After our day in Not Mind Bender Canyon, it was time to head into the Maze district of Canyonlands National Park.
We arrived at the Hans Flat ranger station in the morning to pick up our backcountry permit. I reserved it a few weeks ahead of time – $30 for up to a 14 night stay. In contrast to some other parks, there is no additional fee for reserving ahead of time. At the same time, the Maze is much less crowded than the other sections of the park and we probably could have obtained one the day of arrival.
At the ranger station we received some useful information, such as the locations of water sources and the fact that our loaded down Subaru would be no match for the road to Flint Trail (boohoo). So we altered our plan and started at the North Point trail head.
Dan was well prepared and insisted we get a topo map for the area. Good choice, since the NPS “map” resembles a 4th grader’s half-hearted scribbles. It’s called the Maze for a reason.
While I like to think I roll with the punches generally well, day one of three was not awesome. We backpacked about 14 miles to the Maze Overlook and then beyond into the Maze to reach a water source. About 8 or so of those miles was of the slog fest variety. Hot and tromping through sand. If it were a four or five day trip, maybe those miles wouldn’t have felt so painful. But nope, I planned for three days and so it was kind of a bummer that two thirds of the time was an unpleasant grind.
So lesson for those that are wondering – allot more time for a backpacking trip in the Maze so this upfront cost isn’t too high. Or be better at life and have a vehicle that can drive to the Maze overlook or to the Flint Trail. Or just be in better shape. That works too.
I will say, the Maze Overlook was absolutely spectacular.
We spent some time enjoying the scenery then made our way down into the canyon. The trail down was a blast with some scrambling involved.
We found an algae-covered spring and called it good. We set up camp, boiled water for dinner (freeze-dried meals assembled at home – first time trying some recipes and they turned out great! Recipes to come..), pumped water, then passed out in a fly-less tent (I love when we can do that).
I woke up at 5 AM well-rested and watched the night sky full of stars turn to sunrise. This might have been one of my favorite mornings of the two week trip. I made approximately 4 cups of tea and 3 cups of coffee just to be sure I’d be extra (de)hydrated for the day. It was glorious. I also finished reading 30 Lessons for Living, a quick read that I chose because 1. it was a library e-book and 2. I’m a sucker for self-help books that make you want to live “better” or “be a better person”. It was OK.
We decided to take it easy and day hike around instead of trucking it all the way down Pete’s Mesa route to Chimney Rock and Standing Rock and back up to the Overlook, as was originally planned. My feet were cooked. I don’t think I’ve ever had blisters so bad. Another [obvious] piece of advice: sand in your shoe + heavy backpack + many miles of hiking should be taken care of sooner rather than later. I swear I’ve done this whole backpacking thing before.
So we hiked a little, including a trip to Harvest Scene, and then hung out most of the afternoon. In the evening we hiked back up to the Maze Overlook because it was spectacular and we had a bottle of wine to enjoy SO WHERE BETTER THAN THIS:
The next day we woke up at 5 AM to hike most of the miles back to the car in the cooler temperatures. It worked remarkably well, yay.
Overall, my two cents would be to (if possible) give yourself more days in the Maze because it’s awesome and the approach to get to the Maze itself kinda sucks without a car, and sand makes for fast blister development so have your duct tape ready.
Also, the Maze Overlook is one of the best vistas I’ve ever seen so drive there now in your fancy 4WD.