When I was researching real locations to put into my novel, New Sight (due out next October from Jolly Fish Press, in case you forgot), I found a little known spot in Canyonlands called Druid Arch.
Not Delicate Arch—that's Arches, and I've been there—but Druid Arch, so named because of its resemblance to Stonehenge in England.
Well, of course Google did wonders for finding pictures and even describing the long hike into the arch. On one web site they showed the elevation changes. Technology is pretty amazing, I have to admit it.
But ever since I used it as a location in my novel, I've wanted to go there myself. I live in Utah, and Canyonlands is only 4 or 5 hours away. So really the place is pretty accessible.
Some of you might remember that two friends and I tried to get to Druid Arch last November. The day we hiked was the only day it rained, snowed, hailed, blew and in general caused us to be miserable for about five hours. We couldn't even get to the trail head, so we used another trail (a much harder trail) and only got half way before we turned around—tired, wet and sore. We had fun, but didn't make it to the arch.
I had planned to try the hike again in April (this is the Utah desert, people, going in the summer is insanity at its finest) but I got some lovely tendonitis in my knee and simply going up the stairs was excruciating for about a month. No hiking for me.
By the time this fall came around I was determined to make this hike happen. I found two suckers, er, friends, to come with me. I trained—not as much as I should have, but I did put some effort into it—bought treats, replaced the bladder in my Camelback and headed out a few Fridays ago for Moab, Utah.
The next morning we went into Canyonlands and started out for Druid Arch.
The length of the trail is 11.5 miles round trip. The beginning quarter of a mile is up, up and up with more up. Then it kind of levels off on top of the plateau before diving down into a canyon bottom.
The trick to one of these trails is to follow the little piles of rocks called carions. (As seen below) They're cute and adorable and very helpful...as long as you keep your eyes out for them. I missed a few (in my defense we were walking along a dry river bottom that was loaded with rocks) and we took two detours. One led to a secluded pond that held dark, murky water from which I was certain a many tentacled reception waited to greet those who wandered too close. We backed away slowly until we found the right path. You know, the one that led up above the pond.
At one point I could feel that we were all getting tired and discouraged. We'd put a time limit on the hike and agreed to turn back if we reached half way and weren't a the arch yet. For safety more than anything else. But we carried on (because my sucker friends are awesome) and finally spotted the arch.
Although we didn't know it was the arch, because we were looking at it from the side. The sun was right behind it, so I couldn't get a good picture. But that's when we hit this.
Uh, ladder and then climb straight up those rocks? My legs did not want to play anymore, but my determination won the fight and we clamored up that very daunting looking path. About ¾ of the way up, I looked to my right. And there was the arch! I could see daylight through the legs. Yay! That gave us the energy to scramble the last twenty feet to the lookout point.
It was awesome. Like most hard things that I've accomplished in my life, I wouldn't trade the day or the experience for anything in the world. I wasn't sure I was going to make it a few times, but my friends and our combined determination won out, and now we have a great story to tell along with the idea to make it an annual event.
Kind of like Nanowrimo—look at me transition there! Writing a novel in a month is an insane idea. But people do it. I've done it for like eight years in a row. Others are even more crazy than I am and go for more than 50,000 words in a month. Well, this is that month. Rev it up everyone, it'll be rough, you'll want to turn back, tears may be shed and notebooks may be tossed across the room, but you can make it! Just keep those fingers flying over the keyboard and it will all work out. Granted, parts of it may suck, but others will not, and when you're finished, you will be pleasantly surprised at the results.
Good luck fellow loony bin inhabitants. I will see you on the other side!