Continental US

Utah 2018 Day 1 – The Incredible White Pocket

Last year’s Veteran’s Day weekend, we went to Bryce and Zion National Parks. While at Zion, we drove over to Kanab, Utah to try our luck at the lottery to get in the 10 slots to hike the most hard to get into hiking trail – The Wave. Of course we failed to win two permits so this year, I planned an extended long Veteran’s Day weekend to go back to try our luck again. We flew in Vegas on Thursday night at 9:54 PM, picked up Peter and Jeffrey, and drove straight to Kanab, Utah. We arrived at 2 AM since Utah is one hour ahead of Nevada, checked in our hotel – Hampton Inn Kanab, and went to bed.

I booked a tour with Dreamland Safari Tours for the next morning to #1 choice: The Wave tour with Wire Pass (if we get lucky), #2:
White Pocket/Coyote Buttes South (Coyote Buttes South also require a permit but the number of applicants are significantly lower than The Wave and the lottery held at 9:30 AM), and #3: White Pocket which does not require a permit as of 2018. Dreamland Safari provides a free service where they’ll send in a representative to enter the walk-in lottery the day prior for your group so if you are lucky enough to win, you’ll go for the #1 choice the next morning which is what we did. However, we didn’t win nor able to obtain the permits for Coyote Buttes South either….no luck so our only choice was #3 White Pocket only! They said there were 59 applicants total 133 people for 10 permits so less than 10% chance (which consider high compared to online of 2-3% or walk-in during peak season).

The next morning, we got up at 7:45 AM and had a wonderful breakfast at Jakey Leigh’s Coffee, and drove to BLM Kanab Visitor Center (Escalante National Monument Visitor Center ) to have our 2nd try. I wrote about how the walk-in lottery works in this previous post. Compared to the 59 apps of 133 people yesterday, according to the tour company, today was 49 apps of 126 people. We were assigned number #22……….3 draws and didn’t win 🙁 I told the boys before the trip that the chance is low so don’t have high hopes for it.

Foliage in Kanab, Utah

After the lottery, we drove to Dreamland Safari’s office to complete the paperwork, paid the rest of the tour payment, and start our tour to White Pocket. I found out about White Pocket when we failed to win the lottery last year and saw the beautiful poster inside the lottery room. After that, I did research into it and decided the best to go with a tour because we have no experience driving in sand and afraid that the GPS might not be accurate.

Our tour guide, he’s also the driver, drove us along Highway 89 and turn off to the gravel road – House Rock Valley Road. There is a small parking lot there where we waited for two other guests who will be joining our tour. While waiting for them, our tour guide lowered the tire pressure so it would be a more comfortable ride for us. The map at the parking lot:

Our tour guide lowering the tire pressure to get ready for our bumpy ride.

In half an hour or so in this dirt-gravel road, we made a pit stop at the Wire Pass trail head parking lot. This is where the hike to The Wave begins…unfortunately not us 🙁 I was paying extra attention to the drive to Wire Pass parking lot so that if we are fortunate to win the lottery, I will know how to get to the parking lot to start the hike. It’s actually very easy, only one main dirt-gravel road to get there along the House Rock Valley Road and when you approach the parking lot, there’s actually a sign there where it said Wire Pass. We were there in November which considers a dry season so the chance of flash flood was very low and as you can see low clearance cars were there just fine.

Then, it was another 1.5 hours or so on unmarked dirt-gravel road to muddy to sandy road. I was so glad that we went on with a tour instead of attempting to driving there ourselves, we probably will get lost in the middle of nowhere and we only came across one other car driving out! Once we got there, Tom prepared the ingredients for us to make our own sandwich….roasted beef, lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, etc.

The “bump” on the back is White Pocket.
I walked up to this little hill while waiting for our panic lunch to start.
I made my own roasted beef sandwich, it was tasty with avocado.

After the healthy lunch, we started our hike to the nearby Petroglyphs first.

See the Petroglyphs?

After that, we hiked up a sandy hill to get to White Pocket and I was in the nonstop taking photo mode; White Pocket is that picturesque! All those colorful rock formations are unique and unbelievable.

Tom pointed to us that The Wave is hidden over those rocks….so near yet so far!

I called those caramel swirls 🙂

The rocks have those caves that it was very fun to take photos with, we took our turn and probably stayed there for over 15 minutes 😀

The brain rocks? Can you spot Jason? That’s how large those rocks covered.

To give you a perspective of how wide those rocks covered!

I remembered to take out the Lensball for some up-side-down photos.

The colors were so vibrant and the sky was super blue that the colors fooled the camera’s sensor so I switched to manual mode.

This was my favorite section of White Pocket where it looked like a Halloween candy corn. We spent more than half an hour here taking turn to have fun photos.

I was pretending I was on a slide…..oh it was so hard to not slip down, it was pretty steep!

Jason tried the Superman pose but it was so hard to hold still haha.

Love, love, love the colors and rock formations. We couldn’t get enough photos with it.

Another Lensball photo of the “candy corn”.

White Pocket’s name came from pockets of water surrounded by white rocks. When we were there, it was pretty dry but we found a few pockets of water to get some reflection shots. It was windy at times so it required some patience for the water to settle and the right timing to photograph…still couldn’t get a perfect refection but still very beautiful!

We finally left that spot and continued our hike to more caramel swirls. I never seen landscape so naturally colorful except the slot canyons.

Another pocket of water but it was pretty far away for the reflections of those bumps.

Those swirls more look like waves:

The trail continued by hiking up those rocks…thank goodness that those rocks are not slippery so it was doable to get up there.

Tom had a suggestion to hike up those white brain rocks since it’s the highest point to get the panoramic view of White Pocket. I was crazy enough to climb those rocks with them….oh boy…it was a challenge! With their help, I made it up…well I skipped the last rock since it was very narrow/tall that no way I can do it….remember I am afraid of height! So I sat there to wait for the guys.

The guys at the highest point.

Getting up there was hard, getting down was even harder plus I am afraid of height…….with some help and effort, I made it down in one piece phew! The views were worth the effort!

What does this rock looks like to you?

We found a “White Pocket” 🙂

Once we reached the end of White Pocket after more than 4+ hours, we had to walk all the way back to the start to get our car…urg! The walk back without stopping for photos and we took the shortcut instead of walking through those sights we been through took probably half an hour. We were exhausted by then…..

The drive out of White Pocket back to the main road, Tom decided to take the shorter way almost near the Coyote Buttes South and it was so bumpy with the soft sand. Jason said the way we got there might be able to make it without a real 4×4 (not all wheel drive) but the way back out definitely require a 4×4.

Tom made a quick stop for us to take a photo of Coyote Buttes South…it’s right in there!

We got back to the Dreamland Safari office just before sunset. There is a photo book in the passenger seat pocket where Jason and I took a look. As we flipped through the pages, we were amazed at how many incredible picturesque landscapes like White Pocket surrounding the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument area. There is a lot to discover and I wish there are more tours to reach those areas since we can’t navigate to them ourselves.

We asked Tom his favorite Asian restaurant in Kanab and he said the Fusion House so that was where we had our dinner that night..we were craving for Asian food already! The food was okay, some dishes were better than others…..the Mongolian beef was the best while the Sichuan beef wasn’t as spicy. They use good quality beef and huge portion. The dinner for 4 of us cost $110 with drinks (the Thai Iced-Tea was just those canned ones that you can get in supermarket, urg!).

After dinner, we decided to drive 30 minutes to Coral Sand Dunes State Park for Milky Way photos since it’s away from the town’s light pollution. It is really dark there and no cellular service. It was a bad decision because we didn’t go there during daylight so we have no clue where to even start to get to the sand dunes and no cellular service so urg! We were able to see the Milky Way at the parking lot but without a nice backdrop so I took a few photos and we left. Better planning next time!

It was definitely a long day for us…our 2nd try at The Wave lottery was a failure but White Pocket was shockingly photogenic! The colorful rock formations were absolutely a treat to photograph, it was totally worth the expensive tour price tag. I have never been to The Wave so I can’t say if White Pocket can make up for it but I can totally say that you’ll not disappoint! It’s a “hidden gem” that I read from various people that they will not be surprised if one day they’ll implement the lottery to White Pocket as well to preserve this beautiful piece of nature so get there before that happens!

2 thoughts on “Utah 2018 Day 1 – The Incredible White Pocket

  1. Good back up plan.4 wheeling in Utah is a definite must.I definetly have to do the wave someday.The white pocket area is better then i thought.

    You should try Mesa verde in Colorado and Chaco CAnyon in New Mexico for photographing indian ruins.Some of the smaller sites are also worthwile.

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