Into The Maze
Trip Start Mar 02, 2011
192Trip End Oct 14, 2011
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I woke up after spending the night at the Chimney Rock Campground in the Maze District of Canyonlands National Park and got ready to do some hiking. This was going to be my first experience hiking in the actual Maze and I wasn't sure what to expect.
When you look out over the Maze you're seeing what was sand dunes millions of years ago. Over time the sand dunes were covered, the sand turned to sandstone, everything was lifted up thousands of feet and the layers covering the once sand but now sandstone wore away. Streams meandered around the petrified dunes and eventually wore through the sandstone. The layers underneath the sandstone were even softer sandstones that quickly eroded away to a hard layer roughly 500 feet below the petrified dunes. The result is a landscape where you have an upper layer of undulating sandstone mostly devoid of plant life with nearly vertical drops down to a lower labyrinth with sandy soil, plants and small streams.
The places where you can get from one layer to the other are few and far between but ranchers over the years have still managed to get animals into the Maze to graze. However, there's one area of the Maze that's so remote and hard to access that it was never grazed. This relatively pristine area called Jasper Canyon, one of the few areas of the southwest that has not had it's natural flora grazed away by invasive species of farm animals, is now closed to all non-scientific uses.
There are several trails that start at the Chimney Rock. I decided to take the trail that goes more directly to the Harvest Scene rock art panel but, instead of going to the Harvest Scene, I was going to try and find an nearby arch shown on the map. The trail goes over the sandstone, called slickrock although it actually grips rather well, for about a half a mile. It then starts to disappear down into the canyon. The trail winds around the inner wall of the canyon and slowly descends to the bottom. It requires a little scrambling in spots but is much easier to navigate than you would expect when you first look down into the canyon. After an hour or so I was on the canyon floor.
I followed the canyon to where it joins another canyon. The Harvest Scene was down this other canyon to my right. I went ti the left in search of the arch. I found what seemed to be the right area but the arch didn't seem to be visible from inside the canyon. Oh, well.
There were a few routes I could follow to get back to Chimney Rock. I decided to retrace the route I had followed in since it was the shortest route and also because I had more confidence that I'd be able to find all the cairns and successfully follow the route back to where I had started. There were a few spots where it had been difficult to find the route on the way in. I was pretty sure they'd look familiar on the way back but I wasn't sure how well the other routes were marked and I wasn't as confident I'd be able to follow them.
I made it back to Chimney Rock and spent another night at the campground.