We won. Not money, but a permit to hike 3 miles to the Wave, in the Vermilion Cliffs area of North Coyote Buttes. This was a rare chance to see one of nature’s beautiful formations. Its popularity as a Microsoft screensaver has given it free advertising around the world. Now photographers and hikers from the U.S. and around the world compete to get one of the 20 daily permits. As many as 500 people enter a lottery on-line 4 months in advance to have a chance at 1 of 10 permits. By showing up at the Kanab, Utah BLM office at 8:30 a.m. you have a chance at 1 of the remaining 10 permits, for the following day.
The day we went, there were about 35 people gathered, from around the globe: China, Switzerland, California, Utah, Arizona, Germany. The Chinese had a group of 6, and after they won, that left only 4 slots. But it was our lucky day. (They actually check permits out there, and the fine is $1200 if you are caught without one.)
The hike is 3 miles one-way in a wilderness area; there are no trails on the open rock, no cairns, no shade, 90 degrees or more in the summer. If it does rain, you have to worry about lightning, and then about getting out of the parking area. Flash floods can quickly isolate you, cutting off the dirt road there. They tell you to carry a minimum of 1 gallon of water per person. They explain how people get lost, and give you map with photos showing landmarks to get there, and to get back.
We were on the trail before 20 minutes before sunrise, to avoid the heat, and the “crowds.” Arriving first, I felt comfortable flying the drone for some overhead views, but the wind was up, and the clouds were getting dark. After an hour at the Wave, we got the expected photographs and it started to rain. There were about 10 of us there; we all headed back the 3 miles to the parking lot. ½ way we met 4 wet hikers, on their way in to the Wave. And then, about ½ mile from the parking lot we meet a guy on the trail who says “your name is Meyer, right?” Wow, they do check…he was heading out and had a list of names with permit numbers.
It was a dream come true to actually see it for myself, but even if you don’t get there, the surrounding area is full of beautiful landscapes: The Toadstools, White Pocket, Paria Canyon, Wirepass Slot Canyon, Buckskin Gulch, and many more.