Backpacking with my dear friend Jan in the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park in Utah. A loop from the Elephant Hill Trailhead to the Joint Trail and Druid Arch, camping at Chesler Park.
|Up the Elephant Hill Jeep road towards Devils Kitchen.|
Walking through the Needles is a completely different experience than Island in the Sky. Here, we are down within the canyons, enveloped within rock spires and fins.
|The Joint Trail takes us through a giant rock crack.|
As gorgeous as the scenery is, the highlight of the trip is spending time with Jan. As the years go by, I feel more and more appreciative of good trail buddies. Those rare jewels that make any trip a delight. I’m even more lucky that Jan seems to come visit me wherever I roam.
|Jan and I take a thousand photos in the Joint, none of which capture the incredible feeling of being surrounded by towering rock.|
There is the ease of our shared outdoors rhythm and values— so many miles together means there is no question about stopping for photos of plants, no awkwardness about bathroom stops, no problems deciding how to make plans. I trust Jan’s skills and decision making fully. I trust her advice on life matters. And our ability to laugh and be silly.
|Stopping at every biscuitroot to take a photo. Because they are all so cute.|
|See, there is no elevation change here. Nope. Flat the whole way, Jan.|
|This ladder? The rungs in the ladder are flat. So this trail is still practically flat here. Photo by Jan|
I read in a book about Bates Wilson, early superintendent of Arches who worked to get Canyonlands established as a national park, that when Bates took Secretary of the Interior Udall on a hike to Druid Arch, that Bates kept insisting “It’s only four miles.” Totally underestimating the mileage.
So at least this is not the first time this has happened on the way to Druid Arch.
|From: “Blow Sand in his Soul; Bates Wilson the heart of Canyonlands” by Jen Jackson Quintan|
|We make it to Druid Arch, even though it means ambitious mileage with having to return to our campsite at Chesler Park before sunset.|
|Our campsite, CP4, is tucked against rock spires and has an expansive sunset view.|
Sunset is epic. I watch sunsets a lot here in canyon country, but many are watched solo and even though I like my solo time, nothing compares to the magic of a shared sunset.
|Colors change and get more gorgeous every minute.|
Permits for overnight camping are required in Canyonlands National Park. Make your reservation as early as possible, carry out your toilet paper and poop in a wag bag, and pack in all your own water.