Into “The Maze”

The places where water comes together

with other water. Those places stand out

in my mind like holy places.

-Raymond Carver, “Where Water Comes Together With Other Water”

With Joan off seeing her folks and having the gift of time for a few days, I kept a promise to my good buddy “Larry Boy” and took him packrafting down the Grand (Colorado) River to where it joins with the Green. We’d then go backpacking in “The Maze” itself.

Our trip would be a highlights tour of his storied area. We’d go past the Confluence, land at Spanish Bottom, hike into The Doll House, and then take off into the nooks, crannies, winding canyons, and quiet places of this fabled destination.

After suitably caffeinating ourselves in the wee hours of the morning, we made our way to The Needles, shuttled our cars, and then proceeded to walk down to the river.

We then put in our packrafts and enjoyed the swift late spring current that took us down the river.

We timed it well and did not see any traffic down the river. Only the canyon walls, the birds’ calls, and the water lapping against each paddle stroke accompanied us as we made our way down the river.

We soon reached The Confluence and the, arguably, beating heart of the American West.

Photo courtesy of Kevin DeVries

It is a place to take in the scenery and ponder how the waters mix from the distant Colorado Rockies and Wyoming’s Wind River Range onto the Gulf of California.

It is also a place that defines so much of the history, culture, politics, and inspiration for this vast land.

We soon landed in Spanish Bottom, where we saw the most people on the trip. We gathered our gear and then climbed up (and up!) to The Doll House in some fortunate cloud cover.

We then walked among the colorful spires, hoodoos, and red rocks of the canyons.

The soft glow of the setting sun on the canyon walls brought a suitable conclusion to a memorable day.

Photo from Kevin DeVries

On the second day, we made our way to Chimney Rock in the early morning and then took a side trip to the famed Harvest Scene.

This panel never fails to intrigue me; every time I gaze upon the intricate images, I see something new.

My friend’s first visit brought forth epithets of amazement and wonder.

Shortly after, we saw a couple camped at “The Maze Overlook” who regularly visited this place; I found their exuberance infectious!

After this side trip, we grabbed suitable water in the increasing desert heat and exited the canyons.

We had incredible views of the intricate canyon as we scrambled to the top, where we took a well-deserved rest and took in the lands we had crossed over the past couple of days.

We walked down the road and found a suitable place for our second night’s camp.

Anticipating a long climb on a warmer day on the Needles’ side, we woke up just before dawn, gathered our gear, and then returned to the Doll House. There, we had to take the side trip looking over further down the Colorado River, which was a highlight by any standard.

After this scenic interlude, we paddled across the river to land at the mouth of Red Lake Canyon.

Our climb began with views back to the Doll House to break it up.

We then entered the Needles proper, with the welcoming spires letting us know that our jaunt would soon conclude.

Photo courtesy of Kevin DeVries

A quiet, if sunny and warm, walk on the Devils Canyon and Elephant Hill roads gave a quick but scenic walk to one of our vehicles to conclude the trip with cold drinks in the cooler and a car shuttle back to my vehicle.

No matter how many times I have the privilege of walking the canyons and rafting the rivers of the public lands that I call home, I never fail to feel grateful.

And introducing a good friend to a part of these lands many of us cherish? Even better.

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