By Michael Lanza

With our first steps on the descent from Maze Overlook into the labyrinth of mostly dry desert canyons that comprise one of the greatest geological oddities in the National Park System—the Maze in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park—we already face our first obstacle: Removing our backpacks, we scramble one by one over a ledge drop of several feet and pass our packs down.

But this introduction to the most technical section of our route merely hints at the arduous and improbable terrain awaiting around the corner.

Shouldering our packs again, the four of us follow a wildly circuitous trail mostly across slickrock, marked by cairns but otherwise unobvious and not visible on the ground. It takes a winding downhill course below redrock cliffs and towers, past mounds of shattered boulders resembling ancient ruins, and along the sloping rims of giant bowls of rippled stone. In several spots, we again remove and pass our packs down and scramble through tight crevices or downclimb a ladder of shallow footsteps chiseled into a sandstone cliff face.

A backpacker descending the trail off Maze Overlook in the Maze District, Canyonlands National Park.
” data-image-caption=”Pam Solon backpacking down the trail off Maze Overlook in the Maze District, Canyonlands National Park.
” data-medium-file=”https://i1.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Maze1-019-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-trail-off-Maze-Overlook-in-the-Maze-District-Canyonlands-National-Park..jpg?fit=300%2C200&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i1.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Maze1-019-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-trail-off-Maze-Overlook-in-the-Maze-District-Canyonlands-National-Park..jpg?fit=900%2C600&ssl=1″ width=”900″ height=”600″ src=”https://i1.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Maze1-019-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-trail-off-Maze-Overlook-in-the-Maze-District-Canyonlands-National-Park..jpg?resize=900%2C600&ssl=1″ alt=”A backpacker descending the trail off Maze Overlook in the Maze District, Canyonlands National Park.” class=”wp-image-48168″ srcset=”https://i1.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Maze1-019-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-trail-off-Maze-Overlook-in-the-Maze-District-Canyonlands-National-Park..jpg?resize=1024%2C683&ssl=1 1024w, https://i1.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Maze1-019-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-trail-off-Maze-Overlook-in-the-Maze-District-Canyonlands-National-Park..jpg?resize=300%2C200&ssl=1 300w, https://i1.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Maze1-019-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-trail-off-Maze-Overlook-in-the-Maze-District-Canyonlands-National-Park..jpg?resize=768%2C512&ssl=1 768w, https://i1.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Maze1-019-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-trail-off-Maze-Overlook-in-the-Maze-District-Canyonlands-National-Park..jpg?resize=150%2C100&ssl=1 150w, https://i1.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Maze1-019-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-trail-off-Maze-Overlook-in-the-Maze-District-Canyonlands-National-Park..jpg?w=1200&ssl=1 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />Pam Solon backpacking down the trail off Maze Overlook in the Maze District, Canyonlands National Park.

After a shocking amount of time and effort—taking nearly three hours to descend just a mile and 500 vertical feet—we reach the sandy bottom of the South Fork of Horse Canyon. There, we commence a search to find the one natural spring that we’re counting on to sustain us for the next three days.

It’s the second morning of our five-day backpacking trip into the Maze, in the first week of March. My friends Todd Arndt, Pam Solon, and Jeff Wilhelm and I had arrived here two nights ago, spending the night before starting the hike in a primitive, waterless, roadside campsite on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land just outside the park entrance, at around 6,500 feet. We awoke there yesterday to temps in the upper teens and—fortunately—warm, late-winter, high-desert sunshine.

https://www.mansbrand.com/a-technique-to-find-oceans-on-other-worlds/

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