Sunday, April 2, 2017

Paria Plateau, AZ & Kanab, UT (3/16 - 3/18/2017)

Paria Plateau is a large area of mostly sand with occasional sandstone formations, all part of the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona just south of the Utah-Arizona border.  The monument is roughly 300,000 acres and includes the Paria Canyon and Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area in addition to the plateau.  The Paria Plateau is home to several spectacular collections of colorful sandstone formations, such as North and South Coyote Buttes and the very remote White Pocket.  Although some ranching is still done on the plateau, very few people travel the sandy roads except for those visiting the sandstone formations.  North and South Coyote Buttes have limited visitation, with twenty permits issued per day for each location.  White Pocket doesn't require a permit, but its remote location and deep sand roads have served to minimize the number of people who go there.  You may recall a travelogue from April, 2016 when I spent the night at White Pocket and there was no one else in the area.

Pam and I chose to visit White Pocket since we had no luck getting permits to North and South Coyote Buttes.  Before going, we were chatting with a man who works at Denny's Wigwam, a trading post in Kanab.  When he learned we planned to visit White Pocket, he suggested we also check out a large arch nearby and told us how to find it.  Taking his advice led to an interesting adventure.

When we arrived at White Pocket, there were several vehicles in the parking area, two of them identified as local outfitters.  Obviously, this place is becoming more popular as an alternative to the permitted areas.  People without high clearance 4WD vehicles can easily arrange for a tour.  Yet, the place is so vast, we had almost no contact with the people already there, or the few who arrived later.

While we didn't cover the entire area, we felt we had seen enough and decided to follow the directions to the arch recommended by the fellow in Kanab.  The directions were spot on and we had no trouble finding the arch, passing some other attractive formations along the way.  I have since learned the arch is called "Hole-In-The-Rock Arch"...duh!  The photo was taken from a distance and doesn't reflect the true size of the formation.

Rather than return the way we came, I decided to continue on this road in the hope of coming to a road I was familiar with.  Our map was quite limited and didn't show this road at all.  When we came to a "T", I guessed which way to turn.  Some miles later, I realized it was a mistake and back-tracked.  Once we were back to that intersection, it was only a short distance to a road that was on our map and soon had us on our way back to Kanab.  We agreed the mistake took us through some interesting scenery, but it also showed how easy it would be to get lost in this wilderness.

The next day was mostly relaxation, but ended with a drive to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park for sunset.  As we drove through Kanab, we admired the pretty trees in bloom.

The sand dunes aren't pink, but the typical color of local sandstone.  Signs explained that the sand is eroded from nearby Moccasin Mountain and blown against the cliffs you see in the photos, causing it to accumulate  and form dunes.  It was also pointed out that the mountains here were formed millions of years ago, from a large desert that was eventually covered by the sea for a time. This park is now a playground for ATVs and dune buggies, making it nearly impossible to get photos without tire tracks.

Our last day in Kanab started with a nice sunrise that I spotted at the last minute.  With no time to find a better location, I walked down the street to a ranch and took my photos there.

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