The Wave


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Reaching the “The Wave” is very doable, but you need a permit.  For 12 strait months my application was rejected by the BLM (I lost the lottery).  So @ $5/month I was out 60 bucks – okay, not a lot, but now I was getting mad.  So I applied for July – and received a two-person permit.  After waiting so long I was expecting a “congratulations” note from BLM; instead I received a warning letter on red paper – “it will be 110 degrees, people die, rescue will be slow if at all, carry at least a gallon of water.”  Now I’m nervous.  I optimized my backpack (25 pounds exactly) and took brief practice walks.  Still nervous. 

My partner/guide was slightly older (I’m older too, but he beats me), a great photographer with a young man’s enthusiasm.  This was to be his 42nd trip to the Wave so he knows the way in (no trail or markers exist).   He said July was a good month to go - Arizona’s monsoon season might give us some special picture opportunities. 

We started walking at sunrise – first hikers out – but were eventually passed by the other 12 people who went in that day.  I became more worried when they all passed us on their way out, before we reached “the end” (meaning to become clear).  Our water was holding (I brought 5 ½ liters), but the morning temperature was north of 95 and reflecting off the slick rock.  Our pace was not good.  My partner frankly had overestimated his ability, and although I appeared to be doing okay at 4 hours in, I wasn’t sure how I would be at 6 or 8 hours. 

We reached the final climb to Wave after 4½ hours.  The climb is in sand and difficult, and seeing my friend take one step and pause for a minute to rest, I knew we were done.  So I took the initiative and made us turn around within site of its entrance.  The walk back of more than 4 hours was slow (understatement), and my anxiety level was climbing.  When we finally reached the wash which leads to the trail head and parking lot, my guide found some shade under a short bush and fell asleep while I hiked the last 30 minutes alone, coming back to pick him up with his 4X4 jeep (after a brief argument with the BLM agent about a humanitarian rescue).

So 1 year and 60 bucks and no Wave picture – not one.  But it was a caper.  I am proud of my fitness (8 ½ hours at 100 degrees and 25 extra pounds on my back) and my decision to quit when I did (maybe I should have done so earlier).  My friend will take great pictures for many years to come, but he has agreed that the Wave will not be one of them.  He remains an inspiration.  I have begun the application process all over, and SOMEDAY!!!!!


Richard Gaston Photography