The Maze Overlook

Christian

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Jun 2, 2012
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161
I haven't posted reports on several trips I took over the winter, but needless to say Southern Utah is just great when its covered in snow in January. This one was interesting enough to warrant a report. (Although 99% of snow is melted now.)

I didn't even know I would be heading down south until the day before we left. My old boss invited me down to Canyonlands. He said he wanted to see The Maze and that my knowledge of Southern Utah would be a big help in getting to such a remote location without getting lost. I told him that the difficulty in getting out there should not be underestimated (that was from what I'd read, I'd never been). Also, the short time we all had off from work would be nearly too little to justify the endless drive time to navigate the Flint Trail.

On Friday morning we went to Moab, and we went and saw the dinosaur trackway out by the Klondike Bluffs mountain bike trails. I don't think there is a way to get back into the Bluffs without a Jeep or ATV because the road gets very narrow and difficult, so paying the park fee and heading in from the turnoff inside the park is probably the best way to get there. There were Camarasaurus and Allosaurus tracks out there.

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Always fun to find and imagine that dinosaurs once stood where you're standing when the landscape was much different. There were also more of the intriguing blue hills that can be seen all over in that area surrounding the road from I70 to Moab.
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We went into Moab, ate some food and then hiked to Corona Arch. Very neat spot to see.
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I found this face in the rock while hiking down from Corona. I think it's really cool!
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For the evening, we drove past the Potash factory and beyond for a while to see what we could see until it got dark. I suffered with cloudless blue skies the whole time we were down there, but these pink wisps formed just in time for sunset and made a great reflection in the Colorado.
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The next morning, we woke up at 7am and drove from Moab, took the road opposite the Goblin Valley turnoff, and drove to the Hans Flat Ranger station. We bought a permit and my friend bought a book about the Outlaws of the Robbers Roost area that he could read to us while we waited the 4 hours between dark and sleep. The ranger at the Hans Flat station said we were the first people to go down to the Flint Trail in 2014, and no one else had been there since November. The road from the station to the flint trail had been checked and was driveable, but beyond that she didn't know. She thought we might need chains to come back up it due to the snow that was on it, but if we couldn't get up it we could go down the Hite Road. The Ranger lady said she has been living there all winter. I have no idea how she copes psychologically with her isolation, I'd love to know more about what it's like to be a Ranger posted there.

The drive down to the flint trail is pretty cool, lots of great overlooks into Elaterite Basin and Bagpipe Butte, and while not a great road, it's still possible to go fairly fast.
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But after that, it all goes downhill, literally and figuratively.
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(The switchbacks of the flint Trail are on the right of this image, the La Sal Mountains are in the distance.)


The Flint Trail did have some rock falls on it, so I walked ahead of the truck and moved anything that looked like a threat to the tires or the undercarriage.
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Then I came upon an enormous boulder that had come tumbling down one of the drainages that runs across the road, and it was too big for me to budge. I thought that might be the limit of our adventure into The Maze, but once two more from the group joined to push, it started moving and we got it out of the way.

Near the bottom of the switchbacks are some lavenderish-grey badlands with many red hoodoos here and there. There is some photographic potential if one were to shoot around there.

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The drive from the Flint Trail switchbacks to the Maze overlook took 4 hours, we had to fill in many of the most rocky obstacles with small rocks to get the truck over them. As the sun set the Belt of Venus made for a great backdrop to the endless and empty desert in this area, but of course by the time we rolled up to the stunning cliffs above Horse Canyon the pink light had faded (Murphy's law of landscape photography).
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I also dropped my phone here at these cliffs but thank goodness I found it again 20 hours later. By the time we got to the Maze Overlook it was dark. The view of the stars was quite good, and my camera picked up the Orion Nebula in one picture, and along with the Milky way, I think you can see the Andromeda Galaxy(?) in the lower left of this pic. In winter, the milky way galaxy doesn't photograph as well as in the summer.
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We camped our one and only night (too few) at the maze overlook. I woke up before everyone else to photograph the sunrise, and of course, once again, with the exception of a few off in the distance, there were no real clouds to speak of.

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I spent maybe 2 hours just sitting near the edge of the cliffs, staring out at the view, and listening to the stillness and peace out there. I sort of felt like the only person on Earth, the nearest people were the tourists out on the Island in the Sky on the other side of the river. The Maze is an absolutely jaw dropping place, made even better by the complete absence of anyone else for miles and miles and miles. When everyone else woke up, I convinced them to descend into the maze and follow my lead on a hike to the Harvest scene. The descent is very fun and interesting, as there is only one spot where you can get down without having to jump off a cliff to your death. It is hidden over a corner of squared of blocky rocks, there are steps made from stacked boulders. You then round these massive hoodoos, walk the Organ Shale rim and onto the Cedar Mesa sandstone.
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Then there are all these cool down climbs, many with moki steps cut into some very interesting drops, cracks and channels. There are two down climbs through joints in the rock that are like slot canyon walking, one of which ground a hole in my pants. One of the down climbs had a dizzying view that stopped one member of our party of four from continuing due to an admitted irrational fear of heights. We then looped through the bottom of the maze, sandy canyon bottoms with occasional trickling water and snow. After 2.5 miles we reached the Harvest scene. It is a really really great panel with no vandalism, and intriguing and unique figures.
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The climb up and out the way we came was pretty hard because I've been sick with some kind of cold that's moved into my lungs and I was struggling to get enough air.

It was at this point, sadly after only one dark night and a day, that we left at 1PM. It took us 11 hours to get back to Salt Lake (including a dinner stop). We were able to get back up the Flint Trail switchbacks without any difficulty.

So the moral of the story: The road out to the maze is so, so remote and so bumpy that it is very wasteful to only go for one night because it takes FOREVER to drive over the roads. I actually knew this but I worry that I may never have a chance to get out there again to see the Land of Standing Rocks and The Dollhouse, so I was willing to spend any amount of time for even a brief glimpse of the Chocolate Drops and a short wander around the bottom of the maze.

(P.S. we were very aware of the extreme remoteness of the area and had an escape plan in case of a breakdown as well as plenty of emergency supplies in case of any issues.)

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DAA

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Jun 14, 2012
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The Overlook is one of my favorite vehicle campsites. Be there again in a couple weeks, can't wait!

- DAA
 

DAA

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If I wouldn't be too scared to drive it...

Your Xterra would have no problem whatsoever with the drive. It's kind of long and a little bumpy towards the end, but there are no real obstacles or anything technical at all. Pretty easy drive, really. You could even skip the switchbacks by coming up from Hite - most of that route it is smooth, relatively high speed dirt.

- DAA
 

Yvonne

I lava it!!!
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Your Xterra would have no problem whatsoever with the drive. It's kind of long and a little bumpy towards the end, but there are no real obstacles or anything technical at all. Pretty easy drive, really. You could even skip the switchbacks by coming up from Hite - most of that route it is smooth, relatively high speed dirt.

- DAA

it's not my car, it's me driving completely alone in remote areas... :(
I will probably end up backpacking in the area again. I'm less scared of backpacking solo
 

DAA

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Ahhh... The more remote the better, for me.

But, from about March through June, The Maze is not really all that remote. It's fun to imagine it's so, but, it's not... Anywhere along the route, you would not have long to wait for someone willing to help to drive by.

- DAA
 

steve

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Dec 11, 2013
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great shots and wonderful views. If I wouldn't be too scared to drive it I would definitely visit that place.

We've got room in our truck for you if you want to join us March 13-16th. We're going with a group of 5 other vehicles that are very capable and prepared.
 

Yvonne

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We've got room in our truck for you if you want to join us March 13-16th.

unfortunately my spring break is a few days earlier, heading back home on the 15th :(

Ahhh... The more remote the better, for me.

I agree with you, with someone along with me I would definitely go. But never alone. That always scares me way too much to go solo on an offroad trip.
 

DAA

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We've got room in our truck for you if you want to join us March 13-16th.

We're going the 16th-19th :).

Spring break timing is a bummer for me too though. My Son goes back to school on the 17th so can't join me on this one. And his break doesn't start until the day after I get home from the Henries. So he's just hosed for both trips. We're both bummed...

- DAA
 

pixie1339

Desperately Seeking Sandstone
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Jan 21, 2012
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Nice report! That is a pretty short trip for The Maze, but I can definitely understand the sentiment of a short trip being better than no trip. I sometimes make long drives for short trips for the same reason.
 
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Great report! The Maze is an amazing area. Sweet photos as well! :thumbsup:
 

Laura

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Oct 1, 2012
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unfortunately my spring break is a few days earlier, heading back home on the 15th :(



I agree with you, with someone along with me I would definitely go. But never alone. That always scares me way too much to go solo on an offroad trip.

There's nothing better than a solo off road trip! Like Randy said, just have your gear with you and pay attention to the landmarks (and let someone know where you're going). My 2014 to do list is to do more solo off-roading now that I have AWD :wavespin:
 

Laura

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(P.S. we were very aware of the extreme remoteness of the area and had an escape plan in case of a breakdown as well as plenty of emergency supplies in case of any issues.)

That's the key!

Wonderful photos and cool trip, thanks for sharing. There's nothing like Southern Utah!
 

Nick

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.
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So awesome, Christian. I want to see the other trip reports you're not posting! The ones you do post are just outstanding, I think we'd all still be pretty happy with just pretty good ones! :)

Seeing snow on the Flint Trail scares me. You guys were brave going up and down that in winter. Well done. :)
 

Yvonne

I lava it!!!
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Jan 19, 2012
Messages
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There's nothing better than a solo off road trip! Like Randy said, just have your gear with you and pay attention to the landmarks (and let someone know where you're going). My 2014 to do list is to do more solo off-roading now that I have AWD :wavespin:


I rarely drive offroad, just hate it. Takes forever to get somewhere and if you're alone, you have to do everything by yourself like scouting and spot road conditions. That's nothing for me, way too lazy for that. If I can hike to a place, I prefer the hike. :)
And since I've barely driven offroad in my live and not want to change it I prefer hikes and backpacking trips. I'm simply a scared chick that has no idea how to drive an offroad trail
 

ogdendude

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Apr 19, 2013
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The Maze Overlook campground is the first place I ever went camping with the lady who is now my wife. So it has a very special place in our hearts. We went for three days and two nights over Labor Day Weekend of 2004. Even being a holiday weekend we didn't see one sign of a person other than the ranger at Hans Flat for the entire weekend. Having three days and two nights is definitely the way to go so as to not be in a hurry and to stop and take the time to enjoy the journey without worrying about how long it takes. We drove down the Flint Trail to the Maze Overlook Campsite in my stock '99 4Runner with no problems. Right when we got to the campsite a pretty wicked rainstorm blew through so we just hunkered down in the 4Runner and read and watched the rain. Then it passed and we pitched the tent around dusk and the next morning woke up to the bluest clearest sky I have ever seen. The hike to the Harvest Scene was really beautiful and no sign that anyone had been there for a long time. No footprints. That night we could sit in our chairs and see satellites pass by. It was so dark. The drive out was easy, seems going up the Flint Trail is easier than going down. One of our favorite memories. This picture is at dawn.
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ogdendude

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Apr 19, 2013
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The Harvest Scene with the cheap early digital camera sitting on a tuft of grass.
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