I wanted to go inside Grand Staircase-Escalante since first time I drove 89N to Bryce and took a peek of the area from the North. It was many years ago and I remember seeing a large expanse of hoodoos of various colors extending to the horizon. But there are no paved roads in the entire huge area and is not so easy to drive a small car. I made many investigations in various offices of the BLM and eventually I was told in Cannonville, UT that Cottonwood Road, the road that crosses the Monument in the middle is passable by small vehicles. The road proved to be way better than expected, better than the road I had to drive twice in Vermillion Cliffs to Wire Pass, and except a wash that you have to cross and a portion that was rutted it was in excellent condition. The unpaved portion of the road that starts right after Kodachrome Park has 41 miles till it reaches 89 close to Page, AZ and on occasion can be driven with even 40mph.
The first stop on the road was Grosvenor’s Arch, an impressive double arch that I never saw before in South West.
On the way down to Cottonwood Canyon I was passed by a truck and inside was Kara, the girl from BLM in Kanab that takes care of the Wave lottery, who stopped and we had a long chat in the middle of the road without getting off the vehicles. The traffic is very sparse so you can block the road and don’t bother anybody,,,,
Since I started to visit South West I was always impressed by the relaxed, joyful and always helpful attitude and demeanor of the rangers. Living always outside and in such beautiful environments gets you probably a joie de vivre unmatched, so remote from the concerned and always busy attitude of the city people. Kara is such an example. She is built around a huge smile and she does it from the heart and you can see that she enjoys to help and always steer you in the right direction. Of course it can be always put on the professional attitude but it is way more than this because you encounter this attitude in hikers and many people who live their life outdoors, outside of the confinement of the cubicles.
I told Kara that I wanted to hike Cottonwood Canyon and she advised me to start from the South Trailhead. I did it and got into a large Canyon opened up between tall rocks that goes for about 1.5 miles and continues with a slot canyon that is its North part. This northern part is really spectacular and it goes for a while in two consecutive slots canyons opening up in a larger canyon with a sandy area that keeps going. I wanted to find its end but it was already close to 6:30 pm and afraid not to get stuck in the slot canyon by night I retraced my steps through the slot canyons, got out on the road at the North Canyon Trailhead and walked to the car park on the road. The drive to 89 took an hour in a desolate landscape full of yellow, red or bleached white hoodoos of various shapes and forms, valleys and eventually Paria river. It is a fantastic drive that is worth doing again in full day light.