October, 2016 Edition

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A warped walk

White Pocket takes hikers through wonderland

We leave our vehicle parked at the trailhead, sling our small daypacks onto our backs and walk over the sandy trail to White Pocket. It’s not a long walk from the parking lot to White Pocket, only about 200 feet. The trail has room to make a couple turns as it winds through a hallway in the white sand dunes, on which grow wild mint, creosote, sagebrush and juniper trees.
Our destination is hidden from view behind the sand dunes through which we walk, but the spot where the trail terminates gives us a sudden and dramatic view of the White Pocket.
“Oh wow!” says Carrie Jenkins.
I am hiking with Carrie and her 20 year-old daughter, Mariah. The three of us pause at the entrance to White Pocket for about a minute and take in the grand view.
After proceeding farther into White Pocket’s interior, which allows us a better sense of its otherwordly strangeness, Carrie says, “I feel like I’m on the set of a Tim Burton movie,”
“Yeah!” her 20-year-old daughter agrees. “Dr. Seuss would love this place!”
White Pocket is a beautiful and unique geological feature inside Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, located in northern Arizona. White Pocket’s main attraction is its broad bed of white sandstone arranged in geodesic hexagons, pentagons and squares.
But the unique rockscape also features various shades of red, orange and pink rocks. The orange-based colors are due to the oxidation of iron and hematite within the sandstone. Limonite and goethite are responsible for the bands of yellow and brown.
A few years ago, I worked as an overland tour guide taking clients on day trips to some of northern Arizona’s and southern Utah’s greatest jewels. One of my favorite destinations was White Pocket, and my favorite part about taking people there was hearing them try to digest and describe what they were seeing.
During the time I guided trips there, I heard it described as a giant turtle shell, a village of igloos, a petrified cloud and biscuits in a Dutch oven. All of which are accurate metaphors.
Whether you’re a polished geologist, a recreational rockhound or a metamorphic metaphorist, you will love exploring White Pocket.
White Pocket is a geologically unique, beautiful hiking and photographic destination, located three miles south of the Utah border between Kanab, Utah and Page, Ariz.
White Pocket is located in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument and is about a two-hour drive from Kanab or Page.
Half the fun of visiting the area is the drive there. The road is a four-wheel drive roller coaster ride that slaloms around a couple hundred juniper trees, up and down dozens of sandy hills and between ancient sandstone monoliths.
After your trek across this juniper-dotted, sandstone-pillared dune sea, you’ll reach White Pocket’s unique island of twisted and contorted Navajo Sandstone.
“The geology there is complex,” said Rody Cox, a geologist for the Bureau of Land Management, Arizona Strip office.
Though they look vastly different from each other, both the white polygonal rock formations and the twisted orange-pink formations are Navajo Sandstone — an immense sand bed deposited during the early Jurassic age. Vermilion Cliffs National Monument Manager Kevin Wright said the reason for their drastic difference is that they oxidized and weathered differently.
White Pocket’s main draw is exploring its unique rock formations, but the area also has stunning views of the Grand Staircase to the north, especially when you’re standing atop some of White Pocket’s tall rocks.
It takes about two and a half hours of driving to reach White Pocket from Page or Kanab. After arriving, plan on spending one to three hours exploring and photographing White Pocket’s many twisted features.
No permit is needed to hike White Pocket, but it can be difficult to reach on your own. The road to White Pocket consists of long stretches of deep sand that is simply too deep for a conventional car to traverse.
But any four-wheel drive vehicle with reasonable clearance can make it. If you have the proper vehicle and navigational skills, you can find driving directions at the Vermilion Cliffs website.
Overnight camping is allowed but there is no water or bathrooms, and camping permits are not required. Dogs are also allowed.