I'd seen the pictures of The Wave many times. I think there's one as an option for your desktop background on a Mac (or is it PC?). It's one of those places that pops up on bucket lists, and one of those places you ooh and aah at but never really investigate, at least, I didn't. I never thought I'd go, I never really considered it to be honest, and I'm not sure how I ended up Googling my way to finding out about it, but I did.
A protected area, the Bureau of Land Management only allow 20 people to hike to the The Wave each day, and due to the huge demand, they began a lottery service for tickets. Three months before you plan to hike, you enter the lottery, choosing three dates. I entered thinking I'd never win. But I did. Looks like I was going to America.
I couldn't, of course, go all the way to Arizona from my home in Copenhagen, Denmark for a one-day hike, so planned a full week. I love Arizona, that's no secret, but I decided I'd venture up to Utah and pay Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park a visit. I'd been to both before, but never hiked in them before. Unfortunately, time would only afford one day in each park, but it was better than nothing.
I made a plan.
From Phoenix to Wickenburg; Wickenburg to Kingman; Kingman to Flagstaff via Peach Springs; Flagstaff to Page; The Wave; Page to Bryce Canyon; Bryce Canyon to Kanab; Zion National Park; then finally, Kanab all the way to Phoenix.
I didn't do the dinosaur tracks. It would be the fourth time I'd driven past them without stopping. This time, I decided to save that for my son when he's older.
I flew through the first couple of days. I had a nasty cold, and spent most of each day focused on getting dinner and into an early bed. It was such a shame as I was visiting areas I'd not been to before, like Kingman, Hackberry General Store, Peach Springs and that great stretch of Route 66 that burrows through the wide plains of north-east Arizona.
From Kingman I drove to Seligman, and from there I meandered along Route 66, stopping occasionally to drink in the view and imagine those old Fords, struggling through the mud, the dust, the heat, the pain and the fear, all on their way to California. It's not too hard to do so. I doubt the view has changed all that much.
I spend a night in Flagstaff, where I visit museums, eat a great burrito, drink a couple of beers, and finally start to feel human again. I'm sad to leave the next day, but am also itching to get to Page, and to get out on the desert roads.
I set off reasonably early from Page, after a good breakfast and lots of coffee. The roads are quiet, the sky is blue and I switch through the local country music stations as I make my way on up Route 89. Around Cameron is when the desert really starts, and I pull over a few times to enjoy the view. I arrive at Page far too early to check in, so I head to Glen Dam for a short tour, and then to Lake Powell for a swim.
I'd never been on the dam before so was pretty excited. It's big, that's for sure. Unfortunately, the lift to the bottom was out of order, so I had to make do with standing on the dam. I was OK with that.
After an hour or so, I hit Lake Powell and her beautifully and slightly eerie clear waters. I found a cove all to myself, put my bag in the small patch of shade that there was, and gingerly dived in to the cool, cool waters.
This is a bit of a cheat. I didn't actually visit Antelope Canyon on this trip, but seeing as I've not included it in another story, I thought I might as well here. I visited back in 2013. It was beautiful. We had a hopeless guide, which marred the experience, but the canyon spoke for itself.
Although I'd been to Horseshoe Bend a fair few times before, I'd never seen it at sunset, so this time I made the effort to wait. The short hike out was much more pleasant in the cooler evening light, and even though the crowds were out in force, I managed to find a little spot for myself where I sat, and watched as people wandered too close to the edge, set up tripods and enjoyed the view.
The sun dipped down, and photos were taken.
At last my day to hike the to The Wave arrived. I set out very early, and after a long drive down a very, very washed out road (to the point when I thought I'd have to turn back), I finally arrived at the trailhead.
It was a long, hot and hard hike out. When I arrived, I sat in the shade, ate and gulped down water. Then I explored. We were about 6 people when I arrived, but one by one they moved on, and for a while I had it to myself. I could have stayed for hours and hours and would have, if I had more water. 5 litres wasn't enough.
I was sad to leave, and even felt guilty about it. I should have thought ahead. I should have brought more water. I should have stayed longer.
The day after The Wave, I drove up to Bryce. Southern Utah left me breathless: it's extraordinarily beautiful and such a departure from Arizona! Lush low meadows, meandering rivers and picture-perfect houses. Next time I head this way, I've got to explore more.
Bryce was as lovely as I remember. It was my first time hiking in the canyon, and, as can be expected, it was an experience.
I stayed in Kanab while in Utah, a super little town with the most amazing cliffs as a constant backdrop. Once again, I tell myself to come back. I'm so incredibly envious of people who live here. I wonder if they realise how lucky they are to live in such spectacular scenery?
I get up very early to hike out to Angel's Landing in Zion. It's still dark when I get on the bus to the trailhead. I'm not alone on the bus, but we soon set our own pace on the trail, and I'm alone until I reach Scout's Lookout – the final stop before the last 800 metres to Angel's Landing.
I seriously contemplated not doing it, but decided I'd see how far I could get. Luckily, I got all the way. Going back was a breeze. I'll do that again.
Some precarious spots sandwiched between the 1000 meter drop-offs either side.
Long way down.
After some lunch I head to Canyon Overlook, a short hike out to a great view.
I wish I could do more hikes, but time won't allow it. It's a shame, but Zion will be here for a long time.
On the way back to Kanab, I pass by signs for a state park and decide to make a spontaneous stop. I'm so glad I did. Small, quiet and quite different, the park begs to be explored, and despite not really meaning to, I end up climbing the biggest sand dune.
After one more night in Kanab, I make the drive back to Phoenix. 351 miles of beauty fly past my window, and while my heart is heavy to be leaving somewhere so special to me, I'm beside myself with excitement about seeing my little boy and wife again.
Next time, they're coming with me.