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May 20 2016

 Guides 43
 Routes 149
 Photos 22,422
 Triplogs 2,281

72 male
 Joined May 04 2004
 Mesa, AZ
The Maze - Petes Mesa, UT 
The Maze - Petes Mesa, UT
Hiking avatar May 20 2016
CannondaleKidTriplogs 2,281
Hiking8.60 Miles 2,316 AEG
Hiking8.60 Miles   4 Hrs   56 Mns   1.74 mph
2,316 ft AEG25 LBS Pack
 no routes
1st trip
Partners partners
Feeling pretty good after the longest hike of our trip yesterday we figured why not tackle a longer hike next. Not wanting to drive for an hour or more before and after the hike we settled on Petes Mesa Trail, which begins right next to our camp. We planned to make a loop of it returning past the Harvest Scene petroglyphs along the Plug Trail.

Before sunrise we awoke to the promised winds, easily 45-50+ mph. After making sure our tents were secure we set off. (Yes, OUR tents plural... after one night of my snoring keeping Tracey awake she resorted to the back-up plan of her lightweight tent, pitched a reasonable distance away.)

While the first 3 miles pretty much continued along the top of the slick rock, there was a lot more ups & downs than anticipated so we were getting a pretty good workout, both from the ascents as well as keeping our feet in the high wind gusts. And of course, being up top there was no respite from the wind.

When we reached the point where the trail descends we were greeted not only by a scary-looking route down but by even higher wind gusts swirling in all directions. Although the cairns brought us directly to this point, it wasn't clear exactly where it went for the next 50-60 feet.

So while Tracey dropped down a bit to get a better look, I went some distance west to try to figure where the route would go from where she was standing. Absolutely no way, so I then went about the same distance east where I was able to see the route. The steepest boulder to descend had a fresh dusting of sand swirling in the wind, which meant probably a faster descent than hoped for and possibly not being able to stop before having to turn around for the next part. In the event we may have to return this way, neither of us liked the possibility of not being able to climb back up.

So... let's see what options we have. Since I had half the state of Utah on my phone I took a look at a half-dozen different maps and an older one showed an alternate route. A few hundred yards away we found what appeared to be the remnants of an old cairn, which gave us hope this was simply unused due to being slight longer. Passing two more scattered cairns we came around a corner and it became decision time... go back to the original steep route, or take this somewhat easier but way scarier route (more exposure).

We chose neither... and set off to check out one other spot which looked like a possible descent. (At least on the clearest Topo map) On this quest I encountered some cool caves from erosion and soon was more interested in them than finding another route. Until Tracey called to me asking what this option looked like. Ok, so I quickly dropped down another 50 feet to where it appeared we had a clear shot. But stepping just another foot farther out I found I was fooled by the height of a tree, based on others nearby I figured it was barely 4-5 feet tall (and thus a small drop) but it was easily over 8 feet, just far enough out from a pour-off that there would be no stepping out to the tree and climbing down.

Ok, we've wasted a lot of time by now so now it was time to cut our losses and make the best of it. And so we resorted to pretty much what we'd been doing on our hikes up til now... wandering. So on the return trip we took every opportunity for side trips as far off the trail as we could before looping back.

About halfway back to camp the winds had picked up even more with what I'm sure by now were gale force (60 mph) gusts. The noise of the wind whipping our clothes was so loud my ears hurt so although it was warm I put on my rain jacket and pulled the cord tight around my face. At least now I had my hands free enough to help keep my balance.

Back at camp, hearing just how busily the tents were flapping in the wind we realized this was not going to be a restful night. And since the forecast for the next 3-4 days called for continued very high winds, we began tossing around options if we pulled the plug on The Maze for this year. If possible, we'd sleep on it and decide in the morning.

Winds being too high for even the propane stove we had a cold supper.
average hiking speed 1.74 mph

WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.


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