At day break, as we left the town of Page, we found ourselves once again crossing state lines, this time from Arizona into Utah (no time zone change here). As we watched the early morning light wash the dark sky, all we could reminisce about was, what an experience the day before had been. Truly, Antelope Canyon was a visual treat.
On day 3 we were headed west on Highway 89 towards the city of Kanab, UT marveling the expansive Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument that stretched out to our north and northeast. Even though the grand circle is mostly made up of National Parks and monuments, if you’ve read the previous entry, you now know that this trip had to be more than that. Having reaped an enormous reward for going off the beaten path and enjoying places unparalleled, we couldn't pass up on an equally interesting prospect.
Coral Pink Sand Dune's rippling rust-colored arcs beg to be explored by one and all.Another such uniquely rewarding and very refreshing detour happened to be Coral Pink Sand Dunes State park in Utah! (Day use $5, Camping $15) Just the name was enough to steer our car 12 miles off highway 89 past the city of Kanab. Our curiosity levels at an all-time high, we had this intuitive feeling of knowing we had made the right decision. Located a little over 2 hours by road from the town of Page, at first glimpse, the park appeared to be nothing extraordinary. It was the elevation of the plain that obstructed our view from what lay behind, above, over and under.
And then, probably a couple hundred yards shy of the entrance to the park, as we came on top of a small ridge, we saw it!!! It is hard to describe the exhilaration that flushed my insides – what a sight it was to behold! In the midst of gigantic rock, concrete and towering canyon walls, amidst layers of hardened lava, defying the science that contoured most of the surrounding geography, was a landscape astonishingly the opposite. It was one that was gentle not rough, smooth not jagged, wavy not straight and one that was soft not hard. And above all it was bathed in a soft Coral Pink glow!
The science or mystery behind these photogenic formations is very fascinating. Years of weathering and erosion of the surrounding Navajo Sandstone, deposited sediments carried over by winds to shape and form these dune hills more than ten thousand years ago. Now, that explains the light pink color. Situated at 6,000 feet, these 2,000 acres of park dunes are the result of winds funneling through a constricting notch between the Moquith and Moccasin mountains (south of the park). This increase in wind velocity, also known as the"Venturi effect", reaches the open valley, where it looses its speed, and deposits sand in this spacious reservoir.
Reading the excellent interpretive bulletin boards in the park, brought back memories from my high school geography class! It also was a sharp reminder of how little information we retain after school!!! But for now, I'll just pretend my mom didn't hear me say that (she was my geography teacher for 4 years)!! After reading more about it, we were able to recognize different formations such as barchans, parabolas, and a star dune (caused by winds coming from several directions) spread out right in front of us.
A thrilling way to enjoy the wide sweeping expanse of the park and hundreds of miles of quality trails is atop an OHV - Off-highway Vehicle, ATV - All terrain Vehicle, dirt bikes or Dune Buggies. Unfortunately, there isn't an option to rent these for day use....but if you own one, then this is paradise central for you! However, for all you 2-legged adventurists....don't be disheartened...for a little enthusiasm goes a long way if you are game for it! The best time for hiking is early morning, when its cooler, and when the angles of light produce shadows and colors that justify why the park was named so. Keep in mind though that sinking your feet into the extra fine soft sand can be tiring for an extended period of time. None-the-less...only a half mile into the park and atop the ridge of the barchan crest, all tiredness is forgotten only to be replaced by the timelessness of this spectacle. The sand dunes brings out the child in you, as you find yourself digging in more than just your toes into the coolness of its soft silt. With a spectacular horizon ahead of you, and being the only major dune-field in the entire Colorado plateau...Coral Pink Sand Dune's rippling rust-colored arcs beg to be explored by one and all. It is truly a well deserved off-the-beaten-path serene experience, not to be missed.
Interesting Facts: In Kane County's movie-making days a Hollywood production company thought Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park resembled Egypt, and it was selected as location for filming "The Greatest Story Ever Told". All film extras were locals, with the only imported actors being camels! Many other old movies were filmed at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes including: "Arabian Nights" in 1942, "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" in 1944, "Timbuktu" in 1959, "MacKenna's Gold" in 1969 and "One Little Indian" in 1973. In 1978 the series "Greatest Heros of the Bible" was also filmed at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes.
TIP: Best times for hiking are early morning. This way you avoid the noise of the ATVs...and have the place untouched and all to yourself. Also keep in mind that this is desert country. Take all the precautions as you would traversing any other similar landscape. Avoid the harsh mid-day sun...since shaded rest areas are hard to come by. Wear light clothing, and take plenty of water if you are venturing out on a lengthy hike. Definitely take your camera along.