Our first visit to the wave started about 8 years ago when Jeff saw a photo and said, “I want to shoot that!” It was then up to me to research what it was, where it was and how to get there. Answers: “The Wave”, Northern Arizona, 44 miles outside of the nearest town, with the last 8 miles down a 4 wheel drive road, finishing with a 3 mile hike on an unmarked trail in the wilderness. AND, access is by permit only with only 20 permits are issued per day. (I did my homework.)

The quintessential photo of the wave [2019]

Our first visit in November 2012 was picture perfect with blue sky to contrast with the red rocks. We loved it. Using the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) crude directions (a 1/2 dozen thumbnail photos for a 3 mile hike) it took us 3 miles on the way in an 5 miles on the way out. For the return trip, the directions said to take a left at the twin buttes, but failed to mention there were 5 sets of twin buttes (we tried everyone of them). Exhausted from hiking, I honestly thought we’d be camping in the wilderness. The hotel bed that night felt so good and the margarita tasted even better.

Three years later in 2015, with a new camera and a better eye for composition, we threw our names into the lottery and lucked out with another permit. It was December and unfortunately the main attraction was covered in dull ice and deep shadows. Disappointed with my shots of the wave, I knew I needed to go one more time. 

But wanting to go and actually being able to go are two totally different things. 

I have faithfully donated the $5 application fee each month for the wave lottery, hoping to win a permit. Year after year passes. I am getting older and after two battles with cancer, I begin to think my time for physically being able to hike to the wave has passed. Chances for a permit are also dwindling. In 2017 over 160,000 people applied for just over 7000 permits. In 2019, most days had over a 1000 people applying for 20 permits. Perhaps, it was not meant to be.

But God shined his face upon us. On July 1, I was notified we’d won the lottery!

Time to gear up and start conditioning, our final wave trip would be October 22nd.  

Having fun at the wave [photo by Jeff]

An early start granted us almost an hour with the wave to ourselves. The light was near perfect. I captured the quintessential wave photo and several other more creative angles. 

Early morning glow entering the wave. Melody arch in the distance.
Side canyon with refractive light.
Like waves breaking along a sand bar
Just having fun!
Blue sky is the perfect complement to the red and orange sandstone
On top looking down into a portion of the wave and out across North Coyote Buttes

It was an awesome day. I enjoyed every minute of exploring North Coyotte Buttes – the Wave, the Second Wave, Sand Cove and Fatali’s Boneyard (see links below for photos). But age and less conditioning has caught up with me. I had to call it a day before the afternoon sweet light. 

An hour and a half later, absolutely exhausted, we reached the car at the trailhead. As we headed out on House Rock Valley Road, I was surprised to hear a voice in my head say, “I’d like to do it again.” (Was it Jeff’s voice?)


For previous posts and photos:

Hiking the Wave: Part 1 , Ever been to a bone yard?

Hiking the Wave: Part 2, Sand Cove (aka Olympic Race Track)

Hiking the Wave: Part 3, Waves and Water in the Desert

Hiking the Wave: Part 4, Finally the Wave

For additional information on obtaining a Wave permit, see the BLM website: https://www.blm.gov/visit/coyote-buttes-north-the-wave

For additional information on hiking the wave see: https://www.thewave.info