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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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″.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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