the maze from millard bottom

The boat and bike.

Solo Maze trip, with a twist.

During a spring 2014 outing to that certain remote part of Canyonlands I combined three non-motorized ways of travel, namely mountain biking, packrafting and hiking. While it sounds complicated at first it turned out remarkably simple both in planning and execution. This was important as I, as usual, conceived the idea to this trip some 36 hours before setting out.

 

On the river side of the Maze, there’s only one spot where a road leads all the way down to the water: the mouth of Millard Canyon on the Green. It’s directly across from the White Rim road in the Island in the Sky district, near a spot where this road also dips down close to the river.

 

Seeing a potential back door to the Maze not needing 4×4 wheels, jet boats or a long commute to Hans Flat I packed up the bike with some light bivy gear, 3 days of food and a 5 pound Alpacka raft and pedaled out the White Rim. Nearly 10 miles upstream of Millard I launched the boat with the bike and everything and leisurely drifted with the current.

 

At around noon on day one I pulled up on the beach at Millard and began the 25 mile ride to the Maze Overlook. The huge terrain out here, this early in the year, had a very remote feel to it. It was obvious no vehicles had ventured this far out yet for the 2014 season.

 

Storm cells, headwind and crusty sand made for a taxing ride. At sundown amidst sprinkles I got to camp and quickly dipped below the rim to a secure rock shelter, out of the wind. Had a beautiful evening and excellent sleep.

 

A bright clear morning on day 2 was ideal for a loop hike into the Maze involving the super fun descent down from the Overlook, the ridge near Pete’s Mesa, Chimney Rock and Pictograph Canyon. 13 miles later, with fresh water from the abundant springs in the canyons I was back at camp for a modest lunch and nap, then relocated my camp to the top of the Golden Stairs, with its far ranging views of the Fins, Ernie’s Country and the benches ultimately leading to Hite.

 

The third and last day started with mare’s tails, strong gusts and shortly followed by building darkness to the west. Ahead of me I had a long cruise back to the boat, but hoping for at least partial tailwinds I decided to spend a few hours first descending the Golden Stairs trail and visiting Lou’s spring on the outskirts of the complex Fins area. Unable to completely relax, with an eye constantly to the sky, I rushed this amazing hike leading to an area worthy of many days.

 

Back up I cleared out before 11 and pedaled non stop for 3.5 hours to arrive at the Green in complete overcast, ominous conditions. Relieved to find the raft not absolutely destroyed by pack rats (a worry that stressed me out most of the ride back!!) I recrossed the river and rode the White Rim back to the car. That evening it rained hard over the entire region. Over the span of three days I saw just two jolly backpackers at the Harvest Scene.

 

For full disclosure I should remark that although I secured a permit for this trip, I was later contacted by the NPS and told that it is illegal to move a bike on the river. Whether this obscure rule is in fact in the regulation book or merely a misinterpretation by an office bound ranger remain to be discovered

 

All photos with a GoPro Hero 2.

 

 

A minor defile below the Buttes of the Cross

 

Rock shelter bivy

 

Water in the desert!!!

 

If there’s a cairn there’s probably a way.

 

Moki steps

 

More fun Maze mazing.

 

This catwalk would have freaked me out with a heavy pack along.

 

The incredible Lou’s spring, unfortunately marred by the bizarre tragedy of last year. Thankfully I had forgot about it until returning.

 

Golden Stairs tarp camp.

 

The bike, a Surly Krampus. Socalled mid fat technology.

 

Golden Stairs trail, a hard to follow jumble of broken rock and debris zig zagging down thru layers of sandstone. On the map marked as 1.3 miles but gps’ed at 2.2

 

China Neck

 

Yes that little thing of a mere 5 lbs can haul a full size mtb and do class 4 (with an optional spray deck)
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bikepacking/packraft loop in the canyons

Circling Horseshoe/Millard via bike and packraft

3 day solo trip from mid March, 2015. 175 miles of mostly dirt roads; some well known to my readers, others nearly extinct. I also encountered a section of difficult moto track at the north end. The packraft portions were merely river crossings from one road head to another. As is usual with these off-the-chart river activities the tamarisks posed the greatest challenge.
Upon arrival at Hans Flat ranger station I learned the Flint trail was closed due to snow. They did not, however, have a problem with me pushing my bike down. On previous occasions involving Elephant Hill and the Schafer Trail rangers have turned me back from biking on closed roads. Overall I find the long time Maze rangers a chill and laid back bunch compared to the rest of CANY.
Water on this loop worked out pretty good. I was equipped to deal with silty river water, but didn’t have to. Recent snow followed by warmer conditions had filled potholes; that plus a few small springs provided what I needed. In drier times the only reliable sources would be the river, the springs near the Great Gallery (4 mile round trip hike) and the springs below the Maze Overlook (3 mile round trip hike).
Met a group of internet friends on the last tiring miles. One offered me an ice cold Odwalla smoothie from their leftover White Rim supplies. Won’t forget the taste of that one!
Lonely roads
Interesting riding
Going with the flow. My wife’s Alpacka Yukon Yak, technically a little too small for me but ounces lighter than my Llama.
On the west rim of Horseshoe Canyon. My old Integral Designs solo shelter held up with parts of a paddle.
Getting the last minute beta from our friends at Hans Flat.
Laying down first wheel tracks on the Flint Trail.
Stocking up on solid water before dropping below snow level. Bagpipe and Elaterite Butte in the background.
Maze Overlook.
Not much going on between Ekker and Millard Bottom. A favorite place of mine to bike. Buttes of the Cross behind.