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Mother’s Day in Kanab

Mother’s Day weekend is a great weekend to go camping. Nobody else is doing it. We decided to head east to Kanab, Utah with some of our friends from Orem. It never turns out how we thought we wanted it to, but sometimes it turns out great. This was one of those times.

When we decided to move to Southern Utah, I thought we would probably visit Zion National Park all the time. It’s been 18 months and we haven’t been even once. We actually visited Zion more often when we lived hundreds of miles away. That may seem pretty pathetic until you realize we are surrounded by magical places that we haven’t ever seen. One of those places is Vermillion Cliffs National Monument.

Vermillion Cliffs National Monument

You may not have heard of VCNM, but you have probably seen photos of “The Wave.” It’s the most famous formation/attraction inside VCNM. It’s so popular there’s a highly competitive lottery system to get a permit to visit it. If you are not lucky enough to be selected during the original lottery (3 months ahead of your potential visit) there is another option. You can apply for one of the daily geo-fenced permits. It’s another lottery, but your odds are much much better because it’s only open to people already within a short distance of the monument. The geo-fenced lottery happens 2 days before the day you want the permit. This was the situation in which we found ourselves on this particular weekend.

We had pay $9 each to enter the “daily lottery”. It’s a bit of a scam, but what else are you going to do? Mark tried for Coyote Buttes North (aka “The Wave”) and Charmaine tried for Coyote Buttes South (aka “The Southern Wave”). We knew the chances were much better in the daily lottery than they were 3 months ago in the regular lottery. Still, we guessed there must be at least 100 people trying to get a permit for The Wave, even on Mother’s Day weekend. We hedged our bets and had Charmaine go for the far less popular Southern Wave. We have no idea how many people tried for either permit, but we failed to get any. So we spent $18 on lottery tickets and got nothing… or did we get something great?

Deep Sand

We decided to explore around the Kanab area while waiting to see if we were going to get the permits or not. We headed up to see a slot canyon that some people call “Kanab Peek-a-Boo”. The other (real?) name is Red Canyon, which is such a creative name. I see why the good people of Kanab decided to copy the name of a more famous slot canyon. We love the “real” Peekaboo Gulch slot canyon in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, so we were a bit skeptical about what we might find here in Kanab. We also needed to be on the lookout for a good spot to camp.

Instead of following the crowd and taking the usual/easy way, we decided to explore the deep sand roads above the canyon. At one point, while descending a very steep sandy hill, we wondered if we would be able to get back up the hill. The answer was probably not, at least not without great effort. Our 4Runner is a lot lighter than Mark’s Land Cruiser, so when we decided to turn around about half way down the hill (just before it got really steep), the 4Runner was able to get back up without too much trouble, but the Land Cruiser was stuck. It took a couple hours of digging and driving on recovery boards, but it finally broke free and made it back to the top of the hill. I probably should have winched it at the same time.

We parked at the top, just off the road, and walked down the deep sandy hill past where we had been stuck and down to the wash at the bottom. It was at that point we realized how silly we had been to have never sent anyone down before spending hours digging. We didn’t need to go back up the sandy hill. There was a very easy non-sandy road that went straight to the slot canyon. We had a good laugh about it as we walked up the wash to the trailhead and watched cars rolling in and out past us as we walked.

Red Canyon / Kanab Peek-a-Boo

As luck would have it, everyone seemed to be leaving the slot canyon as we arrived. We had the place to ourselves. That was a stroke of luck, because we had been passed by several Jeeps and side-by-sides on our walk.

The Kanab Peek-a-Boo slot canyon is pretty nice. I wouldn’t say it’s amazing, but it’s definitely worth doing once. Maybe twice. There was a bolder blocking the canyon at one point, so we didn’t actually make it to the end before turning around. So there’s a decent chance we’ll be back sometime, but I would still pick the “real” Peekaboo Gulch over this one every time… unless that time is when you have to remain in a geo-fenced area waiting to see if you won the lottery for a permit to The Wave.

The Great Chamber

After leaving the slot canyon, it was time to find a place to camp. We headed north and decided to visit The Great Chamber at Cutler Point before settling down to camp for the night. There were a lot of pull-outs from the road that probably had decent tent spots, so we were not too concerned about finding a spot. Once again, we arrived to see the only other car in the area leaving. We had The Great Chamber to ourselves.

The Great Chamber is a yellow sandstone monolith that looks like a big scoop of ice cream was removed from it. Where the ice cream has been removed there’s a chamber. It’s a really cool place and we had plenty of time to really explore it. Inside the chamber is a tall pile of yellow sand. I can’t think of another time or place where I have seen sand this color. It’s very distinct and really does remind me of ice cream.

The chamber is about half way up the monolith and from the top of the sand pile you get a great view of the valley. While looking out across the valley we saw a single orange bluff sticking up not too far from where we drove in. As we drove away from The Great Chamber, I was leading and drove right past the road up to the orange bluff. I thought about driving up to it, but it was close to sunset and I wanted to get back to the part of the road where we had seen the pull-off areas for camping. Luckily Mark started honking until we turned around and followed him up to the bluff. We wound up camping right next to it under some huge pine trees. It was one of those epic camping spots that you never get. But we got it this time. And there was plenty of time to explore the bluff and watch the sunset. We actually had LTE there, which was a shock. And, of course, we were completely alone.

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