Tackling the road at Teapot Rocks
Trip Start Mar 02, 2011
192Trip End Oct 14, 2011
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Where I stayed
The Maze District Campgounds
I woke up and got ready to tackle the section of road at Teapot Rocks that leads down into the Maze. At the Ranger Station on the white board listing the road conditions they referred to this section as "Technical 4WD", unlike the other roads, which are mostly just "High-clearance 4WD". I wasn't sure what the distinction meant but I was a bit concerned. The roads I had been on were already pretty bad and I wasn't sure just how much worse they could get.
Well, they could get much, much worse. The road into the Maze is the worst road I've seen in the U.S. There's a stretch of about a mile that takes most vehicles about an hour to traverse. The National Park Service web site, which I didn't read until I had safely returned, says, "The road between Teapot camp and the Land of Standing Rocks is considered very difficult under any conditions. Four-wheel-drive roads in the Maze are extremely difficult, present considerable risk of vehicle damage, and should not be attempted by inexperienced drivers. A high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicle is required for all Maze backcountry roads." They go on to say, "Four-wheel drivers should be prepared to make basic road or vehicle repairs and should carry the following items:
- At least one full-size spare tire
- Extra gas
- Extra water
- High-lift jack
- Chains for all four tires (especially October through April)"
There was no doubt about it; I was in way over my head. But, in spite of my lack of careful planning and preparation as well as a lack of nearly everything on the recommended equipment lists, I made it. I had definitely done the right thing leaving the cargo box that had been mounted on my trailer hitch in Hite Marina, since it would have been quickly damaged. My vehicle choice when I bought my Toyota 4Runner Trail Edition had also been good. It was definitely up to the task. And the itinerary I worked out with a ranger when I called to make my campground reservations turned out to be good. Otherwise, it's hard to point out any good decisions I made.
I drove into the Maze and continued to the Doll House at the end of the road. When it comes to hiking, the book quoted above says, "If you plan to do any kind of hiking inside the Park, especially with photographic equipment, you'll benefit from being in good physical shape, as some of the hikes are long and strenuous. Most are on primitive trails, with exposure to cliff edges and steep routes requiring some scrambling and chimneying. Even if you are in good shape, you may experience a lot of discomfort if you are not used to hiking and carrying weight over long distances. A rope or a couple of 30-foot straps are necessary to lower packs in some difficult passages." I was about as well-prepared for the hiking as I was for the driving.
At the Doll House I followed the Granary trail. I didn't know how long it was and I wound up stopping what turned out to be just a bit short of the end and I followed the Spanish Bottom trail to a point where I had a nice view of the river below. I then went back to the Chimney Rock Campground for the night.