Monday, October 21, 2013

Cottonwood Canyon, UT

We leave New Mexico (Land of Enchantment) and head to Page, Arizona (The Grand Canyon State) on Lake Powell, by-passing Canyon de Chelly thanks to the US Government Shutdown and the closure of most national parks.  In Page, we shop for supplies and plan to head to the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, but discover (by chatting with my Walmart hair dresser!) that the highway that will take us there (#89) collapsed in February!  We've driven this highway a couple of times over the past years, and this cut is extremely long, perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the canyons of the Colorado.  It's fortunate the collapse happened in the middle of the night and no one was injured.

So, re-route to southern Utah (The Beehive State [what?]) and from whose border Page is only a few miles to explore some areas we didn't get to last year.  Cottonwood Canyon Road, where we spend nine days, is in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, one of our all-time favourite places.

First, let me say that we've never seen the desert so green - and yellow, red, orange and purple. Thanks to the recent rains (remember the flooding in Colorado and New Mexico?), desert wildflowers have started to bloom and the usual vegetaion is dark green having soaked up that moisture. It's a beautiful sight.
This area along the Cockscomb was full of these tiny yellow flowers.
Of course in these parts, with rain comes also washed-out dirt roads. Brad is standing in a part of a dirt road beside Coyote Creek (now dry) that was destroyed - it's over a 6-foot drop here, and other parts of roads we saw were worse! We parked and hiked the last 1/2 mile!
Our first adventure takes us down BLM Road 431 on which we are camped, to "White Rocks" - at least that's what it says on the map. It's one of those times we don't have a destination in mind, we just wonder "what's down this road?" It's a real challenge too and our truck is barely able to make some of the, now dry, creek crossings which are still damaged from the rains of September.
Brad almost steps on this Midget Faded Rattlesnake, but it warns him with a shake of his tail. Lucky Brad!  To date, we have seen four snakes - this one and three of the same as at Navajo Lake State Park.  That's more than on any of our previous trips in total!
An old cabin we discover, probably a cowboy cabin, and still has a bed, table, chair and stove in it! Home sweet home!
Marilyn at White Rocks, towering sandstone formations in various stages of erosion. We think the white colouring is caused from gypsum as we find selenite crystals on top of these spires. We also find iron concretions (Moqui Marbles) up top. That's for all you geologists out there, or readers of last year's blog.
The Red Toadstools are an easy hike only about 1/2 a mile from Highway 89 near the Paria Contact Station; the White Toadstools trail starts across the highway from the Paria Contact Station.
These crazy sandstone formations - the Toadstools (not their technical latin name), are also known as Hoodoos. They start out as clay capped with sandstone. The clay eventually erodes away, leaving the caprock balancing on top until the clay base erodes entirely leaving a boulder field.
Marilyn among more red toadstools.
The White Toadstools.
Yellow Rock is a strenuous hike, not for those with a bad ticker or a fear of heights. After crossing Cottonwood Creek, we climb straight up and over the Cockscomb, several hundred feet in elevation (I swear this climb could double as a cardiac stress test!). We can't believe there's actually a trail here, it's about a 45 degree angle up. And each time we think we're approaching the top, another steep incline comes into view across a short, flat expanse. Finally at the top, but we're not there yet. We have to walk across a sandy area to get to the base of this incredible sandstone formation which is several hundred feet high itself. Some sections of Yellow Rock are very steep too, but easy to climb - it's like walking on sandpaper, very grippy.

Yellow Rock is, by far, the most beautiful, breath-taking, amazing sight I have ever seen. Brad and I like Yellow Rock better than The Wave! Here's why - it's a shorter hike (even though it's steep), MUCH fewer people (today only 2 couples and a group of 5; at the Wave 20 people each day guaranteed), no lottery draw to go there, and it's a much bigger area to explore (we rarely came across those other three groups today unlike at the Wave last year where we had to wait our turn to photograph the bowl).
A view from the south-west side.
Marilyn enjoying a rest on Yellow Rock.
Brad taking in the colours in Hackberry Canyon across from Yellow Rock where the crazy colours continue!
This is a close-up near the top of Yellow Rock. This is not a painting, nor are the colours enhanced! Nature is elegantly strange!
To the south of Yellow Rock, the crazy colours continue.
Very late in the afternoon, hurrying back to the truck. The low sun really brings out the texture in the rock.
Hackberry Canyon can be viewed from the top of Yellow Rock, looking north up the Cockscomb. Hackberry Creek is a perennial stream, so there was much creek crossing as we zig-zagged our way through the narrows between pretty coloured sandstone walls.
In Hackberry Canyon with the cottonwood trees starting to change colour.
Lunchtime with a view.

We also spend time planning for Brandon's trip - he will spend ten days with us starting on October 21st.  We will pick him up in Las Vegas and head north to southern Utah.  We have a fantastic time planned - but that's for the next blog.


  1. Love these photos. Such amazing countryside. Can you imagine those yabbos at Goblin, Utah, knocking over a rock formation? I am in awe of nature and totally reverent when faced with his landscape. Touching things? Never. Enjoy being with Brandon.

  2. I know Lynda, when I saw that Goblin Valley State Park story, I almost cried. We've been there in years past and it's and amazing place. I hope they prosecute those guys.