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Imagine you face or faces inserted in this image and let's get started on another virtual hiking tour. . .

In case you missed it, the Capitol Reef diary brought attention to one of the truly most sensational topography layouts in southeast Utah, the Waterpocket Fold. (Recommend reading Some folks were irked this diary came and went so fast. But it's all about timing and no worries. . .everything is preserved in my profile's archives. Today's special supplement, however, covers just some aspect of this immense country. Notably, hiking in this convoluted territory. But I wanted to add something else in the way of a hike, which I have mentioned this locale a time or two in other diaries: The Wave. It's setting is somewhat found in this region. Then again, given the immensity of the Colorado Plateau one must always keep in mind the significance of that often used word, relatively.

Before you get started on these hiking adventures a word to the wise: hiking in desert-canyon terrain can sometimes be a challenge to mind, body and spirits. When hiking in tepid to simmering weather, the challenge is heightened, mainly because water, the elixir you always want to have with you, and eating munchies between sips can sometimes mean the difference between coherency and confusion. In an earlier diary, The Art of Backpacking, I presented sound tips for such an activity, including some sound medical advice. I suggest you read this diary even if you think you already know what you need to know about backpacking: For geology, here's another diary for those of you who are interested in rocks and identifying rock formations and geophysical stuff: Finally, for desert terrain ecology, some of you might find the substance of this diary interesting:

I posted these (among other similar diaries) for just such a purpose, sort of like a diary archives and reference source. That being said, if Dkos community readers have any questions or concerns about previous diaries and would like to post questions, I suggest contacting me only through my profile email, since I seldom review diaries posted so long ago.

Here, is are two photos where today's special tour will take you and so let's get started on the trail and try and beat the heat. Looks like it's rapidly warming up and I always suggest losing sleep to beat the heat. In other words, get on the trail as soon as you can.

A rather convoluted topography, wouldn't you say? (Thomas Wiewandt photo)

And here's a bizarre and enchanting place that truly fits its apt designate:

(Continues after the fold.)

Getting Started––The Waterpocket Fold Rim Overlook: The famed Waterpocket Fold is a major monocline of the Colorado Plateau. Its unique features were formed some 65 million years ago during the Laramide Orogeny (when the Rocky Mountains were created). This lengthy stretch of bent, tilted and broken rock creates a string of rugged sandstone cliffs that meander nearly 100 miles from Utah’s Thousand Lake Mountain to the Colorado River in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (Lake Powell country). Here in the heart of Capitol Reef NP the Fremont River cuts the largest canyon through the fold country.

The Rim Overlook hike begins 2 miles east from the park’s visitor center on Hwy. 24 between Hanksville and Torrey, Utah. (Keep in mind all milage is close, though sometimes may not be spot-on. Ergo, not always precise.) Turn left at the sign for the trailhead. This roundtrip trail is 4.5 miles and encompasses the lofty sandstone cliffs of the national park. The elevation is between 5,360 and 6,360 feet. The trail climbs high above the Fremont River and provides an outstanding panoramic view along the Waterpocket Fold. It follows the natural slope of the rocky topography and ever gets too steep nor strenuous. One of the highlights along the way is the Hickman Natural Bridge––a 130 foot span and 125 foot height.

NPS photo:

This moderate hike also shares the trailhead with the Hickman Bridge Trail and begins by climbing stone steps constructed along ledges above the Fremont River. The ledge-forming Kayenta Formation separates the massive cliffs of the Wingate Sandstone below from the glistening white Navajo Sandstone that adorns the top of Waterpocket Fold. At the top of a series of short switchbacks cutting through the ledges there’s a short spur trail to the right leading to a viewpoint of Navajo Dome. The park designate takes its name from such unique landforms. This particular erosional remnant is sculpted in the wind-blown sands of the Navajo Sandstone. The vertical lines in the rock face are fractures formed as the rock literally flexed and bent to form Waterpocket Fold’s terrain. (Reminder: There are lots of pictures and information on this subject matter, as well as the aforementioned Capitol Reef NP's diary/URL.)

A sample of Navajo Sandstone cross-bedding patterns caused by drifting winds and eventually creating petrified sand dunes:

The trail soon crosses a terrace mantled by round dark boulders of basalt. How these telltale boulders got here, and perched so high above the Fremont River, remains a puzzle to many hikers (see below for explanation). At .4 mile a sign points to the bridge where the trail splinters off to the left. This is a worthy side trip if one has the time and energy. Continuing to the right, the trail leads to the Rim Overlook. From this point the trail climbs gently and follows the notable tilt of the layers along Waterpocket Fold. The trail also traverses ledges in the Kayenta Formation for the entire length. At around the .75 mile mark the boulders disappear from the trail. These round black boulders of basalt are from the 21-million year old lava flows that cap Boulder and Thousand Lake Mountains. Both landmarks form a section of the High Plateaus that mark the western boundary of the Colorado Plateau. Since, as geologists figure, the lava flows more than likely never covered the Capitol Reef region they must have been transported from their source on Boulder Mountain some 30 miles. Thus catastrophic floods and debris flows washed the boulders down from the High Plateaus of this mountain when the Ice Age glaciers were melting. The aforementioned puzzle is therefore solved.

Note: The boulders are rounded from miles of rolling and tumbling in the water. These boulders also lie in terraces high above the present-day Fremont River. This suggests that the river has greatly deepened its channel since the boulders were deposited. It follows the river could not have placed these boulders where they are today, regardless how great the floods or debris flows.

Beyond the last basalt boulders the trail traverses slickrock marked by small cairns. At about the 1-mile point a sign points to the left and provides a view of Hickman Natural Bridge hidden in the canyon below. This span of rock was carved from sandstone layers in the Kayenta Formation. Yet it’s not a true natural bridge! Alas, it’s misnamed. Actually, Hickman is an arch carved from a fin of Kayenta Sandstone by two small washes running parallel to one another on the two sides of the so-called bridge. The washes cut into the sandstone and create a hole through the fin. Over time, it has widened into a majestic arch-like icon. Thus one gains two surprises as geologic knowledge; also some guessing when hiking the Rim Overlook Trail.

As in all hiking experiences, may yours be rewarding, safe, and mind-blowing. Up next, an entirely different terrain and geology. Some might even say this setting is the most attractive and spellbinding in the entire Southwest.

Hiking The Wave: This ultra popular sandstone country (read, sometimes crowded and permits are a must throughout most of the high tourist season) near the Utah and Arizona border is suitable named. The sandstone foundation of its riveting sandstone pavement is formed like a congealed wave frozen in time, complete with deformed pillars, cones, mushrooms, among other odd-shaped natural creations. Deposits of iron are responsible for the unique blending of colors swirled into the rock surface, somewhat like taffy. The visual effect instantly creates a dramatic array of yellows, pinks, reds and orange. These are the predominant tinctures. The first visceral reaction upon seeing this backdrop is usually open-mouthed, as in disbelief the scenery is even real. This is Paria Canyon country which contains the awesome Coyote Buttes Special Management Area. An assortment of sandstone buttes sit at the bottom of Utah’s famed Grand Staircase-Escalante NM and the upper section of Arizona’s Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness .

5.5 miles marks the hiking distance to The Wave and back. Another option is the 8-mile roundtrip hike from the Wire Pass parking lot. This route takes hikers to the famed Top Rock Arch alcove and Melody Arch sector. Allow at least a day’s hike for the trip to and from the Wave, with an additional couple hours to the arches, alcove, and dinosaur tracks imprinted in the sandstone in that region. Sticky, rubberized hiking shoes are highly recommended for hiking here; also lots of water (at least four liters per person in the hotter months). As mentioned, a permit is required because the trail is limited to just twenty people per day in the North Coyote Buttes region. Good navigation skills are a necessity, meaning knowing how to read a topographical map and use a compass.

Road Directions: The Wire Pass trailhead via House Rock Road is about 35 miles west of Page, Arizona and some 40 miles east of Kanab, Utah. The elevation gain is 325 feet with a starting elevation of 4,875 feet. Worth mentioning again is for hikers to consult regional topographical maps before entering this sector of the canyon country. Moreover, always check the weather before venturing into any canyon country sector.

Remember: only twenty hikers per day are permitted to hike here. Routing can also be tricky for novices (which means the larger portion of potential hikers is at least a given).

The important landmark en route is the Vertical Crack (a/k/a/ "the Notch"). The Wave formation is located beneath this conspicuous crack in the backdrop (between this wall of rock and the telltale fracture). It’s best to hike on the high route which, in some obvious sectors, requires wall-hugging sandstone slabs. Twin Buttes is the next featured landmark. Look for two noticeable and large butte formations about halfway through the hike. From there, and just across the wash, multicolored domes appear. To the right is The Wave sector. The area called Top Rock (toward the south end) is Navajo Sandstone, the prominent wan-tinctured formation so prominent in this part of Utah. This landmark (also conspicuous) divides North and South Coyote Buttes. On the northwest edge of Top Rock is a chasm. This marks the entryway leading to The Wave (about .4 mile south).

Typical sandstone country and scenery in this sector (so pay attention where you're walking and wanting to go):

For most hikers, The Wave is the final destination. However, Top Arch is another local spectacle to see. It also requires rock scrambling ability to get there (and can be approached from the backside of the mountain flank). Ergo, another reason to wear proper footwear.

Top Arch (photo by DeVane Webster):

Once there the easily distinguished red cones of South Coyote Butte are visible in the distance. Look also for pinkish dinosaur tracks on the other side of the wash which is just opposite The Wave. The tracks were likely made by a common carnivore dinosaur that once roamed this regional territory, coelophysis (about 10 feet). Perhaps it was a species called grallator (Megapnosaurus, meaning “big dead lizard”) from the Early Jurassic (roughly, 199 to 175 million years ago). You'll know this creature by these telltale prints:

Of course, if you should see this fellah run like hell. . .they ate just about anything:

For the other fellah, coelophysis (pronounced "see-lo-phy-sis"). . .this is what this one-ton meat eater looks like:

Here's what this rather aggressive dino's tracks look like (also, quite common in parts of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico):

Enjoy the hike or hikes if you do visit this sector of Utah. There will be other featured hiking diaries, so stay tuned for a continuation in this series.

As always, your thoughtful commentaries are welcomed.


FYI: For a list of all diaries posted to date, please see the growing inventory by clicking on my profile. There are many “next” buttons to click in order to view the numerous titles. If commenting on an older diary, please send me an email to my profile account. That way I am sure to notice it and respond. Gracias.

Note: Under the "Fair Use" protocol, which is a limitation and exception to the exclusive right granted by copyright law to the author of a creative work, photographs, pictures and illustrations, including maps (that are not my own personal property), posted in my diaries provide for the legal, unlicensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in use of another author's work under a four-factor balancing test. Ergo, the diary posts are strictly for an educational purpose and are transformative (using an image in a broader story or educational presentation with text). In short, my diaries are promoting an educational presentation intended only to help Daily Kos community members learn more about the many topics my diaries feature.

Originally posted to richholtzin on Sun Mar 10, 2013 at 08:02 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    palantir, broths, gizmo59, tharu1, foresterbob

    Never heard of this place and I used to live in Colorado.  So much I missed. Now I'm feeling homesick.

    "If you tell the truth, you'll eventually be found out." Mark Twain

    by Steven D on Sun Mar 10, 2013 at 08:46:51 AM PDT

    •  that place would be. . . (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      broths, gizmo59, Gary Norton

      the Waterpocket Fold (country) or The Wave? The latter is extremely popular, Steven D., while the 'fold' is still remote and relatively sparsely traveled. It's also one of my favorite  southeast Utah sectors to hike. Great colors when you hit the optimum light of day. Sort of like, well, orgasmic in another sense. Thanks for posting your comment and now it's time to cure yourself of the homesick blues and c'mon back for a visit and a hike or two or three.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sun Mar 10, 2013 at 09:04:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The impression that I got from (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Gary Norton, broths, greengemini

        driving through southern Utah on my first cross-country trip was that I was on another planet entirely.  I have got to go hiking there someday.

        -5.13,-5.64; If you gave [Jerry Falwell] an enema, you could bury him in a matchbox. -- Christopher Hitchens

        by gizmo59 on Sun Mar 10, 2013 at 09:34:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  and so you will. . . (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          gizmo59, broths, greengemini

          because behind the urging is a sentiment longing to get real. I have found this to be true. Then again, I've always wanted to do a Neil Armstrong walk, you know, something lunar, but I doubt I ever will. Still, given what you desire you likely will return to Earth's moonscape, as you put it in so many words. And, yes, southeast Utah is so singular, its topography, and such big and wide-open country. . .one does get the feeling he or she has landed on another planet, only with oxygen to breathe. Thanks for posting your comment, gizmo59.

          Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

          by richholtzin on Sun Mar 10, 2013 at 10:00:01 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Both (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Gary Norton, broths, greengemini


        "If you tell the truth, you'll eventually be found out." Mark Twain

        by Steven D on Sun Mar 10, 2013 at 10:00:39 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Another wow place. (4+ / 0-)

    I haven't been there, but thanks for letting me take the hike, the easy way.

    Thanks Rich.

    I am a work in progress. Still.

    by broths on Sun Mar 10, 2013 at 09:21:42 AM PDT

    •  c'mon now. . . (4+ / 0-)

      broths. . .you know deep down inside you want to hit the bricks, in this case, the sandstone turf, and come see for yourself what's waiting for you beyond the virtual. Just wear a decent pair of boots, take lots of water, always in tandem with snacks (sweet and salty kind) and wearing clothes. . .well, that's optional. Otherwise, glad you enjoyed the tour and maybe one day you just night GET OUT THERE! and I'm not talking about a cruise ship ad with a similar promo spiel.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sun Mar 10, 2013 at 09:57:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Waterpocket/Wave (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greengemini, RiveroftheWest

    You said that a permit is required to hike the trail. Does one need to write to the NPS to get the permit ahead of time or would you be able to get one when you arrive? I love the taffy look of the sandstone, must be gorgeous there.

    •  permits and such. . . (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      greengemini, RiveroftheWest

      yep. . .that's a hard permit to get during the high season, but it's pretty much open availability off season, like now. Actually, it's the BLM and the area is the Coyote Buttes. That's where the permit area is issued for. I think it's 7 bucks a day and I'm not talking deer.  See if this email address still works:

      and I think you'll find out everything you'll need to know, and therefore not rely on my guess work. The taffy look and coloration is part of what makes The Wave so phenomenal and singular given the warped flooring of that area. I hope my geologic explanation in the diary made sense of this. If not, let me know. There's lots of way to describe geology and I never seem to tire of finding such.

      But, yes, that's a high impact area and you'll need a permit. Always. I think it's also possible to get a permit for a dog, if one has such, and I believe I've seen pooches in that neck of the woods, as it were.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sun Mar 10, 2013 at 07:39:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  favorite places! another nice diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greengemini, RiveroftheWest

    i did miss the capitol reef diary so will go check that out as well.  we are so lucky to live so close to these fine areas!

    "None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps" Thurgood Marshall

    by UTvoter on Sun Mar 10, 2013 at 09:44:04 PM PDT

    •  lucky, indeed. . . (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      to live where you do. I trust you take in the sites regularly. And the only problem living there, I think, is choosing what to see and do. Nature's menu of attractions is nothing less than surfeit, UTvoter. Thanks for posting your comment and I hope you'll like the Capitol Reef diary. Lots of unique geology and one big mystery to boot (those lava bombs and their origins).

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 06:16:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Heading there in April, gonna (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    try to recreate an epic hike a buddy and I took up Cohab Canyon thirty-five years ago.

    Everybody's going serfing, serfing USA

    by Cen Den on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 04:40:01 AM PDT

    •  very great hike. . . (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and quite popular these days. I take it you'll take the high end of the trail which has a sweeping view overlooking Fruita. Lower ends great, too. So much in that sector to see and do: Frying Pan Trail, Cassidy Arch Trail, and the gorge itself. Anyway, I'm envious. Haven't been in that neck of the woods for longer than I care to mention. But the 'Fold' country is something to see and experience and I am glad I had the time to do it (and may yet return one of these days). Thanks for posting your comment, Cen Den.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 06:14:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What a great place! (0+ / 0-)

    I never knew this existed until all I ran across so many lovely photos of it on the internet. Sorry I missed it all those years ago, but at least it seems to have inspired everyone who owns a camera! A vicarious pleasure.

    •  yep, and now. . . (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      the DKos community and I are waiting for you to go there, take lots of photos, hike and have fun, then come back home, rest, and then send your photographed memories to the rest of us. Do you think, RiveroftheWest???

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 01:32:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Don't I wish! (0+ / 0-)

        I'm afraid my hiking days are done unless I want to invest in a few new joints. At my age I'm afraid pics are gonna have to do, but thanks, Rich, for the invitation. I hope others will follow your advice!

        •  ok then, RiveroftheWest. . . (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          the others will send you their pictures. I think my knees, after, oh, some 8,000 (and I didn't purposely inflate the 0's) of backpacking are at the point I best stick to my bicycle and a bit of trekking. Oh well, better to rust out than wear out, wouldn't you say? Now I wonder if the boss at the field institute will find this admission out and fire me! Oh well, maybe I can do a skateboard on the canyon trails and entertain the entourage that way. Do you think? HA!

          Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

          by richholtzin on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 02:56:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Ha! Let's not encourage such behavior! n/t (0+ / 0-)
            •  your lead. . . (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              I will follow. Mea culpa. I sometimes forget I am approaching 70 and here I'm thinking I'm still pounding the trails with students behind thinking I am . . . well, what the hell do students and clients think and feel when signing up for this or that tour? Ha. Life sure is humbling, though. Don't you think? Still, I also think I have earned my trail spurs and now I get to share all of those miles and learning curve experiences with the DKos community. Can't be all bad, can it? I mean, the aging process and having some 40 years in the guiding and educator's field. Thanks for watching out for my back, RiveroftheWest. . .then again I sometimes think of myself as a spry and aerobatic raven, and less the worn out trail-eagle sort. Ergo, I wouldn't trade my life and present day reality for love or money.

              Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

              by richholtzin on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 09:17:39 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Better to be approaching 70 (0+ / 0-)

                than watching it recede behind you! (I speak from experience.) I'd like to be out on the trail, but your great posts are  full of not just knowledge, but experience and enthusiasm too. Surely the next best thing to being there -- thank you, Rich!

                •  most kind. . . (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  and a wise sentiment given the rear view aspect of life that you tout. OK, I'll agree and make the statement I find writing about such experiences a natural catharsis and it gives me both pleasure doing it and pleasure making others happy. It's not quite like I'm on the trail with my charges, teaching, guiding, sharing, and enjoying the gestalt experience, but it's another way of going about it. And that's why I find writing these missives for our community a joy, and never a lot of hard work as some commentators say and think. So here's to you and all the rest in our community, RiveroftheWest, and lots of other similar tours to different places forthcoming in this series. Tomorrow, for instance. . .we're all going to get our kicks on Rt. 66. That's the theme of the diary and you are the first to hear it from me.

                  Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

                  by richholtzin on Tue Mar 12, 2013 at 06:04:44 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

  •  one of my favorite places (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    or even the most favorite place - Capitol Reef.  The whole San Rafeal Swell area is an amazing landscape.  The whole time I was there, I felt like I was walking around with with my mouth open.  I took my family, including my 4 kids (ages at the time 5-11).  We did the hike to the Hickman Bridge but didn't make it to that overlook.  We did get to the Strike Valley Overlook.  I saw a photo of Strike Valley which is the reason I wanted to go to Capitol Reef.  The valley, and reef, look entirely unnatural.  Particularly for a flatlander, like myself, it is an awing experience.
    Also of interest to my in the Capitol Reef area is the Wolverine Petrified Wood Area, which I believe is actually part of the Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monument.  It is accessed via the Burr trail, west the Capitol Reef.  The access road though is somewhat of a misnomer as it isn't really a road.  It is just a sandy wash most of the way with occasional mud holes. We found a really nice hike through a canyon, down to the Escalante River.  I beleive it was called Horse Canyon.  There were large logs of petrified wood, as well as varing geology along the way.  
    On the east side of the reef, there is the Goblin Valley State Park, which is another bizarre landscape.  It is about an hour from Capitol Reef, north of Hanksville.  And right outside Goblin Valley is a nice, fairly easily accessible slot canyon - Little Wild Horse.  Again, I took my family and they had lots of fun in this canyon and there are a few places to scramble up and over obstacles.  Again, it is mind-bogglingly beautiful.

    I will also remind people to be prepared for the fact that the distances between places in this area are lengthy.  If you are planning a trip, expect that you may not get to everything as it takes a long time to get to some of these places.  Also, once you get to them, you don't want to rush as you really need to take it all in, as they say.

    •  you are on my path. . . (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      or I am on yours. Capitol Reef. . .the Waterpocket Fold terrain, easily tops my favorite and somewhat esoteric hiking and indulgence in an exquisite tableau of the most contorted, the most lovely, topography in SE Utah. And you heard it first from Short Bus, Dkos Commmunity. Meaning, a direct confirmation that was not solicited. Oh, and Goblin Valley, fairly close; what fun that terrain is, huh? Thanks, too, for the reminder of a very common sensical notion that even I sometimes forget to mention: DISTANCES BETWEEN PLACES is arguably quite lengthy. Ergo, let's take our time folks, when visiting such places. Here taking time is also worth doing just that; take time. Thanks for your meaningful commentary, Short Bus...flat lander, as you call yourself. Kansas maybe? Texas?

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 05:53:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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