Moab, UT & The Maze (Part 1)
by K
en Womack

This will be a 4-part series of our trip to Moab, UT with Dan and Dianne Neuss that we did the first 2 weeks of June.   It was Evelynís and my first trip to Moab, but Danís has been going there every year for 30 years!  We didnít waste any time because Dan knew most all of the trails, the best ones, and the better ones.  There are no bad trails at Moab.   Moab is a 4-wheelerís paradise, with many trails (roads, they are all roads), that go on for many miles with many wondrous sites to see along the way.   Trails that have a destination.   As good as the new 4-wheel drive parks are, they can never replace long trails like those at Moab, trails on public land- OUR LAND. 

 Poison Spider Mesa

The day was Sunday and we had met some fellow 4-wheelers from The Las Cruces 4X4 Club.   We had talked about running a trail together.   We chose Poison Spider Mesa, a meduim to hard trail that would take about half of a day.  Gary & Susan Kyle, Steve Bencomo and David as well as Dan and myself left about 10:00 am.  Out Potash Rd. to the trailhead, we aired down to get started on our ascent.  The trail wasnít too tough, but there were some optional spots that kept up our interest.

The first major obstacle was The Wedgie, either straddle it or run a way off-camber chute thru slickrock.  Dan and I went on through, while the other 2 Jeeps decided to save their equipment. 

          Then we had a waterfall to climb, there was a good line and a not so good.  With lockers front and rear you could do both.  Without lockers you needed the exact one.  Following the waterfall was an optional wall about 5 feet high.  Danís Jeep excelled on this one making it look easy.  I just made it.  From there we had a long drive down a 2-track dirt road that led to the slickrock.  We ran this section in 2-wheel drive.

The slickrock would be my first taste of it, and needless to say I was excited.  The others had seen it before and done it before.  We ran a good ways, past the start of the Golden Spike Trail and into a loop trail around Pig Mtn., a rock formation that resembled a Mama Pig and her piglets at mealtime.  We found some shade about 12:30pm, and had lunch.  We ate and talked 4-wheeling and enjoyed each otherís company.  Then we packed up to continue.  Dan and I had to leave early to pack up for The Maze, so we left while our comrades finished the loop.  We would later see our new friends on a stretch of The Maze.  Dan and I left for Moab to pack up for our ultimate campout, The Maze. 

The Maze

Our trip to the Maze started as a dream of Dan Neuss many years ago.  Although he had visited parts of it, he could never carry enough gear and supplies to make a long comfortable trip of it.  He had longed to camp at the most remote camp in the Maze, The Doll House.  He needed an off-road gear trailer to carry enough water, gas, and food as well as camping gear.  He enlisted the help of Lance Langehennig to build a trailer that would carry all the necessary gear and make into a flat platform for a bed.  Lance used a design he was already working on and They modified it to meets Danís specifications.  It took several months of spare time toil to make this trailer work in the outback while carrying 800 lbs. of gear, food, water and gas.  Dan even mounted a portable winch mount with itís own battery in case the trailer got too jack-knifed and had to be yanked around.  The upper deck of the trailer folds flat to make a bed, very ingenious.  It took a lot of hard work, but the results were quite favorable.

After returning from Poison Spider Mesa, we quickly began packing up our Jeeps and Danís trailer.   Our food was packed down with dry ice, and we had 40 gal. of water from the legendary Matrimonial Springs, a fresh spring waterspout just outside of Moab.  We carried 20 gal. of extra gas, as well as 3 grills, one large 2-burner gas grill, a small one, and one charcoal grill too, for the Texas Bar-B-Que we just had to take with us.  Our Jeeps were packed to the gills as well.  We wouldnít want for much on this excursion. 

            We left Moab about 6:15 am, heading for our first stop, Green River to top off Danís gas tank in his Jeep.  The original plan was for us to tow our Jeeps all the way to the Hans Flat Ranger Station, but on the way to Moab, Danís P/U rear tire developed a huge sidewall bulge and his spare tire wasnít the same size.  So Dan had to drive his Jeep and trailer all the way, thus the gas stop in Green River.  We continued on south until we got to the turnoff for Hans Flat.  We had 46 miles on a washboard dirt road to drive, which took us nearly 2 hours to complete.

We arrived at the Ranger Station, checked in and unloaded my Jeep for the 40-mile drive to The Doll House, our destination for the next 4 days.  We drove on top of a plateau for the first 12 miles.  We passed a few lookouts, which gave a preview of our trip to come.  

            We passed Bagpipe Butte, which we saw from several different angles throughout the trip.  Soon we came to the start of The Flint Trail, and our descent into the valley below.    

            We drove down several switchbacks that were easier than they appeared to be from the top.  A few were testing the turning radius of Danís trailer, but wasnít much of a problem.

We made it down to the next plateau, where we continued on around a ridge until we got to Tea Pot Rock, where we climbed down to a flat section called Water-Hole Flats.   Here we ran 2- wheel drive to make better time, as we had another 22 miles to go.  On past Tea Pot Canyon we found some difficult sections with ledges and very sharp turns.  I got out to spot for Dan a couple of times.   

  This section, while not hard-core, was fairly difficult pulling a trailer.  I would say one should have at least 31 in. tires, some lift and one locker to safely make this trail.  There were a couple of miles of this until we started coming up on some interesting rock formations.  We were now in ďThe Land Of The Standing RocksĒ, some chocolate brown rock formations jutting up into the sky.

The beauty was amazing; Lizard Rock, The Wall, and Standing Rock were all within a couple of miles of each other.  Behind us were the Fins, and red, white and light brown sections of smooth-topped rock formations that were totally different from The Standing Rocks.  It was a monument to the diversity of nature and the thousands of years of water, wind and sun erosion in the area.  You could see why it was called The Maze, with the hundreds of little canyons and washes; you could very easily become lost for days. 

                   We passed Chimney Rock and were wondering just how much further until we got to The Doll House.  Trying to figure out where it was from a distance was difficult.  We finally realized we were close when the saw the upright stone formations that resembled Dolls standing proudly in the dusk light. 

                           A 2-track road led us to our campsite, 6Ĺ hrs. after we left Hans Flat.  Our campsite was ideal, in a beautiful spot surrounded by red and white rock formations.  Below us was a lower section of The Maze, one that would eventually lead to The Colorado River. 

            We had made it!  We began unpacking, setting up camp, and cooking supper.  The relaxing and enjoying part was about to begin.  We had a full moon and it made for a glorious night.  Because itís cool in the desert at night, we were very comfortable.   Later that night I got up and took a short walk among the rocks, and was amazed at the nighttime beauty.  Moonlight and starlight unencumbered by city light pollution of any kind.  It was peaceful and refreshing.  We had made it to one of the most remote places in the USA, probably 60 miles from any real civilization, and it felt sooo good!  Danís dream of a trip to the Maze in style had materialized 

.                       The next day we relaxed and took in the area.  It was really out there! The only 4-wheeling was the road out here, but we did return to Chimney Rock, where we met a couple from California, who had ventured alone here to camp.  They had a stock TJ with 30 in. tires and a limited slip.  He said they had some tense moments and scraped hard in several places.  We even ran into our New Mexico friends and visited for a while.  We went to check out the other 2 Doll House campsites, only to discover we had lost our camera.  All the way back to the Standing Rocks we went, until I found it hanging on the jerry can gas cap.  We now had a jerry-can camera! Back to camp we went for another fine night of full moon, stars and comradery.

The next day, the river was calling our name, except for Dianneís (she decided not to go, smart woman).  You see we were very close to The Colorado River.  It was about 3 Ĺ miles down to Spanish Bottom and the river.  We originally thought it was a mile down and brought only enough water for that.   It proved to be much further.   

               We arrived at Spanish Bottom and found a good spot to get into the river.  Here we met a pair of Rangers who were scouting the river, ready to rescue and assist rafters on the river.   Dan and I swam some in the ice-cold water.  Evelyn said she wasnít going in.  It felt brisk but refreshing after the long hike down the trail

After the swim, we filled our water bottles and went on down the trail to find a sandy beach past the rapids in Cataract Canyon.  We stopped there thinking we had passed it or it was too far considering our long hike back to camp.  Another swim and some pictures and we were back to Spanish Bottom and another refill.  Many thanks to our Ranger friends who helped us out with the water.   

                   We met some experienced hikers coming down as we were going up.  They were friendly and all in much better shape than we were.  There were probably 60 or more switchbacks up the trail, and it was in the heat of the day.  We didnít have near enough water, as we should have taken.  I was developing heat stroke with muscle cramps and nausea.  We rested every chance we could in the shade and plodded on.  It was looking bad for me when my leg would not bend at the knee; intense leg cramps had me laying prone a hot rock.  The heat released my leg cramps, and on we plodded, Dan had gone ahead to get the Jeep closer, but he got leg cramps, too.  We eventually made it, Evelyn doing the best as she walks regularly.  We made it back to camp where Dianne refreshed us with cold water, orange juice and chocolate chip cookies.  It worked! After a short nap we were all ready to enjoy the rest of the evening.

                   If you plan to hike, please take MUCH MORE WATER than we took! We were lucky, needless to say!  Thursday morning had us packing up to go back to Moab.   We packed up, cleaned up the campsite thoroughly and took a shower with Danís portable, battery-powered shower.  It worked well and we headed back down the 40-mile Jeep Road to the Ranger Station.  We got to Hans Flat about 4:00 pm and loaded my Jeep onto the trailer for the 46-mile return to pavement.  We stopped in Green River for a great hamburger and a beer before arriving in Moab about 11:00 pm.  It was the end of a long day, but also the end of an unforgettable experience.  A campout in a truly remote spot with wonderful rock formations under a full moon and bright stars shared with great friends.  Couldnít get much better than that! And, we got there by 4-wheel-drive!  Many thanks to Dan & Dianne Neuss for inviting us to go with them.  Dan got to fulfill a dream with a trip to The Maze, and the rest of us had a great deposit in our memory banks!

 Ken Womack