Catching a Chance to Visit the Wave

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My dad, Buddy, AKA “Grandpa Points” has a love for travel as fierce as mine, yet our travel patterns are distinctly different. He and my mom are now in their mid-60’s, are (mostly) retired, DSCN4512and are ticking off “bucket list” destinations quicker than they ever thought possible thanks to miles, points, and travel deals.  They have an intense love of this country, of its National Parks and treasures, and have no problem with a clean budget hotel room and an economy seat as long as it gets them where they want to be.  A photographer by trade, his adventures are usually captured not just in his mind, but in his camera.  He shares his thoughts and travels here from time to time, and I’m excited to share another one of their adventures.  Here are some previous posts, as well. 

Excitement of Planning a Once in a Lifetime Trip to Alaska

This is Why I Travel

Budget Friendly Trip to Boston in the Fall

Voyage to Mount Rushmore and Beyond: The First Bucket List Trip

From Couch to Capital Fourth

Snow, Hiking, and Snow Gazing via Las Vegas

Spirit Airlines Trip Review (yes, really)

Surviving and Thriving on Spirit Airlines

One Grandpa’s Journey from Cash to Rewards Cards

San Francisco Hills 1, Rental Car 0

Why I Had to Visit the 9/11 Museum

Less than two years ago, if someone had asked me what The Wave was, I would have mentally gone through my personal wave-o-pedia and answered something like this.
The Wave is the ballpark phenomenon of spectators rising to their feet and throwing up their arms in an orderly and progressive flow…
the unique 90 degree hand movement made by parade participants.
the curl on Superman’s forehead.
the enthusiastic, but sad, gesture Nixon made just before leaving on Marine 1 for the last time.
the legendary tsunami that might have flooded and buried Atlantis.
the name of a Bose sound system.
the fifth member of a collection of conceptual forces that include The Big One. The Last Straw, The Apocalypse and The Cloud.

No, not that wave!

No, not that wave!

There would have been others, but there would not have been A GEOLOGIC PHENOMENON ON THE UTAH/ARIZONA BORDER THAT FEATURES WIND AND WATER CARVED SANDSTONE FORMATIONS IN COLORFUL, RHYTHMIC, UNDULATING AND BREATHTAKING PATTERNS. No sirree, that would not have been on my list. But it is now.

The Wave

Yes, this kind of wave

The Wave first grabbed our attention as we planned a trip to Arizona and Utah for the fall of 2013. It sounded excitingly interesting and somewhat improbable. But we filed it away for future and further study. As is often the case in life, once something new has been encountered or learned, it seems to spontaneously and eerily pop up regularly from that point on. The Wave certainly did for us. It would show up in a travel magazine, in a photo gallery, in a conversation and on the internet. It was as though The Wave was stalking us.

We took this as a positive omen and decided we needed to go. But, easier said than done. Access to the Wave is controlled by The Bureau of Land Management and only 20 permits are allowed a day. There are 7 billion residents on our planet, so there are going to be a lot of earthlings that will never see The Wave. We were undeterred and started our planning anyway. The permits are distributed via two lottery systems. Ten permits are chosen in advance online and the other ten are done on location the day before usage. We studied the calendar for the dates that fit our lives best and also for the dates (in Vegas vernacular) with the loosest slots. The summer months were ruled out due to the possibility of extreme heat. We also avoided the prime spring and fall months as the odds are often very high against being selected. So, December, January and February lined up best for us.

We first applied for the online lottery for January of this year. On October 1, we were advised that we had not been selected. Bummer. We then decided to double down. We would apply for dates in February and also book a trip to the area to try the onsite process. We scheduled a 5 day trip using a total of 10,000 Spirit Airline miles to cover our two roundtrip flights from Houston to Las Vegas. We were even able to score a nice room at the SLS in Vegas for literally just dollars out of pocket thanks to a $100 of an Orbtiz hotel reservation Cyber Monday deal. Even if we failed on both lottery tries to visit The Eave, we knew there were plenty of other attractions in the area to capture our interest and stay within our budget.

November 1, the date of the next online lottery, finally came around and the BLM e-mail hit my inbox. I waited till my wife was home to open it. We were holding our breath as the e-mail opened. The first word we saw was CONGRATULATIONS! We immediately screamed with joy and broke into the “Happy Dance” and Pharrrell William’s song started playing in our minds.

We were happy. We were going to The Wave. Clap along.

Of course, getting the winning lottery ticket just meant we got to go, it didn’t mean we knew what we were doing.  The next step was actually planning for the 6-7 mile unmarked hike in the desert, and that will come in Part 2 of this adventure.


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  1. I’m planning a trip there with a group of 6. Didn’t win the online lottery. But will try it there. Four nights in Kanab. Fingers crossed. But as you said, there are a lot attractions around in case we don’t get the spots.

    Look forward to your Part 2.

    • Thanks for reading. We were also willing to try multiple days for the walk-up lottery had we not been selected in the online process. There has been a lot of rain there lately, so be sure and check on the road conditions. I’m sure you know this, but in Page you can see the fantastic Antelope Slot Canyons and The Horseshoe Bend of the Colorado River. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you.
      thanks again,

  2. Great post! The hubby and I did this hike in 2008, we had never heard about the place before stopping in at the rangers office. We tried to win the walk-in lotto two days in a row but ended up heading back home and applying online for four more lottery’s. 🙂

    Worth the effort. One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.

    • We appreciate the kind words. Maybe it is sort of a secret treasure because of its exclusivity which greatly minimizes spreading its presence by word of mouth. We were told by an unofficial source that the onsite lottery may be displaced and the online lottery expanded to the 20 spots. So glad you got to experience this unique area.
      Thanks for reading.

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