Last Thanksgiving, we went to Moab, Utah to do some exploring. Most of our time was spent in the Arches National Park, but we did spend an afternoon at the Dead Horse Point State Park. Sean mountain biked and I took a hike around what I thought was a pretty straightforward, 7 mile trail. It was straightforward, until it wasn’t – I got lost…..I ended up at the car over an hour and half later then planned. UGH.
It’s a very strange feeling when wandering aimlessly on a hike, alone, in what feels like the middle of no-where in the high desert, at dusk, with a rapidly depleting phone battery, and without a good map. Your heart beats wildly and your breathing speeds up – not quite to the point of a panic attack, but close enough. It sounds a little dramatic – I am working very hard to eliminate this in my life – but it was truly a little unsettling.
About the park: Dead Horse Point is 32 miles from Moab – on the main road to the Canyonlands National Park. It’s known for mountain biking trails with plenty of slick rock and single track and, of course, hiking. It’s GORGEOUS and is known for the image below. In fact, it is one of the most photographed vistas in the world:
The primary hiking loop is divided between the East and West rims. The East rim was super easy to follow – if you leave from the visitor center, you end up fairly quickly at Dead Horse Point. From there, you wind around the West rim and back to the visitor center. It was the pesky West rim that threw me off course!
The terrain is pretty much flat all the way around with both rims providing breathtaking scenery. Even with it’s nearly negligible elevation gains, good shoes are needed as there are rocks, cactus and dead trees everywhere – so flip flops and high heeled shoes are NOT recommended (yep, I have seen it all).
You can also take dogs with you as long as they are on a leash. We forgot Yogi’s leash – in hindsight that was lucky – dragging him around while lost would have made the experience 10 times worse! I surely would have run out of water for the both of us – not a lot of water sources readily accessible in the high desert.
How did I get lost on this “cake walk” of a hike? Well, I made the mistake of going off trail to get better views of the canyons – they are soooo incredible – similar to their larger cousin – the Grand Canyon in Arizona. By doing this, I unknowingly passed by the important signs indicating location. So, going off trail is never recommended under any circumstances!!
Between the need to be adventuresome, the “not drawn to scale” map, and the fact the trail is hard to follow given the nature of the trail marking in the desert, I had no idea how far off the path I actually was. The trails are generally marked off with rocks but when the rocks unexpectedly stop, you have to really pay attention to figure out where to go next.
All I can say is if it hadn’t been for the AWESOME couple from Chicago, I could have been wandering around for some additional unplanned hours and ended up back to the visitor center in the dark. I happened to see them at a critical point of the hike. They were able to put me back on track – just as my phone was at 1% battery life – thankfully I was able to send Sean a text letting him know I was ok. Being a guy, he was slightly happy – it meant he could mountain bike for another hour.
In spite of the getting lost experience, the hike was gorgeous. It could have turned out much worse, but it didn’t, so I am focusing on the good bits. Going forward, I will always have an extra battery pack for the phone and a headlamp to handle the unexpected – thankfully, I had enough water and snacks and the right clothing.
“Of all the paths you take in life,
make sure a few of them are dirt.”
– John Muir
…..i choose this…..