The Wave is an area of sandstone located in Arizona, just outside of Kanab Utah. It was a spot known to just a few people until July 22, 2009. That was the date that Microsoft launched Windows 7, with a beautiful photo of the wave as its desktop wallpaper. Since then, many have wanted to see this formation for themselves putting a strain on the small area.
Kyle looks over the hike.
Many have called the Wave the “Holy Grail of Hikes”. Not because of the difficult hike, but due to the difficulty in actually getting to go. The Wave sits in the Coyote Buttes / Paria Canyon section of the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Only 20 people a day (excluding guides and volunteers) are allowed to the opportunity to hike the area each day. The 20 person per day limit was set up to protect the delicate formations as the demand to see the area is constantly increasing.
To become one of the chosen few, a permit must be obtained. Don’t think that you can enter the area without one, as guides and volunteers are checking daily, and hefty fines are imposed for the rule breakers.
Just 10 online permits and 10 walk-in permits are issued for each day. The 10 online permits are obtained online and the drawing is held 4 months in advance. So if you would like to go in March, you need to apply between the 1st and 30th of November. There is a $5.00 fee and you can select 3 dates. If you are chosen, you have 14 days to respond, or your permit is put back into the system. Remember that the number of people in your party is the number of permits issued. So if a person with a group of 6 is chosen, there are only 4 permits remaining for that day.
Walk-in permits are held via lottery every morning at 9:00 AM at the BLM office in Kanab, Utah. Make sure that you are aware that AZ and Utah are on different time zones! The lottery to obtain permits for are held every day – for the next day. Meaning that a permit issued Monday is valid for the Tuesday hike. Permits for Sat-Mon are awarded on Fridays.
Heidi and I arrived at the BLM office Thursday morning. We had read online that the lottery process starts at 8:30 so we arrived a few minutes early. At 8:30 you are given a short brief and are led into the lottery room where you fill out your application. You are allowed one application per group - up to six people. It is one application per group rule – any duplicates will be thrown out.
We had a group of five that wanted to hike, so Heidi filled out the application and we waited for the drawing. It’s an intense experience waiting and wondering if you will be selected. You find yourself looking around the room wondering who will be among the chosen few. Once your application is completed, you will be issued a number for the lottery. The staff member may also remind you that every time that he drops a bingo ball representing your number into the hopper, your odds of obtaining a permit just lowered. The total number of applications reached 42 on our day. Which as it turns out is pretty average for midweek. But remember, that isn’t 42 people, it is 42 applications and each could represent up to 6 people.
Everyone starts checking their watches and a collective sigh is heard each time a person runs into the room to fill out a last-minute application.
At 9:00 a.m. sharp, he turns the crank, the balls rattle around and a number is drawn. Number 16 is called and it’s a group of two. Eight permits left.
Heidi looks at me at says “It’s just like Bingo – I got this”, and sure enough number 13 is the next number called. We are in!
The staff member looks at our application and addresses the crowd. “Remember that they are nice people, number 13 is a party of 5.” A groan is heard across the room.
Just 3 permits left. The next number is drawn and it’s for a party of 4. Oh no, there’s only 3 permits left! What happens now? The group is given a moment to discuss their options. Will they leave someone behind? Will they only go with 2? They take a pass on the permit. There are smiles across the room.
Another number is drawn and it’s for a group of 3. The lottery is over and people begin filing out, except of course, for the chosen few.
Another brief on the area is given, the rules are explained, and you will be given a map to the area. You pay a $7.00 per person fee and a tag is given to you. Half of which goes on the dashboard of your car and the other must be attached to your backpack while out hiking. We are going!
The trail head is located off of Highway 89 about an hour east of Kanab. The last 8-10 miles is on House Rock Valley Road, which is a rough dirt road that can become impassible in the event of rain.
My uncle Dennis, his son Kyle with his girlfriend Maria joined Heidi and me for the hike. Our group was joined by a friend and volunteer of the BLM – Brent. Brent makes the hike every Friday, not only to check permits, but to make certain that people are safe. His stories of people underestimating the hike or heat are amazing. While most people in decent shape can make the hike, getting lost, not bringing enough water, exhaustion from underestimating the distance, and injuries are the main causes of turning a good day into a serious situation.
While Heidi and I typically do our hikes alone, it was great having Brent along. So much so that I really recommend that if you do get a permit that you check in town or with the BLM and hire a guide for your trek. Not only for helping you to stay on the trail (which isn’t really well marked), but there is so much else to see in the area and these sites are often tricky to get to and can lead to people getting lost. Hikers have died in the area and its backcountry and having someone who knows the area means a safer and more enjoyable trip.
Most people travel to the Wave and back which is about a 6 mile round trip. As Brent will tell you there is so much more to see. With other stops we figured we did a little over 10 miles and were there over 8 hours as he guided us to places such as The Second Wave, Melody Arch, Top Rock Arch, The Alcove, and others. Make certain that you do your research on the area. The solitude and lack of people make the hike that much more enjoyable.
You are exposed to the sun on most all of the hike. While it was just 60 degrees when we were there, sunscreen is a must. I can’t imagine the folks that do the hike on 100+ degree days. There is a lot of deep sand to hike through and remember that you’ll be tired on your hike out.
After reaching the Wave, we saw a few other people and Brent headed over to make certain that they had their permit and that they were in good shape for the day. The Wave is incredible. Though just a small portion of the area, it is a one-of-a-kind. I think everyone tries to figure out exactly what went on here and how this was formed.
Photographers had the tripods lined up, trying to get the right angle and spot, and I felt rewarded for carrying all of my camera gear. The Wave is best photographed morning and mid-day. After a few clicks and running around, the gear was packed up and we continued onward, and upward.
Scrambling up along slickrock we went on to other sites and were offered a view from high above the Wave. Once you reach the top, you are rewarded with an incredible view as well as Melody Arch, Grotto, Top Rock Arch, to name a few.
Once back down, we passed by the Wave we posed for a few more photos before hitting the trail back to the car. We all left with smiles, as we were among the chosen few.
Some links/pages –
Water – bring a lot
Consider a guide
Take photos along the way, and looking back. These might be needed on the trip out.
Biscayne National Park
Park 29/59 wasn’t that great and I hate saying that about a National Park. While doing the research for this park, we came across this:
Boat Tours, Paddle-craft Rentals and Select Conveniences Temporarily Unavailable
Glass-bottom, snorkel, diving and island boat tours, and rentals for canoes and other paddle-craft, are temporarily unavailable. The park is working to resolve the issue as soon as possible and regrets the inconvenience.
So….we went anyway and found that there isn’t much to do at Biscayne when you are land-locked. The park Visitor Center looks like a small marina and there is a short walking path that leads out towards the bay. Nice quick stroll down this path, and while you have a nice view of the bay, to your right you will find boats pulling out of the marina adjacent the park as well as a great view of a power plant. Jets from the nearby Navy Base do provide some entertainment as they made several passes while we were there. Pretty loud, but interesting to watch as they went about their business.
Because we were staying in Florida City we did make another attempt (Perhaps we missed something?) at the park on a Saturday, and wow, was it packed! Picnickers, and birthday parties filled the grounds! It looked like any local city park on a summer’s day. Not exactly a National Park experience.
I get the fact that this park is to protect the bay and that most of the park is under water. I’ve seen images that are very interesting and places that I might like to explore. Perhaps it is a great place for local schools to come and learn about the bay but for visiting park guests from out of state, not really worth the stop without being able to experience the bay itself. Take a pass.
More images here.
A friend suggested that I start selling my images through a "Print on Demand" company. Customers can purchase my images as well as get various products right to their home. After doing some research, I found that fineartamerica seemed to be the best deal around, for both the customer and the photographer. Better exposure that I can provide? I'm sure of that.
I've put a few up now and I'll report back on how they are doing. Please be sure to check out their site, there are some amazing photographs on the site!
Recently I had the pleasure to work with WTTW's Jay Shefsky on the Sandhill Crane Migration and their stop-over at Jasper Pulaski Fish and Wildlife area. We got quite the suprise when a phone call came in from the Field Museum's Josh Engle who had spotted two Whopping Cranes nearby. Pretty cool anytime that you get to see an endangered species.
The link to the video - Chasing Cranes
Guadalupe National Park. Yep! For certain I had never heard of that one. Nor have I ever heard of anyone saying let’s go there on vacation! But since the Park is on the wife’s list and its right next door to Carlsbad Cavern, we were off! AND, this park doesn’t disappoint! It’s the remnants of an ancient coral reef and boasts the highest peak in Texas. Others claim that McKittrick Canyon is actually the prettiest spot in all of Texas. Now that may be true, but I think that that may have been said in another season other than winter. We enjoyed hiking this park and it far exceeded our expectations. While we didn’t do the 3000ft climb to the summit we went on a lot of hikes that were challenging and gave us the escape that we were looking for. I couldn’t get over the silence. Not a sound.
Located right on the border of New Mexico it’s a very easy trip from either El Paso or Carlsbad. Carlsbad is about the closest town with a familiar hotel chain so Heidi and I stayed there. I would highly recommend to anyone who goes to Carlsbad not to miss out on this lesser known gem. Be sure to catch a sunrise and set, at the park. Park number 23 for Heidi was a great surprise!
For more photos - click HERE!
Trying to get a small break from this relentless winter we packed up and headed south. Flying into El Paso, we made our way to our first destination, Big Bend National Park , and the 22nd park on Heidi’s list. This park sits 4 ½ hours to the south of El Paso and on the Rio Grande River. The river separates the US and Mexico and cuts through canyons making for some great views. It could also give Montana a run as “Big Sky Country”. Clear blue skies provide a horizon to horizon view and the stars certainly are “Big and Bright” in this area of Texas.
Santa Elena Canyon
Most of the towns in the area are abandoned as are the couple of old homesteads within the park. An abandoned hotel and store sit next to the river where hot springs still provide relief for sore knees bubbling up at over 100 degrees. These springs were once touted as a cure-all to most every disease known and attracted many people.
Heidi at the "Spa"
The park hotel was sold out so we stayed in the town of Lajitas. The town won’t be on your GPS and this hotel sells out quickly, but I would give it a recommend and the bar and restaurant made for a great place to unwind after a long day of hiking.
Big Bend kept surprising us with its different features and terrain. From the hot springs, deep canyons, great hikes, and big skies, it kept us going from sun-up to sun-down.
Rio Grande Valley
Lost Mine Trail
Just north of Lajitas we did come across an old movie set, worth the trip. - Contrabando
Church at Contrabando
Although we went during February, and everyone says the "You should see it in the fall!", we enjoyed the hikes and everything that the park had to offer.
To see the rest of the photos, as well as other National Parks, simply click HERE.
4 out of 5 Stars
Shower could use some help
Confusing to check in- “Where’s the lobby?”
Great bar, service and food
Staff was great
Heidi and I decided on Hawaii’s National Parks early on in the year, however we weren't that sure that we were going to be able to go. I don’t think that I’ll ever forget her excitement when she told me that she had booked the tickets and said “We’re going.”
The airport in Maui is small and the entire island is pretty easy to get around. There can be some traffic going from one side to the other, but sitting in traffic in Maui just doesn’t seem to take the same toll on you as it does in Chicago. Weird!
Our first nights were spent in Kaanapali at the Kaanapali Beach Resort. A little older with clean rooms and grounds and the beach was a very nice white sand beach. The Tiki Bar by the pool was a nice place to relax after a long day of site-seeing. Yes, most certainly I would stay there again. What everyone seems to ask is “Was it expensive?” Yes. So is everything in Hawaii. I’m sure that there are deals if you look and before going we read about everything from renting a time-share to stocking up at Costco. Research, set your budget and then be prepared to crush it.
The first stop planned was Haleakala National Park on the island of Maui. We decided to make the trek to see the sunrise atop the 10,000 foot peak. The sunrise at Haleakala is the number one thing not to miss on Maui! From the top of the dormant Volcano, you are above the clouds, and the light changes in seconds. The peak looks as if it is from a different world with old cinder cones and volcanic rock.
It’s cold. 35 is tough after enjoy an 80 degree day at the beach. People were wrapped in their hotel blankets.
(Heidi at the summit)
It’s crowded. Get there early! Parking at the top fills up fast, and there’s only one winding road to the top.
It’s desolate. One road-side coffee shop about halfway up, and yes, at 4:00 in the morning, they were open.
It does clear out fast 15 minutes after the sunrise. Plan to enjoy the summit and take your time on the way down. It’ll be slow going anyway as you dodge the bicycle groups heading down.
However, DO NOT MISS THIS!
After the sunrise Heidi and I walked a couple of the trails and checked out the views. Making her way into the visitor’s center she had her book stamped and park number 20 on her bucket list was logged.
Heading back down the mountain we stopped at the hotel to lose about 30 pounds of clothes. We decided to hit the north shore of the island and check out the various beaches, cliffs and overlooks.
(Nakalele Blow Hole)
(North Shore, Maui)
After a couple of nights there, including our Thanksgiving Luau, we made our way to Hana, and the Travaasa Hotel.
(Road to Hana)
(Road to Hana)
(Heidi trying to catch crabs)
(Haleakala National Park)
What a place! No TV, radio, or clocks in the room. A perfect spot to call home base and relax while exploring the rest of Haleakala. Each day we explored new sites along the coast and hiked to several waterfalls within the park. Two pristine beaches on the way are straight out of a postcard. I loved Hana, and although Heidi would have liked a few more restaurant / shopping choices, it was perfect.
We flew to the big island and made our way to the Volcano House Hotel located in (number 21 for us) Volcanoes National Park. Typical National Park Hotel and you can tell that it had recently gone through a makeover. Heidi and I have enjoyed the times that we have spent at National Park Hotels and, while they may not have every modern amenity, the character hooks us every time. Our room overlooked the crater and at night gave a nice red glow letting you know that the forces of nature were still working away forming a bigger island.
(Volcanoes National Park)
While no lava was currently hitting the ocean we enjoyed this island immensely. We spent 3 nights exploring the various areas of the park and making our way along the southern edge of the island up to Kona which was much more touristy. In and around Hilo there were other areas to explore and we can't wait to get back and see the areas that we missed.
(Hawaii Tropical Gardens)
Wonderful trip and we just can't wait to return to paradise.
To see more photos:
Photographing Haleakala Sunrise
Get there early, a tripod and GND filters are must haves
Cold, but a not-to-miss destination
Maui Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook by Andrew Doughty
One of the best travel books and a must have
Kaanapali Beach Resort
I give it 4 of 5 stars
Great staff, beach, Tiki bar, clean room
Pricey breakfast buffet
Old Lahaina Luau
No corniness, good show, and food. Drinks could use some help.
Road to Hana
Yeah, yeah… 600 curves, 100 one-lane bridges, etc., etc. Not that big of a deal, SPECTACULAR scenery. Take it, explore it, and stay in Hana a night. What’s the hurry anyway?
4 out of 5 Stars
Seaside cottages are amazing
Restaurant Staff needs some training, which is a shame
Volcano House Hotel
Awesome, 5 out of 5 stars. Food and view are just great.
Well we were back out on the road again! This time we decided to hit two out-of-the-way parks and make it back it time to hook up with the friends for the annual guy’s trip to Vegas. There is so much in the southwest to see and since it’s so spread out, making a decision to see this or that always leads to a 6 hour drive.
Flying into Vegas we hit the Walmart for a cooler and supplies and we made our way to our first destination, Joshua Tree National Park. Now going to the desert in the summer isn’t the brightest idea, however since I couldn’t convince anyone to move the date of the World Series of Poker, we had to make the best of it. But, when the rental car showed 118 degrees, I did start to second guess this plan. The nights were very pleasant and we hiked early and late to take advantage of the cooler temps. All in all we weren’t out that often in the heat and while it was hot, we were ok.
Joshua is a barren place, with a few old ruins of settlers who had once tried to make a go at living in this desolate area. There are many unique rock formations as well as the signature trees, but it is mostly barren with low scrub brush and cactus. Hiking in the heat is tough and it is amazing how fast you can go through the water.
After spending the night in 29 Palms, we spent the morning hiking a few more trails and started towards our next park, Great Basin.
This park is truly in the middle of nowhere Nevada, and I can certainly see why it doesn’t attract too many visitors, it's tough to get too! It isn’t a very large park however the 2nd highest peak in Nevada, Wheeler Peak, is a fantastic hike and offers great views of the basins below. If altitude isn’t your thing, then the Lehman Cave tour is another don’t miss. The 90 minute tour is great and at 55 degrees year round, it makes for a nice cool break. The only downside to this park is the remoteness, as Ely, the nearest town with a decent hotel, is 70 miles away making it a tough commute each day to the park.
After two nights, we headed towards my Aunt’s house in Kanab Utah with Zion being our next destination. Wow! Now we’ve been to Zion before, however never during tourist season. What a difference! The park gets filled quickly and because we are usually there when it’s empty, we had to come up with another plan. Taking in the Kolob Canyon area of Zion (Northern section of the park) is a great way to see some of the Park’s diversity while completely getting away from the traffic in the main section. We spent the entire day hiking and perhaps ran across 10 people. Perfect Day!
Back in the car again! This time we’re heading east through Page and on to Monument Valley. I’ve always wanted to see this area and have always seemed to miss it. It didn’t disappoint. Great views and, although the road is pretty tough through the valley, it’s nothing short of amazing. We had to stop by Horseshoe Bend when we returned to Page for the night. It’s another site not to miss if you are in the area.
After 2400 miles, (no, not a typo) we were headed to Vegas to hook up with friends for the World Series of Poker. While Heidi went home a couple of days ahead of me, we both thought that the trip was worth all of the time in the car and the scenery certainly didn’t disappoint.
Business trip! The trip required me to work the weekend so I asked my boss if I could have a couple of days vacation at the end of the trip. He agreed and the wife decided that she would come along as Fresno California just so happens to be located right in the middle of a few National Parks.
Now for those of you that have tried such an endeavor, you’re really not “on vacation” on these types of trips. There are lots of phone calls to be made and, because Heidi had given such short notice, a lot of meetings needed planned and attended to while trying to go see some sites. We tried to make the best of it and even though work needed to be done, it was much nicer working in Fresno than back in Chicago where the winter of ’13 just won’t end.
Until April 15th the majority of this park is closed due to snow. What we could see was nothing short of spectacular. The panoramas along with the giant sequoias are awesome! We made our way up the mountain taking in the sites and then on to Hume Lake. Taking a break from the car we walked along the trails and then took in the big trees at several other stops. I cannot wait to see the rest of this park when I return.
This park is a must see if you’re in the area. While the big trees are the main reason most folks go, the trails, canyons and streams from the snow melt, are unreal. The road up the mountain takes you through the Giant Forest where you are surrounded by the tall pines and sequoias. How big are they? Too big to photograph! One tree has a circumference of 96 feet!
The park was a repeat for Heidi and I, but a first time that we were here in the spring. The spring runoff makes all the difference in seeing the park’s waterfalls. We had visited in the fall when most of the waterfalls were a mere trickle. Not so this trip – it’s crazy how much water there actually is.
The newest of the National Parks. It was upgraded from National Monument in Jan. 2013. This park is all about the rolling California foothills and a conservation area for some of California’s wildlife. We enjoyed the trails and making our way in and out of small caves along the way. The park isn’t that large and easy to cover. The exposed rocks (ancient Volcano) along the reservoir resides the Pinnacles. After leaving the park we couldn’t resist taking a drive along the coast. While the weather along the coast didn’t cooperate, it was still a much needed break from the Chicago cold.
Great getaway and 3 new parks for my honey!
The rest of the photos are in the park galleries and can be found by clicking Here!
Catching a comet turned out to be – not so easy. This is comet PAN-STARRS, and for us here in the Chicago area that sees about 6 clear nights a year, the odds weren’t too great that I could get an image. This comet appeared on the horizon, just after sunset, and with the clouds on the horizon I had 3 to 4 minutes to see it as clouds passed in front of it. (That and it took a long time to even find it!) Now it’s supposed to get higher in the sky, however as it does it will get fainter as it moves further away. Perhaps the one due to arrive in November will put on a better show.
My feeble attempt –
« Older Posts
© KKoontz Photography