A “Needlework Sampler” for My Birthday

In recognition of my birthday last week, I got to pick the hike….a lot of pressure, as this is a no-win proposition with this tough crowd!  Over 80 degrees, and the Coloradans will start to melt.  Under 70, and I lose the Floridians.  Under three miles?  Not worth getting dressed for in my opinion.  Over seven, and I eliminate participants due to pets at home.IMG_5348 IMG_5350 IMG_5355

I make a joke about being “Queen for the Day” which backfires on me.  I am told that since I am “Queen,” I must also pick the departure time, which is even more daunting than the destination with this group.  Some get up before the sun, while others are like me, members of the “Royal Order of the Night People.”    I try to get input from Mark and Gayle to no avail.  I have never liked being the leader in the game of “Follow the Leader.”IMG_5359 IMG_5362 IMG_5363

But it’s my birthday.  And there is one thing I have wanted to do since a year ago, visit the Needles District of Canyonlands.   This National Park is divided into three districts; Island in the Sky, the Needles, and the Maze.   Last year, all my time was spent in the Island in the Sky district, with no time to explore the remaining two districts.   Research indicates that the best way to experience the Needles District is the Chesler Park Loop trail, as it offers the widest variety of terrain for which the park is known.    So I choose this 11 mile hike, along with an 8:30am departure time, which after the 90 minute drive required to reach the trailhead, would prove to be too late due to the unseasonable heat.  My self-appointed “Queen for the Day” title would soon have my not-so-loyal subjects chanting “Off with her head!!”

Finding a shady lunch stop is not so easy here.

Finding a shady lunch stop is not so easy here.

"May as well be walkin' on the sun."

“May as well be walkin’ on the sun.”

This section of the trail makes me think of the approach to "The Emerald City of Oz."

This section of the trail makes me think of the approach to “The Emerald City of Oz.”

We arrive at the trail head at 10:30am.  Jim is having a good day.  This is good news, because dialogue along the trail is sure to be lively.  However, it is also bad news because I won’t be able to catch up with him long enough to engage in it.  He takes off out of the parking lot like he has been shot out of a canon.  It takes me half a day and a question about internet service providers to catch him.IMG_5379 IMG_5383 IMG_5387

This is my first “big hike” in over two weeks, and I am slow to rebound.   To add to my slow-down, there is mind-blowing scenery around me in every direction!   I want to stop, sight-see, photograph, and just ponder in general the awe-inspiring surroundings.   But I am reminded of the “Don’t Sleep in the Subway, Darlin’” hike.   If I want to make it all the way around to see “The Joint,” which is at the exact halfway point, I had better shake a leg…literally!   There is talk of a decision being taken at the 4 mile point whether there is time to complete the entire loop.  I pick up the pace, as I don’t want to be the reason for turning back!

Photographing Bobbie.  Both an adjective and a verb.

Photographing Bobbie. Both an adjective and a verb.


The Chesler Park Loop is shaped like a balloon on a string.  The “string” part out to the Chesler Park Overlook is about three miles.  The actual loop or “balloon” through the Needles formations and the slot canyon of The Joint trail is another 5 miles, and the hike back from the overlook another three, which accounts for a little over eleven miles.

Anyone besides me (and Pam!) see a hamburger here?

Anyone besides me (and Pam!) see a hamburger here?

The one in the middle looks like a giant mushroom cap.

The one in the middle looks like a giant mushroom cap.


I see haystacks. Lots and lots of haystacks.


A study in “Curves”

The shapes all around me are phantasmagorical.   I see space ships.  Revolving restaurants.  Hamburgers.  Mushrooms.  Ice cream cones.   And yes, there are also plenty of phallic symbols, but we won’t go there.   But not so many “needles” in the Needles District.  In fact as a former rural dweller, they look more like “haystacks”   to me.  But I suppose the “Needles District” sounds a whole lot more compelling than the “Haystack District.”

Ahhh, finally...there are the "needles!"

Ahhh, finally…there are the “needles!”



The backside of the trail gets a little monotonous compared to the rest of the hike.  One must traverse a big grassy field and hike along the 4WD road to complete the loop.  But still, as “walks in the park” go, this one is amazing even on its most arduous stretch.   The wide open grasslands offer little relief from the mounting midday heat.   Finally, a picnic table under a  lone shade tree and the opportunity to joke around with some “jeepers” about giving me a ride back brings a welcomed break.

Heading up toward the Joint Trail.

Heading up toward the Joint Trail.

First, we enter a giant "peephole."

First, we enter a giant “peephole.”

Bobbie, Gayle and Jim offer great size perspective.

Bobbie, Gayle and Jim offer great size perspective.

But the hard part is behind us now as we begin the short climb from the prairie through the peephole, then make a sharp left and probe the deep, long crack between two sheer walls so steep you would swear you were subterranean.   These precisely chiseled opposing walls remind me of narrow back alleyways down the dark canyon cracks of Manhattan, where the blessed sun shines for only minutes per day.  We are fortunate to have hit those few fleeting minutes as shade encroaches quickly across our threadlike path.

There is a sermon taking place here..."THIS is the reason why we are here. THIS is why we choose to escape the madness of cubicles and treadmills and safety nets and travel around in tuna cans..."

There is a sermon taking place here…”THIS is the reason why we are here. THIS is why we choose to escape the madness of cubicles and treadmills and safety nets and travel around in tuna cans…”

Exiting the Joint made easier via the aid of a log-ladder.

Exiting the Joint made easier via the aid of a log-ladder.

Slim Jim

Slim Jim

View of "The Joint" from up above.  Not as straight and narrow as it looks from down below.

View of “The Joint” from up above. Not as straight and narrow as it looks from down below.

As disparate as the group is about departure times and temperatures, the same goes for hiking pace.   I tend to be a slow and steady hiker, taking time to rest, take photos, and stop just short of the point of perspiration, whereas others in the group like to keep moving.    So by the time we reach the Chesler Park Overlook “balloon string” again at the close of the loop, I am starting to feel a bit weary from the pace.  I suspect at this point, some just want to get it over with, as the unseasonable heat has taken its toll.

But I don’t regret choosing the eleven mile hike.  If I were choosing all over again as a “Needlepoint Sampler,” Chesler Park Loop would win again.   And I can’t imagine a better group of friends I would rather have with which to hike on in to sixty-one!

29 thoughts on “A “Needlework Sampler” for My Birthday

    • Thanks, my friend. I can’t think of a better way I would like to see you celebrate on my behalf! Hope it was a nice “chewy” one! 😉

  1. Yes!! So glad you enjoyed this hike. Our first time we started around noon and taking it all in, found ourselves at the picnic table around 4:45…what!! We would be out here in the dark (we now carry headlamps) and the park was almost empty. So the Joint was a little blur and thank goodness the hike out was much easier (til the end) so we could make time. We got to the car at dusk. Our second time was done correctly with an early start (for us). I do think the Jeep road part of the trail is the worst part. The picnic table was being used by people in Jeeps. For some reason that doesn’t seem to work for me. They’ve been sitting! They don’t need to sit more! So we hiked up to a rock for some shade. I was finally able to wander in the Joint and enjoy the fun:)

    Love that you stuck to your guns with this hike for your birthday. You had BIG shoes to fill pleasing all the various hiking styles. Sounds like it all worked out:) What a birthday! Glad you enjoyed as much as we did! Sure is spectacular scenery. I love the hamburgers! I found two beauties:)

    • Hi, Pam — Yes, if you see the Needles in your search engine report, that was me! 😉 I saw your burgers, and after that, I saw burgers everywhere. haha!

  2. Happy Birthday, my fellow October birthday mate! Choosing anything can throw me into a cold sweat, but this hike through your photos is one of your best. I would have been the one looking around with my mouth open taking in all the wonders of Mother Nature. The best Queen for a Day ever!

    • Linda — “Choosing anything can throw me into a cold sweat” made me laugh out loud. Ain’t it the truth!! haha! I always say “I would rather choose not to have to choose!” Happy Birthday, my fellow Queen!

  3. Happy belated birthday. Soon, you’ll be catching up to Sharon and me cause we’re not having any more birthdays. They make you look old. 🙂

    And I think your timing for the hike was a blessing. At the moment, or soon, those slots and peepholes are probably raging with water.

    Glad the “Queen” kept her unruly subjects in line.

    • Thanks, Ed. But I love celebrating my birthday. It’s my favorite day of the year! As the calypso song goes, “Age is just a number…controlled by your state of mind.” So my state of mind says bring on the birthdays, and I will control the numbers. 😉

  4. Awesome choice for your birthday. I’d probably be behind you gawking and taking photos. Not sure I can keep up with this group on a long hike. Yet all I recently saw of the Needles District was drive-by and overlooks.

    • Gaelyn, they may be fast hikers, but they do stop to gawk occasionally. Thank goodness there are bloggers and photographers in the group, or I would never stand a chance! haha!

  5. Happy Belated Birthday!!! Welcome to 61. I think the pictures on this hike are really diverse and interesting. I couldn’t walk 1 mile on level ground! I enjoy reading about your adventures. Keep moving!!! Slow down and arthritis will catch you. I’m impressed….. 11 mile hike on your 61st birthday!!!!! Good for you!!! Congratulations!

    • Thanks, Reta. My mantra is “Move I must! If I stop, I’ll rust!” You may not can walk a mile now, but “baby steps,” and before you know it, you will be meeting me for a hike soon! 😉 By the way, what is happening with the RV? Did you get it yet?

      • Yes, we got a motor home! It’s about 37′ long. Lots of places you can’t go in something that long, but it is what Pat wanted. Perfect for partying at NASCAR races.
        Lots of places I’d like to see. Pat promises we will use it once a month. I’m not holding my breath.
        Yes, I have to start walking. I think the snakes will be gone soon. Time to get after it!!!

        • Reta, this is very exciting news! But yes, 37′ will limit you a bit in National and State parks. So you need a little “run about” to use while he is working. 😉

  6. An awesome hike, and whatta birthday gift to yourself. We are happy that you finished and that we were able to follow along with out breaking a sweat.
    Happy belated birthday from us.

    • Allen — Thanks so much to you and Deede for the birthday wishes. I hope you had a good trip, and your Aunt had a wonderful 90th celebration!

      • The party for aunt Bea was fantastic and the eight hour drive one way was worth it for the glimpses through the fog of the color change in the Berkshires and Adirondacks as well as the St. Lawrence valley.
        Forget the colds we had, they too shall pass. Enjoy…

  7. I just love reading all the divergent perspectives from three bloggers doing the same hike 🙂 Yours seem to have the edge, perhaps because, like fine wine, they have had time to age.
    Well written, well photographed.
    Box Canyon Mark
    oh, and happy birthday… again.

    • BC Mark — Are you saying I am as slow of a blogger as I am a hiker? haha! Guilty as charged. One thing about rainy days in the forest, though, they help me get caught up! Thank you for the nice compliments and birthday wishes.

  8. I’m glad that we like hiking in warmer temperatures. We actually thought it was quite a pleasant day for such a long hike! Sorry we walked too fast for you, seeing as it was your birthday and all, but then since it was our anniversary and we didn’t pick the hike the least you could do was let us set the pace 😉
    Your photos turend out great, by the way!

    • Oh, YES, there was another celebration taking place that day, wasn’t there? opps! I sometimes need reminding that it’s not “all about me!” haha!! Well, heat or no heat, I had fun! Thanks for humoring me. 😉

  9. What a variety of rock formations! This world is filled with magical places. Chris and I also share your birthday month. Seems to be a popular month! Happy birthday and glad you were able to enjoy it as queen for the day.

    • Mindy! I didn’t realize you and Chris were also October birthdays! What day? You know Jim’s was the 16th, and Mark’s is the 30th. A popular month indeed!

      • Mine was the 17th and Chris’s is on the 24th. Chris likes to always remind me that I am older than him during this week. I say I’m also wiser!

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