By Peta Liston Owens

 

Part 4    Are Your Problems Big or Small?

Eyeing the Needles:  A phalanx of red-hued Cedar Mesa Sandstone spires tower over the southeast corner of Canyonlands National Park, known as the “Needles” (the Needles District). Even at a distance from the edge of the White Rim Trail, their ancient presence and power is felt, as they stand at attention.

White with Age: The White Rim Plateau, with its ribbon of road on it (the White Rim trail) is named for the thin but hard layer of White Rim Sandstone that was deposited some 225 million years ago at the top of a geologic layer called the Cutler Formation. This plateau lies between the river gorges below and the mesa tops above.

 

Shrinking in Time: The Shafer Switchbacks drop over 1,000 feet from a plateau in Canyonlands’ Island in the Sky District down to the White Rim Trail. You slip back in time as you pass each new rock layer formation. People, bikes, 4-wheel drive vehicles all shrink against the drop back of the sheer red rock cliff faces and the birds-eye view below.

Being out in a wide-open space, days in a row, surrounded by panoramic views dwarfed only by the sky above does something to your sense of scale. Being surrounded by ancient rock carved over millions of years into buttes, fins, arches, spires and hoodoos does something to your sense of time. Being surrounded by a world that at one time was beneath an ocean, where once a shark swam and now an eagle flies makes you look at things—all sorts of things from a different perspective.

Being in this environment offers a perspective check on life. Providing you distance from the concerns or habits or stresses that take over back at home. One of my fellow White Rim riders felt it profoundly. “I’ve been in some dark places with some difficulties in my life this past year, and being out here reminds me there is a whole other world that exists out there—a beautiful one. Being here has allowed me to see beyond my struggles and reassured me that they will pass, just like the thunderstorms do out here.”

I found that space, beauty, fresh air and movement clears the clutter from the mind, allowing for a better sense of what really matters.

 

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