to Lizard Rock
National Park, Maze District
April 21, 2011
After packing our backpacks, we heated up a couple of burgers from last night on the grill, and scarfed them down with chips and cola. The sky was bright with thin clouds that obscured the blue sky, yet it was warm and pleasant, albeit a bit windy. By 1:00 we were heading down into Horse Canyon, a wide wash with a thin layer of running water in the bottom. A narrow band of green lined the streambed, but mostly it’s a land of rock.
The route down into the canyon was very steep and required us to lower our packs by rope several times to allow downclimbs. There may be those that can downclimb with a frame pack, but I’m not one of those people. It was tricky, especially given the powerful wind that blasted down the canyon, but all part of the fun. Most downclimbs had moqui steps carved in the rock, which helped immensely. Once in the canyon bottom, it was pretty easy going downcanyon for a short bit to the Maze Trail. We hiked upcanyon from there to the turnoff for the Harvest Scene, paying close attention to the map to avoid wrong turns, as none of the trails are labeled or marked in any way. The wind was ferocious, sending waves of sand sheeting across the ground, sandblasting my legs and face.
The map showed an arch on the opposite side of the canyon where you’d turn off for the Harvest Scene, so we cached our packs and checked it out. It was a little tricky to find, as it is way up high and you have to stand on the far east side of the canyon entrance to see it beyond the curve of the southern wall. We hunted around for 20 minutes trying to find it. This short canyon continues up several hundred meters, and ends at a great little campsite under a massive pinyon.
Packs on backs, we continued up the Maze Trail, and encountered a few hikers we had seen on the Flint Trail yesterday. They had done the loop down to Chimney Rock and back. We continued on and made camp just past the Chimney Rock Trail junction, under the USGS “Natural Arch” which I spent 10 minutes trying to locate but could not. Had my tent set up by 6:00 in a clearing among the junipers, in a little rise hidden from the streambed. Griff set his tent up a hundred yards upcanyon in the next flat spot that we found. As the cool and windy evening came on, we had dinner of crackers, cheese, jerky, nuts and chocolate. I made a small dam in the trickle of water in the canyon bottom and after an hour there was enough clear water to filter and fill up our bottles.
By 7:30 I was in my tent
and feeling very good. The wind had died down, and the temperature was
just chilly enough to make the sleeping bag tempting. I have a habit of
allowing dehydration to creep up on me in the desert, but I was conscious
of my water intake all day, so my head felt fine as I drifted off to sleep
in the utterly quiet peace of this isolated canyon.
Back on track, we moved south in a fabulous, sinuous canyon, very narrow at times. The sun came out. We reached the head of the canyon where a large alcove blocks the way, and explored the shady undercut. Getting up to Lizard Rock involves a steep scramble up the canyon wall, over the rim into another side drainage, and up a steep wall to the Land of Standing Rocks. None of it is technically difficult, but it’s a bit of a scramble in places. We came out between Lizard Rock and The Plug across a barren, brown clay field scattered with junipers and sagebrush around 10:00. Having read The Monkey Wrench Gang 2 or 3 times now, it was fantastic to finally see Lizard Rock in person.
We crossed the dirt road that leads down to the Dollhouse, a road we had originally planned on driving, and found a shady spot amongst the sparse junipers to have a snack. We discussed heading up the road to Chimney Rock and heading back to camp by that trail, but decided against it. I can’t even remember why. Back in camp by 12:00, we checked out the nearby bridge and then packed up camp. By then it was sunny and 70 degrees. No wind. Perfect.
We ate lunch, filtered water, smushed the dam in the stream which had mostly been washed away anyway, and headed back towards the car starting around 1:30. The hike back was fun, even the tricky pack-hauling sections. The distance was not far, but the last mile took over an hour and a half by itself. A single pack-line and climb took us 35 minutes. By 5:15 we were back at the truck, and from there we drove back up to the Flint Trail and motored on out past the Hans Flat Ranger Station around 7:30.
It was getting dark, and
looked like rain, so we pulled into the first dirt road we saw, a BLM road,
and found a pullout in which to make camp. We cooked brats by lanterlight,
and the temperature really dropped fast. By morning our tents would be
covered in snow. Glad we weren’t trying to haul up out of Horse Canyon
Canyon just below Lizad Rock
Looking back towards Brimhall Point from Lizard Rock;
Cleopatras Chair on the horizon
Teapot Rock at sunset
Sunset over the Flint Trail
Driving up the Flint Trail
Looking down into a tributary of Horse Canyon
from the Maze Overlook Rd
Knobs at Brimhall Point
In Horse Canyon
In the Maze
The Harvest Scene
Camping in the Maze
Near Lizard Rock; Chocolate Drops on horizon at left
The Wall formation, center horizon