Colorado. Utah. Washington. Minnesota. Missouri. They came from all over to see the shiny "monolith" in the desert.
In Jeeps, vans, campers, trucks, Subaru’s, ATVs and even a plane. Yes, someone landed a plane nearby.
They came in masks and without masks.
All looking for one thing - a shiny monolith in the desert.
First reported just ten days ago, these searchers came looking for what a BLM crew had found. A shiny monolith partially buried in the ground in a remote Utah canyon.
They all had to make the same rough trek to get here. It started south of Moab, where Native Americans had left their marks at newspaper rock. The adventure started on paved roads. Many are stopping at Newspaper Rock because “we are here, might as well.” It was also a good bathroom stop for many families.
Then it was down the paved road towards the Needles section of Canyonlands National Park. Watching the miles tick off until we were nearly at the park, suddenly there was our turnoff - Lockhart Basin Road.
A sign said 15 miles to the basin. How bad could that be?
We knew the BLM said they didn’t want to release the location of the monolith because it was in a remote area where rescue would be difficult.
But just past the turnoff was a campground, a bathroom, and several primitive campsites. So we kept going.
A couple of miles down the road was the first challenge. We spotted people in pickup trucks climbing up tall sand dunes, making their own loops. Quite honestly, creating a lot of damage in the desert. But we didn’t “have” to go that way. We could see there was still a road. We went that way.
Around the corner, we hit our first backcountry traffic jam. A steep section of road not wide enough for two vehicles to pass and cars lined up to go down, and cars lined up to go up. As we waited for the people ahead of us to get it worked out, two vehicles behind us turn around and left. Another car got tired of waiting and went around all of us on a dirt embankment. Another car came down using the dirt embankment. And suddenly, we were on our way.
The backside of the hill was almost worse - only one vehicle wide and hanging on the side of the hill. There is nowhere to turn around now.
As we continued on the rough, dirt and rocky road, we saw at least 20 vehicles already coming back from Lockhart Basin. Lots of finger waves, but no one rolled down a window to say anything. We kept pressing on. Slowly.
The scenery out here is spectacular. This road was here long before the monolith, and you know people have been riding ATVs, Jeeps, motorcycles and other toys out here for years. These are the folks who have to be watching the crowds go by and wondering what happened to their peaceful, remote spot.
After 15 miles of bouncing down the road, we came to a split in the road -- left to stay on the main road, right for the spur road. We were heading down the spur road as we saw a plane coming in for a landing—likely the best and fastest way to get out here.
A few more miles and we saw a spot where lots of people were parking. A large dip in the road had stopped several vehicles.
From there, it was just another mile or so to the “parking area” creating by the monolith chasers. We stuck to the emerging hiker trail through the desert, trying not to cause more damage to this place suddenly getting hundreds of visitors.
As we walked with dozens of others, we noticed something odd.
These people weren’t talking to each other. They weren’t asking people leaving, “was it worth it?” They weren’t asking, “how much further?” They weren’t talking to each other about this interesting thing they were about to see.
There was a lot of silence.
Down a wash, up the slick rock, around a corner, through a canyon to an obstacle. Here were dozens of people having their first experience with a pour off or trying to find a way around. After some partner assistance, we were on our way, walking through another scenic canyon. A few feet away, we came to the end of the canyon, or in this case, the beginning of the canyon, only to find a pile of rocks and a reflective triangle propped in front.
No monolith. No selfies in front of the odd artwork or alien machine. Just a pile of rocks, a reflective triangle, and a lot of disappointment.
Just days after this crazy thing appeared, it was already gone.
And maybe that’s how it should be.
Take only memories. Leave only footprints. Not monoliths.