Kodachrome Basin State Park
Like Saskatchewan in Canada, Arizona does not observe Daylight Saving Time so I will gain an hour on the day. I start driving on Hwy 89, then east on Hwy 12 through Red Canyon past the Hwy 62 exit to Bryce Canyon National Park. I will not visit Bryce this time. I have been there many times before and I have hiked everything it has to offer. It is a spectacular park, unique and well worthy of its reputation. At Bryce Canyon National Park there are spectacular pink and white rock pinnacle formations. It is not really a canyon but rather a high-altitude, weathered edge of the Colorado Plateau.
Soon I arrive at the Mossy Caves trail-head which I hiked in 2000 and 2003 but I stop briefly to take pictures of the spectacular, road-side rock formations above the Sevier River in morning sunlight.
Continuing along Hwy 12, I stop at the Grand Staircase – Escalante Visitor Centre in Cannonville. My plan for the morning is to tour Kodachrome Basin State Park, nine miles (14.4 KM) south of Cannonville, then continue south through the Escalante on the gravel Cottonwood Road. There has been rain overnight and I need to know road conditions, so a long chat with the local Ranger is mandatory. I learn the Cottonwood Road has been washed out and is closed. The Ranger informs me I have two alternatives. From Kodachrome I can return the way I came on Hwy 12 back to Hwy 89 and then south, skirting around the Escalante National Monument, or I could consider the 4-wheel drive Skutumpah Road which travels south through the interior Escalante west of the Cottonwood route. He tells me about 10 miles (16 KM) of the route is very rugged 4-wheel-drive road but says “I think you can make it” with a hesitation and tone that leaves serious doubt in my mind. Then he adds some disclaimers. “If you get stuck you’ll have to wait for someone to come by and dig you out.” Then he adds, ‘Rain is predicted later today which will convert the road to impassable slippery clay’. Not overly reassuring. Obviously the only reasonable alternative is to take Hwy 89 the long and less scenic, but more reliable, way around.
In 1981, I tried to visit Kodachrome Basin State Park but was unsuccessful. The Paria River was flooded and I could not get across it without risk the vehicle would have been either swamped or swept away. Now, there is a modern, concrete bridge over the Paria River.
At Kodachrome Basin State Park I drive into a colourful, desert area of multi-layered cliffs and freestanding vertical stone spires known as ‘sedimentary pipes’. Geologists believe that millions of years ago the pipes were likely formed as injections of liquefied sand, triggered by earthquakes, or created by ancient springs. Softer stone around them has eroded away.
At the beginning of the short trail to Shakespeare Arch, there is a fence with a narrow opening to prevent cattle from wandering into the property. I pass through but find it amusing the cattle-guard is so narrow. I have met people on this trip who would be unable to make it through the gate. You need to be a narrow hiker I hike a 1/4 mile (0.4 KM)on uneven, red sand through beautiful brush-saturated terrain interspersed with a variety of cactus. Dry Valley is on my right and multi-coloured cliffs are on the left. Soon my objective swings into view. The 20 foot (6.1 m) across and 90 foot (27.4 m) high Shakespeare Arch, discovered by accident in 1976, is impressive and I hike into its base.
There are many trails at Kodachrome I cannot do on this brief visit. The Park is in the middle of nowhere and boasts an excellent 27 unit campground with restrooms and hot showers. It would make an outstanding, and memorable, 3 or 4 day hiking, mountain biking and camping trip. Unfortunately, this is a travel day for me, and I have many miles of driving to my next staging point in Page, Arizona.