Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Thursday – Sunday, January 24-27, 2019
It’s been almost a full year since the last time I was out exploring and photographing the wonderful sandstone of the Paria Plateau and I was really itching to get back out there again soon. A few months ago I secured a permit to Coyote Buttes South for this Friday and then planned to spend the rest of the weekend exploring other areas of the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument outside of the Coyote Buttes permit zones. Unfortunately, after I had already picked the weekend and got the permit I found out that the annual Ouray Ice Festival was scheduled for this same weekend, so I guess I was going to miss it this year. Diane was supposed to be in Las Vegas with a friend this weekend, which is why I originally chose it, but when her plans fell through there were no longer any permits available so I would be on my own this trip.
I left after work on Thursday afternoon and drove straight to the Cottonwood Cove Trailhead where I would spend the rest of the night. The drive took me a bit longer than I was expecting and I didn’t arrive at the trailhead until about 1:00am. I was pretty tired when I arrived and went right to sleep. Overnight I started to feel pretty sick and was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to hike in the morning, but since my Coyote Buttes South permit was only for today, I decided to at least give it a try for sunrise and then see how it went. I’m very glad that I decided to push through the pain and go because I was rewarded with one of the best sunrises I have seen in a while! I continued to hike throughout the rest of the day but I had to take it easier than I planned, so I didn’t get to explore all the new areas I had hoped to on this trip. I saw absolutely no one else all day and had peaceful solitude in one of my favorite spots on the Colorado Plateau!
I continued to spend the rest of the weekend exploring new areas of the Paria Plateau and found some pretty cool sites along the way. Overall it was an awesome weekend, aside from not feeling well for most of it, and I’ll let the photos below do the rest of the talking!
There was spectacular alpenglow on the sandstone of Cottonwood Cove when I arrived at this viewpoint on Friday morning. This was the very first photo I took on this trip and it is probably my favorite from the entire weekend.
I scrambled around and tried a few different compositions in this area before the light disappeared.
The clouds above turned a nice magenta color for a short time.
Catching the first rays of light as the sun peeks above the horizon.
Beautiful light on the landscape below…
When the sun was up I went searching for colorful sandstone and unusual formations.
The Control Tower (Dali Rock)
I love finding little intimate scenes like this one.
Catching another sunstar.
The South Wave
Half & Half Rock
The Ice Cream Cone
In the late afternoon I made my way over to Paw Hole to do a little exploring in that area just before sunset.
The next morning I caught a nice glow through the Hole In The Rock.
Sand & Stone
The Little Wave. This is a smaller version of the popular Wave that I came across while exploring an unnamed drainage. No permit is required to visit this one!
Here’s a closer look.
Paria Plateau Petroglyphs
I made a quick stop at The White Pocket, which would be the only place I saw other people all weekend.
When I was driving over to Soap Creek Pasture on the eastern edge of the plateau I ended up breaking through a couple of inches of crunchy snow on the roads. When I arrived I found quite a bit of snow was still on the sandstone in this area.
Colorful sandstone sticking out of the snow.
Purple Sandstone. I’ll need to return to this area when there is no snow on the ground.
The Chicken Hoodoo