By Michael Lanza
We follow a zigzagging line of stone cairns over waves of slickrock in the backcountry of the Needles District of Utah’s Canyonlands National Park. Cliffs and 300-foot-tall sandstone candlesticks tower around us, in more shades of red than Crayola has yet replicated, glowing in the warm afternoon sunshine of late March. Five adults and four kids from three families, we traverse slabs, scramble in single file up the smooth, dry bottom of a narrow water runnel, and pump out calf muscles walking straight up steep ramps. In the desert Southwest, trails haven’t learned the axiom of Euclidian geometry that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. We’re navigating a maze without walls.