the primitive trail

It apparently takes being smashed over the head with a sledge hammer to remember, “oh yea…..[insert painful experience] REALLY SUCKED the last time we forgot [insert item].

During our visit to Arches National Park in Utah, we decided to visit and hike the Devil’s Garden loop.  It had tons of arches to see and it was a 7+ mile trail.  Right up my alley (I’m not sure how up it is Tim’s alley, but he was involved in the decision making process).  We started the hike on a worn, well used trail with a handful of other outdoorsy-types.  Each group wanting to capture the various arches in their own artsy fartsy way.

We made it to Landscape Arch and we saw this sign over to one side of the worn, well traveled trail:


You can guess where we went.

And we stayed on that primitive trail for hours, wandering around aimlessly, trying to find a way out.  We were fine in the beginning, because the trail could only go one direction.  However, the “trail” ended up branching off in two different directions into a wash.  As we trudged through the fine, red sand, we kept seeing these stacked rock piles, thought they were neat, and made our own for the collection.  Little did we know that those were actually marking the trail we weren’t following.  Oops.  Don’t follow the one under a tree next to a huge boulder.

We wandered around in that valley with huge rocks and mountainous looking dirt towering hundreds of feet over us in every direction for hours.  At one point, after we were beyond exasperated and desperate to find a way out, we see people.  Yes, people.  STANDING on the very top of some of those huge rocks.  They looked like Fisher Price toys from our vantage point…so we knew there was a way out of the hell of our own making.  We just couldn’t figure out HOW to get there. We hiked up and down every avenue we could find, at times teetering on the edge of very steep drop offs.  Each time, a dead end.  Our mistake?  No map. No book.  Nothing on Arches…or rock cairns, for that matter.  No idea where the trail was supposed to go.

Eventually we admitted defeat and turned back to hike out the way we came.  At one point, Tim turned around and said, “We will NEVER leave without a map AGAIN.”  Yes, I concede the point, but sadly, this wasn’t the first adventure without a map.  We had previously gone on a five-hour hike-from-hell somewhere in the North Carolina mountains with no idea where we were going.  He said the bit about the map then, too.

After we found the trail that we knew led to civilization, we passed a very in shape woman with a green jacket tied around her waist headed right into the maze we couldn’t find a way out of.  Actually, she passed us.  We were just concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other.  Some small part of us REALLY wanted to follow her…to dispel the mystery that was the wash, but we were hot and tired and knew we wouldn’t last if she was wrong, too.  Plus, we didn’t want to seem like stalkers.  That would have been awkward to try to explain.  She zoomed by, smiling all the while, power walking through the sand like she knew exactly where she was going.

Once we were off of the primitive trail and at Landscape Arch yet again, we decided to continue on to see Double O arch.  That was also on a primitive trail but there were MANY people on that one and getting lost really wasn’t an option.  Much to our dismay, we learned that was where the primitive trail ended (or began, if you so desired).

When we saw the sign for the exit/entrance to the primitive trail, along with arrows pointing to Double O Arch and Dark Angel, we were aghast.  We had wasted SO MUCH TIME and gone in a complete circle.  To make things just THAT MUCH BETTER, as we were walking down the trail from Double O Arch, ready to move on and far away from Devil’s Garden, none other than the lady in green passes us….AGAIN.  Tim and I just looked at each other.

Yes, there is a way out.  And no, don’t ask, because we have no idea.


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