We were on the road this morning before 7am, headed forty miles back the way we came yesterday. The reason: Slots. Not the gambling kind. The canyon kind.
Arizona is still fairly locked down under Covid restrictions. McDonalds are drive-thru only. Mask or no mask, vaccinated or not, old guys like me can’t even use the restroom there, as the lobbies are locked. Likewise, Antelope Canyon, just south of Page, is shut down to tourists. It was strange to see the large parking lots, typically filled with tour buses and mobs of tourists, completely empty.
Just across the border in Utah, the outdoor attractions are open and doing brisk business. I had tried since January to get passes to hike to The Wave, a spectacular geological formation. Each month I lost the Wave Lottery; only 66 people a day get to do this hike, and my name never came up. However, in the Vermillion Cliffs area — the same area as The Wave — is Buckskin Gulch, and Wire Pass, which have some good slot canyons. And no lottery. So we decided that the earlier in the morning we arrived, the better chance of beating the crowds and the heat.
And we were right. It’s about seven miles down a somewhat rough dirt road to get to the Wire Pass Trailhead parking area. When we arrived there were already several cars there, but no crowds. This is the same trailhead that feeds The Wave, so I expected more people.
The hike down Wire Pass is primarily a creek wash, at least until you get to the first slot canyon.
Wire Pass Trail tees into Buckskin Gulch, and there are more slot canyons in both directions. We turned left towards the Buckskin Gulch Trailhead and hiked up another slot canyon to the end, then turned around and headed back to the bike.
On our hike out, the people started arriving. We probably passed fifty or more people headed down Wire Pass on our way up the wash. And that feeling of “this is a small percentage of what Zion will be like” began to haunt me.