Maze District Canyonlands NP, Utah
by Christy Howe
Day 1 - Drive to Hanksville
Today once we all met up we had 11 people - Gordy and Christy Howe, Matt and Carol Anne Schwall, Greg Beery, Mike Moore, Mike Rubio (whom we quickly realized would be Mike M and Mike R for the duration), Rich and Mary Ann Loeffler, Roger Briden, and Kevin Burkhardt. The weather was rather ominous, but we all managed to make it over and through the mountains, despite snow at Eisenhower Tunnel and Mike R's wipers not cooperating. We had joked for weeks that we were staying in Tuff Sheds in Hanksville (based on some previous info), but it turned out to be just a regular motel, so Tuff Sheds they were not, even though Mike M got the room with the bad lock and managed to lock himself both into and out of his room before it was all over.

Day 2 - Are We There Yet The day started out with several people making the full 1 minute tour of Hanksville in the rain, looking for ice. Conclusion: There is no coffee, ice, or food to be found in Hanksville before 7:00 a.m.
Group on Poison Springs Road

The next adventure of the day was Rich and Maryanne's jeep having a "full-body death wobble plus" before we even reached the highway turnoff. Somehow they managed to keep it together and crawl along at 40 mph until we reached the trail. We had to wipe the snow off the sign at the turnoff to make sure it was the Poison Springs Canyon road, then off we went into the mud and snow. As we uncontrollably crabbed our way down one of the first descents (with no traction due to the mud we had caked on our tires by now), Greg had to choose between sliding off the edge and accelerating to keep in front of the trailer he was pulling. All the time we were worrying that once we got down there we wouldn't get back out the other side. Down at the bottom, we flung many pounds of mud for several miles as the conditions dried up somewhat, giving new meaning to the word "pop-up". Then there was the famous crossing of the Dirty Devil River, which some of the group had been monitoring online for weeks to determine its water level and whether it was going to be crossable. Mike M was hoping that the water level would be pretty high, since it was the only thing even slightly resembling a car wash within about 100 miles. The crossing turned out to be actually anticlimactic, as the level was so low that it only cleaned the mud off of our tires, so on we trudged, mud and all.
Matt showing some mud

And on we trudged. Sunset Pass for lunch turned out to be a rather lofty goal, as we ditched it into a ravine to get out of the wind, grabbed a bite, and had a second group rally around Mike R's misbehaving Commando. Then we came out over Sunset Pass, across Waterhole Flats and the views started to open up. About this time we started to wonder how late dinner was going to be and whose idea was this anyway. As the Land of Standing Rock loomed ahead, the 4-wheeling became more challenging. We all watched Greg pull the trailer around a switchback wondering why we bothered to get out of our vehicles (anticlimactic again), then on we trudged.
Dollhouse campsite number 2

Did I mention we trudged on? OK, 6:00 p.m. and nary a campsite in sight, at least not any of ours. Finally we went by the famous standing rocks of The Wall, The Plug, Lizard Rock, Standing Rock, and arrived at Chimney Rock campsite where the first part of the group were staying. We bade them goodnight and trudged on, arriving at the Dollhouse sites around 6:30. But by then the weather had more or less completely cleared and the views were not to be rivaled from the campsites, so even though it was a 78-mile, 10-hour day, all was good.

Day 3 - Where's the Granary? The weather was perfect. So we set out for what we later jokingly called our "3-Hour Tour" to an old Anasazi granary that was supposed to be a 1.5 mile roundtrip jaunt, which was supposed to be followed by lunch and another stroll in the afternoon.
Hike to non-existent granary

But keeping in line with our  what, me lost? spirit, we made a wrong turn through a slot canyon (very cool) and got off the trail. We were enjoying the views and the hike so much that we didn't even care, so we went on, looking for the granary. 2.5 miles and three hours later, up on top of an incredible outcrop with 360-degree views, the GPS-equipped techno-geeks declared that we were there. But, as the ranger told us later, the granary location is misplaced on the map. Our GPS readings later proved it was off by ½ mi. So, back we went, none the worse for wear. It was still beautiful and we found a different route back, making it a loop. Lo and behold, after almost six miles as we were approaching the campsites, we came upon a sign that said "Granary" pointing up in a different direction on the other side of the canyon we had started out in. Sure enough, some people showed up as we stood there scratching our heads and told us it was a 10-minute stroll in that direction.

Granary-viewing finally accomplished, we got back for a very late lunch and some well-earned relaxation. The afternoon stroll got skipped, as we all separated back to our respective campsites and relaxed.

Day 4 - Lost and Found Arches Today Roger, Mike R, and Greg decided to hang out at the Dollhouse (the area we were camping in) reading, relaxing, and trying to befriend a lizard. The rest of the group went on the "see how many arches we can find" hike. We headed out across some great red dirt, cryptobiotic soil (don't step on it!), and slickrock. Up and down, fantastic views, looking for as many of the 30-odd arches Gordy had marked on his GPS, it's summed up as: Tibbett Arch - obvious, but unobtainable, two additional unmarked freebies nearby, Muffin Arch - evasive, another freebie, lunch on top of massive slickrock that, according to Matt, looked a bit like Gordy's Jeep (perhaps too much sun for Matt?), and 25 or so not-to-be-found arches.
Mary Ann, Rich, Carol Anne, Matt, Christy, Gordy at Chimney Rock

Mike M and Kevin chose the "let's go back and relax" option while the rest of us wandered around, looking unsuccessfully for more arches but enjoying ourselves nevertheless. Aack - the ravens got into our trash while were out exploring - aack! Thanks to Mike M and Kevin for gathering it up before the ranger found it. How embarrassing! Meanwhile, John and Kathy Howell, Bill Boitano and Polly Raider showed up around 4:00, having made much better time than we did by coming in through Hite but nevertheless having been turned back by snow at Georgetown the day they were supposed to leave. Bill managed to leave the keys to his Scout at home in the process, so they got to visit a locksmith on the way and he has shiny new keys now!

Day 5 - Someone Please Turn off the Wind! We all connected in the morning (at 9:22 of course) and managed a group gathering of the vehicles and photo op at breezy Chimney Rock while we were all together, then we headed out to more adventure and trail running as we moved camp. After lunch weeventually split off to three different destinations: the Maze Overlook, Panorama Point, and Cleopatra's Chair, while Kevin and Mike R bailed out to Hanksville.
Group shot at Land of Standing Rock

It was breezy as we made our way across various obstacles, up passes, with one overlook after another coming along. The views were great, especially along the road through Waterhole Flat and up the Flint Trail (spectacular!), but the final report was that at the end of the day all three campsites were so windy that setting up tents became a feat of willpower and strength. Even a couple of those whose tents stood initially did not make it through the night, as one by one most of us retreated into our vehicles.
Gordy at Maze Overlook campsite in front of the Chocolate Drops

Day 6 - Where's the Shower? Today was the day to say goodbye to this amazing area of cliffs and canyons and head back to civilization. Since we were basically in three groups at this point, we rendezvoused at Highway 24 north of Hanksville after lunch. We checked into a motel in Green River (ah, showers and beds!), had dinner and relaxed, reflecting on all of our different adventures for the week. And then it was back home the following morning.
Flowers photo op - Christy, Mike M, Matt

And now that this is the end of the article, here's some stuff that didn't fit in anywhere previously: 186 miles of 4 wheeling, no one sustained any body damage, the weather was quite cooperative except for the last night, the views were wonderful, the company was even better, and there were too many wildflowers blooming to name them here.

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