One of Us
One of the coolest parts of the Joint Trail in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park isn’t the narrow slot canyon itself, but rather the hundreds of stone cairns that litter the canyon walls and floor. Like a village of small rock piles, you walk through the narrow canyon and feel compelled to add to the pile, so to speak. Soon, you’re on your hands and knees, stacking progressively smaller stones atop one another, trying to get as many as possible to balance before stepping away with the satisfaction of a job well done.
I wasn’t expecting to find this cairnstone village, but it’s one of my favorite little tucked away secrets in any National Park. There are similar “villages” in other parks, Bryce Canyon had one that was particularly memorable which I didn’t find on my last trip there, but what makes this one so special is the fact that it comes out of nowhere, and ultimately leaves you feeling like it was the destination itself, rather than a quirky facet of a greater journey.
I’m not sure what it is about this particular village that makes it feel so unique, perhaps its the location, tucked away in a narrow slot canyon at the edge of a section of Canyonlands that isn’t as well traveled as the Island in the Sky district outside of Moab, and perhaps its the fact that intrepid cairn builders have gone to great lengths to set up these stacks in out of the way places, along rock ledges and tucked into alcoves, making finding them a fun game.
Whatever it is, it’s one of my favorite parts of the Joint Trail, and the Needles in general, and well worth the long hike to find.