|The Chocolate Drops.|
I woke up on day two of my Maze trip at a slickrock campsite below Teapot Rock. The sunrise was incredible from camp but I was still a little disappointed that the park rangers had thwarted my plan to hike down the Golden Stairs Trail with my bike. The morning views coming down that trail would have been over the top.
Instead of a super scenic and short hike down the Golden Stairs into the Maze, I now had a longer and sure-to-be-uncomfortable bike ride along the infamously rough Doll House Road. Riding technical slickrock with a heavy, full-size backpack is not fun. Since water is incredibly scarce in the Maze, I carried seven liters; add a sleeping bag, pad, food, stove, etc. and we're talking about a real beast of a pack. To add insult to injury, I neglected to bring my biking shorts (with chamois padding) or even a helmet.
|Orange Cliffs from Teapot Rock camp.|
|Cruising along the slickrock surface of Doll House Road near Canyonlands National Park.|
I pushed onward past the Mother & Child formation and into the enchanting Land of Standing Rocks. The "standing" rocks here are all that remain of the red Organ Rock shale which once everywhere blanketed the white Cedar Mesa Sandstone. I passed The Wall, Lizard Rock, and The Plug, before finally arriving at my designated campsite at Standing Rock.
The Wall. Rock formations in The Land of Standing Rocks can be deceiving. Compare this north-directed view of The Wall with the west-directed view below.
|Looking west toward the amazingly thin and linear Wall, composed of Organ Rock shale.|
|View from camp to confounding canyons of The Maze.|
|Standing Rock camp.|
|Running the first few miles of the Chocolate Drops Trail.|
After dumping off my heavy backpack at camp, I got my day pack ready and made the short bike ride back to The Plug trail head. I stashed my bike, changed shoes, and ran west on the Doll House 4x4 road to the Chocolate Drops trail head near The Wall. This was the start of a 15-mile circuit that would lead me past several highlights of The Maze including The Chocolate Drops, Pictograph Fork Canyon, South Fork of Horse Canyon, Maze Overlook, and the Harvest Scene pictographs.
|A closer look at Organ Rock hoodoos and balanced rocks along the Chocolate Drops Trail.|
|Resistant caps of White Rim Sandstone hold up the Chocolate Drops. Although not marked on any maps, there is an unofficial and sporadically cairned trail that descends northeast from the Chocolate Drops down into Pictograph Fork Canyon.|
|View of the Chocolate Drops from near the top of the Maze Overlook trail.|
|The Harvest Scene is named for the character in the far right of the photo that appears to be presenting a sheath of rice grass.|
|Upper Pictograph Fork just before sundown.|
I made it to the critical turn, marked only with a small cairn as I guessed, with just enough diffuse light (the sun had long sunk over the canyon rim) to look up the canyon side and spot the first few cairns designating the route out. Within a few minutes it was completely dark and I had to rely on the paltry 15 feet or so of light throw of my headlamp. Things quickly got a little dicey as the route led me higher in the cliffs in the dark. My light was too weak to simply navigate from cairn to cairn. I'd typically have to scout around on narrow ledges with a few hundred feet of exposure for the next cairn. There was one spot that stumped me for a good half hour. I had a cairn sitting on a 3 foot-wide ledge. There were only a couple of possible directions I could go up from here and they all seemed to lead to a dead end. After each dead end, I'd retrace my steps back to the cairn. For a minute, I thought I'd have to spend the night on the ledge and wait for daylight to show me the way out. Eventually I shown my light straight down and realized the route was a near vertical friction pitch straight down to another ledge about 10 feet below. Sure enough once I slid down, I found a another cairn and with much trial and error, I followed many more back to my bike.
I slept good that night back at Lone Rock camp after inhaling a spaghetti and meat sauce Mountain House meal.
I had knocked a lot of sights off the old bucket list that day and I couldn't wait to tick off the Dollhouse the following morning.