My friend Alex is an outdoor travel designer. As a hobby, that is, but I think he could definitely start charging for his services. I’ve been on his amazing trips before, including a four-day backpacking trip through Rocky Mountain National Park and and a “spring break” trip to Utah and its southern national parks. I have him to thank for my small collection of Junior Ranger badges.
I was thrilled to get an invite to his spring break getaway with his boyfriend James and a group of about eight friends. I cleared my calendar for another Great American West designer trip by Alex.
True to form, Alex typed up an itinerary briefing. I read it and admired. See for yourself:
Memorial Day 2017: Bears Ears, Vermilion Cliffs, Natural Bridges, Grand Staircase-Escalante
Celebrating our Beloved National Monuments
Day 1: Friday, May 26, 2017
Drive from Denver to the San Rafael Swell spot, Exit 131 onto Buckhorn Draw Rd (6 hours).
Day 2: Saturday, May 27, 2017
Drive from Spot 131 to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Cannonville Visitor’s Center (3.5 hours) to get our camping permit. See what is available near the Lick Wash trailhead. Hike Zion-esque Lick Wash, 8 miles RT, then camp.
Day 3: Sunday May 28, 2017
Take the scenic Cottonwood Wash Road (impassable when wet) to see Grosvenor Arch (pull up); Cottonwood Narrows slot canyon (2.5 mi max, turn around whenever); Hackberry Canyon/Yellow Rock (4.2 mi rt); and the Toadstools (1.5 mi rt). Be sure to have dispersed camping permitting (if any) after discussing camping options near the end of the Cottonwood Creek Road, or preferably down the House Rock Valley Road (ask about developed and undeveloped camping, noting existing developed areas such as Stateline are small).
Day 4: Memorial Day
Because Coyote Buttes only have 10 access permits available per day, we’ll take to the more remote and more interior White Pocket of Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. The “trailhead” (it’s really an at-large hiking area [only a few miles to overlook the Paria Canyon!]) is two-hours from the House Rock Valley Road turn off from US-89. Along the way is the Wire Pass Slot Canyon which is a 3.4 mi rt trip from the TH to the canyon’s confluence with Buckskin Gulch (the world’s longest slot canyon). Explore this area on our way to White Pocket, where we’ll camp.
Day 5: Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Drive from White Pocket thru the Valley of the Gods in Bears Ears National Monument, to Bears Ears Buttes. They are not far from Natural Bridges National Monument (maybe fit in that scenic drive if there is time). There is camping along the side roads between UT-261 terminus & NBNM. Drive is 7-8 hours to the Buttes, including the Valley of the Gods scenic byway tour, from White Pocket.
Day 6: Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Drive back, stopping for a hike where we please.
About two weeks before the trip, Alex diligently followed up with a packing list. Here’s what I’ve been assigned to bring:
- Tent (try to collaborate)
- Sleeping pad
- Sleeping bag
- Water bladder
- Water bottles (2)
- Hand sanitizer
- Dental care
- Rain jacket
- Cool weather jacket
- Hat/visor & cool weather hat
- Long sleeve shirts
- Hiking shoes
- Regular socks and cold weather socks
- Food (lunch, snacks, breakfast items)
I’m only halfway done, so I better keep packing. I’ll be off the Internet grid for the duration of the trip. Goodbye WiFi — I’ll try not to miss you much.