I've seen photos of the wave from a few friends online and didn't think much about it at the time. I don't know what sparked an interest to see it a few weeks ago, but I think it had something to do with the fact that you had to win a lottery to get the chance. When I was thinking of visiting, I saw the Instagram feed of BLM feature it, then saw Sunset Magazine had a blurb about it in their latest issue. Once I saw both, I knew I needed to get there soon to try my luck before everyone had the same idea.
I headed that direction a few days later. I read that 10 permits were issued the morning of the day before you get to go so I wanted to be one of those prized permit holders. I drove 8 hours to the ranger station in Kanab, Utah and arrived after business hours. I saw a few idling trucks parked in the gas station across the street, but didn't feel that I would get any rest parked next to them. I went across the street on the other side to a hotel chain and asked Rebecca at the front desk if it was ok that I slept in my van in the parking lot. She looked at me and said, "sure! You can come in anytime and use the restroom here, too." It took a minute for her words to sink in since I thought for sure that I would be turned down for one reason or another. From that moment, I had a good feeling about it all. I kept the top down for the night since it was in the 20's. I set the alarm for 7am, tucked in with Max, and went to sleep.
The following morning, I woke up and drove 100 feet to the ranger station. I walked in the station with sleepy eyes, still in my jammies, to ask the ranger when the lottery would begin. He told me to come back in an hour. I went back to campy, walked Max, made coffee and changed clothes.
At 8:30a.m, I went back and noticed several more people gathering to try their luck at winning a permit. I immediately started feeling "lottery stress." What if I don't win? What if I drove all the way out there for nothing? All of my doubts started creeping in and to keep them quiet, I casually wandered around the museum trying to pretend to read each exhibit when I was secretly counting everyone who walked in to see what my odds would be, while listening in on every conversation in the room.
At 8:45, we all lined up and moved to the lottery room, cattle style. As we sat down in the classroom-like setting, the ranger told us the drill. In a very strict tone and delivery, he calmly and firmly told us how the lottery works, and what to expect if we won. At that point, we had to wait until exactly 9.a.m for the lottery to close and the drawings to begin. It was the longest 5 minute wait in my life. During this time, the ranger says, "five minutes is plenty of time for a tour bus to show up..." Needless to say, he was the only one chuckling at his joke.
At 9.a.m., I was the first in the room to say out loud, "It's 9!" The lottery was now closed and the door to the classroom was shut. Each hopeful party was given a number on a ball that was placed in a wire cage. If you were in a party of 4, you get one number on one ball. In a party of 1 (such as myself), you get one number as well. So, if you had a party of ten and your group number was picked first, the 10 permits goes to that one party and the lottery is closed. Now that you have an understanding of how it works, he closed the wire cage with all of the balls in it and started to churn them around, bingo style. Everyone was frozen in their seat in anticipation of being called. Once the twirling stopped, I held my breath as the first number was called... "number Seven!!" A group of tourists from Japan squealed in delight to learn that their party of four would be issued permits. At this point, I started to get nervous. The ranger went back to spinning the balls and stopped, yet again. Before he announced the next number, he reminded everyone that since the first number had a party of 4, there were only 6 permits left to issue. He reached in and called, "Number One!" It took me a second to realize that I was issued number one. I did it! I won! I was relieved, as well as many in the room since I only had a party of one. That meant, 5 more tickets were left to issue. I know he continued to call numbers and alert parties but it all was blurry to me once I was able to relax and realize that the next morning, I was off on an adventure!
Once the lottery was over, the winners stayed in the room as the ranger told us about how to use the map, how to get to the trailhead, and how to die. Yes, he told us about the people who died on the trail because of what they did or didn't do.
Unlike most of our National Parks, Max was able to be on my permit ($7 for myself and $7 for Max) to hike to the wave. This was a big reason I wanted to go. I was able to share the experience with him. I found out that there is a free campsite a mile from the trailhead so we headed that direction as soon as I went back to campy with my "Golden Ticket" and had some breakfast.
I was elated. I drove out to the bumpy 9 mile drive off road to an empty camp to set up for the night. Max and I walked around the area to get an idea of what to expect in the morning. I built a fire and went to bed early in anticipation for our hike in the morning.
The morning sky was clear and blue and the air was a crisp 40 degrees. I put a sweater on max, layered up for our hike, and put the trusty map in my pocket as I started the journey on the trail. Well, there isn't a trail. The map you get is a series of photographs of red rocks with arrows and direction markers on the photo with more or less a "good luck" attached to each marker. Most of the trail is on a rock so you won't see footprints or any sort of markers. Don't rely on the photographs since you would have to be standing in the exact spot where the picture was taken to match it up. I made sure my compass was pointed in the right direction. Even with that, we veered off course a little and had a steep climb to get back on track. Four miles later, we found it.
The Wave. It's about as big as a drive-in movie screen. I anticipated a mini grand canyon of waves but that just wasn't the case. It's one long wave that everyone stops to lay down on and stare at it before they decide to get up and make the trek back to their car. After I had my turn of taking photographs, Max and I rested for a bit and headed back to Campy. Once we returned, a ranger was posted at the parking lot checking each person for a permit.
It was quite the experience. Not just the hike but everything that led up to it. I would recommend that you try your luck at the online or walk in lottery. However, I would also recommend the hike in the winter since you have a better chance of winning a spot and you won't get overheated during the hike because... well, that's how some people have died. Be sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen, food, a compass and a camera. It will be an adventure we will never forget.
For more information on the Wave Lottery, click HERE