Maze 2013: Marauding the A-Mazing Marvelous Maze
El Loopo Grande: A 9-day backpack in The Maze District of Canyonlands NP:

South Fork Maze (Horse Canyon) to Overlook and Harvest Scene.
Out of The Maze via Jasper Ridge and to Chimney Rock,
where we drop into Shot Canyon and over the bump into Water Canyon.
A day hike leads down Water Canyon to the Green River.
to the Confluence Trail from the Doll House and down to Spanish Bottom.
Out of Spanish Bottom and to the West Ernie's Spring (Lou's Spring).

May 3 - 12, 2013

Text and photos © copyright by Rob Jones

Co-participants: Dave Rumbellow, Bob Grant, Steve Glasser, Ewa Bialkowski, and Rob.

Total miles = 72.3; Total trip *ERM = 107.5.
Storm over Range Canyon, Day 7
Storm over Range Canyon, Day 7
(Click the image for the full-size image)
Cedar Bark Granary, Day 8
Cedar Bark Granary, Day 8
(Click the image for the full-size image)

Pano of The Harvest Scene Picto Panel
Pano of The Harvest Scene Picto Panel
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     Total trip miles hiked = 72.3; ERM = 107.5.
     ERM = Energy Required Miles. A mile is added for every 500' elevation gain or loss. ERM was initially used in Trails of the Tetons (long out of print) by Paul Petzold, founder of NOLS. It's a wonderfully useful concept and application. Add one mile for each 500' up AND down to distance = ERM. I use ERMs to calculate what the actual day is like. It's a very serviceable method of estimating energy required miles.

Map - THE Maze loop; 72 miles; 2013
Map - THE Maze loop; 72 miles; 2013
(Click the image to see the map)

for a full-resolution map, click here. Caution - do not use this map or gps track for navigating the route.

Movie of wailing pictos at the Harvest Scene
Movie of wailing pictos at the Harvest Scene - 4.3 MB
(Click the image to see the short video - 4.3 MB)
(Photos and the report of the trip continue below.)

     Ewa and I are on the road early, traveling The Big Rez and rendezvousing with Dave, Bob, and Steve at Hite. Hite, once a town, now under the mud flats of Lake Foul. We have passed the days of "peak water," yet those propagators in Las Vegas, St George want to poke more straws in this diminishing evaporation pond.
     Then, top off the gas tank one more time and dust toward the Glenn Canyon NRA (no, not that NRA, the good NRA, National Recreation Area) and nearly to the NRA boundary to camp. Windy. Rapidly cooling. A very chilly night. Something with a burro-like hoof track sputters and utters in the dark. ?
     My food weight was 10.9 pounds (about 1.4 pounds per day) at the start of the trip.

Bob presents a poem he wrote during a recent Grand Canyon backpack. It's an honor to be featured in one of Bob's missives. Click here to see it (pdf file).

The Maze 2013 - Day 1 photos (Rob)

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wtmaze13-day1-2  The Maze boundary.jpg (319892 bytes)

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wtmaze13-day1-3  Ewa on Mystery NB.jpg (313391 bytes)

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wtmaze13-day1-5  Examining pseudo pictos.jpg (242038 bytes)

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wtmaze13-day1-6  Ewa in the pour-off camp.jpg (262702 bytes)

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     Day 1: Spring Fling: to South Fork Horse (Maze) Spring. 12.9 miles. ERM = 17.
     The alcove camp in the S. Fk. plods into view. Dropping packs, Dave and I search downstream for water. Expectant. But no. Packs beckon; we're heading down canyon more, in search of a spring fling. Another mile and there it is, a fabulous pour-off and water below. Reeds indicate the spring filters in from the right side. Yahoo.
     Earlier, just as we approached the canyon floor on the winding cairned route into the S. Fk., we spot some possible pictos, and inspect them when we reach canyon level. Are they the republican kind, face validity yet no integrity, or real substance?
     We start the day before the sun. Frigid. A quick sorting of equipment and then we drive to near Teapot Rock CG and park and begin the long road walk. It's about 10 miles to where we hop into the S. Fk. Views of snow-capped LaSal Mountains, the blue Abajos, with The Fins as foreground. Deluxe. Mother and Child - a feature signaling exactly where we are in canyon lore, sculpted by wind and water from Organ Rock Shale. A view burst of Elaterite Butte as we venture into the S. Fk Horse/Maze.
     The last light has faded from the Neopolitan Cedar Mesa SS (sandstone) and the bugs are chewing at my hair line and it's time to close this Canyon day.

The Maze 2013 - Day 2 photos (Rob)

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wmaze13-day2-1  Cool slickrock camp.jpg (251742 bytes)

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wmaze13-day2-9  Cactus starting to bloom.jpg (370270 bytes)

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     Day 2: Bearly to the Overhang: To picto arm spring. 7.4 miles, ERM = 9.4. Camp @ 4580'.
     The Bufous Bear's tracks are distinct in the wet sand. Yikes, it really is a bear, and headed down canyon within the last day or so. Ursus Americanus. He selects the best line going down canyon, apparently familiar with the terrain. Is this a common journey for him, or is this a republican "built that," situation where Mr. Bufous is forced to roam because of poor snowfall, poor food sources - due to overpopulation, global warming? Yes, you built that, repulsicans, others with large families, big cars and houses, etc. Thanks for global warming, selfish ones. Oops, that's redundant, republican and selfish, pardon the redundancy.
     After checking in to report the spring functioning at the end of the trip, Ranger Gary Cox wrote to me, saying "The bear tracks are unmistakably that of an ursine animal. The last time a bear visited the Maze was in 2003 and 2004. In 2004 the animal was actually seen in North Flat. In 2003 tracks were noted in the canyon containing Muffin Arch. In both cases the bear did not linger. Probably because there is very little bear cuisine available in the Maze. I joke that the bear comes in from time to time to perform rituals in front of the famous "Bear Panel.""
     A couple of pothole arches spice the day, these and spotlight arch. We drift and slog (occasional deep sand) down canyon, paralleling Mr. Bufous' tracks. After passing the foot of the Maze Overlook trail, we pass the main Horse Canyon junction and go to camp in a cul-de-sac not far from the spring near the mouth of the Pictograph (Maze) Fork. Good water and good slickrock bathing.
     Attempts to hang the food fail (there is Mr. Bufous to consider). Doves wail mournful and bats flitter.

The NPS - Canyonlands NP - used my bear track photo in its Bear Safety publication. It's an honor to help the guardians and stewards of our precious public lands. Click here to see the pdf (pdf file).

Panorama from The Maze Overlook
Panorama from The Maze Overlook (dusty, cloudy)
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The Maze 2013 - Day 3 photos (Rob)

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(There are - More photos below the trip narrative.)

Movie of the Moqui Steps
Movie of the Moqui Steps - 10.4 MB
(Click the image to see the short video - 10.4 MB)

     Day 3: Triple Flushing the Picto Overlook: Day hikes to the Overlook and Harvest Scene. 7.1 miles, ERM = 11.2. Camp @ 4580'.
     The three-holer Abbey's Triple Flush set of NBs (natural bridges) rises through the variegated Cedar Mesa SS, one atop the other. Gorgeous. We're on our way back from climbing to The Maze Overlook - poor visibility equals sub-par photos. Dust, clouds. And, there's no one in the vehicle camps on top. Curious. After dropping extra items at camp, we continue up The Maze fork to the Harvest Scene. Delightful. The pictos whisper oral history to those that will hear. They seem to be saying "You didn't build that, repulsicans, you stole it from future generations."
     Today, we had fun with the Moqui steps (Ewa's favorite) and the minor slot chimney and other obstacles along the way to and from The Maze Overlook. I am disappointed that the clouds, dust, and high winds make for poor photo opportunities - it's such a grand vista from the Overlook. The situation is a bit better at the Harvest Scene, and wailing floating pictos beckon introspection.
     Back to camp to filter water, bathe, the usual chores below the Land of Standing Rocks, somewhere to the South and just out of view beyond those sinuous and slithering Maze walls. A Leopard Lizard pops out to watch the work. Clouds flood in and darken a fine day's ramble with minimum pack. Superb.

The Maze 2013 - Day 4 photos (Rob)

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     Day 4: Wet to Water: To Water Canyon. 8.8 miles, ERM = 15. Camp@ 4700'.
     Rain splats on the slickrock bowl and the sheep steps of Shot Canyon. Yes, much slicker with a water coating. Slickrock. Yikes. We've climbed out of The Maze on the old back pack route to the Jasper Ridge. Lovely vistas abound, yet poor lighting and low clouds and storm pulses make for poor photography, again. Bumping along the ridge, we pass an arch and know there are many pot hole arches we don't see. At Chimney Rock, we pause mostly out of the wind for a second snack. Then into Shot, where rain buffets us for an hour or more. Rambling down the floor of Shot, we're on a virtual superhighway, a trail through the dark cryptobiotic soils with their brain-like gyri. Convolutions of the soil, an ancient marriage of lichens, mosses, green algae, microfungi and bacteria. Wondrous.
     Over the bump and into Water Canyon and the spring. Shot ends above Water, a bit downstream, and in a dramatic pour-off that can be seen from the route tomorrow.
     Clouds patrol and cool winds make bathing a brief experience. Where to camp? There are not many good choices out of the drainage, partly because the crypto flourishes wonderfully. Ewa sets up on the bare rock above the drop into the spring, with the rest of us in the grass just above.
     An evening thunderstorm pounces just before sunset and some of us hide in the cooking overhang and watch small water spouts sprout on the SS edges. Water does not roll down Water Canyon. As night drops in, the petulant clouds mostly clear, easing my trepidation about camping so low.
     Thunder rumbles and lightning flashes as storm pulses roam during the night. More rain, restless sleep. We're all present when dawn leaks in.

Pano of Water Canyon in morning mist
Pano of Water Canyon in morning mist
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The Maze 2013 - Day 5 photos (Rob)

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     Day 5: Murky Shade of Green: Day hike down Water Canyon to the Green River. 4.2 miles, ERM = 8.2. Camp @ 4700'.
     Flints of rain slice the gray sky as we ponder the magnificent dry falls in Water Canyon. A luscious green splotch, far below, identifies where the canyon meets the murky Green River. From here, it's a sludge gray. After a brief hide out from the storm in a handy alcove, we drop down the rubble-filled cove after contouring out from the dry falls. Down, down some more, to where we can see the dramatic stopper falls in Shot Canyon as it enters Water Canyon. Now, the grade eases and we walk limestone ledges to the river and find an overhang complete with catalogued granary "cany-m-103; 2005" and enjoy a delightful lunch overlooking the Stillwater section of the Green. Robin and Dan of Mossland, WA appear and we share enjoyable conversation. Will the brief periods of sun be sufficient to dry the moss behind their ears?
     Then, back up and to camp for a bath and some lounging in this land of variegated sandstone as thunderstorms roam the edges of this wild domain. Ahh.

Pano looking toward The Needles District from near the Confluence Overlook
Pano looking toward The Needles District from near the Confluence Overlook
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The Maze 2013 - Day 6 photos (Rob)

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     Day 6: Thundering Spanish Bottom: To Spanish Bottom. 8.7 miles; ERM = 15.7. Camp @3900'.
     Another thunderstorm? 3 a.m. Thundering roar of water over the pour-off. What! Spooky stuff. More gurgling and rushing sounds from the stream channel and we're all packing up inside the tents as the water seems to be rising. Abandon ship? Yikes!
     Leaving the tents in place, except for Ewa, who has wisely packed her tent, we escape to the overhang and soon it's dawn and the water is dropping while we cook an early breakfast. Whew. Who said this is a dry place?
     On the trail amid and amidst luxuriant coal-black cryptos, more ebony than usual because they are soaked. Up to meet the trail to the confluence (Green and Colorado Rivers) overlook from the Doll House.
     Dropping packs, we hike the loop out overlooking The River. What a gash! Rocks made by time, then cut by The River, over time.
     On to Beehive Arch - where we pause for lunch and to dry tents. Lovely. Continuing to the Doll House, we cache 2 liters of water each (it's another cool day, and we're not drinking as much as we anticipated) and then drop the 1200' to Spanish Bottom. Ewa, Bob, and Steve race off to view the granaries and Surprise Valley Overlook along the way. As we approach Spanish Bottom, we encounter a jolly group of Canadian canoeists who are concluding their Stillwater adventure tomorrow. A jet boat from Moab will pick up their craft and them and whisk them back to Moab. We ask, and the Canadians offer, about fresh water. Later, Bob and Steve hike the Bottom to their camp and retrieve unused fresh water - which certainly beats the Colorado gray muck. Thanks, Canadians. We Americans would be well advised to be more like Canadians - helping each other, providing universal health care, not warring with everyone, etc.
     Getting weary as we set up camp, we are accosted with what appears to be another thunderstorm, yet it's mostly wind and quickly blows over. Now comes the task of treating water - alum in buckets of sludge water from the Colorado. Is this the low point of the trip? Geographically it is. For me, I'm tired of the rain weather.
     Bob works the NPS alum recipe of 4/5 teaspoon alum per gallon and our bucket-alum experiment goes well. The turbid water clears (particles flocculate out of solution) in about an hour (see the link section). We finally get to bed about 9:30p. after a long and tiring day.

Here is the document about alum treatment of River water. John Ladd wrote about our experiments while hiking the Escalante Route in The GC. Click here to see the whole recipe (pdf file).

Pano - clouds and mist Day 7
Pano - clouds and mist Day 7
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Pano - storm over Ernies Country, Day 7
Pano - storm over Ernies Country, Day 7
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Pano storm rolls over Ernies Country, Range Canyon, Day 7
Pano storm rolls over Ernies Country, Range Canyon, Day 7
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The Maze 2013 - Day 7 photos (Rob)

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wmaze13-day7-1  Misty Spanish Bottom morning.jpg (230429 bytes)

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     Day 7: Easing to Ernie's: To West Ernie (Lou's) Spring. 10.7 miles, ERM = 17. Camp @ 5000'.
     Again with the rain. It was clear most of the evening, and now it's drizzling into the early hours of Day 7. The rain stops as I'm packing in the tent and starts up for a brief dribble as we're climbing up from Spanish Bottom. Then, on into Wide Valley and Ernie's Country.
     A red bear and other ghostly pictos grace the gray as we're leaving the Doll House behind. Bufous Bear is not seen dancing his ritual dance, and we don't see his tracks either. We honor the pictos in our own fashion - a contemplative snack. More shadowy red figures hover on an artist pallet wall. All the rain helps because the wet sand is easier across which to walk. The radiator-like Fins come into view as the sky finally clears a bit.
     On to Clell's (East Ernie) Spring, where we decide to continue to Lou's (West Ernie) Spring. Up over a rugged rock plateau between the two springs, I'm feeling those ERMs.
     The day closes with a spectacular cloud and storm show, and for once we're in the eye, not in the teeth of the storm. It's a cool night in Ernie's Country and heavy dew and condensation soak the tent inside and out. You just knew we were going to get wet, right?

Pano of Ranging Range Canyon Pictos
Pano of Ranging Range Canyon Pictos
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The Maze 2013 - Day 8 photos (Rob)

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     Day 8: Ranging Pictos: 5 miles (no GPS).
     The large red trapezoidal anthropomorphs float and hover freely over the Range Canyon horseshoe bend. There's a picto over a petro in some figures. A snake form within the shield. Petro circles like buttons on a snowman from eons past. Artistic delight.
     We're wandering Range Canyon on a (so far) rainless day. Huge thunderheads prowl the East and South. Will they visit? Stay tuned.
     After lunch, we hunt upper Range for the Cedar Bark Granary, finding it tucked away in a protected alcove.
     I've been warming bath water in the sun since early morning and now enjoy a pleasant bath on the warm slickrock. Then, we all enjoy a lounging late afternoon near West Ernie (Lou's) Spring.

Movie of Ranging Pictos in Range Canyon
Movie of Ranging Pictos in Range Canyon - 2.1 MB
(Click the image to see the short video - 2.1 MB)

The Maze 2013 - Day 9 photos (Rob)

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     Day 9: Road Commute: West Ernie Spring to vehicle and home. 7.5 miles of hiking. ERM = 9.
     I hear Dave rustling about and it's not even dawn. I start moving, we have a long day planned. The sun is up full when we are moving out of camp, out of Range Canyon and up the nose to the slickrock level that leads to the base of the Mother & Child (Genie and the Robot, etc.) feature.
     Now, we're loping along, a road commute to the vehicles left near Teapot Rock. It's a quiet morning and we don't see anyone until long after we've started our drive out of The District. Stopping to employ the sun shower on a slickrock bench, a few vehicles finally appear.
     The dust has abated because of the rains, and we encounter only one slightly challenging mud hole, which we speed and wallow through. Somehow, we get a flat tire, which we notice leaking when we return to Hite. It takes a long time to figure out how the cable mechanism holding the spare tire works on Ewa's vehicle. Eventually, we're on our separate ways toward home.
     It's been an A-Mazing adventure in The Maze. Marauding the A-Mazing Marvelous Maze, El Loopo Grande.

Terra Incognita, Into The Maze

by Edward Abbey (1927-1989)

     From the Arid Lands Newsletter (Spring/Summer 1994, Issue No. 35; ISSN: 1092-5481):

     "This is the most beautiful place on earth," Abbey declared on page one of Desert Solitaire. The place he meant was the slickrock desert of southeastern Utah, the "red dust and the burnt cliffs and the lonely sky - all that which lies beyond the ends of the roads."

     Desert Solitaire, drawn largely from the pages of a multi-volume journal the author began in 1956 and kept over several seasons as a ranger in Arches National Monument (now a national park), was published "on a dark night in the dead of winter" in 1968. The book later moved the novelist Larry McMurtry to declare Abbey "the Thoreau of the American West," but it was greeted at first with little acclaim and slow sales. Since then, readers have supported the book through a long history of printings that led to what the author declared to be the "new and revised and absolutely terminal edition" brought out by The University of Arizona Press in 1988. It is that twentieth anniversary edition from which our excerpt, from the chapter titled "Terra Incognita: Into the Maze," is taken:

     We camp the first night in the Green River Desert, just a few miles off the Hanksville road, rise early and head east, into the dawn, through the desert toward the hidden river. Behind us the pale fangs of the San Rafael Reef gleam in the early sunlight; above them stands Temple Mountain - uranium country, poison springs country, headwaters of the Dirty Devil. Around us the Green River Desert rolls away to the north, south and east, an absolutely treeless plain, not even a juniper in sight, nothing but sand, blackbrush, prickly pear, a few sunflowers. Directly eastward we can see the blue and hazy La Sal Mountains, only sixty miles away by line of sight but twice that far by road, with nothing whatever to suggest the fantastic, complex and impassable gulf that falls between here and there. The Colorado River and its tributary the Green, with their vast canyons and labyrinth of drainages, lie below the level of the plateau on which we are approaching them, "under the ledge," as they say in Moab.

     The scenery improves as we bounce onward over the winding, dusty road: reddish sand dunes appear, dense growths of sunflowers cradled in their leeward crescents. More and more sunflowers, whole fields of them, acres and acres of gold - perhaps we should call this the Sunflower Desert. We see a few baldface cows, pass a corral and windmill, meet a rancher coming out in his pickup truck. Nobody lives in this area but it is utilized nevertheless; the rancher we saw probably has his home in Hanksville or the little town of Green River.

     Halfway to the river and the land begins to rise, gradually, much like the approach to Grand Canyon from the south. What we are going to see is comparable, in fact, to the Grand Canyon - I write this with reluctance - in scale and grandeur, though not so clearly stratified or brilliantly colored. As the land rises the vegetation becomes richer, for the desert almost luxuriant: junipers appear, first as isolated individuals and then in stands, pinyon pines loaded with cones and vivid colonies of sunflowers, chamisa, golden beeweed, scarlet penstemon, skyrocket gilia (as we near 7000 feet), purple asters and a kind of yellow flax. Many of the junipers - the females - are covered with showers of light-blue berries, that hard bitter fruit with the flavor of gin. Between the flowered patches and the clumps of trees are meadows thick with gramagrass and shining Indian ricegrass_and not a cow, horse, deer or buffalo anywhere. For God 's sake, Bob, I'm thinking, let 's stop this machine, get out there and eat some grass! But he grinds on in singleminded second gear, bound for Land's End, and glory.

     Flocks of pinyon jays fly off, sparrows dart before us, a redtailed hawk soars overhead. We climb higher, the land begins to break away: we head a fork of Happy Canyon, pass close to the box head of Millard Canyon. A fork in the road, with one branch old, rocky and seldom used, the other freshly bulldozed through the woods. No signs. We stop, consult our maps, and take the older road; the new one has probably been made by some oil exploration outfit.

     Again the road brings us close to the brink of Millard Canyon and here we see something like a little shrine mounted on a post. We stop. The wooden box contains a register book for visitors, brand-new, with less than a dozen entries, put here by the BLM--Bureau of Land Management. "Keep the tourists out," some tourist from Salt Lake City has written. As fellow tourists we heartily agree.

     On to French Spring, where we find two steel granaries and the old cabin, open and empty. On the wall inside is a large water-stained photograph in color of a naked woman. The cowboy's agony. We can't find the spring but don't look very hard, since all of our water cans are still full.

     We drive south down a neck of the plateau between canyons dropping away, vertically, on either side. Through openings in the dwarf forest of pinyon and juniper we catch glimpses of hazy depths, spires, buttes, orange cliffs. A second fork presents itself in the road and again we take the one to the left, the older one less traveled by, and come all at once to the big jump and the head of the Flint Trail. We stop, get out to reconnoiter.

     The Flint Trail is actually a jeep track, switchbacking down a talus slope, the only break in the sheer wall of the plateau for a hundred sinuous miles. Originally a horse trail, it was enlarged to jeep size by the uranium hunters, who found nothing down below worth bringing up in trucks, and abandoned it. Now, after the recent rains, which were also responsible for the amazing growth of grass and flowers we have seen, we find the trail marvelously eroded, stripped of all vestiges of soil, trenched and gullied down to bare rock, in places more like a stairway than a road. Even if we can get the Land Rover down this thing, how can we ever get it back up again?

     But it doesn't occur to either of us to back away from the attempt. We are determined to get into The Maze. Waterman has great confidence in his machine; and furthermore, as with anything seductively attractive, we are obsessed only with getting in; we can worry later about getting out.

     Munching pinyon nuts fresh from the trees nearby, we fill the fuel tank and cache the empty jerrycan, also a full one, in the bushes. Pine nuts are delicious, sweeter than hazelnuts but difficult to eat; you have to crack the shells in your teeth and then, because they are smaller than peanut kernels, you have to separate the meat from the shell with your tongue. If one had to spend a winter in Frenchy's cabin, let us say, with nothing to eat but pinyon nuts, it is an interesting question whether or not you could eat them fast enough to keep from starving to death. Have to ask the Indians about this.

     Glad to get out of the Land Rover and away from the gasoline fumes, I lead the way on foot down the Flint Trail, moving what rocks I can out of the path. Waterman follows with the vehicle in first gear, low range and four-wheel drive, creeping and lurching downward from rock to rock, in and out of the gutters, at a speed too slow to register on the speedometer. The descent is four miles long, in vertical distance about two thousand feet. In places the trail is so narrow that he has to scrape against the inside wall to get through. The curves are banked the wrong way, sliding toward the outer edge, and the turns at the end of each switchback are so tight that we must jockey the Land Rover back and forth to get it through them. But all goes well and in an hour we arrive at the bottom.

     Here we pause for a while to rest and to inspect the fragments of low-grade, blackish petrified wood scattered about the base of a butte. To the northeast we can see a little of The Maze, a vermiculate area of pink and white rock beyond and below the ledge we are now on, and on this side of it a number of standing monoliths - Candlestick Spire, Lizard Rock and others unnamed.

     Close to the river now, down in the true desert again, the heat begins to come through; we peel off our shirts before going on. Thirteen miles more to the end of the road. We proceed, following the dim tracks through a barren region of slab and sand thinly populated with scattered junipers and the usual scrubby growth of prickly pear, yucca and the alive but lifeless-looking blackbrush. The trail leads up and down hills, in and out of washes and along the spines of ridges, requiring fourwheel drive most of the way.

     After what seems like another hour we see ahead the welcome sight of cottonwoods, leaves of green and gold shimmering down in a draw. We take a side track toward them and discover the remains of an ancient corral, old firepits, and a dozen tiny rivulets of water issuing from a thicket of tamarisk and willow on the canyon wall. This should be Big Water Spring. Although we still have plenty of water in the Land Rover we are mighty glad to see it.

     In the shade of the big trees, whose leaves tinkle musically, like gold foil, above our heads, we eat lunch and fill our bellies with the cool sweet water, and lie on our backs and sleep and dream. A few flies, the fluttering leaves, the trickle of water give a fine edge and scoring to the deep background of - silence? No - of stillness, peace.

     I think of music, and of a musical analogy to what seems to me the unique spirit of desert places. Suppose for example that we can find a certain resemblance between the music of Bach and the sea; the music of Debussy and a forest glade; the music of Beethoven and (of course) great mountains; then who has written of the desert?

     Mozart? Hardly the outdoor type, that fellow - much too elegant, symmetrical, formally perfect. Vivaldi, Corelli, Monteverdi? - cathedral interiors only - fluid architecture. Jazz? The best of jazz for all its virtues cannot escape the limitations of its origin: it is indoor music, city music, distilled from the melancholy nightclubs and the marijuana smoke of dim, sad, nighttime rooms: a joyless sound, for all its nervous energy.

     In the desert I am reminded of something quite different - the bleak, thin-textured work of men like Berg, Schoenberg, Ernst Krenek, Webern and the American, Elliot Carter. Quite by accident, no doubt, although both Schoenberg and Krenek lived part of their lives in the Southwest, their music comes closer than any other I know to representing the apartness, the otherness, the strangeness of the desert. Like certain aspects of this music, the desert is also a-tonal, cruel, clear, inhuman, neither romantic nor classical, motionless and emotionless, at one and the same time - another paradox - both agonized and deeply still.

     Like death? Perhaps. And perhaps that is why life nowhere appears so brave, so bright, so full of oracle and miracle as in the desert.

     Waterman has another problem. As with Newcomb down in Glen Canyon - what is this thing with beards? - he doesn't want to go back. Or says he doesn't. Doesn't want to go back to Aspen. Where the draft board waits for him, Robert Waterman. It seems that the U.S. Government - what country is that? - has got another war going somewhere, I forget exactly where, on another continent as usual, and they want Waterman to go over there and fight for them. For IT, I mean - when did a government ever consist of human beings? And Waterman doesn't want to go, he might get killed. And for what?

     As any true patriot would, I urge him to hide down here under the ledge. Even offer to bring him supplies at regular times, and the news, and anything else he might need. He is tempted - but then remembers his girl. There's a girl back in Denver. I'll bring her too, I tell him. He decides to think it over.

     In the meantime we refill the water bag, get back in the Land Rover and drive on. Seven more miles rough as a cob around the crumbling base of Elaterite Butte, some hesitation and backtracking among alternate jeep trails, all of them dead ends, and we finally come out near sundown on the brink of things, nothing beyond but nothingness - a veil, blue with remoteness - and below the edge the northerly portion of The Maze.

     We can see deep narrow canyons down in there branching out in all directions, and sandy floors with clumps of trees--oaks? cottonwoods? Dividing one canyon from the next are high thin partitions of nude sandstone, smoothly sculptured and elaborately serpentine, colored in horizontal bands of gray, buff, rose and maroon. The melted ice-cream effect again - Neapolitan ice cream. On top of one of the walls stand four gigantic monoliths, dark red, angular and square-cornered, capped with remnants of the same hard white rock on which we have brought the Land Rover to a stop. Below these monuments and beyond them the innumerable canyons extend into the base of Elaterite Mesa (which underlies Elaterite Butte) and into the south and southeast for as far as we can see. It is like a labyrinth indeed - a labyrinth with the roof removed.

     Very interesting. But first things first. Food. We build a little juniper fire and cook our supper. High wind blowing now - drives the sparks from our fire over the rim, into the velvet abyss. We smoke good cheap cigars and watch the colors slowly change and fade upon the canyon walls, the four great monuments, the spires and buttes and mesas beyond.

     What shall we name those four unnamed formations standing erect above this end of The Maze? From our vantage point they are the most striking landmarks in the middle ground of the scene before us. We discuss the matter. In a far-fetched way they resemble tombstones, or altars, or chimney stacks, or stone tablets set on end. The waning moon rises in the east, lagging far behind the vanished sun. Altars of the Moon? That sounds grand and dramatic - but then why not Tablets of the Sun, equally so? How about Tombs of Ishtar? Gilgamesh? Vishnu? Shiva the Destroyer?

     Why call them anything at all? asks Waterman; why not let them alone? And to that suggestion I instantly agree; of course - why name them? Vanity, vanity, nothing but vanity: the itch for naming things is almost as bad as the itch for possessing things. Let them and leave them alone - they'll survive for a few more thousand years, more or less, without any glorification from us.

     But at once another disturbing thought comes to mind: if we don't name them somebody else surely will. Then, says Waterman in effect, let the shame be on their heads. True, I agree, and yet - and yet Rilke said that things don't truly exist until the poet gives them names. Who was Rilke? he asks. Rainer Maria Rilke, I explain, was a German poet who lived off countesses. I thought so, he says; that explains it. Yes, I agree once more, maybe it does; still - we might properly consider the question strictly on its merits. If any, says Waterman. It has some, I insist.

     Through naming comes knowing; we grasp an object, mentally, by giving it a name - hension, prehension, apprehension. And thus through language create a whole world, corresponding to the other world out there. Or we trust that it corresponds. Or perhaps, like a German poet, we cease to care, becoming more concerned with the naming than with the things named; the former becomes more real than the latter. And so in the end the world is lost again. No, the world remains - those unique, particular, incorrigibly individual junipers and sandstone monoliths - and it is we who are lost. Again. Round and round, through the endless labyrinth of thought - the maze.


Map - THE Maze loop; 72 miles; 2013
Map - THE Maze loop; 72 miles; 2013
(Click the image to see the map)

for a full-resolution map, click here. Caution - do not use this map or gps track for navigating the route.

Previous WV Reports about The Maze:

Triple Flushing The Magnificent Maze: Exploring The South Fork area of THE Maze, 2010

A-Mazing Maze, a Desert Solitaire: Exploring The Fins Area of Canyonlands NP, 2009

Snowfest attempt in THE Maze, 2009

Water-Ooooh in THE Maze, 2000

Chocolates for Easter, 1998

Related Sites:

Bob presents a poem he wrote during a recent Grand Canyon backpack. It's an honor to be featured in one of Bob's missives. Click here to see it (pdf file).

The NPS - Canyonlands NP - used my bear track photo in its Bear Safety publication. It's an honor to help the guardians and stewards of our precious public lands. Click here to see the pdf (pdf file).

Here is the document about alum treatment of River water. John Ladd wrote about our experiments while hiking the Escalante Route in The GC. Click here to see the whole recipe (pdf file).

Click here to see - Hoerling: Past Peak Water - beware propagators. (pdf file)

Click here to see - species loss accelerated by human overpopulation (pdf file)

Click here to see The Archman's site on Utah and area arches.

World Arch Database.

Abbey's Web -- The man who is Desert Solitaire.

Ben's Scenic USA - Picture of the Day.

Steve's excellent photos - birds in flight, panoramas, etc.

We Are Breeding Ourselves to Extinction (click here for full article)

All measures to thwart the degradation and destruction of our ecosystem will be useless if we do not cut population growth. By 2050, if we continue to reproduce at the current rate, the planet will have between 8 billion and 10 billion people, according to a recent U.N. forecast. This is a 50 percent increase. And yet government-commissioned reviews, such as the Stern report in Britain, do not mention the word population. Books and documentaries that deal with the climate crisis, including Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” fail to discuss the danger of population growth. This omission is odd, given that a doubling in population, even if we cut back on the use of fossil fuels, shut down all our coal-burning power plants and build seas of wind turbines, will plunge us into an age of extinction and desolation unseen since the end of the Mesozoic era, 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs disappeared.

We are experiencing an accelerated obliteration of the planet’s life-forms—an estimated 8,760 species die off per year—because, simply put, there are too many people. Most of these extinctions are the direct result of the expanding need for energy, housing, food and other resources. The Yangtze River dolphin, Atlantic gray whale, West African black rhino, Merriam’s elk, California grizzly bear, silver trout, blue pike and dusky seaside sparrow are all victims of human overpopulation. Population growth, as E.O. Wilson says, is “the monster on the land.” Species are vanishing at a rate of a hundred to a thousand times faster than they did before the arrival of humans. If the current rate of extinction continues, Homo sapiens will be one of the few life-forms left on the planet, its members scrambling violently among themselves for water, food, fossil fuels and perhaps air until they too disappear. Humanity, Wilson says, is leaving the Cenozoic, the age of mammals, and entering the Eremozoic—the era of solitude. As long as the Earth is viewed as the personal property of the human race, a belief embraced by everyone from born-again Christians to Marxists to free-market economists, we are destined to soon inhabit a biological wasteland. trepublicans and jobs

republicans' jobs - not jobs
republicans' jobs - not jobs
(Click the image for the full-size image)

Pro Death - Teabaggers
Pro Death - Teabaggers
(Click the image for the full-size image)

Pros vs. joes
Pros vs. joes
(Click the image for the full-size image)

Repulsican ideas for human (and other) population control
Repulsican ideas for human (and other) population control
(Click the image for the full-size image)

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