Prattle & Jaw

Two blogs about a whole lot of nothing

Filtering by Tag: Arizona

The Wave

What a day. 

Up at 5am after a very disturbing dream involving my family and a faulty hot air balloon...anyway, up, breakfast in my room, pack (4 litres of water, energy bars, bananas, cheese and crackers, dates, sun cream and camera), then a quick cup of coffee and I'm on the road. The mesas behind me are beautifully misty and I have to stop to try to take a photo. I'm immediately annoyed I didn't bring my other lens. 

Misty morning

Misty morning

GPS tells me that it's about an hour to the trailhead, but I can see it's not quite right. I've had a close look at various maps online and the GPS is only taking me to the road off which the trailhead lies. Doesn't matter; as long as I get to the road I can just keep going until I see the trailhead. I leave Arizona for Utah, and find the road, which takes me back down in to Arizona. I've read that it's impassable if it's been raining but as it hasn't rained for about a week, I think I'll be OK. And I am, mostly. The unpaved road has been washed away in four or five places, but the gullies left are quite easy to navigate – except one of them. One of them makes me stop, and wonder if I should even attempt it. It's a vertical drop for about two feet, then about another foot up the other side. I decide to give it a go, and make it – albeit scraping the front of the car through the sand and mud. I drive on, and after about 30 minutes, I finally see the trailhead. Here we go. 

I won't drag you through the whole hike, but I will say it was longer than I expected, and a little harder too. There was a lot of hiking through sand, which is horrible. It's 99% unmarked, so I had to stop a lot and make sure I was on the right path (the Bureau of Land Management, who are responsible for The Wave, send you a little map together with other information when you win your spot. It's simple, but works). Most of it looked like this:

Eventually, I could see the end. You arrive at the back, which is also quite beautiful. 

Thanks to the rain, we had puddles

Thanks to the rain, we had puddles

I wasn't alone, but after a while, people move on, and for a short while, I had it all to myself. 

Getting *that* shot

Getting *that* shot

It's absolutely beautiful. Do you know those places that just get more and more beautiful the more you look at them? The Wave is one of them.

That shot 

That shot 

I sat on a ridge in the shade for my lunch, and had a perfect view. It was so quiet, and I just stared at it. Magical. 

Not a bad view for a lunch of cheese and crackers

Not a bad view for a lunch of cheese and crackers

It's so soft. The 20 person limit is vital for this place to exist. It'd be gone in less than a year if it was a free for all. People do hike in without a permit, but they risk heavy fines and luckily, the lack of signs on the hike probably put most people off (it's also completely exposed, which made for a sweaty hike back). 

After a good wander around, I decided to start back before the midday sun kicked in. 

I get a little lost, but find my way back to the path quickly. It's incredibly hot, there's no breeze, and, just as I'm approaching the end of the hike, I run out of water. Luckily, I've only got about 700 metres to go. I pass a man and women who stop to ask me about the hike. They must be mad setting out in this heat, but there you go. They ask if I have a permit, and if I saw a ranger at The Wave. They haven't got a permit. I'm in two minds about how to reply, but can't think quickly enough and say that I didn't see a ranger but apparently one is about. The man goes on to say that he's entered the lottery three times, never won a spot, and has finally given up. They've come from Germany, and seem so excited. I take the easy way out, and tell them it's incredible, and to have a great day before I turn around and start back down. Then, just as they're about to round the corner, I remember that they won't have the map if they didn't get a permit. I run back up the hill (I actually ran. If you knew how hot it was you'd be impressed), and tell them the hike isn't marked and they can have my map. I might not approve of them hiking without a permit, but people die out there. They are very happy and off we all go. 

I'm exhilarated to get back to the car, but first I head to the toilets. Outside, in the shade on the floor, are some bottles of water. They're sealed, and I've no idea what they're doing there, but hope that they're left for hikers, like me, who've run out of water. I gulp it down, gratefully. 

Then, the drive back. And the gully. As I face the two feet, I start to think that I'll have to go the other way back to Page, which is just under three times the distance. I really don't want to do that, so I decide to give it a go. First attempt just left me stuck in the gully. Front bumper against the two feet, back bumper against the one foot. Just stuck there, wheels spinning in the dust. Hmmm. 

For a minute or two I have no idea what to do. Then I decide I'm just being silly, and just gun it. The backside skids around, the wheels spin as I perch on the edge and then boom! I'm up! Brilliant. 

The drive back is uneventful, and all I can think of is jumping in to Lake Powell. I get home, I eat some chicken, I change, and then I go and jump in Lake Powell. It's too hot, so I come back to my room which is where I am now. 

A shower, and a general sort out of stuff, and here I am, in bed, writing this. I will have a beer, have a burger and then hopefully Skype with my family. God, I miss them. 

Tomorrow I head to Bryce Canyon, and Kanab, but could quite happily go home now. 

Copenhagen to Flagstaff via Phoenix and Kingman

OK, so here we are. 30,000 (or thereabouts) feet above Greenland and just over seven hours to go. I’ve had dinner (or lunch, according to British Airways). I’ve had two mini-bottles of wine and one gin and tonic. I’ve watched X-Men: Apocalypse, and now it’s time for me to write the first of what will probably be six entries. 

As you may or may not have noticed, the last post here details – roughly – my trip to Arizona. I can’t remember right now what I wrote or when I wrote it, but the short of the long is that back in May (or thereabouts) I entered the lottery you need to win in order to hike to The Wave. Around 300 people enter for the 20 spots available each day, and to be honest, I never thought I’d win a spot. I never win anything (bar a power drill when I was 11). But lo – I won, and here I am. 

Winning a spot was one thing – going was another. I’ve got a son. A beautiful little boy who’s turning the ripe old age of two in December. And I’ve got a wife. A beautiful wife who’s, well, she’s just lovely. Should I and could I leave them for a week? Turns out I could and I should. Or at least she gave me her blessing because she’s amazing and he, well, he had no idea he wasn’t going to see me for a week when I kissed him goodbye this morning at nursery. Daft sod. 

So I could. I planned and I planned and here I am. Apart from some pretty severe nerves this morning and some kind of system failure in British Airways that meant both my flights were delayed, things have gone very smoothly. I’ve got myself a lovely seat right behind the bulkhead, there are five (four now) films I want to watch, the food was actually pretty good, I’ve had my wine and the steward just told me that a man was giving his mother a wedgie as he helped her out of her seat. Fun times. 

So yes. Arizona. Again. I could probably quite happily go there for every holiday for the rest of my life. I have every intention of taking Melvin and his mor there, numerous times, in the not-so-distant future. For starters, I want them to hike in the Grand Canyon with me, and then there’s the beautiful desert, the darkest skies you’ve ever seen, and the open road. I hope Melvin likes it. I think he might. 

Fast-forward 24 hours and here I am in Flagstaff. I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer on the flight, and fell asleep. I woke up with just less than two hours to go, and, after a smooth run through Phoenix airport, I picked up my hire car and made my way to Wickenburg for the night. I went to bed around 10, trying to force myself straight in to Arizona time. I woke at 5am, and was so awake I thought I might as well get a head start, so after a slow morning, I skipped breakfast at the motel and made my way to Horseshoe Café. It had good reviews on Trip Advisor, and good it was. For starters, I was called ‘baby-girl’ about 10 times. No one has ever called me baby-girl. Maybe they have but no one has said it to me in a western drawl. I had steak, eggs and hash browns because when in Rome, and all that. This was about 7am, and after my delicate breakfast, I put the pedal partially to the medal and cruised on up to Kingman. 

Freeeeeedoooooom!

Freeeeeedoooooom!

I had high hopes for Kingman. It was founded as a railroad siding back in 1882, and was a pretty busy town for a while, situated smack bang on Route 66. I must admit that I am battling a cold, which has left me groggy, stuffed up and wanting bed, so many things are seen from under a rather oppressive headache and lust for sleep (the good thing about having a cold in the US is the vast amount of drugs available. I have stocked up and am keeping myself relatively high). Maybe it was this, or maybe it was the fact that I can’t stop thinking about my family and how much I miss them (to be perfectly honest, I didn’t think I’d miss them so much so soon. We text and I’m sent photos, which I coo over, but how frustrating! But what a luxury), but Kingman wasn’t quite what I had hoped for. 

The thing that struck me about the place – other than the general gloom – was the abundance of pet grooming salons. It was most odd. While most of the town is closed or closing, including the quite beautiful Hotel Brunswick, pet grooming is booming. After a walk around the town, and an unintentional tour of pet salons, I stopped at a diner for a snack. As I ordered my apple pie, I realised I was sitting opposite two young Danish guys. Danes. They get EVERYWHERE. 

Anyway. Kingman did have a great museum about its beginnings and Route 66. It had photos of families fleeing the depression and dustbowl America, and their monumental drive to California. Whole families, from grandparents to tiny babies, sleeping under the vehicle, dirty, ragged and desperate. It’s hard for me not to imagine Melvin in that situation, and I get pretty sad. This mother thing comes with a whole bucketload of emotions I was not prepared for. 

The usual suspect, Dorothea Lange, is featured heavily, and rightly so. 

Never loses impact

Never loses impact

Leaving Kingman, I made my way to Hackberry’s General Store, a permanent - hopefully - fixture of those days when Route 66 was what it used to be.

Hackberry

Hackberry

It is, really, nothing more than a gimmick, but it does it well. Someone – the owner? – was standing outside playing guitar, surrounded by rusting cars, some I recognised, others, not so much. Inside was a plethora of Route 66 kitsch.

Old car

Old car

I bought a toy for Melvin, and some gum. Then I moved on to Seligman, another victim of I-40, the stretch of which in question opened on September 22nd 1978 (the year I was born, funnily enough), and literally destroyed livelihoods overnight. I stopped, walked around briefly, and decided it was time for lunch. I paid a visit to the Road Kill Café, and realised I hadn’t eaten anything green for the last 24 hours so ordered a grilled chicken wrap, with a side salad instead of chips. Being America, the salad came with grated cheese on top because you know; a salad’s not a salad without cheese. 

Route 66 views. Scenery hasn't changed much

Route 66 views. Scenery hasn't changed much

After Seligman, I joined the necessary evil of I-40 and made my way to Flagstaff. Reaching my hotel, I had driven 293 miles (or 472 kilometres, for you Danes), since 7am, a fair amount for one day. On the last stretch of Route 66, which you join again as you enter Flagstaff, I saw my first ever Burma-Shave signs. My favourite was:

Don’t lose your head
To save a minute
You need your head
Your brains are in it

I checked in to Hotel Monte Vista, then hit the Museum of Northern Arizona, and then the Pioneer Museum, which is an old hospital filled with oddities from days gone by.

An iron lung

An iron lung

Very good oddities too. I like old stuff, me. From there, I went to buy a compass, some energy bars, and then to another kind of bar, and had a beer. Which is where I am now. 

You’ll be pleased to hear that I think my cold is getting better and that the end of this post is in sight. Apologies for the length, but there you go. 

I will have dinner. I hope to Skype with the family, and then I will go to bed. I will drive to Page tomorrow, and go inside Glen Dam, then swim in Lake Powell. That’s what you can look forward to. 

So long, baby-girl. 

Below is a slightly abridged version of chapter 12 from Grapes of Wrath, one of my favourite books, by John Steinbeck. It's well worth a read. The route I took from Kingman to Flagstaff is on the longest stretch of Route 66 still driveable today, and although it’s weak and somewhat artificial, the heart of the mother road still pumps, just detectable under all the kitsch. One day, together with my family, I’ll drive the whole thing. 

"Highway 66 IS THE main migrant road. 66 – the long concrete path across the country, waving gently up and down on the map, from the Mississippi to Bakersfield – over the red lands and the gray lands, twisting up into the mountains, crossing the
Divide and down into the bright and terrible desert, and across the desert to the mountains again, and into the rich California valleys.
66 is the path of a people in flight, refugees from dust and shrinking land, from the thunder of tractors and shrinking ownership, from the desert's slow northward invasion, from the twisting winds that howl up out of Texas, from the floods that bring no richness to the land and steal what little richness is there. From all of these the people are in flight, and they come into 66 from the tributary side roads, from the wagon tracks and the rutted country roads. 66 is the mother road, the road of flight.
Clarksville and Ozark and Van Buren and Fort Smith on 64, and there's an end of Arkansas. And all the roads into Oklahoma City, 66 down from Tulsa, 270 up from McAlester. 81 from Wichita Falls south, from Enid north. Edmond, McLoud, Purcell. 66 out of Oklahoma City; El Reno and Clinton, going west on 66. Hydro, Elk City, and Texola; and there's an end to Oklahoma. 66 across the Panhandle of Texas. Shamrock and McLean, Conway and Amarillo, the yellow. Wildorado and Vega and Boise, and there's an end of Texas. Tucumcari and Santa Rosa and into the New Mexican mountains to Albuquerque, where the road comes down from Santa Fe. Then down the gorged Rio Grande to Las Lunas and west again on 66 to Gallup, and there's the border of New Mexico.
And now the high mountains. Holbrook and Winslow and Flagstaff in the high mountains of Arizona. Then the great plateau rolling like a ground swell. Ashfork and Kingman and stone mountains again, where water must be hauled and sold. Then out of the broken sun-rotted mountains of Arizona to the Colorado, with green reeds on its banks, and that's the end of Arizona. There's California just over the river, and a pretty town to start it. Needles, on the river. But the river is a stranger in this place. Up from Needles and over a burned range, and there's the desert. And 66 goes on over the terrible desert, where the distance shimmers and the black center mountains hang unbearably in the distance. At last there's Barstow, and more desert until at last the mountains rise up again, the good mountains, and 66 winds through them. Then suddenly a pass, and below the beautiful valley, below orchards and vineyards and little houses, and in the distance a city. And, oh, my God, it's over.
The people in flight streamed out on 66, sometimes a single car, sometimes a little caravan. All day they rolled slowly along the road, and at night they stopped near water. In the day ancient leaky radiators sent up columns of steam, loose connecting rods hammered and pounded. And the men driving the trucks and the overloaded cars listened apprehensively. How far between towns? It is a terror between towns. If something breaks—well, if something breaks we camp right here while Jim walks to town and gets a part and walks back and—how much food we got?
Listen to the motor. Listen to the wheels. Listen with your ears and with your hands on the steering wheel; listen with the palm of your hand on the gear-shift lever; listen with your feet on the floor boards. Listen to the pounding old jalopy with all your senses, for a change of tone, a variation of rhythm may mean—a week here? That rattle—that's tappets. Don't hurt a bit. Tappets can rattle till Jesus comes again without no harm. But that thudding as the car moves along—can't hear that—just kind of feel it. Maybe oil isn't gettin' someplace. Maybe a bearin's startin' to go. Jesus, if it's a bearing, what'll we do? Money's goin' fast.
And why's the son-of-a-bitch heat up so hot today? This ain't no climb. Le's look.
God Almighty, the fan belt's gone! Here, make a belt outa this little piece a rope. Le'ssee how long—there. I'll splice the ends. Now take her slow—slow, till we can get to a town. That rope belt won't last long.
'F we can on'y get to California where the oranges grow before this here ol' jug blows up. 'F we on'y can.
And the tires—two layers of fabric worn through. On'y a four-ply tire. Might get a hundred miles more outa her if we don't hit a rock an' blow her. Which'll we take—a hunderd, maybe, miles, or maybe spoil the tubes? Which? A hunderd miles. Well, that's somepin you got to think about. We got tube patches. Maybe when she goes she'll only spring a leak. How about makin' a boot? Might get five hunderd more miles.
Le's go on till she blows.
We got to get a tire, but, Jesus, they want a lot for a ol' tire. They look a fella over.
They know he got to go on. They know he can't wait. And the price goes up.
Take it or leave it. I ain't in business for my health. I'm here a-sellin' tires. I ain't givin' 'em away. I can't help what happens to you. I got to think what happens to me.
How far's the nex' town?
That's what business is. What'd you think it was?
Danny in the back seat wants a cup a water.
Have to wait. Got no water here.
Listen—that the rear end?
Can't tell.
Sound telegraphs through the frame.
There goes a gasket. Got to go on. Listen to her whistle. Find a nice place to camp an' I'll jerk the head off. But, God Almighty, the food's gettin' low, the money's gettin' low. When we can't buy no more gas—what then?
Danny in the back seat wants a cup a water. Little fella's thirsty.
Listen to that gasket whistle.
Chee-rist! There she went. Blowed tube an' casing all to hell. Have to fix her. Save that casing to make boots; cut 'em out an' stick 'em inside a weak place.
Cars pulled up beside the road, engine heads off, tires mended. Cars limping along 66 like wounded things, panting and struggling. Too hot, loose connections, loose bearings, rattling bodies.
Danny wants a cup of water.
People in flight along 66. And the concrete road shone like a mirror under the sun, and in the distance the heat made it seem that there were pools of water in the road.
Danny wants a cup a water.
He'll have to wait, poor little fella. He's hot. Nex' service station. Service station, like the fella says. Two hundred and fifty thousand people over the road. Fifty thousand old cars— wounded, steaming. Wrecks along the road, abandoned. Well, what happened to them?
What happened to the folks in that car? Did they walk? Where are they? Where does the courage come from? Where does the terrible faith come from?
And heres a story you can hardly believe, but it's true, and it's funny and it's beautiful. There was a family of twelve and they were forced off the land. They had no car. They built a trailer out of junk and loaded it with their possessions. They pulled it to the side of 66 and waited. And pretty soon a sedan picked them up. Five of themrode in the sedan and seven on the trailer, and a dog on the trailer. They got to California in two jumps. The man who pulled them fed them. And that's true. But how can such courage be, and such faith in their own species? Very few things would teach such faith.
The people in flight from the terror behind—strange things happen to them, some bitterly cruel and some so beautiful that the faith is refired forever."

Arizona 2016

Yes, it's time for another trip. Although this one is a bit different as I'm wondering already why it is I'm going. I know the answer, of course, but what is new and what is causing concern is the fact that I now have a child. I had one last time I went, but he was still firmly inside his mor, so in a way, there was nothing for me to miss. Now there's a lot. 

I'm going because I took a chance and entered the lottery for a spot to hike to Coyote Buttes North, also known as The Wave. As a protected wilderness area, permits to hike there are hard to come by, and in fact, only 20 people a day get to hike there and back. To get a permit, you must enter a lottery three months before you hope to go. It's literally the luck of the draw, and surprisingly, I got lucky. My hike is September 9th. 

I'll be in Arizona (and Utah), for just under a week. I'll make my way to Flagstaff for a night, before heading up to Page which will be my base for The Wave. From there, I'll head to Kanab in Utah for a couple of nights, and hike Bryce Canyon and Zion Canyon. I've poured over the hikes available in Bryce and Zion, and have narrowed them down to: 

Bryce

Zion

I've no idea if I'll do them all, but it's good to have a starting point or five. 

On the Monday after, I'll make the trip back to Phoenix from Kanab, about a five hour drive through central Arizona. If I have the time, I'll take the scenic route. 

Then it's back home to my incredible wife and beautiful child. I can't wait. 

The route

The route

Copyright © 2014, Lara Mulady. All rights reserved.