Ever since DannyS launched a TA meet up last year in Bluff UT that attracted 16 TA posters, DEs and significant others, there has been a bonding and longing to build on the success. After months of planning and anticipation it is finally happening. I use that tense because although MrsRedPony and I are back home again after 5 days, the Kanab meet up is still going on.
We left home on Wednesday morning with a weather forecast calling for clear skies and temperatures in the 70s for the next week or more. The drive up Oak Creek Canyon from Sedona was more and more colorful with each new curve in the road and elevation gain. I expected to see tons of color on the mountains above Flagstaff and wasn't disappointed, although last year's fires damaged a lot of the wooded areas on the mountains that would usually be bright gold with Aspens. The biggest surprise was our drive through the Painted Desert on 89. Between the sunlight, clear air and Autumn golds, the desert has never looked more beautiful to me. We took Alt89 via Marble Canyon and climbed our way up to Jacob Lake where we stopped for high priced fuel and a stash of cookies. One should NEVER drive past this place without stopping to gather some of these gems. MRP ate one on the spot and gave me a taste. I was determined to save mine for a special moment later on.
We arrived in Kanab in just under 5 hours. I made a couple of phone calls and discovered that PowderGlut and his bride had also just arrived from Steamboat Springs. We met at one of the VRBO houses that OhioHick had secured as a base for most of us for the week. Although this was a first time meeting for us it was clear that we would become fast friends. By supper time DannyS (from LA), Pixie (from Roosevelt UT), Dawgg (from Evergreen CO) and Keith and Matt (from England) had all arrived as well. We were the first because we were the lucky holders of the first 9 permits to hike the Wave the next day. Over dinner at the Rockin V we put the finishing touches on our plan for the next morning and took time to become better acquainted. Victor, the owner of the Rockin V was quick to share some advice about the Wave since he's been there some 15 times before. It helped us to fine tune our general plan. I'll post a review about Rockin V, but suffice to say this place would be successful in any town because the food and service are just plain good. But in Kanab it enjoys and deserves the reputation as the best place in town. Most of us ate dinner there 2-3 times during the week.
We were up early and gathered at the VRBO house to load up in two vehicles and parade to Wire Pass trailhead, about an hour away. We were on the trail just after 9AM. This was a day that we've all been anticipating for months. In fact, most of us have been dreaming about this for years. Because the Wave is a carefully controlled and permitted destination, limited to just 20 permits per day, for most people it is quite simply unattainable. Just having the opportunity to be here, let alone with special friends from TA, and on a day that promised to be nothing less than perfect, weather wise, was overwhelming. On the trail (not a well marked trail for obvious reasons) we chatted and allowed ourselves to become better acquainted. I had met Dawgg once before last summer in July. Danny and Pixie were part of our Bluff event last year. Over the course of the next two hours we chatted and encouraged each other and found our way through the sand and across the slick rock ledges to the Wave. We met another couple from NY who had luckily scored their permit the day before. They followed and tagged along and we shared with them.
On arrival at the Wave there weren't enough adjectives to describe it all. The smiles and boost of energy that we all felt and experienced is indescribable. We explored. We scrambled. We ate lunch. We took hundreds of pictures. And we congratulated each other for making it, being there and having the good fortune to share it as we were. Matt exhibited his youthful exuberance by climbing up to the ridge and arch that was high above us. After nearly an hour it was time to move on. We were in search of the so called second wave that was in a vicinity about a half mile away. Remember, there is no map, only directions and landmarks as provided by BLM with the issuance of the permits. On the way we found several large puddles, even though it had been weeks since there had been any rain or snow there. The pools provided more excellent photo ops and the cameras kept clicking. Everywhere we looked we were in awe. We found our way to the second wave and stopped again for photos and a decision to proceed down to a wash and find our way out to a fork in the trail, rather than going back to the Wave via the same route. We had split up by now. Dawgg and Keith and Matt were back at the Wave and committed to hiking back out on the original route. The rest of us were moving forward and had the NY couple with us and we were also running into a young couple from China who were forging the same path as us, but in more of a rush to get back to their car. But we talked and photographed each other, getting the group shots and discussing which way to go.
China moved on. The rest of us talked about attempting to find the Boneyard. Once we (Danny) realized how much of a climb it would be, we settled for an area where there were rocks that had tumbled from the Boneyard and we observed these unique stones among the slick rock and sand in the wash. On our hike down the wash we found slots and a few good drop offs and even some running water trickling over a fall that had us walking through some mud for the next 50 yards or so before we rejoined the original trail and retraced our path back to the parking area. Total hike time was just over 6 hours. We estimated total distance traveled at about 7 miles, so it was clear we were taking our time and not pushing at all.
Back at the cars we popped open some cold beverages and I presented the cookies from Jacob Lake. They were well received.
We drove back to Kanab and cleaned up in time to join the newest arrivals, RedDirtDog and Slickrockwalker, OhioHick and MrsHick. After sharing a few more beverages and social time we proceeded to Rewind Diner for a supper to remember. The diner offers both a meat and a vegan menu. I'm pretty sure that every one of us opted for meat. Most of us choose some kind of burger offering. The most popular was the Saturnburger, a work of art as much as a meal. It consists of a standard burger with a huge ring of cheese, grilled and melted around the perimeter to resemble the rings around Saturn. We had no sooner sat down than we were joined by SouthJerseyGirl and Mr SJG. They had arrived earlier in the week and traveled to Moab for a few days. Having never met anyone other than MrsRedPony and me they weren't sure about what to expect. However, they quickly realized how warm and friendly the whole crew was and became a part of us all.
Back at the VRBO house we shared more beverages and discussed options for Friday. The day was initially left open with few choices of where to go and what to do. Dawgg, Keith and Matt were going horseback riding. MrsHick would be spending the day as a volunteer at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Pixie, MRP and I decided to do an easy hike and exploration at Toadstools, and the rest of the crowd decided to go and hike and explore at Willis Creek. We also anticipated the arrival of the other participants by Friday afternoon and planned the group photo for 5:30 before our dinner back at Rockin V at 6PM.
Toadstools is an easily accessible geological curiosity with rock formations that seem impossibly stacked and resemble toadstools. The round trip hike was only about 2 miles, but after trudging through the sand yesterday at the Wave, it was a relaxing way to exercise without straining ourselves too much. I can't say how proud I am of my wife, MrsRedPony, who in spite of being the senior member of the entire gathering, kept pace and maintained enthusiasm for the whole weekend. We play golf, and exercise and do walks around Sedona, but the sand at the Wave was more of a challenge than we normally encounter. So this day was an easy way to recover. And we enjoyed the time and conversation with Pixie. She was anticipating a challenging day on Monday and so having time to take it easy and not worry was good for us all.
We were the first to arrive back in Kanab that afternoon, but it didn't take long for folks to arrive. Dez40 was actually pulling in just as we got back to the house. He and I had shared a few beers last winter in Palm Springs, so it was not a first time meeting. Soon we were joined by LVZiggy and Mr Zig, Kbecjeans and K-Bot. Happy hour had begun early.
At 5:30 we headed out for the sign at edge of town where we found Wings1980 and 1981. The only ones missing now were Tet13 and Tet14. A slip up in messaging at their hotel desk meant that they missed the group photo, but we soon found them when we arrived back at Rockin V.
We were now a full group of two dozen representatives of the spirit of volunteerism and love of travel and adventure that defines TripAdvisor.com. Some of us had met before. For others it was a first encounter. Restaurant common sense had us seated at three separate eight top tables, but we were all able to wander and mingle and visit throughout the evening. I know that for restauranteurs and servers this can be a nightmare, but we were welcomed and they still provided excellent service and wonderful food. There were dozens of customers waiting outside but we never felt rushed, even though we probably over stayed the normal turn time. We finally exited around 8:30. I can't say enough about how nice Victor and his staff at Rockin V treated us all.
Back again at the houses we shared a wide variety of mostly adult beverages. It seemed as though almost everyone had made an effort to bring some of their favorites from their homes, no matter how far away. Kudos to SJG for toting Prosecco sparkling wine and several interesting Stout Ale beverages, and to LVZiggy for bringing her homemade Lemoncello and a rum concoction from the Carribean called Mamajuana. The Powdergluts brought a huge stash of Colorado beers and wines. Any outside observer would have thought that this was a gathering of friends who had known each other for many years. And in a sense, we have.
We could have partied all night long. But we didn't, because tomorrow had to be an early start again. There was another horseback adventure for some and the rest of us were heading out to Toroweep at the Grand Canyon.
The goal was to leave by 8AM. We packed a few coolers with appropriate beverages. Powderglut and I set up an assembly line in their kitchen and manufactured a couple dozen turkey, roast beef and PB&J sandwiches. We loaded supplies, outdoor furniture, cameras and bodies into an assortment of 5 appropriate 4WD and potential off roading vehicles. MRP and I got to ride in the tail jeep with RedDirtDawg and Slickrockwalker. After the superb job that Rick did last year guiding us around Bluff and surrounds, I had no fears and was glad to be able to relax and ride. These are special people and we really enjoy their company. Each vehicle had a walkie talkie and we were able to stay in contact as much as needed. We stopped a couple of times as we made significant changes from the paved highway to the 50+ mile stretch of dirty dusty washboard road, and then finally the last five mile trek from the ranger station to the rim on roads that should never be attempted in anything less than a properly equipped 4WD modified vehicle. Exposed rocks, ledges and wash outs are the norm here and there is no help or communication with the outside world at all. If you break down or get stuck out here, it could be days before you get assistance.
It was just about 3 hours later when we arrived at the rim. Toroweep aka Tuweep is one of the most remote and unique places in the entire Grand Canyon. Understand that our group included TA designees who are experts for the Grand Canyon, the entire states of Arizona and Utah, Tet14 who has traveled virtually every back road around the world, and even K-Bot who has been a professional travel consultant and advisor for everything about the Grand Canyon and these states for over 25 years. But none of us had ever been here at Tuweep before. And it was worth the wait.
What a place. Only at Tuweep can you stand on the edge of the rim and look straight down, over 3,000 feet into the Colorado River directly below. Literally a single step, or misstep, is all it takes. There was silence. There was excitement. There was caution. And there was a thrill beyond what I can describe. And it was in the presence of friends who all share the respect and reverence that Tuweep deserves. We could see Lava Falls downstream. We could even hear it, even though it was well over a mile away. From our vantage point it looked like a little ripple in the river. But having ridden it in a raft I can vouch that it is a monstrous drop in the river and one of the most dangerous places in the GC.
Millions of visitors see and experience the Grand Canyon every year. They come from all over the globe to see this wonder of the world. But few by comparison, only thousands, ever get to experience it from Tuweep.
We picnicked. We took a great group photo. We enjoyed conversation amongst ourselves and with Todd, the lonely local Park Ranger. He told us that his territory includes the surrounding 500,000 acres. The scale and numbers are all just overwhelming. We spent about 3 hours there. Then it was time to saddle up and head back on the 3 hour return trip over the same ground we had covered to get there. One vehicle experienced a flat tire. Fortunately we had a handy pump and managed to repair it well enough to get back to Kanab for a proper fix.
Back at the houses we had just enough time to rinse off all the dirt and dust and start another party. It was a simple affair with plenty of libations, a few hors deurves including some tasty cheese curds and a stack of local pizzas. Powderglut and I made the run to the pizza joint (Lotsa Mozza) only to be told they had run out of dough! But they found more and our order was delayed by only about 20 minutes. I don't think any of the partiers back at the house even noticed.
Danny had managed to procure a box full of TA goodies with hats, bags, bottle openers, water bottles and other logo souvenirs. It was like Christmas morning with all the grabbing and sharing. Everybody got stuff. OhioHick shared the coffee table book that he created after last year in Bluff. Several of us placed orders. And now he has a project to produce a new one for this trip. Pixie had a box of stones and fossils and bones and artifacts that she acquired in Utah. We all presented OhioHick with a thank you gift walking stick for all of the time and effort he put into coordinating the trip, housing, website and communications center. And though the week was far from over, we all vowed that it was a trip of a lifetime and that God willing, we'll attempt to do it again next year. There's talk about Moab...
Sadly for MRP and me it was the last day in Kanab. A few of us were departing for hikes in Zion or heading toward home. Most of the crew, 17 in all were going to Page for the Colorado River Discovery raft trip in Glen Canyon. We had done it last year and opted out, but only because we had issues to get home to, not because we didn't want to do it again. But we were able to join the crowd at CRD in Page to say farewell, Bon Voyage, and collect a bunch of hugs. We waved good bye as they boarded the bus for the short ride to the rafts. K-Bot showed up too to say good bye. Like us, she had done the raft trip before and had other business to tend to in Page. Then MRP and I went to the dam viewpoint for a final look. We actually saw our friends, almost 1,000 feet below us, boarding the raft and taking off down the river. We waved, but by then they were engrossed in the river and the canyon.
Back in the car we headed south for our next stop at Cameron Trading Post and a late brunch. It was as good as always. In a part of the reservation and Painted Desert where there aren't a lot of dining options, this historic site always performs. The gift shop and trading post is as well stocked as any other business in the southwest, that I know of.
Once again we hit the road and our only detour was one that I have taken and often recommend, but MRP had never been. We drove through Wupatki and Sunset Crater national monuments. We stopped at most of the Indian ruins sites. IMO these are some of the best ruins sites in all of northern AZ. And then the volcanic ruins and geological site at Sunset Crater are far beyond what most people would ever expect to find in northern AZ. It all confirms the reasons why this part of the world is such a unique and desirable vacation destination.
Even after it was over for us, it still wasn't over. Ten more of the crowd hiked the Wave on Monday. The Hicks were part of that group. Of course we wanted to hear all about it so we insisted that they come and stay with us in Sedona on their way back to PHX before flying home on Wednesday. So we got to host friends in our home, share a bit of Sedona and get a bit of a wrap up on how it all went. We fed them breakfast and sent them on their way the next morning and now it really is over. All the planning and anticipation went off better than we could have dreamed.
I have been blessed in my life. I've always had a spirit of volunteerism and service. I think we all do. And I'm lucky to have found a way to donate some of my time in service to others through TripAdvisor. This week was a chance to reap the rewards of that time. To be with others who know and understand and love what we do, and to share time in some of the most beautiful places on the earth, to be with friends who all have that common bond, is something hard to describe but easy to love. These friendships will last forever.