White Pocket, December 2011

Posted by on Jan 5, 2012

The White Pocket. An isolated, notoriously hard-to-reach patch of sandstone in a remote corner of the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. For more than a year, it has eluded me. But on New Years Eve 2011, I finally made it.

Yes, technically, I made it there on my first attempt in December 2010 after hiking The Wave. I saw the last bit of light fall on it from the trailhead and decided to camp and go take a look in the morning. Overnight, my friend became violently ill. By the time morning came we were forced to retreat to a place where medical attention was possible. A few weeks later I planned a New Years trip only to have weather move in that made the trip borderline insane.

Then two months later in February, a detailed trip was planned only to once again be foiled by a freak snow storm that dropped upwards of a foot of snow in the area. Months later, over Thanksgiving weekend, another trip was planned, and once again fell through for various reasons. So when the plan started coming together for a trip over New Years Eve 2011, I was a bit skeptical. But with permits to Coyote Buttes South and North the following days, I was determined to make it happen.

We departed from Salt Lake City early in the morning on New Years Eve. Loaded with all sorts of equipment for keeping warm and digging ourselves out of the soft Paria Sand. Winch, anchors, shovel, firewood, compressor and cameras. We were ready for it. We reached the House Rock Valley Road shortly after noon and were surprised by the amount of snow we found. White Pocket is on the plateau to the east of House Rock Valley at a higher elevation so it would likely have even more. Fortunately the House Rock Valley Road was in reasonably good shape and mostly dry. The clay base of the House Rock Road can become treachorous with even a small amount of moisture.

Meanwhile, the deep sand tracks to get out to White Pocket are great when they are a little wet. Instead of sinking in soft, dry sand, you just cruise right over it. We made quick time on the drive out with no issues that required anything more than good momentum and 4 wheel drive until the last quarter mile before we reached White Pocket. It was there, just after the gate at the corral that we hit nasty, sloppy mud of the worst kind. My truck immediately started fish tailing out of control as I slammed on the gas to get through. As we were sliding through on a 45 degree angle, Nilauro frantically pointed out that we were about to go sideways into a ditch next to a culvert. Spin the wheel, hit the gas, a lot of laughing, a little screaming… somehow we avoided it.

The road dried out a bit for a 100 feet or so before reaching the large trailhead parking area for White Pocket where we were in it again. This time much of the mud was hidden under a layer of snow. We started sinking and I slammed the gas and made it across to somewhat dry ground. We had planned to camp right there but there was no way. So I decided to take a drive where we found another road which led us to a perfect campsite within short walking distance of White Pocket. We had arrived.

The view of White Pocket from our campsite.
White Pocket from camp

We had a little snack and immediately set out through the snow to explore. We had a few hours before sunset and the prime light. This is one of the man-made reservoirs in The White Pocket. In wet times, this would cache water for the livestock that were grazed in the area.

Nilauro setting up a shot.

That’s me doing my White Pocket jump for joy. Notice Nikita looking up in confusion.
Air Selfie

Later in the afternoon I wondered north of The White Pocket where I noticed an odd looking alcove in the distance. I decided to hike to it.
I found indian artifacts in there

There were no ruins inside but there were some pottery shards and ancient corn cobs laying around.

And some etchings from the 30’s.

Back at The White Pocket.
Nikita and The Sun

Nikita didn’t mind the wait.
Nikita and The Snow

After sundown, hoping for a sunset. That’s Nick Short taking a shot. That’s right, this trip consisted of two Nicks and one Nilauro. It wasn’t as confusing as it could have been.
The other Nick

And then it came. A fine sunset to end a fine year and a long wait to finally see The White Pocket.
Thank You, White Pocket

Goodbye, 2011.
Last sunset of 2011

White Pocket did not disappoint. I only spent a few hours out there and didn’t go back for night shots because of the clouds. We woke up to clear skies in the morning so I opted to sleep in while Nilauro and Nick went out to get some shots. Soon after we were packed up and on our way to Coyote Buttes South where we had permits for the day. That, as well as the third day of this trip at Coyote Buttes North, will be coming in separate trip reports soon.

View the full set of photos on Flickr. I took a few hundred so there should be a lot more coming as I get to them over the next few months.

See more of my trip reports to the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.

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  1. avatar
    Matt Andeson
    January 6, 2012

    I saw the alcove and wondered what was out there!
    Awesome pictures, I need to start traveling more with photographers so I can spent more time in the golden hours rather than the convenient ones!

    • avatar
      January 6, 2012

      Yeah, that was quite the odd-looking alcove. It was a bit snowy hiking down the north facing hill to it but well worth it. Where did you find all the pottery shards you saw?

  2. avatar
    January 6, 2012

    My parents just recently moved from the Page AZ area. I miss those beautiful Vermillion cliffs, and heading down to Marble Canyon and Lee’s Ferry in the winter time for some hiking. Thanks for this, beautiful shots! Now I really really have cabin fever!

    • avatar
      January 7, 2012

      I need to get down to Marble sometime, it looks awesome. Glad I could help aggravate the cabin fever. I was dying by the time this trip rolled around!

  3. avatar
    Lisa Kelly
    January 8, 2012

    Great trip report as always! It looks like an absolutely amazing area. I’m looking forward to seeing your Coyote Buttes reports as well!

    • avatar
      January 8, 2012

      Thanks, Lisa! The CBS trip report should be up by Monday. Still haven’t touched the CBN photos. I took something like 1200 photos over the weekend. Too much!


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