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My Adventure: Riding the Wave

Waiting at the Bureau of Land Management Office in Kanab, Utah, in February, my longtime friend Ann and I had no expectations. We had driven from Oregon to enjoy the Southwest and tour some national parks, and we thought we would try to get a permit to see The Wave, a distinctive canyon in northern Arizona.

The hike begins in Utah, and over 100 people were vying for 20 lottery permits, so we were prepared to return the next day to try again. But when our number was called first, we immediately stared at one another, both thinking: could two women of “a certain age” manage a 6-hour, six-plus-mile hike at 6,000 feet the very next day?

After our excitement subsided, we spent the day readying ourselves. Both over 70, we made perhaps our wisest decision: We hired a guide. Although BLM provides “directions,” there is no trail to The Wave, so hikers are advised they should be able to use a map and compass or GPS to help with navigation. Once we were at the trailhead, we were even more grateful we had a guide.

“Stone teepees,” “twin buttes,” “Mormon sage” — indicators we had to follow (no signs on the route) — looked the same to us. The trek, which began in country fairly easy to navigate, became more challenging as we progressed. We hiked cautiously as we covered sediment millions of years old; not falling was our driving mindset. We were deliberate in our steps, witnessing gorgeous geologic formations, enveloped in unending silence and pure, clean air, not a soul visible for miles.

Our guide indicated a dinosaur footprint, light-golden shale mounds and red-rock Chinle formations as we walked up and down, up and down, the footing in sand a challenge. The terrain looked the same to us, but we kept moving toward the horizon, the last ascent appearing as challenging as anything we had encountered somewhere in the rocks ahead, almost straight up. This canyon did not welcome slackers.

The Wave was hidden, and had we been hiking alone, it was not difficult to imagine being unable to find it. But we trudged on and finally reached a stone formation rounding into the hillside, the rock easing open and suddenly, we were there — awe-silenced.

Undulating wave-like and spanning a clean wall of sandstone, The Wave has striations of cinnamon, orange, vanilla, all burnished by the sun, bright blue sky contrasting brilliantly. Even more astonishing was that the gentle curve of its entry had been nearly invisible until we eased through its earth-painted contours. Almost afraid to touch it with our fingertips, we reverently traced the lines of sediment. And in celebratory unison, we flung our arms into the air — a well-earned victory.

Alone inside the canyon, we marveled at its brilliance while reflecting upon nearby public lands that were under threat, especially Bears Ears National Monument, worrying about this natural masterpiece, too.

But those brief moments of The Wave were ours, an uncommon sanity — pristine and soundless, for millions of years, a canyon settled within a world still struggling to find itself.

We could only hope that no one would ever destroy its beauty — an unimaginable sacrilege.

Marianne Werner lives in Ashland.


Share Your Adventure

The Mail Tribune wants to share your adventure. We’re looking for accounts of hikes, climbs, river runs, fishing trips, bike rides, ocean outings, camping trips, wildlife encounters and anything else you’ve done outdoors. Email your story (shoot for about 500 words) and pictures to Mail Tribune features editor David Smigelski at dsmigelski@rosebudmedia.com.

The friends experienced gorgeous geologic formations, unending silence, pure, clean air, and not a soul visible for miles. Photo by Marianne Werner
With no trail or signs to The Wave, the women hired a guide to lead them. Photo by Marianne Werner