More Adventures in Kanab, Utah... Wire Pass Trail to Buckskin Gulch & an Unplanned Night in the Desert!
We wanted to hike the Wire Pass Trail to Buckskin Gulch with Lisa, but when we checked with the field office they said there was about a foot of water in Buckskin Gulch and none of us wanted to hike in that much water. After Lisa left we checked again and they said most of the water had receded so we decided to give it a try. Below are some landscape photos driving to and from the trailhead. Be sure and read to the end to hear about our unexpected adventure!
Hiking out to Wire Pass Canyon.
There was a ladder in Wire Pass Slot Canyon, but it got washed out, and it was out of our league to climb the wall. So we had to retrace our steps out, go up and around and back down before continuing thru the canyon. Below I’m showing Dale where we needed to go and the photo on the right shows me looking down into the slot.
I couldn’t believe how large this tumbleweed was!
This is the confluence of Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch.
At a distance of 16 miles, the Bureau of Land Management describes Buckskin Gulch as one of the longest continuous slot canyons in the world.
Here is part of that washed out ladder from Wire Pass now in Buckskin Gulch along with some other driftwood wedged between the canyon walls. It’s hard to imagine water levels can get this high from floods. Four people were swept away to their deaths last spring on two separate occasions in Buckskin alone. Two of them were hiking in the same part of the canyon just 3 weeks after us when a flash flood caught them off guard.
Buckskin Gulch is known as one of the most dangerous hikes in the country for this reason. Raging water can occur quickly and can appear out of nowhere so it’s imperative to check the forecast to ensure there’s no risk of rain anywhere in the area before entering. You must have permits for day and overnight hikes so you should also listen to the authorities; they will warn you when it’s not safe. Unfortunately, many have perished in this canyon over the years.
All slots are a wondrous part of nature that can turn deadly in a very short time. But, when the weather is cooperative, they are incredible places to explore. We checked conditions and felt perfectly safe for the 7 miles we hiked and were very pleased we had the opportunity to experience this massive, awe-inspiring, mesmerizing canyon. It’s a hike we won’t forget!
Buckskin Gulch has a lot of rocks to walk over; there were also some mud puddles and very muddy areas.
At least, we could see where we were stepping. I would never walk through if the floor is covered in water. Many people wade/swim through 3’ or more. I found this photo on the internet to show you that people really do this!
One feels very tiny in this huge canyon.
Looking straight up a canyon wall ~ some are as much as 500’ tall.
This is where we turned around. It was the first place that opened up a couple of miles into Buckskin from Wire Pass. From what we read, it narrows again just a bit further.
Kanab’s self-proclaimed title of “Little Hollywood” is due to the many movies and tv shows that have been filmed in and around the town, mostly westerns. This site was used for some episodes of Gunsmoke.
We had no luck at winning the lottery to hike Coyote Buttes North (The Wave), but we did win the lottery to hike Coyote Buttes South. It’s a spectacular area with sandstone formations in different shapes, sizes, colors, and swirls. There is no trail ~ you basically just wander around.
Our Night in the Desert
I would call it a predicament and Dale would call it an adventure...
The only way to reach Coyote Buttes South is via miles and miles of dirt and sand roads. They won’t issue a permit if you don’t have a 4-wheel drive vehicle. It’s in a very remote area with no cell service. We had no issues on our way out, but encountered one upon our return. We’ve been on a lot of soft sand roads in the past, and Dale is normally a very good driver. But around 3pm on this particular day he thought we had taken a wrong turn. I thought we were on track as things looked familiar, but he didn’t trust me so he just HAD to check the pre-loaded directions. Dale slowed down a little too much while looking at his phone and driving at the same time (since he couldn’t stop in the sand to look) with the end result being what you see below. Our Trailhawk Jeep ended up sitting on its frame. Dale thought he could dig it out (with a stick he found), and he did, only to become stuck again. We became very close to getting it out a few more times with one of us driving and the other pushing. He was stronger for pushing, but we switched when he didn’t think I was driving correctly! We tried everything we could think of, including collecting brushwood to put under the tires. It was all so frustrating!
We thought someone would come along that could pull us out, but NO ONE came. About 6pm I remembered seeing the SOS on my iPhone. I actually reached Flagstaff Emergency Services! I told them we were stuck in the sand and gave them our exact coordinates. They texted back asking whether we had any medical issues, plenty of water and food, and such. I texted that everything was fine ~ we just need a tow! They said they turned our info over to the local sheriff's department and someone should be out as soon as possible. When no one showed in a couple hours I tried again. This time I reached Page Emergency Services. I had to explain everything again, and they said they do not know what happened, but they were turning it over to the local sheriff’s department (just like before). So we thought for sure someone would eventually show up. Once again, no one showed. All the while, Dale relentlessly tried digging us out until it became too dark.
As the sun went down, it became very real that we may not be rescued until the following day. By now it was about 11pm so we decided we’d better prepare to spend the night in the desert. We always carry all types of clothing, jackets, blankets, snacks and water with us. I had insulin in the cooler so we weren’t concerned about any of that. We reclined our seats and tried to sleep. I can tell you it gets cold in the high desert after the sun goes down (at the end of April).
We got through the night! Then we texted 911 for the third time and reached Page Emergency Services. Of course, they didn’t know what happened the night before, but assured us someone would be on their way out soon. Almost as soon as our text ended, we saw a vehicle headed our way in the distance. It was a young couple asking if they could help! It was so good to see another vehicle and people! They pulled us out, but we immediately became stuck again so they pulled us out once more. He almost got stuck himself!
It felt great to finally be on our way - such a freeing feeling! When we got back to a hard packed dirt road we came upon a base camp set up to look for two missing hikers. There were all types of rescue vehicles, officers and rangers there. We stopped to let them know what happened since we still didn’t have cell service. An officer said he heard over the radio that a sheriff was currently out looking for us and that they had not been able to locate us the night before. So he radioed to let them know we got out and to call off that search. We still don’t understand why they couldn’t locate us with exact coordinates! Btw…you can get your coordinates via satellite without cell service. Most of you may know that, but I didn’t.
Anyway, the same officer told us what was going on with the search for the hikers. They had helicopters in the air and they were bringing horses out. We never heard the outcome ~ hopefully, they were found safely. I was thinking as we drove away how grateful I was to have had the jeep for protection during the night.
So we discovered when you don’t have cell service, the SOS does work (although you have to keep it pointed directly at the satellite). It just didn’t help in our situation due to unexplained issues with the local sheriff's department. Maybe they just decided to let us wait until morning since I said everything was ok!
Btw... there were some nice rock formations to look at while we were stranded, although we didn’t care at the time.
I was so happy when we got to a paved road!
Well, that’s the story of our unexpected night in the desert. I realize it could have been much worse, but I’ll still never forget it!