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“Heroes take journeys, confront dragons and discover the treasure of their true selves.” – Carol Pearson
Having been largely inspired by large format photographer Ben Horne who visits Zion National Park regularly, I finally managed to arrange a week in Southwest Utah including Zion during Oct/Nov 2016.
The Virgin River has taken 140 million years to carve through several thousand feet of colourful sandstone; the Southern Paiute Indians call this place ‘Mukuntuweap’ meaning ‘Straight-up land’.
Work in Progress …
No private vehicles are allowed in Zion Canyon north of Canyon Junction, visitors must use a shuttle bus which runs often and is very convenient. However, this does limit where a photographer can shoot sunrise and sunset as the shuttle service only runs from about 7am to 7pm, if you miss the last bus it’s a 7 mile hike back to the Visitor Centre car park in the dark!
Being a Saturday, the Park was very busy (2.5 million visitors per year) and as I drove the one hour journey from Kanab where I was staying via the very scenic Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, I found that there was nowhere to park at the Visitor Centre
My dragon was the heights and sheer drops along most of this grueling 6 hour hike, the outward journey is up steep paths gaining some 2,500-feet, the return is no better as it punishes thighs and knees.
‘The Wave’ is a Jurassic sandstone formation in the Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs wilderness. This formation is well known to hikers and photographers and to protect this important site, the BLM only issues 20 permits per day; ten by online lottery four months in advance and ten on the day before one’s intended hike; again by lottery. These permits are extremely difficult to obtain and I was extremely lucky to be drawn second; another group wanting a permit had been there 10 consecutive days before being awarded their permit.
Getting to the trailhead involves an 8.3 mile drive over the unpaved Wire Pass road. The four-hour hike is challenging because the Wave is difficult to locate due to the lack of an established marked trail. Hikers must choose their own route across the open desert (originating in Utah and crossing the State boundary into Arizona), which requires traversing exposed sandstone, sand dunes and sandy washes.