My favorite work commute is Cottonwood Canyon. Ostensibly I came to Page, Arizona to work as a buyer and retail manager, but my underlying motive was to move a bit further down the Colorado River – to see ever more of the great outdoors and sandstone terrain. I knew the job would require a healthy amount of travel, calling on and merchandising seven small non-profit bookstores spread across southern Utah and Northern Arizona. The imperative inherent in the job description was to get to know the landscape of the public lands within my jurisdiction of Glen Canyon Natural History Association. Once I understood the area, I would design and order merchandise that interpreted the landscape; a mug here, a T-shirt there, all merchandise to help educate, tangible trinkets to take home as talismans, memory triggers of time spent in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area or Grand Staircase Escalante.
My business route takes me on a sweeping grand circle of sorts. Down past Navajo Bridge, Lee’s Ferry, Lonely Dell Ranch; Up Highway 89A to Kanab; passing turnoffs to North Rim of the Grand Canyon and Pipe Spring; Highway 89 past the turnoffs to Zion and Cedar Breaks; Across Highway 12 past Bryce Canyon; several stops within Grand Staircase Escalante and through Capitol Reef, a detour to Bullfrog and Hall’s Crossing; Highway 90 with Natural Bridges in view as well as the buttes that are the Bears Ears; possibly 261 through Cedar Mesa and down the Moki Dugway to 191; continuing on Highway 191 to join Highways 163 and 160; and back to Page. It takes several days to drive this loop, more than a week if I called on all the stores in one trip. I prefer smaller loops. Along this route there are numerous opportunities to choose other back roads and lessor known shortcuts.
My favorite work commute is Cottonwood Canyon. When you take Cottonwood Canyon you experience a variety of colors and geological features. You get out and away from the paved road and any traffic. You can usually go there in a regular car (not so if it is raining or has recently been raining).
There is no early morning drive I like better than that dirt and gravel road. It gets me to Cannonville 40 minutes quicker than taking the paved route through Kanab and it gives me a panorama of beauty, a kaleidoscope of ever-changing light and colors of sandstone.
If you have the luxury of a day off rather than a business commute, several beautiful trailheads are accessed along the way and there is even a written guide to the Geology of Cottonwood Canyon to interpret the rock layers you see. Cottonwood Narrows is a spectacular little hike that can be done in minutes short of an hour if you have a car waiting at the opposite trailhead. If not, double your time and hike back the way you came in, or walk back to your car on the dirt road. On your hike you will enjoy both shadow and sunshine, a little bit of narrow slot canyon, and you might even see a few small arches in the rock walls towering to either side.