Western USA 2023 – Day 4 – The Wave

Today was the big day of our hike to The Wave in the Coyote Buttes North area of Utah. The Wave hike is 10.8km and has 376 metres of elevation gain, however most of it is at the end. This is one of the most stunning hikes I’ve ever been on, and I was extremely happy to be able to do it with my father. You must obtain a Coyote Buttes North permit before hiking, and that is done by a random lottery. Only 64 people a day are allowed in the area, with 48 lottery permits issued four months in advance, and 16 daily lottery permits issued two days before. Permitting started in 1984 with only 8 daily permits issued. The area became more popular after Windows 7 was launched on July 22nd 2009, and social media became more prevalent. The number of permits allowed has slowly been increased over the years.

We took a tour with Dreamland Tours with Robert. The drive to The Wave takes about 45 minutes, however 20 minutes are on an extremely rough road that was somewhat washed out, although they had graded it by the time we were on the way back. We took our time on the hike, learning about the different types of geological formations, including Moqui Marbles, which are brownish-black balls composed of iron oxide that surrounds sandstone that formed underground when iron minerals that precipitated from flowing groundwater.

At The Wave we took a bunch of photos, including the signature “desktop background” photo, before settling in for some delicious sandwiches, which were provided for lunch. After lunch we walked to the Second Wave, before looping back to the Wave, and then to the Mini Wave. We started heading back after exploring the area and taking all the photos that we wanted to. The total time on the tour was 8 hours including the 45 minute drive each way, and the stop for lunch.

After hiking we relaxed at our hotel for a bit, booked our Las Vegas Hotel, and went to Rocking V Cafe for dinner. I had a burger and a salad, and my dad had lasagna.

Western USA 2023 – Day 2 – Ghost Towns

Today we explored the three ghost towns of Old Irontown, Silver Reef, and Grafton. We woke up around 7:00am and had a complimentary breakfast at our hotel. I had some fruit, bacon, and an omelette. After breakfast we drove about 75 minutes to Old Irontown.

Old Irontown, originally known as Iron City, was originally founded in 1868 when there was a second attempt at mining iron from the nearby Iron Mountain. The first attempt from Cedar City was not successful. The city didn’t last long, only until 1876, when the Edmunds-Tucker Act (religious crisis) and the Panic of 1873 (economic crisis) led to the closure of the mine, which eventually led to the demise of the city. At its peak, the settlement included a school, blacksmith, charcoal furnaces, and a foundry. The ghost town is now a protected historic site since 1971. 

After visiting Old Irontown we tried to visit a nearby historic aviation arrow, however the road was impassable, so we continued onto the second ghost town of Silver Reef, which was about 40 minutes away.

Silver Reef is a ghost town Northeast of St. George, Utah. It was established in 1875 when a silver vein was discovered in a sandstone formation by a prospector named John Kemple. Geologists were baffled by this, as silver is not usually found in sandstone. Originally established as the settlement called Rockpile, the town was eventually renamed Silver Reef. By 1879 over 2000 people were living in Silver Reef. Mines were starting to closed by 1884 as the worldwide price of silver dropped, and by 1901 most of the buildings had either been demolished or moved to Leeds.

In 1916, mining operations in Silver Reef resumed under the direction of a man named Alex Colbath, who started the Silver Reef Consolidated Mining Company to exploit the remaining mines in the area. These mines were eventually purchased by American Smelting and Refining Company in 1928, however due to the Great Depression, not much work was completed. In 1948 the mines were purchased by The Western Gold & Uranium Corporation, and in 1951 began mining uranium in the area. The mines were eventually sold again, in 1979 to the 5M Corporation. Today, the Wells Fargo office, the Cosmopolitan Restaurant, and the Rice Building are the prominent remaining structures of the ghost town.

It was time to get some lunch so we drove about 20 minutes to Hurricane and ate at Main Street Cafe. We both had a cranberry turkey sandwich, which was delicious. I chose a side of salad with blue cheese dressing.

After lunch we drove towards Silver Reef; the last ghost town of the day. Along the way we stopped at Matt’s Offroad Recovery, which is an off-road recovery operation outisde of hurricane. Matt has a YouTube channel which I have been watching on a regular basis for the last 2.5 years, so it was neat to see his crew and the Morrvair in person. They were fairly busy, so were not actively taking tours of the site. I did see Lizzy and Matt’s wife Jamie though. After a brief stop we continued towards Grafton.

Grafton is a ghost town just south of Zion National Park in Utah. It is likely the most photographed ghost town in the Western states, and has been used as a filming location for several movies such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The town was settled in 1859 as a cotton-growing project ordered by Brigham Young, an American leader and politician at the time. The town grew quickly in the first couple of years, featuring 28 families by 1864. Each family farmed an acre of land. Continuous flooding and large amounts of silt in the land quickly lead to the abandonment of the town, and only four families remained by 1890. The last residents left Grafton in 1944. In June 1997 the Grafton Heritage Partnership was organized to protect, preserve, and restore the remaining townsite.

It was around 4:00pm at this time, and we had accomplished everything that we wanted to see today so we drove back towards St. George. My dad had found another aviation navigation arrow that we could stop at, which was right in St. George. These large 50 foot “Chrome Yellow” concrete arrows were built between 1926 and 1932 to help to guide pilots of early airmail flights across the United States. All arrows pointed East on West-East airways, and North on South-North airways. In the middle of the arrow was a 50 foot tall steel tower that had a rotating beacon to help aid in navigation, especially at night. During World War 2 the steel towers were dismantled to supply metal for the way effort. Towards the end of the war aircraft navigation systems were starting to be utilized, so the arrows became bleached and started to crumble. The arrow that we visited today is painted pink, but its originally colour would have been that vibrant yellow.

After that we drove back to the hotel to relax for a bit before going out for dinner. We decided to go back to the same place as last night. This time I had a lamb burger and a salad, and Dad had a pulled pork sandwich. After dinner we went back to the hotel to relax for a bit before going to bed, as we have a fairly early day tomorrow because we need to go for our hiking orientation in Kanab for our hike on Thursday.

Western USA 2023 – Day 1 – St. George

Today my father and I embarked on one of our near-annual adventures together. This time we will be visiting some of our favourite states of Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. The day started off with a mid-afternoon flight from Calgary to Las Vegas on a WestJet Boeing 737-700. Dad upgraded us to business class, which was nice. The flight was an hour delayed, but it didn’t affect anything that we had planned. On the flight I had the chicken dish, since my Dad had the last ravioli dish. It was pretty good, however I thought the cold asparagus and feta cheese that was served with it was rather weird.

After arriving in Las Vegas we took an Uber in a Tesla 3 to Dollar Car Rental to pickup our car. The Uber ride was about $15 USD, which seemed fair. After signing the paperwork we hopped into the Ford Edge that we were given and drove two hours towards St. George, Utah, where we would be staying for the night.

When we were close to St. George we both noticed the beautiful snow covered mountains overlooking St. George below so we turned off the highway to take a picture. This is where we accidentally stumbled upon a trail called Aspiration Trail with beautiful painted rocks along the entire length of it. The painted rocks are a range of inspirational quotes, funny quotes, and beautiful artwork, however there were some advertisements strewn about it. The trail was a project that was created by Kevin and Anne Hanson. Their inspiration came from their desire to help parents find activities to do with their children and bring families closer together. At the summit of the hike is a wooden sign surrounded by hundreds of painted rocks that reads “”Congratulations! You have reached the summit. Please leave a rock on our monument signifying your achievement”. The project was started on March 20th 2021.

After exploring the beautifully painted rocks we drove the remaining ten minutes towards our hotel; The Hamptons Inn in St. George. After checking into our hotel and getting settled in we drove to Georges Corner Restaurant to have dinner. I had a Reuben, and my father had a grilled cheese sandwich. After dinner we ended up hanging out at the hotel for the remainder of the evening.