Friday, February 16, 2018

Hiking to Utah’s Toadstool Hoodoos in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

An impromptu weekend roadtrip last fall took me from Phoenix north to the Arizona-Utah border, where I split my time between Kanab, Utah, and Page, Arizona. U.S. Highway 89 runs between Kanab and Page—two of the most isolated towns in the country—passing through some of the most desolate, stunning scenery on the way.

U.S. 89 also skirts the southern edge of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, a national park that basically acts as a preserve of all the federally-owned land between Bryce Canyon National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. A roadside pull-off led me right inside the park boundaries to the Toadstool Hoodoos, otherworldly formations eroded from the rock by wind, rain, and snow.

Toadstool Hoodoos, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
The hoodoo
Because the park spans so much of far-southern Utah, it’s difficult to grasp what exactly it contains. Most folks typically split it up into wedge-shaped thirds. The western section encompasses the Grand Staircase, a vast domain of successive plateaus that abruptly end in white, red, or brown cliffs, giving way to one geological layer after another in a south-to-north stairstep fashion: a staircase on the scale of the gods.

Sandwiched in the middle rises the Kaiparowits Plateau, a rugged landscape that silently guards fossils—and fossil fuels. Although it’s the perfect destination for those keen on desolate backcountry adventures, the plateau has somewhere around nine billion tons of coal deposits, putting it at the epicenter of the American West’s decades-old fight between resource extraction and natural conservation. The Toadstool Hoodoos balance precariously at the foothills of the Kaiparowits, their future uncertain in a monument whose boundaries were drastically reduced by the Trump administration.

To the east flows the Escalante River and its tributaries. This is slot canyon country, where backpackers whisper the names of claustrophobia-inducing narrows like “Spooky Gulch” and “Peek-a-Boo Canyon.” Perhaps one day I’ll have enough courage to risk death-by-flash-flood and squeeze between the vermilion walls of these slot canyons, but for now, I’m content with day hikes to see hoodoos.

Toadstool Hoodoos, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
More hoodoo

Monday, February 5, 2018

Photo Post: Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park near Kanab, Utah

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
Sand dunes
Just outside the seasonal tourism hub of Kanab, Utah, stretches one of the rare sand dunes in North America’s Colorado Plateau. The first thing you notice when you step off the creaky, weathered boardwalk onto the sand is how incredibly soft it is. I’ve been on my fair share of beaches, but the sand at Coral Pink Sand Dunes is so much more delicate and light; it welcomed my bare feet onto a vast, otherworldly sea and gently gave way as my feet left smooth depressions in the dunes. Silent trickles of sand spilled down the corrugated flanks of the dunes as I made my way to a lookout point in the center of this Utah state park.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
Edge of the protection zone
Views from the top were cool, offering a comprehensive take on far southern Utah: the undulating fields of sand stretching from the southwest to northeast, the pines and junipers slowly encroaching on the periphery, and several cliff “steps” of the Grand Staircase rearing up in the distance, each a few thousand feet closer to Heaven.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...