One of the “rules” that you’ll see in any national park is the one that says “take only pictures and leave only footprints”. In fact, if you’re driving out of Petrified Forest NP in Arizona, there’s a small chance that they’ll search your car. They don’t want you leaving with pieces of petrified wood (although almost everybody does). The part that makes the most sense to me, however, is the second half of the rule: Do no harm. Leave the park as you found it. But a lot of people don’t pay any attention to that, either. And that’s really pretty sad.
Still, footprints do leave something behind. If nothing else, they tell stories. They can give you an idea of how many people have been wandering around in a certain area, especially when that area is “off limits”, and they can tell you – in a very general way – what kind of people are doing the wandering. If the footprints tell you that they’re wearing some kind of hiking boot or shoe, then you can generally conclude that they’re serious hikers. If you see evidence of a flat-soled shoe or some kind of sandal, on the other hand, then they’re probably not serious hikers and, perhaps, not too bright. Walking on any kind of slickrock in a flat soled shoe – especially if the elevation is changing rapidly – is just plain dumb. Unless, of course, you like to fall down and break bones.
But when my wife and I saw this footprint in the Upper East Canyon of Zion we were totally mystified. It appeared to be a “half” footprint. More precisely, it looked like the back half of a reasonably good shoe. The front of the shoe seemed to be missing. Even more mystifying was the fact that this half-print was by itself. It was as if somebody had dropped down out of the sky, touched the ground with the back part of their foot, and then taken off again. There were no other prints nearby. Weird.
I’m sure there was a reasonable explanation. I just never found out what it was. Maybe some of the local critters had found an abandoned shoe and were trying to drive people like me crazy. Like a local fun-loving eagle or something. Hey, you never know……….