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