Maze II

My first trip into the Maze took me out of my comfort zone. I was perfectly in my element on this, my second time driving a full-sized vehicle into the region. I had done two day trips into the area on a motorcycle since that first trip, but a multi-day 4WD tour takes on an entirely different character. Chris and I began planning this trip a while back. I had made reservations in advance, not knowing what the weather would be like in mid-November. As the dates got closer, the weather forecast showed warmer and drier weather than we could have hoped for. Chris arrived at my house on a Tuesday evening and threw his gear into my Jeep, which was already heavily loaded with my own stuff. We headed south, camping on BLM land at Hans Flats and enjoying our only camp fire of the entire week. Temperatures were very comfortable at night and we awoke to a splendid sunrise.

Time-lapse video spanning two days between the Flint Trail and the Doll House

My seventh time driving past this sign in the last month
My seventh time driving past this sign in the last month

Camp fire on BLM land at Hans Flats
Camp fire on BLM land at Hans Flats

Wednesday morning sunrise
Wednesday morning sunrise

Chris still asleep on his cot
Chris still asleep on his cot

The Hans Flats Ranger Station opened at 8:00AM, and we were there shortly after opening to pick up the permit. I humbly endured the lecture from park rangers about the dangers of driving into the Maze. I stifled a laugh, then just pursed my lips and nodded and said, “Hmm…” when the female park ranger claimed that I would definitely do damage to at least two body panels on my Grand Cherokee. Like, what the hell? Can’t they just be honest, without all the hyperbole? With that ridiculosity over and permit in hand, we got our trip started. Between the ranger station and the top of the Flint Trail, we stopped to visit French Cabin and the Flint Cabins. The Flint Cabins were awesome, with a large amount of interesting refuse lying all around. I found out after our visit that there are inscriptions in the sandstone blocks of one of the cabins, definitely making it worth a return visit sometime.

Hans Flats Ranger Station
Hans Flats Ranger Station

French Cabin
French Cabin

Flint Cabins
Flint Cabins

Stone Flint Cabin
Stone Flint Cabin

Rivet from a pair of Levi Strauss jeans
Rivet from a pair of Levi Strauss jeans

Can dump at the Flint Cabins
Can dump at the Flint Cabins

The Flint Trail was our next target. What started out as a stock trail was widened into a wagon road in 1919 by E.T. Wolverton, and then further improved into its current configuration by the Atomic Energy Commission in the 1950s. A short stretch of the original stock trail is left near the upper end of the road, and I hiked as much of it as I could find. A considerable amount of construction went into the stock trail. A boulder near the trail had a small, downward-pointing arrow that I later figured out was left there by Ned Chaffin. Lower along the Flint Trail, well below the switchbacks but before Waterhole Flat, Chris and I spotted several inscriptions on boulders near the road.

Flint Trail
Flint Trail

Flint Trail Overlook
Flint Trail Overlook

The original Flint Trail
The original Flint Trail

Flint Trail views
Flint Trail views

Ned Chaffin ‘brand’
Ned Chaffin 'brand'

Jeep descending the steep Flint Trail
Jeep descending the steep Flint Trail

Lower Flint Trail views
Lower Flint Trail views

L.H. (Lorin) Wilson 1/4/26
L.H. (Lorin) Wilson 1/4/26

N.L.C. (Ned Chaffin) 1934
N.L.C. (Ned Chaffin) 1934

The roads over Waterhole Flat are the smoothest of the entire drive, followed closely by the roughest roads around the head of Teapot Canyon. Near the big ledge obstacle, where many rocks are stacked up to make access easier, my right-front tire fell into a spot where the sand and rocks began to slide off a small cliff. I finessed my way out of that hole and then easily made it up the ledge, but not without a lot of stress and worry. The rest of the drive into the Land of Standing Rocks, and our campsite at Standing Rock, was easy. I had uncharacteristically planned some home-style meals for this outing, rather than the usual camping fare of canned or dehydrated food and snacks. This night we enjoyed orange chicken with sugar snap peas before retiring to our cots.

Superhighway at Waterhole Flat
Superhighway at Waterhole Flat

Dust cloud chasing the Jeep
Dust cloud chasing the Jeep

Road around the head of Teapot Canyon
Road around the head of Teapot Canyon

Sand and rocks sloughing off the road
Sand and rocks sloughing off the road

Halfway up the big ledge
Halfway up the big ledge

Road across a narrow shelf
Road across a narrow shelf

Entering Canyonlands National Park
Entering Canyonlands National Park

Land of the Standing Rocks
Land of the Standing Rocks

Last light on Lizard Rock
Last light on Lizard Rock

Standing rock and the earth’s shadow
Standing rock and the earth's shadow

Standing Rock camp
Standing Rock camp

15-second exposure over the Maze
15-second exposure over the Maze

The beginnings of orange chicken and sugar snap peas
The beginnings of orange chicken and sugar snap peas

Before sunrise on Thursday morning at Standing Rock, I awakened early and walked around camp taking photos. I photographed some inscriptions on Standing Rock, a few of which were made by a guy from Price, Utah, in the 1930s. Chris and I had breakfast and packed up our gear, then drove a short distance and started hiking. We explored the canyon rims south of the road, finding a few dense lithic scatters, some potsherds, and a granary. We also visited Parachute Arch but failed to find a way to get below it. I also spotted a couple of pretty rocks along the way.

Thursday morning camp
Thursday morning camp

Sunrise at Standing Rock
Sunrise at Standing Rock

Handcarts and Wagons
Handcarts and Wagons

Albert Jeanselme, Feb. 11, 1932
Albert Jeanselme, Feb. 11, 1932

Small but dense lithic scatter
Small but dense lithic scatter

Exploring the canyon rims
Exploring the canyon rims

Potsherd with broken handle
Potsherd with broken handle

Granary built from sandstone slabs, sticks, and adobe
Granary built from sandstone slabs, sticks, and adobe

Potsherds in the granary
Potsherds in the granary

Chris wandering on the slickrock
Chris wandering on the slickrock

Pothole arch and Parachute Arch
Pothole arch and Parachute Arch

Wildflower blooms in November
Wildflower blooms in November

Exploring more canyon rims
Exploring more canyon rims

Aluminum tag nailed to a dead pinyon pine
Aluminum tag nailed to a dead pinyon pine

Ooh, a pretty rock! Just the tip, though.
Ooh, a pretty rock!  Just the tip, though.

Chris and I continued hiking in and out of small side canyons, and I was extremely surprised to find a couple of very nice Barrier Canyon Style pictograph panels. We also saw a bobcat and a couple of old brush corrals. I hadn’t expected to find much on this portion of the trip, but it turned out to be my favorite part. We got back to the Jeep and drove into the Doll House just in time to witness a wonderful sunset, with orange light on the formations and dark clouds behind them. We enjoyed fajitas for dinner, and then endured a warm but windy night. I awoke a couple of times to wipe the sand out of my eyes and off my pillow.

Horseshoe
Horseshoe

Broken point
Broken point

Amazingly-detailed Barrier Canyon Style pictograph panel
Amazingly-detailed Barrier Canyon Style pictograph panel

Three disparate figures
Three disparate figures

Tiny figures, perhaps half an inch tall
Tiny figures, perhaps half an inch tall

Four conventional figures with very unusual pictographs beneath
Four conventional figures with very unusual pictographs beneath

Unusual and finely-detailed pictographs
Unusual and finely-detailed pictographs

Another nearby BCS panel
Another nearby BCS panel

Tiny figures and maybe a rain cloud
Tiny figures and maybe a rain cloud

Two-tone lines and figures
Two-tone lines and figures

Halo guy and bird guy
Halo guy and bird guy

Three tiny figures–an upside-down bird in the middle, perhaps?
Three tiny figures--an upside-down bird in the middle, perhaps?

Brush corral
Brush corral

Curious bobcat
Curious bobcat

High overhang with faded BCS pictographs
High overhang with faded BCS pictographs

Sketchy route getting to the rock art
Sketchy route getting to the rock art

The two most detailed of the figures
The two most detailed of the figures

A row of several faded figures
A row of several faded figures

The Doll House at sunset
The Doll House at sunset

Doll House campsite #1 after dark
Doll House campsite #1 after dark

On Friday, we hiked the trail to Ernie’s Country, exploring for more rock art I’d read about. In addition to some pictographs, we found some curious petroglyphs that appeared to be quite old. Patina had covered the petroglyphs, and later the patina had been weathered off the high spots surrounding the rock art, leaving the petroglyphs unusually dark compared to the surrounding surfaces. We found an inscription by H. Mellor from 1900, and another that merely said “Trappr 45″.

View from camp over the Colorado River gorge
View from camp over the Colorado River gorge

Grinding stone
Grinding stone

Faded pictographs
Faded pictographs

More faded pictographs
More faded pictographs

DStretch enhanced pictographs
DStretch enhanced pictographs

Walking between huge sandstone blocks
Walking between huge sandstone blocks

Some of the better figures in a row of weathered pictographs
Some of the better figures in a row of weathered pictographs

Very old looking petroglyphs
Very old looking petroglyphs

H. Mellor 1900
H. Mellor 1900

Small, weathered figures
Small, weathered figures

The Bear
The Bear

Curious inscription: Trappr 45
Curious inscription:  Trappr 45

We had enough daylight left to hike part of the Spanish Bottom and Granary trails near the Doll House. There are some great inscriptions along the Spanish Bottom trail that, unfortunately, some short-sighted individuals have tried to obliterate. While looking at the inscriptions along the trail, Chris and I noticed a dude hauling a paddleboard up the trail. We later ran into him while coming back from the granaries and had a brief chat. The guy’s name was Jedediah, and he’d been running the Green and Colorado rivers on a stand-up paddleboard for 50 days. That’s just insane! His first question to us was, “Could a Ford F-250 make into this area?” I laughed and told him briefly of my experience driving a truck there five years earlier, but warned him that most trucks and/or drivers would have some difficulty getting to the Doll House. Jedediah told us he was going to try to get cell service to make a phone call to a friend, and Chris and I returned to camp where I fixed fried potatoes and kielbasa for dinner. It rained a little bit that night, and we ended up sleeping in the front seats of the Jeep. I even awoke during the night to start the engine and run the heater. It wasn’t the most comfortable night, but it seemed better than a damp cot or a wind-battered tent.

Spanish Bottom Foot Trail
Spanish Bottom Foot Trail

Colorado River and Spanish Bottom
Colorado River and Spanish Bottom

Ned Chaffin inscription from 1934
Ned Chaffin inscription from 1934

Paddy Ross, Bennie Ross, Joe Ross, Nov. 10, 1907
Paddy Ross, Bennie Ross, Joe Ross, Nov. 10, 1907

Harry Aleson inscription from October 1947
Harry Aleson inscription from October 1947

Granaries
Granaries

View across the river to the Needles District
View across the river to the Needles District

Sinkhole in a graben
Sinkhole in a graben

Standing above the sinkhole
Standing above the sinkhole

A tight squeeze along the trail
A tight squeeze along the trail

Friday evening at camp
Friday evening at camp

Warm light over at the Needles District
Warm light over at the Needles District

Saturday morning rolled around and I’d already accomplished everything I wanted to for this trip. However, Chris had never been to the Harvest Scene, so we drove to Chimney Rock and made the nine mile round trip hike. I was pleasantly surprised to find a Barrier Canyon Style petroglyph panel on our way to visit the pictographs. We did a little more exploration on our way out and found a small rock shelter, a couple of crude inscriptions and petroglyphs, and we still made it back to camp to witness sunset from there.

Dropping into Pictograph Fork
Dropping into Pictograph Fork

Descending into the canyon
Descending into the canyon

Cairn at a canyon junction
Cairn at a canyon junction

Petroglyph panel in Pictograph Fork
Petroglyph panel in Pictograph Fork

Canyon reflections
Canyon reflections

My favorite little dude at the Harvest Scene
My favorite little dude at the Harvest Scene

Harvest Scene
Harvest Scene

Chris below the Harvest Scene
Chris below the Harvest Scene

Crude shelter in an overhang
Crude shelter in an overhang

Strange inscription: Fuck ???
Strange inscription:  Fuck ???

Trail through tall grasses
Trail through tall grasses

Wavy line petroglyph
Wavy line petroglyph

Chimney Rock on the canyon rim
Chimney Rock on the canyon rim

The climb out
The climb out

Jeep at the trailhead
Jeep at the trailhead

Pink light on the La Sals viewed from camp
Pink light on the La Sals viewed from camp

Doll House at night
Doll House at night

Sunday was mostly a travel day, much as Wednesday had been. The obstacles around the head of Teapot Canyon were much easier after having passed through there only a few days earlier. We took a side trip to visit Perfect Panel, which I had been to but Chris had never seen. It was well worth the detour, since it’s one of the best pictograph panels around.

Passing through the Land of Standing Rocks
Passing through the Land of Standing Rocks

Around the head of Teapot Canyon
Around the head of Teapot Canyon

Road junction at Waterhole Flat
Road junction at Waterhole Flat

Worked flint
Worked flint

A broken mano en mi mano
A broken mano en mi mano

Imperfect Panel
Imperfect Panel

Ned Chaffin, Aug. 17, 1930
Ned Chaffin, Aug. 17, 1930

Perfect Panel
Perfect Panel

Potsherd in the watercourse above Perfect Panel
Potsherd in the watercourse above Perfect Panel

We visited a corral near Waterhole Flat hoping to find some inscriptions, but came up empty there. It was interesting to see some wild burros grazing alongside cattle in that area. The climb up the Flint Trail went smoothly. Chris spotted an undated inscription by Mike Steele along the Flint Trail, and I noticed a pick below the boulder with the inscription. It seems pretty unlikely that I would find a pick along two different, far-apart stock trails in the same year! I was hoping to arrive at the Hans Flats Ranger Station before they closed at 4:30PM, but we got there 19 minutes late. I wanted to know if there was a prize for beating the odds and not doing any damage to my mostly-stock vehicle, but the rangers had retired for the evening. I took the opportunity to pose the Swell Jeep with the NPS Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. Thanks to my lovely wife, Traci, I had an appointment with a steak dinner back at home, so we cruised back toward Price quickly, not having to stop for fuel in Green River ’cause I’d brought 10 extra gallons with me on the trip. Chris and I enjoyed another great dinner before parting ways after yet another enjoyable adventure.

Wild burros and a cow grazing at Waterhole Flat
Wild burros and a cow grazing at Waterhole Flat

Corral near Waterhole Flat
Corral near Waterhole Flat

Teapot Canyon
Teapot Canyon

Teapot Rock
Teapot Rock

Mike Steele, Hankval (Hanksville)
Mike Steele, Hankval (Hanksville)

Pick near the Flint Trail
Pick near the Flint Trail

Flint Trail switchback
Flint Trail switchback

Bagpipe Butte and North Point
Bagpipe Butte and North Point

NPS and Swell Jeeps at the Hans Flats Ranger Station
NPS and Swell Jeeps at the Hans Flats Ranger Station

This post already has a ridiculous number of photos, but check out the photo gallery link below to see many more.


Photo Gallery: Maze II

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