We Came. We Saw. We Conquered.
Feb 14, 2013
[Huy Le]
5 minute read
Lets pick up where we left off eh?

Moab. The one place where boys go to become men.. and girls to become boys.

After weeks of planning to spend a few days after Christmas in The Maze District in Canyonlands National Park, we realized that we needed a back up plan. In this desolate place, the weather could be our friends, or it could be our enemy. For a good week before heading out, our eyes were glued on the weather forecast. The morning of the 23rd of December (T-minus 2 days), we called an all hands meeting to make the final decisions.

It was decided pretty quickly that The Maze was unreachable with the recent weather patterns. Quickly our attention diverted to The Needles District; for this was the only accessible district in Canyonlands. For about 8 hours, we planned the routes through The Needles District and prepared our gears. Tents, check. Sleeping bags, check. 20 gallons of water... steak, shrimp, check, check and check. Again and again we went through the checklist just to make sure we had everything we needed.

At T-minus 0 hour. Everyone came together and the gears were checked again. At about 12PM on the 25th,  we took off to Moab from Denver. At 6AM we got to a McDonald's (keep note of this McDonald's). Since it did not open until 6:30, we all took a small nap and were the first ones at the door when it opened. The drive to the Needles District started shortly after. The skies were still dark and the air was still cold as well took highway 191 down to the promise land. All was good.

After an hour of driving south from Moab, we finally reached our destination. Blood was rushing through our veins, our minds were racing to make sure everything is a go, and our mouths were constantly wooting and screaming with excitement. Checked. checked. checked. and... double checked. And just like that, we took off into the barren land.

First day, we had plan to hike for about 10 miles. The trails here were much different in the winter and summer. Blanketed by a layer of snow, our guides, the cairns were extremely hard to locate. As we struggled to find our way through knee deep snow in some portion of the trails, we made it through Lost Canyons and Squaw Canyons. At this point, the sun was setting and we were about 4 miles away from our campsite. In a rush, we scrambled across the rocks and carelessly followed cairns. It was after about an hour of climbing up and down walls of iced over rock with a small paracord, we figured it wasn't the actual trail we wanted to follow. Backtracked to our last known, reliable cairn, we tracked  down a junction that would lead us to the correct trail.

It was pitch dark, and the only lights were the ones that came our headlamps and the countless of stars in the heavens. Care was taken at every turn, cairns were checked and double checked. But at night, we can only do so much. At one point we came up to a cairn that was at the top of a 6-foot rock covered in ice. Thinking to ourselves that there was no way it could be a trail at the top, we ignored it and went on searching for more cairns. As the night grows, we kept convincing ourselves that we were on the right path. Stomach growling, legs and back aching, and boots were completely wet, we pressed on to the find the trailhead in the dark. At one point in the night, with the help of our GPS, we could tell we were walking around in circles with dead ends everywhere.

It was then we decided to no longer look for the trailhead that lead to the campsite, but rather trace back to the trail that we were hiking on during the day. After two hours of hiking in pitch dark, we finally came to a familiar trail that we were on early. It did not matter where our campsite was now, we pitched tent, pulled out the pasta, chowed, and hit the bed for we know the next day we had to find our way out.

Morning came and off we go again on the same trail as we were on the day before. As we came up to the cairns that was placed on top of a 6-foot rock, we decided to climb up and see what was up there. One by one, we were each pulled up by the small paracord across the icy surface. Surveying the area, lo-and-behold, we found our next cairn and another, and another. These cairns lead us through a very small crack in the rock. Squeezing through one by one, we made it through a bottomless crack by walking on wedged deadwood. On the other side? it was our safe haven, the exact trailhead we were looking for all night.

The second day was easy for the trails were heavily used and marked. Pitching tent in between two small rocks (relatively speaking), we settled for a good night and was ready to head out by the morning. Long story short, we managed to get lost in broad daylight with GPS and a map. Taking up an hour of our time and two extra miles under our belt, we finally made it through the needles. At the sight of our truck, every man was for himself. Running and screaming as if we just saw a ghost.

38 miles and 3 days later. We made it through and out of the Needles District of Canyonlands.

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