Monday, April 12, 2010

Yield to the trail

A good trail gives you comfort. There's a reason those blue blazes on the Superior Hiking Trail are called "assurance markers." The SHT is well-marked and easy to follow, but it's still comforting to see those rectangles of paint.

Today I hiked five miles through Canyonlands National Park on the Neck Spring Trail, up in Island in the Sky. The first quarter mile of the trail was very hard to follow. The route ran on slickrock and vandals had knocked down many of the cairns. I felt unsettled. It was not enjoyable. If I'm hiking, especially if I'm hiking alone, I like to walk and enjoy the surroundings, not focus on the turns of the path.

Eventually the cairns got better and the route became clear. And I could relax and yield to the trail. I loved it. The cairns were set up just perfectly so as you approached one, the next one came into sight. The cairns led the perfect route down the Navajo Sandstone to the valley below.

Yesterday I had to yield even more. I had to totally set aside my own need to navigate and simply follow the leader. After at least five visits to Moab and Arches National Park, I was finally able to sign up for the guided tour of the Fiery Furnace (through, if you're wondering). The Fiery Furnace is a maze of sandstone fins in which it is VERY easy to get lost (ask me, I've been lost there). I tried for a while to keep track of where the ranger had led us, but soon realized I was thoroughly lost...and took comfort in following the group and the ranger through and out of the labyrinth.

Hiking in Canyonlands today, I kept thinking of a scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Not the scene at Double Arch in the beginning, but the scene at the end as Indy works through the final challenges to reach the Holy Grail. In the last challenge, he has to have the faith to step out into the void. Which he does, only to find that there was an invisible stone beam underfoot. He proceeded safely to find the goofy immortal Knight from the Crusades.

A trail through the woods (or through the desert) is a lovely, nearly spiritual thing. I yield to the trail.

1 comment:

lotus said...

I am so envious! I've always wanted to explore the Fiery Furnace, but never seem to be there when they have the ranger-led hikes.

I remember the cairns with fondness when we hiked Horseshoe Canyon. It was a relief to see them, but the biggest relief was the single set of footprints from someone who had hiked it early that week. Those footprints were reassuring when the cairns got further apart.

I love hiking out in the Moab area, especially when noone else is around. Thank goodness there are people who maintain the cairns!