Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Road to Kanab

When I left Mississippi, I had some time to kill before meeting with Quentin in Moab.  Kill's the wrong word.  I had plenty of time to have fun in the Mountain timezone.  Yeah, that's more accurate.  I'd been to most of the Southern Utah State and National Parks over the past few years, but there were still a few I needed to see.  Highest on the list was The Wave (North Coyote Buttes), closely followed by Buckskin Gulch and Paria Canyon.  The Wave, while not the most exciting due to its lack of both sprawl and interactivity, is one of the most iconic and beautiful bits of the Utah canyonscape.  Buckskin and Paria, on the other hand, came highly recommended by a friend that had hiked them both, and not because they were pretty, but because they were adventures. Buckskin is the longest slot canyon in the US.  That's the kind of canyon you either drown or lose an arm in.  It sounded great.

Taking a peek at a map, it looked like I would be able to check another spot off of the list: The Vermillion Cliffs.  I had seen them on many maps and multiple books about Utah's geology, but wasn't quite sure what their deal was.  Situated on the Staircase between Escalante and the Grand Canyon, they had to, at the very least, be beautiful.  Quentin never showed much interest in visiting them, but then he can be a real Negative Nancy at times, so I wasn't going to let that slow me down.  I'd also be passing by the Grand Canyon on the way, so I figured I'd swing by that old hole for a bit while I was in the neighborhood.  That's another place Q poo-pooed but I still had some hopes for.

A sense of purpose and a general route were beginning to solidify.  I was looking at: Jackson > Vermillion Cliffs > Wave/Buckskin/Paria (via Kanab, UT) > Moab.  I wasn't sure what came between Jackson and the Cliffs, but I knew a lot of it was Texas, so I was planning on finishing the trip as quickly as possible.  Texas in August is no place for someone that spent their previous two summers in Alaska.  The only thing I was excited for in Texas was the possibility of seeing an armadillo, but other than that, I could live without the rest of that state's offerings.

The first thing Texas had to offer was horrific heat that made me glad to driving in a climate controlled Silverado.  Then came an explosive lightning storm that made me uncomfortable pulling a 14' trailer through gusty wind and blinding rain.  When I pulled into Childress, TX for the night, lightning was striking all around me.  Twice it hit so close that it temporarily shut off all the lights in town.  Between the daytime heat and nighttime lightning, I was really happy to not be on a bicycle anymore.

The next night ended in Winslow, AZ (at the Motel 10), putting me a short drive from the Grand Canyon.  Motel 10 was the type of lodging where it was normal to see people lounging out front of their doors on folding chairs brought from home smoking cigarettes.  I fit right in as I sat out there cooking noodles on a camp stove.  When I left in the morning, I asked the guy at the front desk if they had coffee.  He said they weren't that kind of hotel.

Next stop was the Grand Canyon.  Having since been there, I can see why Q wouldn't want to go there.  Aside from having a $30 entry fee (Just get a National Parks pass if you go, they pay for themselves.), it is packed to the gills with tourists from everywhere under the sun.  I drove around for half an hour before I finally found a spot to park my truck and trailer.  Those are two things that would normally scare me away, but I was so close I just couldn't skip it without feeling like a jerk.

That watchtower was built during the depression.  Read about it here.

After hiking around for a bit, oohing and ahhing all the way, I hit the road so I could reach the Vermillion Cliffs before dark.  It is very difficult to see the color vermillion in the dark.  I really was happy to have seen the Grand Canyon again, as my memories should hold me over from having to visit again for another 30 years.  Sure, it was crowded, but put yourself in the shoes of someone who hasn't been to many parks.  If you're going to visit one, go for the granddaddy of them all, right?

Here's a crazy fact:  From the North Rim of the GC to Kanab, UT is 64 miles and takes 2:50 to drive.  From the South Rim (where I was) to Kanab is 186 miles and takes 2:58 to drive.  That ride from the North Rim sounded as treacherous as the ride from the South Rim was circuitous.  Or at least it does with a front wheel truck towing a trailer.

An hour and a half later, I reached the Colorado River.  The river responsible for the Grand Canyon even though it's just a baby of a river anymore.  I made a quick stop at the Navajo Bridge to stretch my legs, and then headed west.  The Vermillion Cliffs were to my right for the next thirty miles or so (and not as brightly colored as I'd hoped), and again I was happy to not have Quentin with me.  They were not that exciting.  Beautiful, but with the sun setting and Kanab to be reaching, there was no time to set off into them for exploring.  Now that I've seen them from alongside, I'd like to do a Wahweap/V. Cliffs trip one day and see what they really offer.  Maybe make it part of a longer adventure in the general area.

Anyway, the sun was setting, so I needed to get going.  I wasn't sure what the camping situation was in Kanab and I still had an hour or so of driving ahead of me.  That hour and a half wasn't so bad with the scenery, though:



I reached Kanab in the dark and headed straight to the BLM office responsible for distributing permits to North Coyote Buttes.  The sign said to come back at 8:30am for the 9am permit lottery.  With that early of a start time, I wanted to camp nearby, but had no idea where.  The BLM anticipated this, though, and "No Camping" were visible throughout the parking lot.  Fair enough.  I drove over to a nearby 7-11 to get gas and figure out my camping situation.  While pumping gas, I watched a big rig drive behind the store and not come back out.  It looked like I had found my home for the evening.

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