Written By: Lynn “Quadman” Blamires
Wonders of White Pocket
When my wife saw the pictures of a geologic feature known as White Pocket that I had visited a couple of years ago, it went on her bucket list. Similar to The Wave which is situated in the North Coyote Buttes of Arizona, it is six miles northwest of White Pocket.
White Pocket is a 50-mile OHV ride round-trip. The Wave is so popular that access is restricted to 20 permits per day. White Pocket is not as well-known and does not require a permit.
A pocket is defined as an area of land that may be small compared to its surroundings, but unique in its difference from the makeup of the encircling landscape. White Pocket is one square mile of colorful domes and ridges situated in an area of white and grey rock. In this little section, the vibrant red and orange colors of Coyote Butte separated by layers of white sandstone have been exposed in a swirling array of curiously erosive landscapes.
While the Wave is characterized by continuously rippled sandstone locked into uninterrupted wavy dells and basins, White Pocket has the look of rippled sandstone with lines flowing one way then a seam splits the flow causing the lines to go in a completely different direction. It is an amazing place to visit.
Here is how we reached White Pocket – traveling south from Fredonia on Highway 89A – we drove through the beautiful Kaibab National Forest. After passing the little tourist settlement of Jacob Lake, we began a descent out of the mountains to the valley floor. We could see a ranch in the valley as we took the winding road down.
That ranch marked the beginning of House Rock Road. Leaving the highway here, we parked in a field where we had permission to leave our vehicles and unloaded. Lining up, we headed north on House Rock Road that follows the west side of the Vermillion Cliffs.
Just over two and a half miles into our ride, we stopped at a viewing area for the California condor. This endangered species was introduced here and seems to be doing well. We could see the area high on the cliffs where they nested and with binoculars, we were able to see them flying high above. This turn-out had a toilet, which was another reason we stopped.
Back on the trail, we turned east onto Pine Tree Road. The road was dry and sandy, which we attributed to drier weather. I have seen this trail after a storm that left huge puddles in the road we were challenged to negotiate.
About six miles after turning onto Pine Tree Road, we came to a ranch by the same name. It consisted of a house with a water well and a holding tank. An old ’53 Chevy pickup was backed up under a derrick as a part of the setup.
It was quiet and looked abandoned the first time I visited, but not today. An old single-cylinder engine ran the water pump, it was chugging away and the water tank was full.
This type of engine has to be started with a hand crank on one of the two flywheels. The flywheels have to be going fast enough for the engine to catch and run on its own.
It took me to back memories of my boyhood in Oklahoma. I would often go to sleep to the faint sound of one of these engines pumping oil somewhere in the night. Snapping out of my nostalgia, we angled north and proceeded to our destination.
Situated near the border of the Paria Canyon/Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, White Pocket has a parking lot that is bordered by a buck and pole fence. We pulled up to it and began exploring this unique and amazing world.
The sun was bright on this day, the air was cool, and the colors were vibrant. Taking the opportunity, I went about exploring this fascinating landscape. Every corner brought new discoveries.
The rock surface was hard, but it seems like it had been poured, stirred, and shaped into wonderful formations before becoming rigid and colorful. Lines of orange and white flowed through this landscape as if painted with a brush.
Finding an indent in the surface of the rock, I studied it more closely. It was actually a path worn into the face of the sandstone. I was able to follow it back toward the parking area where it disappeared in the sand. I learned that the track had been made by wild mustangs that took the same route through White Pocket every time they passed. I couldn’t imagine how many horses it would take to wear the rock away so clearly.
We soon grew hungry and found shade in which to have lunch before heading back. When you go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down, and see this incredible feature for yourself. It is important to remember that Arizona requires a permit on out-of-state ATVs.