Thursday, August 23, 2012

White Pocket Pools


White Pocket Arizona Pool
White Pocket, Arizona:  a natural pool in the desert
 White Pocket: a jumble of sandstone like no other.

White Pocket: a remote and small location in the middle of the Paria Plateau.

White Pocket: the end of a journey across the desert on 30 miles of unpaved road, the last 5 miles being deep sand.

White Pocket: a worldwide landscape photography location so much so that while I was there no less than 8 other groups came and went, one was a family of 6 from France.  None stayed as long as I did.  Most were there for 2 hours and then left.  That seems shameful as it takes numerous hours simply to reach this spot.

Well, I planned a summer trip to the desert for photography.  Summer and desert usually don't equal a good time, but I had planned to hike the famous Buckskin Gulch.  This slot canyon would be cool and shaded.  Perfect for summer.

Unless it rained. . . .

A prolonged and more powerful summer monsoon season came through the southwest this last month, dumping water everywhere.  Each day there was rain and more rain scattered from Las Vegas to Moab.  Several days before the trip, I watched the forecast turn from worrisome to scary.  The Buckskin Canyon became dangerous to enter and had a 13.5-foot flash flood the day before I was to go.  The BLM also reported multiple washouts in the dirt roads, including the Cottonwood Canyon Road.  Taking this all in as I was driving out of town towards the Paria Plateau, I tried to formulate a new plan.  Buckskin Gulch was lethal.  I needed somewhere that would be safe but also beautiful in these conditions.  White Pocket fit the bill.  Not only are the sandy roads easier to drive on when wet, I hoped all the empty pockets in the sandstone would be full of water when I got there.  How much rain was needed to fill these?  Had it rained enough?

When I arrived early in the morning, another lone visitor was just leaving.  It was 9 AM.  The best morning light was already gone, but I started wandering around the area looking for photographic subject.  No sense waiting in the car, as there was no shade for it and temperatures were already hot and sunny.  I started exploring to the far right (east) and happily found that water had filled up a pool:  a good sign.  I continued and was thrilled to find pool after pool scattered throughout White Pocket.  The brain rocks sandstone formation has most of these ponds/pool.  I had hit the jackpot, having arrived during the perfect time to capture this small oasis.

The hot morning had unrelenting sun.  The afternoon brought dark clouds and lightning.  From 3 to 5 PM, it rained hard.  Nonstop water poured over all the cliffs and filled all the pools even more.   I took shelter and just waited.  I could not do anything else.  All other visitors had come and gone by this time.  I was alone.  As I looked across the plateau towards Buckskin Gulch 20 miles away, I knew that a flash flood raged through the 2-ft wide and 200-ft deep slot canyon.  There was no escape.  I was glad to be here at White Pocket.  Later the sun came out and sunset was spectacular.

The pool in the picture above is right in the middle of White Pocket with a view of the Lollipop, tucked between three brain rock peaks.  Beautiful green-blue water filled up that pool to a depth of 2 feet.  When it rained, the overflow went down a small waterfall to another pool below.  You can see parts of that pool in this picture.  I found this pool to be the most beautiful of all and returned here to cool off twice this day and once the next.

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