Ski Mountaineering

Exploring Arizona's Nature

April 13-24, 2022

Reiner Stenzel

Springtime triggered a trip into the nature. An example is to explore the Escalante Monument in Utah Slot Canyons. This time we chose to explore the northern sights of Arizona.

A famous treasure, but less known, is the "The Wave", a most unusual land scale near the Utah-Arizona boundaries. It is a precious sand stone formation which deserves protection, hence controlled by limited groups of 6 persons of permits by a world wide lottery. We submitted and I was lucky among perhaps millions. More explorations followed but were not so unpredictable.

The hike to The Wave calls for a 3 mi XC hike, no trails, signs, prone to loose the goal and the return. Since all of us (Isa, Britta, Jessica, Franzisca, Chia, myself and the four legged Timone) had no experience in this area we hired an experienced guide who extended it to an 8 mile round trip with many sights. He drove us from Kanab (Utah) and checked our valid permit by a strict Ranger. We crossed ridges, valleys with sandy washes and finally a small crack in the complicated mountain ridge. It broadened and displayed twisted wave-like structures which are difficult to describe but needs to be seen. Of course, we took many pictures to remember the mountains and us inside The Wave.

The guide suggested to take a new return route to see further attraction. We descended to a small lake in the desert-like dry sand stone terrain. There are dinosaur foot prints from 100 million years, man-made petroglyphs from 20,000 years ago. On a flat plateau`big rocks were scattered beyond explanation. In the desert-like plateau occasional cactus blossoms and desert flowers can be discovered. We were fortunate that the weather was perfect, but wind, sand storm and rain are still to come. It was a great day.

The closed slot canyons are different experience. One lives underground with little light from the top and close walls of this channel. People returned since there one hikes back. At some places a ladder or steep section need to be climbed. Dogs needed assistance. Surprisingly some people were riding, but did not get far. The weather had changed into a sand storm and blew sand on us from the top. A navajo guide demonstrated that sand, wind and water formed the sandstone topology. The formations stimulate imaginations.

The Monument Valley in the Navajo's territory is rich of impressions. Tall steep rock formations are scattered in many miles separations. The columns can have multiple fingers which withstand the storms, rain and temperature. Many pillars are named, stir imaginations and secret stories about the landscape. Since the distances are vast we hired a four wheel car for 6 and a navajo woman driver. She was experienced to avoid deep potholes, banks of sand, crossing similar cars on narrow dirt roads. She also told many facts and stories, for example petroglyphs, rock formations with caves and arcs, and the home of the Anasazis and why they disappeared. She pointed out a group of wild horses, a cow lying in the road. She pointed out that the 400,000 navajos have a hard life with the little help from the US Government, loosing their sheep and income. But movies and tourists bring in some income. This is a never ending problem of two different worlds.

We visited Lake Powell, a dam fed by the Colorado River. Global warming has greatly reduced the water level which restricts agriculture and the needs for big cities. Many houseboats are anchored and tourism has decreased. Nevertheless the scenery of lakes and distant monuments is very pretty. On our way to Sedona we crossed the first steel bridge across the Colorado, an impressive engineering accomplishment.

Sedona is a different world. It is modern, art, elegant shopping and hotels. We stayed in a farm modified into a hostel of elegant modern cabins close to a creek. There are apple orchards, grape vin yard, a chicken coop. Of course, my six companion ladies were in heaven for shopping. A small hike was added befor we had to start our long return drive, via Los Angeles to San Francisco. Our dog was patient but showed his boring mood. We all had a great adventure in Utah/Arizona and thanked Isabel for organizing this wonderful trip.

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