A Traveler and his Cat exploring America.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Third and Final Revelation

At Double O Arch I had the option to retrace my trail thus far, or take an alternate "primitive loop" back. I consulted my trail guide. "A difficult low route through fins; short section of smooth slickrock; slippery when wet." Translated that means a tough slog along narrow edge rock ridges with steep drop-offs to either side; a hair raising descent down a 45 degree angled sandstone surface worn smooth by countless hikers before you; pray that it doesn't rain. At this point I have had enough adventure (disappointments) to suit me for awhile yet it was still a difficult choice for me to make.

Whenever a trail traversed over slickrock, little piles of rocks called carins guide the way. Sometimes they are widely spaced apart and the next one in line can be overlooked. Earlier I was on one trail where I could see the next marker up ahead. I hopped down, well...half-assed slid off a 4 foot ledge in one spot of the trail. On the way back I came to the same place and realized I could not make it back up onto the upper ledge. I looked around and yes, this is where I came down. I could see where others before me had wedged some thick branches into a crevice for a step-hold up but being alone, this would not help me. There was nothing to grab hold of. I honestly could not retrace my path. I was stuck. I ended up walking about 50 yards down the slickrock slope at where the ledge lowered to a point I could climb up on. Here sat another rock carin. The proper trail made a V-shape to a point where one could easily negotiate from one ledge to another, but most people did not see that, choosing instead to cut across to the following carin by hopping off the ledge as I had.

So for the next mile or so I though about how easily I could get myself into a situation that years ago would be nothing for me to get out of. But now, in my advanced years, I have to be aware of the fact that I no longer have the strength or agility I once had. This was my third revelation and with that in my mind, I did not take the "primitive loop" back to Sinbad and the Little House on the Highway.


  1. I love those cairns. when I was in Hawaii years ago they were numerous along river deltas. all black, smooth stones very zen garden-like and beautiful. these red ones are just as lovely. your story here reminds me of the that movie 27 Hours. I'm so happy that you didn't get stuck and have to cut off a limb in order to survive! that black and white photo is an ooh la la. have a beautiful holiday weekend John. see ya next week.

  2. Trying to warm up here in South Dakota, so took a look at your trip photos in the south west! Lovely pics! Looks like a seriously good time, enjoy every mile!

  3. All of us have our own limitations and abilities. ;-)
    Nice shots!

  4. It's certainly possible to get "cliffed out" on sandstone and not be able to return the way you came. That happens to people of all ages, and in a remote area it can be fatal if you get stuck with no water, food, or hope of rescue.
    Glad you didn't get stuck. Cairns are useful, but often not close enough together to be readily seen, as you point out.
    Glad you had a safe return. Always better to take the safest route.

  5. we like that you come safely back from your treks so you can share them with us. i'm thinking you might need to get a hiking buddy. :)

    i love the b&w photo too.

  6. Oh no! You were almost stranded; and it doesn't look like a very forgiving landscape to be stranded in.

    I am glad you made it out OK, and you got some great photos and a neat story to tell out of the ordeal. ;o)

  7. Beautiful but I would not want to be lost out there. Lovely b&w.


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