Hiking On Mars

The Wave-0489-Edit_webbbb.jpg
I would like to take this moment to bring you a break from political discourse and introduce you to one of the mose amazing places in the United States — The Wave in Coyote Buttes North located in Paria Canyon Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area in Northern Arizona. For landscape photographers and hikers with a taste for Martian landscape, getting one of 20 daily permits to hike to the Wave is like winning the Golden Ticket to the Wonka Chocolate factory. It’s nearly impossible to reserve a permit as the 10 daily online permits are booked up to three months in advance. You can try to get them by lottery by going to the Bureau of Land Management office in Page Arizona, but it’s like winning the lottery. If you are lucky like I was to get a permit, then the next thing is to book a trip to Page Arizona (5 hours north of Phoenix) and prepare yourself for a grueling hike in the high desert. Folks for us low landers, hiking at 5500 feet is quite a feat. The hike to the Wave is approximately 4 miles each way but it requires you climbing up steep sandstone flatrock hills and the worst — steep sand dunes. The air is so dry you have to literally chug water constantly. Note that I went in winter when the temperature on my hike ranged from 40-60 degrees. In summer, the temps will rise above 100 degrees. Carrying a backpack with camera equipment and water/supplies up hill and up sand dunes at high altitude took its toll on me at least. I had to constantly break to catch my breath. I didn’t feel tired hiking up there, but I would constantly run out of breath and that’s with me walking at a steady but not brisk pace.
The Wave is in the wilderness. There are no trails, no phones, no bathrooms. To get to the entrance of the preserve, you need a truck with big time mud tires as melted snow or rainfall will cause mud and you can get stuck. There are no paved roads to the trail area: the last 8 miles is on a dirt road — a rough one.
Once on the trail, you have to rely on maps and GPS or as I did, I hired a licensed guide. It’s easy to get lost there if you don’t know what you’re doing and you must be out by dark. At times, I didn’t think I’d make it, but I did and after 2 1/2 hours from the beginning of the hike, I finally found myself at the main wave pictured here. There are two wave areas and I pretty much stayed there for about 5 hours then we had to hike back to be back at the parking lot by sundown. If you’re on the trail in the dark, it’s navigation by flashlight and GPS and given the steep rocks there, it’s pretty dangerous unless you’re a pro hiker.
Once you’re at the Wave you feel you are in another world. There is no civilization there. No people except other hikers and photographers. The landscape is surreal though. Like being in a Dali painting. Hundreds of thousands of years of erosion, snow, ice, wind, and floods carved the Wave into the strange Martian world it is. The BLM only allows 20 people per day as the area is fragile. It’s an amazing site folks if you are willing to brave the hike. I was exhausted at the end of the day, but was happy with my photos and man it was worth the trip to Arizona just to see this place for one day. If you dare go to the Wave, you can attempt to get your permit from the BLM site here.

17 thoughts on “Hiking On Mars”

  1. Ventanita, this was taken with:
    Canon EOS 5d with Canon 17-40L Lens and a polarizer atop a Gitzo tripod with really right stuff balancing ball head.

  2. Did you place the antlers for the shot or did they just happen to be laying right there? Either way, fantastic! Good shooting!

  3. not antlers; just a twig carried there by the melted snow. I composed the image to have the wood placed where it is. (Rule of thirds)

  4. I’m having a hard time letting go of my Nikon SLR for a digital SLR, specially b/c my hobby is B/W photography – the joy is in the developing for me.
    Are the Cannon digitals better than Nikon digitals?

  5. Ventanita, it’s a matter of choice. Depends on how much you want to spend and what your budget is and what type of subjects you shoot. In my opinion, the best landscape camera of the two is the Canon EOS 1ds Mark III. The best sports/wildlife/landscape camera, the Nikon D3.
    Those are the top tier cameras. The 2nd tier cameras are the Canon EOS 40d, EOS 5d and Nikon D300. The third tier are the Canon digital rebel and the Nikon equivalent. Nikon lenses cost more money. Canon lenses are tops in the mid to tele range but are weak in the wide angle area. Nikons are great in the w/a area and are now producing some teles as good as Canon.
    With the printers today and photoshop, you can make B&W prints as good as those with silver and you can avoid the toxic chemicals.
    Unless you shoot large format, digital is the way.

  6. Thanks Gigi. You said it; it’s His work; I just plagiarize it for others to see. Arizona and Utah and Nevada and New Mexico are God’s country.
    I can honestly say that I can feel closer to Him when I am there. It will cleanse your soul and recharge your spirit to walk through and capture the American Southwest with your own eyes.

  7. I think i like the toxic chemicals :b
    Thanks for the info, I’ll pass it on to the paisajista of the family (my husband), who is the one in the market for a digital.

  8. Ventanita, email me when you’re ready to buy. I did you right by getting you to go Mac, so trust me on digital. 😀

  9. Mike,
    Can you make that shot available for download as Desktop Wallpaper? As to the Nikon/Canon rivalry, it reminds me of the Ford vs. Chevy rivalry. As for me, back in the “film days” I avoided it by using Minolta. -S-

  10. Great Pic Mike, thanks for sharing.
    To get the same clarity (grain) of a film pic one would need about a 20 megapixal digital camera. However if you are just posting online even a cheap kodak 3.1 megapixil can work just fine. These http:/spankysplace.blog-city.com/oregon_photos.htm were shot with said cheap camera.

  11. Azygos, actually 20 megapixels full frame will give you better resolution than medium format film e.g. the Canon EOS 1ds Mark III.
    But the current line of digitals such as the 40d, 5d, 1d Mark III by Canon and the Nikon D300 and D3 outperform any 35mm film including Velvia 50.
    I can easily blow up a 5d image to 20×30 with no grain and no loss of resolution ….

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