Paria Canyon/Grand Staircase Escalante

The Nautilus
The Nautilus

When we left Page, AZ the next morning the skies looked clearer but we knew there were isolated thunderstorms in the forecast. Still, we soldiered on with our plans to spend the next couple of days in the Grand Staircase Escalante/Paria Canyon area. There is no lack of things to do and see in this area, but our primary goal was to score a permit for The Wave, a famous formation in the Coyote Buttes Area. The area is restricted to 20 permitted visitors a day and we wanted to try for one of the ten walk-up spots. This experience deserves its own post – check for it next.

Unfortunately we didn’t get a permit. But, like I said, the area is packed full of great stuff – we could spend a month there and not get to see all the awesome canyons, formations, rock art, and other things the area has to offer. However, during our time at the permit station we learned that the area did not avoid the storms that had made our previous couple of days adventurous. There were washouts, flooding, and blocked roads. It looked like most of our backup plans weren’t even accessible.

Walking to the Nautilus in a freshly washed, uh, wash.
Walking to the Nautilus in a freshly washed, uh, wash

After getting skunked on the permit we headed to a nearby formation that was still accessible. It’s called the Nautilus and it is easy to see why when you see it from the correct angle. It’s a swirly pattern carved in a sandstone bluff and offers photographic opportunities as beautiful as the elusive Wave. It was the wrong time of day and stormclouds kept blocking the light, but nevertheless it was a fun short hike where we were able to scout and take some point-and-shoot photos. I plan on returning here someday with full camera gear at the right time of day!

The Nautilus from Below
The Nautilus from Below

Across the main road we found another parking area and the Toadstool Hoodoo trailhead. It let to some cool rock and mud formations that practically glowed in the sun when framed against the incoming storm clouds.

Sunlit red rock with storms rolling by
Sunlit red rock with storms rolling by

Toadstool Hoodoo
Toadstool Hoodoo

After wandering these for a while we decided to visit the Grand Staircase Escalante visitor’s center down the road and get some updated road info before continuing on to explore the area. It’s a good thing we did – it seems that everything except the main paved highway through the area was washed out. The friendly volunteers told us where we could go to see some of the washouts and they were right at the beginning of some of the roads I had planned on spending two or three days exploring. We drove down one of the roads only to find it washed out by a 250 ft wide river. No thank you.

Dead end. Road continues on other side.
Dead end. Road continues on other side.

Originally, we were going to spend the day exploring the area, camp there that night, and then try for another Wave permit the next morning. But by noon we had seen all the things that were accessible without a permit. More storms were rolling in. So we had a choice to make and we chose to move on to more familiar (and dry) territory – Death Valley. On the way out of the area we stopped by some nice pictographs that the Grand Staircase volunteer had told us about – the Ooga Booga man was pretty darn awesome.

Ooga Booga Pictograph
Ooga Booga Pictograph

We drove west through Las Vegas, going through a couple of big storms along the way, and continued on to our favorite spot in southern Death Valley. By shortly after sunset we were set up in “The Cabin”, dry and cozy in our desert vacation home.

Next: Lemoigne Canyon in Death Valley

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Home Sweet Home
Home Sweet Home: Back in California

Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd

Free range human. Mountain sports addict. Craft beer drinker. Tech nerd. The best days are those spent above 10k ft. Team OmniTen and Evernote Ambassador. Meet me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google +