I suggested we do it without even really thinking it all the way through (which seems to be a pattern when I'm traveling with Matt...). I'd seen the place in stills taken by a night photography teacher we had met while camping in Moab, who said you could see the Milky Way perfectly there. Tonight. My legs started tingling. That voice in my head (simultaneously adventurous and idiotic) said, "Go". Part of me was ready to throw on my hiking shoes and the other part was scared as shit.
Now, before I get too descriptive here, I need to admit two things: I can't tell you what this place is called or where you can find it.
I know. Bummer, right?
Okay, so you're probably thinking to yourself, "WTF Hillary?!" But just pump the breaks for a second and hear me out.
Matt and I have been working to build a brand centered around showcasing the natural beauty of the world and the adventures you can have while traveling it. In the last few years, though, we've started to realize that we're not doing enough to protect these amazing places we are so privileged to explore. If you want to be effective, and if you want to preserve what's around you, you can't just think and talk. You have to act, right? And this is our small way of asking you to join us.
The place I'm writing about here is a Class II Archaeological site, meaning that it enjoys a semi-protected status within a certain National Park. It doesn't appear on any official maps. There is a marked, but not clearly defined, trail. It's in a remote location without barriers and without surveillance. We just don't want to see it get destroyed.
OK. I'm done with my PSA. (Thanks for indulging me.)
It was nearly nightfall as I rounded the last cairn and walked inside the mouth of the cave. Ancient rock granaries were toppled over, their once-sturdy walls now broken and kicked aside by visitors and vandals. Thin ropes rangers had put up in an attempt to keep the destruction at bay had been stepped over, pulled down or pushed aside. I'm not gonna lie; it was devastating to see.
But Matt and I, careful to avoid the fallen debris and any artifacts still intact, settled ourselves in and waited for nightfall.
This is when shit got real.
There's an eerie feeling that comes with being in this sort of landscape, or while sitting in it, like Matt and I were. Alone. The deafening silence was suffocating; we could hear every rock fall and animal cry. No one knew where we were (except a ranger, who had already gone home for the night...) and we had no cell service. As my eyes strained in the fading light of day, my prey instinct was suddenly hyperactive: the hairs on the back of my neck prickled, my muscles tensed and I became acutely aware of all the dark holes from which a mountain lion could be gazing.
I also talked non-stop (a fairly unfortunate side-effect of my nervousness), while Matt sat white-knuckled and tight-lipped (an unfortunate side-effect of his nervousness). Seconds turned to hours as we contemplated making the sketchy walk back.
There is something a bit unnerving in admitting to the allure of ruins, isn't there? They sit there like precious, self-inflicted wounds, disintegrating and collapsing as the world around them continues its inevitable narrative. Gloomy? Maybe. Sad? Occasionally. But even among the rocky outcroppings and the wild things, this glimpse into our nation's history was more than worth it.
And certainly the fear of meeting a mountain lion, or two.
Please help preserve adventure in our National Parks.
If you happen to make it out to this spot, please help preserve it by keeping the location undisclosed on blogs, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. etc. (It’s more rewarding to discover things on your own anyway, right?)
We know people are trying to help out their fellow adventurers by sharing directions and locations to this spot across social media and on the Internet in general. As a rule of thumb, we also try to help our readers recreate our adventures by providing detailed location information and how-to's, but when those details can compromise the integrity and history of a particular place we hold dear, we try to make a concerted effort to help protect it. Sometimes the over-sharing of information can actually hurt more than help. Our goal here at There They Go is to tell interesting visual stories and share beautiful imagery with you, our readers, but while also helping to protect and preserve these places and parks we love. Thank you for your understanding.