c.koldewyn Author

Learning from Mistakes: Antelope Canyon and The Wave

Contributor story from Vien Voraotsady. Photo credit to Vien Voraotsady. 

We originally planned on doing a photography tour in one of the Antelope Canyon slots, but when everything ended up being sold out, we winged it.

On the way through Kanab, Utah, we found the best coffee shop: Willow Canyon Outdoor. This shop not only fulfilled our coffee craving, but we were able to peruse books, outdoor gear and clothing. It was the perfect opportunity for my wife, Ange, to find a hat that was all her own (one that wasn’t mine).

After our stop in Kanab, we made it to our hotel in Page, Arizona, on Friday after driving six hours. Page is a great area to visit with plenty of places to eat. There was also the added bonus of the Horseshoe Bend trailhead being five minutes from our hotel. We enjoyed the rest of our day there, and we watched the sunset from the bend’s top.

The next morning, we drove one hour back to Kanab to put our names in The Wave lottery at the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument Visitor Center. There are two ways to get into the competitive lottery — online or in person. We were taking the latter option, and as we strolled in at 8:30 a.m. to put our names in we were excited, because the parking lot was empty. “We might have a shot!” Then the park ranger reminded us Arizona and Utah are in different time zones in the summer. We missed the drawing by 30 minutes.

The Wave permit lottery happens every morning at 9 a.m. The park rangers start taking names at 8:30. If you’re lucky enough to be one of the 10 to have your name drawn — there are upwards of 50-90 people each day depending on the season — you receive your permit for the following day (i.e., Saturday’s drawing is for Sunday’s permits). Lesson learned: be aware of time changes.

Kicking ourselves for this, we headed back to Arizona for our tour of the Lower Antelope Canyon at noon. This tour cost us $25 per person, and we booked it online the day before. By the time we got to the parking lot, it was windy, and in this sandy area we were quickly covered in grit. I recommend bringing hats, bandanas, desert scarves, and sunglasses to keep sand out of your eyes. You will get sand all over your camera equipment, so make sure you have a filter for your lenses.

There were about 15 people in our group. Our guide, Darren, was knowledgeable, talkative, and funny. We learned a lot about the Navajo Nation’s history as we waited our turn to descend the ladders into the slots. The beginning of the tour started with a descent on a steep, steel ladder to get to the slot. As we walked, we gradually climbed ladders up, and we eventually came out of the slot to the topside. It was about a 1 mile hike that took an hour and a half. It was breathtaking. We had plenty of sunlight, and a great tour guide. Along with entertaining and informing us along the way, Darren would help people in our group find the best settings on their camera phones for the best pictures, and he gladly took any photos you wanted. Using my Nikon D750, 90 percent of my pictures turned out great.

Photo by Vien Voraotsady

After we went back to our room, we were off to our 5 p.m. Upper Antelope Canyon tour we also reserved online. We met at a parking lot/gift shop in Page where we were shuttled to the site. This tour cost us $52 a person, and there were about 20 people in our tour group. Our guide wasn’t as talkative as Darren, but he did point out all the great photo places with a laser pointer. This tour was shorter, and it was an out and back whereas the lower canyon was a full loop. The lighting during this tour wasn’t favorable, but that could have been because the sun wasn’t over the slots. Using my backup camera, the Nikon D7000, only 10 percent of my pictures were keepers. This tour didn’t allow flash or the use of a tripod which was too bad — it had an awesome sand fall in the middle.

Photo by Vien Voraotsady

My favorite was the Lower Antelope Canyon tour. I’d like to go back and do the photographer tour in the future.

After that, we went back to Horseshoe Bend to stargaze. Even with our headlamps, we were a little leery of the ledges, but we had fun.

Photo by Vien Voraotsady

When Sunday came, we were ready for a detox, so we went to the Buckskin Gulch trail. Supposedly, there is a beautiful slot canyon with some water, but we didn’t make it since we only had two hours. We parked at the Buckskin Gulch trailhead, hiked for an hour and never found the slot entrance. We later found out it is a 4.4 mile hike to get to the slot canyon. If you want to see it, start at the Wire Pass parking lot. Make sure to bring cash or checkbook to pay the $6 per person permit fee.

Want to see your work here? Send story and photo pitches to c.koldewyn@wasatchmag.com.

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The World in the Palm of Your Hand

This post has been submitted by a guest contributor.

Written by Sally Writes

Remember the days when Global Positioning System (GPS) technology was new and exciting? Now, what once was a luxury is used in a variety of unique ways, from GPS tracking embedded into computers, to dog collars, to drones, and to planes flying through the air.

When exploring the Wasatch area of Utah, such as Wasatch Mountain State Park or the Wasatch Crest Trail, it is beneficial to have your own personal handheld GPS advice to maximize the range and scope of your venture. In recent years, GPS technology has proven to be especially  important for campers and hikers. Handheld GPS devices have   revolutionized the way that we explore, whether it be on a new hiking trail, in the mountains, or even in our own backyards. Knowing the coordinates, the location, and the direction of your adventuring in the Wasatch area will help you to become familiar with the landscape just like a Utah local.

You might ask yourself, “Do I really need another gadget?”

The difference between having a handheld GPS, and any other gadget while hiking or camping around Wasatch is that it can be reached by satellite from anywhere in the world. There is no need to connect it to a Wi-Fi network, or for that matter, any other network. It is trustworthy, it is dependable, and it familiarizes you with the mountainous parks and trails.

Furthermore, they are a safe option if you are exploring areas that are off the usual marked paths. Many handheld GPS devices incorporate a tracking function, which periodically lay down “digital bread crumbs.” or track points at consistent intervals. You can easily retrace your steps with this feature, and you can organize your overall trip data for the various locations in Utah that you wish to see.

Most handheld GPS units are also equipped with software programs that connect to your home computers. This means that you can synchronize any trip or route planning that you do online before visiting the Wasatch area with your handheld. Easily accessing such information while hiking out on the trails is another great benefit of these handy gadgets.

But which unit is best?

These handheld lifelines come in numerous styles and sizes, so it is important that you select the one that is best for you, and your impending explorations. Most handheld GPS devices are waterproof, durable, have an exceptional battery life, and have a distress signal. Be sure that the one you choose is easy to read in all sorts of weather conditions, including at night, in a storm, and in the bright sun.

There are a number of reputable exploration companies that sell quality handheld GPS devices for your trip. (See a list of some of those here). Many of these devices include outstanding features, such as the ability to simultaneously track GPS and GLONASS, another positioning system, satellites. Most important to your decision is that you can easily learn and use all of the handheld GPS’s features so you can gain all of its information benefits while exploring the Wasatch area.

A handheld GPS is a fantastic companion for a trip to the wilderness of  Utah. With tracking features and the ability to reach satellites far and wide, this lifeline will allow you to expand your knowledge and familiarity with the area of Wasatch, right from the palm of your hand.

Want to see your work here? Send story and photo pitches to c.koldewyn@wasatchmag.com.

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