When A Shortcut Really Isn't
Lone Writer, Sundance, and Happy Jack (CB handles) sat around an early-morning campfire near Indian Creek telling stories about trips that were a long time gone. They had passed through Canyonlands National Park and over Elephant Hill the previous day but had not decided what to do with the last day of their visit to Utah. As the last bite of bacon and eggs went the way such things do, Lone Writer asked the other two if they knew where Birthing Rock is. The question was answered with blank stares.
Birthing Rock contains a panel of rock art dating back to the time of the Anasazi Indians. One of the figures on that rock has been identified by experts as a woman giving birth. Lone Writer had heard about the rock for decades but had never taken the time to locate it.
From Indian Creek, the shortest distance to Birthing Rock is through Lockhart Basin and over Hurrah Pass. In other words, a "shortcut."
Happy Jack grinned, "I like shortcuts."
It is well known among those who travel with Lone Writer that shortcuts are nearly always very time consuming. That reputation first surfaced on this very trail back in 1986 when Lone Writer pointed the trail out on a map to Farmer Bob. Back in those days GPS did not exist, laptop mapping programs were only for the very rich, and navigation was done using topo maps and looking for landmarks.
On that day back in 1986, Lone Writer and Farmer Bob left Elephant Hill in Canyonlands about midafternoon. The plan was to go to Farmer Bob's house in Palisade, Colorado, for the night. Then Lone Writer noticed the shortcut on the map.
It looked like it would save a lot of miles and give them something to do for the rest of the day without driving on paved roads. Several hours later, a moonless night had blanketed everything with darkness, and the two explorers were definitely lost. Without being able to compare landmarks to the topo maps, there was no way to determine where they were or which way to go.
Meanwhile, back in Palisade, Farmer Bob's wife became worried enough to call the state police in Utah and report her husband missing. They told her they would keep an eye out for him, but she was sure she heard someone in the background giggling. Fat chance the state police would find anyone who was wandering around in the darkness of Lockhart Basin, even if they knew to look there. In those days, cell phones did not exist, and no one even knew the two explorers were in Lockhart Basin.
As darkness gave way to the rising sun, Lone Writer and Farmer Bob rubbed the sleep from their eyes and began the process of fixing breakfast. They discussed how beautiful their surroundings were in the early-morning light and took stock of their supplies. They consulted the maps and found their location. Both were happy to learn they were still on the right road. Although there were numerous dead-end roads branching off the main road, there is only one road that passes all the way through Lockhart Basin. In those days, even the main road was little more than a two-track path left behind many years ago by uranium miners.
For the two explorers, they were on an exciting adventure, boldly going where they had never gone before. They had plenty of food, water, and gas, so neither of them had anything to be concerned about. Of course, they did not know about the call Farmer Bob's wife had made to the state police or the call to Lone Writer's wife. Since the state police were still giggling, there would be no interference from them. Lone Writer's wife was used to him disappearing into the desert for several days at a time, so she wasn't worried. A favorite joke around the campfire was that if Lone Writer disappeared for more than a week, his wife would hang out a sign that read, "Lost: Husband and dog. Reward for the dog."