at a real-life, honest-to-goodness campground! With showers!

Our good fortune was thanks to The Wave — a permit-only landmark that you may be familiar with thanks to the Windows desktop image. We did not get a permit (the lottery is for 10 people, and each day 60+ people arrive to put their names in for the drawing). I didn’t care much, however, because we got to see this (not the best picture):

white pockets

It’s called White Pockets, and I think that in a couple years, it too will be permit-only. The biggest adventure of the trip was driving the 30 miles back to the landmark along a road that was literally all sand. Here’s us towing our friend’s two-wheel drive out of a rut:

Truck Towing a Truck

After that whole ordeal (and staying the night back there), we decided we deserved a break and since we were returning to Kanab to have another go at a Wave permit, we would stay at a campground and have a shower. It was nice, if a little weird. You get so used to the idea that for an entire week the only thing you’ll have to clean yourself with is a baby wipe or a desert stream.

Maze Art

After that, our day hikes weren’t as spectacular, although in Utah you can’t go wrong. Honestly, it’s some of the most breathtaking landscape I’ve ever seen. Pictures really don’t do it justice because they don’t capture the light properly, or the 3-D aspects of the formations. Even so, I freaking love Utah.

But how did Utah’s landscape get so weird (and beautiful)? Water drainage, sandstone, erosion. These all played a part in shaping Utah’s unique formations.

To get the beaut of White Pockets and the Wave, windblown sand formed dunes in the Jurassic period, and then the wind patterns changed and laid down sand  in different directions–thus the striations.

Heat, pressure, and/or the chemical action of fluids and gases have worked over millions of years to form other landscapes, like this arch in Bryce Canyon, made of sandstone that’s been eroded away.

Or how about this toadstool in Toadstools wilderness area.

Toadstools. UT

It’s simply amazing to me that these geologic formations are so unique to Utah. Sure, it’s part of the Grand Staircase, but it’s still mind-blowing to drive down an interstate lined with trees and “regular” mountains and suddenly be inundated with beauty such as this:

Trees out of rocks


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