This is the second installment of our blog series on Joel and Patty Anderson's exciting trip to the Grand Circle!
Creative Director Joel Anderson, his wife Patty, and researcher/writer Dan Pierce (co-author of the upcoming book) recently spent 8 days exploring the National Parks, Monuments, and natural wonders of Utah and Arizona—all part of their preparation for the upcoming book: The Illustrated Guide to Exploring The Grand Circle.
This blog series is the written story of their adventure, complete with on-site pictures and reference photographs. Enjoy!
Coyote Buttes, The Wave, and Paria
The Wave is an incredible natural feature located in Coyote Buttes, a Bureau of Land Management-protected region. (More on this later in the interview section, but our travelers strongly recommend entering your name in the Wave's visitation lottery online many months before your trip, or go to the Kanab Convention Center to sign up for the in-person lottery each morning at 8:00 am. BLM rangers and management staff only allow 80 visitors into the Wave each day, (and only 16 of them are picked each morning from the in-person lottery).
Joel, Patty and Dan went to register for the lottery on their first day in Kanab. 90 groups of hopeful hikers applied. Incredibly, JP&D's group was the first number selected! They passed by downcast folks who had been registering for years and had not yet won. While the Coyote Buttes, Paria Canyon, and Vermillion Cliffs areas all have their own beauty and appeal, the world-famous Wave is undoubtedly the most popular attraction of them all.
Our trekkers, got up early on the morning of Day #3 in the Grand Circle and headed into Coyote Buttes. After winning the lottery, they had received special instructions from park staff on how best to navigate the trails into and out of the Wave. They had been given an instruction sheet with six reference photos and some other directions. There was no visible trail, as park officials intentionally make the Wave somewhat difficult to find to discourage overuse and non-permitted exploration.
That added some risk! No trail, no water nearby, no cell service or functional GPS, and just 12 reference photos with directions from the ranger; that's all Joel, Patty, and Dan had to go on whilst attempting to navigate the desert scrub, slot canyons, and rock formations of Coyote Buttes.
Despite the potential dangers and the need to navigate with caution, the Coyote Buttes region was amazing. The colors and patterns in the rocks were stunning and unique, unlike other rock formations found in other parts of the Grand Circle. After marching for about an hour, our adventurers stepped into the Wave. As Joel said, "It was like stepping into a Salvador Dali painting."
After enjoying the Wave's stunning, liquid-like rock formations, Joel, Patty, and Dan made their way back to the parking area. Unfortunately, they missed a key landmark on the way back and had to venture down a cliffside to get down to the dry riverbed into Wire Pass Slot Canyon. In one tense moment, the trio had to descend a steep canyon wall, clinging to 5-inch rock ledges, roots, and sandstone handholds as they descended to the mouth of Wire Pass. But they made it safely down into the slot canyon, and survived to tell about it!
On their way back to Kanab, Joel, Patty, and Dan stopped in Paria, a little-known geological jewel that offers stunning views of multi-colored striped hills. (Paria is an excellent place to stop when heading back to Kanab from the Wave).
Willis Creek Canyon
With all limbs intact and fully recovered from Day #3's adventure in Coyote Buttes, Day #4 saw the trio heading out from Kanab and into Willis Creek Canyon, a pleasant stroll through a sizable canyon with plenty of coniferous trees, a dry creek bed, and even a friendly group of riders on horseback.
Visitors interested in taking a horse or mule tour through Willis Creek Canyon should check out the Bryce Canyon Inn, which offers Willis Creek Canyon horseback tours and other local attractions.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon consumed the second half of Day #4, and what an adventure that was! According to Joel, Patty, and Dan, Bryce Canyon was one of the favorite parks of all the places they visited in the Grand Circle. And we can see why. It's an easy park to navigate, the overlooks are spectacular, and the spacious trails offer jaw-dropping views at every turn. Bryce is known for its quirky hoodoos, with each new hoodoo seeming more odd and unique than the last.
While in Bryce Canyon, Joel, Patty, and Dan checked out Sunrise and Sunset Overlooks, as well as Queen's Garden and the Navajo Loop Trails, all of which come highly recommended by our adventurers.
I interviewed Joel about his trip, and he gave me a day-by-day account of his adventure with his wife Patty Anderson and the co-author of their upcoming book on the Grand Circle, Dan Pierce. Following are some of Joel's takeaways and tips for enjoying the attractions they visited on Day #3 and #4 of their adventure:
Ren: Joel, how was it that you, Patty, and Dan were able to visit the Wave when thousands of visitors to the Grand Circle never get to see it?
Joel: Entering your name in the lottery is key. You can do this online at the dedicated website for the Bureau of Land Management. You can also enter your name in the daily drawing at the Kanab civic center, which we did on the first day we arrived in the Grand Circle. Providence was with us, and our name was called!
Ren: How can folks best enjoy the Wave safely?
Joel: Park managers intentionally make the Wave somewhat difficult to find in order to prevent ne'er-do-wells from running amuck in the region and possibly damaging the fragile, priceless natural treasure that is the Wave. However, if your name is called in the lottery and you have an official pass to view the Wave, the park staff gives you pictures of landmarks and an instruction sheet on how to find it, which we recommend following closely. Also, if you start to go off track, backtrack! Don't keep going forward and try to find your own way out of the region. That's what we did, and it was more excitement and danger than we'd bargained for.
Ren: As an artist, what inspired you most about the Wave and the Coyote Buttes region in general?
Joel: Given our harrowing experience in the Coyote Buttes region, I'd say it was the immense feeling of insignificance and smallness I felt. The feeling that nature is powerful, stunning, and dangerous. That feeling was also exhilarating because, in the end, we experienced Coyote Buttes and made it out to tell the tale!
Ren: Why was Bryce Canyon National Park one of your favorites?
Joel: I loved the views. Around every corner along the trail, there was another stunning wall of hoodoo spires and other delightfully bizarre red rock formations. It was awe-inspiring in every way, with views and vistas that make you feel like you are exploring the planet Mars.
Ren: Any "boots-on-the-ground" tips for how visitors can best experience Bryce?
Joel: Be prepared to spend more time there than you thought you would. Every time you walk a few steps down a trail, another rock formation is revealed up ahead, and you must venture on to see it! Before you know it, you've walked five miles—downhill! (That means you've gotta hike back uphill for five miles!) Bring plenty of water and food, and I recommend good hiking shoes, a hat, trail snacks, and sunscreen!
Once Day #5 dawned, the ever-energized trio got an early start and headed to Jacob Lake, Navajo Bridge, Horseshoe Bend, Calf Creek, and the Toadstool Hoodoos. Check back next week for the next leg of the Anderson Design Group Grand Circle adventure!
And as always, you can see plenty of poster art of the Grand Circle (including several new designs inspired by their recent trip) in ADG's 63 National Parks Collection.
Anderson Design Group Writing Staff