Day 23. In a Maze

The night is unexpectedly cold. I dive deep into my sleeping bag, only coming out to catch fresh air from the smell of used socks and clothes that reigns in there… But better smelly than cold. In the morning not only my tent is frozen over, but all the water I had gotten from the river to let the silt sink over night so I could filter it in the morning is frozen too. “Dang-it”, as they say here. It looks as though the silt has had enough time to settle before the water froze though, so I will just wait for the sun to melt it enough for me to stick my filter in.

At 10:30 I hear the very foreign sound of a motor and know its the speedboat from Tex‘s Riverways with Kenny, who will drop off some hikers and pick up my packraft, dry suit, helmet and paddle. I am sort of late with packing everything and it ends up being a stressed out moment for me. Even more so I enjoy the silence after, when the hikers have disappeared and so has my packraft. I sit in the sun for a late breakfast, delicious Apricot Almond Couscous and then my water is ready to be filtered.

My pack is heavier than I thought. It’s 4.5 Liters of water, as I am not sure how much I’ll find up there, and food for 5 days, my tent and warm sleeping bag. I kind of hate it at first. But I know I will get used to it and tell myself again, that I should really weigh my pack when I get a chance as there are always so many people asking me about that weight and I never know.

The first leg of my hike today, up into the „Dolls House“, is steep. But I am confident with this way of movement and I enjoy to feel my whole body working with me. For a moment I think that I‘d wish more of the hiking here was like this. Steep and rugged. I look down at Spanish Bottom, grateful for the time I have spent there in the sun yesterday afternoon. It is really a remarkable place, I find.

Reaching the “Dolls House” is one of those moments I will remember. Coming across the ledge after the ascent from Spanish Bottom I find myself surrounded. The beautiful pinnacles look like tall figures from a secret board game, each of a different personality and in a way it wouldn’t surprise me if they started moving around Igor dancing when I look away. The sight gives me a joyful kick. This is truly a Dolls House. What an amazing creation of nature. It is like standing in an amphitheater, only the stage is up there in a circle and I am the audience in the middle. It’s like the audience is the spectacle, like all those orange creatures would come into action any time now or at least once I turn my back on them. Walking out of the Dolls House I rapidly turn back a few times, enjoying my little game with them. But they stand still, they are not fooled by some German woman out here.

Before stepping into the flat desert, I look back down to the river one last time, waving goodbye for a few days. I will know he is close, but I think its a good idea to let him have his adolescent fits without me here…

Then I am finally hiking through the desert. I have imagined this many times in the past months. And yes, I am all alone, there is no one here, the other hikers long disappeared into vastness. The wind and the sun make a good pair for this hike and I imagine what it would be like in the summer. I don‘t think I would enjoy this in the heat. There is no shade, it is all dry and flat. Looking to the right I get a clear view all the way to the beautiful La Sal Mountains, still capped in snow and white agains the red and brown of the desert. I find myself missing the mountains again. But then I catch my thoughts and remember how I dreamed about being right here, when I was back in Germany…

I use the hike to put rich cream on my aching fingertips over and over again. The cold, the water and the dirt have dried them and there are bloody cracks burning on most of my fingers.

After only a two hour hike I reach Chimney Rock. The sight from here is hard to explain. I look down onto the Maze, and that name only begins to explain this vast landscape of canyons. The tops are a shade of a very light green, almost white. It feels a little bit like looking down onto a large city made by nature. There are roofgardens on some, I can look into the canyons making out balconies in places and windows aswell. I wonder if this place becomes alive at night.

A few miles later I take a break at the foot of Standing Rock, another pinnacle. They are truly the defining characteristics up in here. Basically once I had left the Dolls House, there are only three of them: Chimnney Rock, Standing Rock and The Plug. They reach up like elegant towers, but I can’t help of thinking of phalluses aswell. I find orientation is easy around these drastic masculine landmarks.

Once have hiked past Lizard Rock, instead of dropping off to the left into this area called The Fins, that Doug recommended to me, I decide to camp up here. I find a beautiful spot to camp, sheltered from the winds and with a great view to watch the sun set over the magic Maze.

And this is probably my most memorable moment of this trip so far. In the setting sun I hike to the edge of the cliff that drops down into the Maze. The desert is descending into the night, the shades are dropping into the crevices of the endless canyons of the ghost town below my feet. There is a mysterious mood rising up from down there, something that lulles me in, almost drags me, sucks me in, asks me to come, to enter and all I want to do is to follow this calling. My mind wants to get lost in there. And it is only my conscious thoughts that keep me away.

I feel utter peace in the solitude and absolute absence of noise. The only thing I can hear is my own breath, my own body seems to be the only thing that is alive in a physical way.

When I head back to my camp, I try to step as lightly as I can, not wanting to disturb any of what is out here. I am once again reminded of Edward Abbeys words, that I had scribbled into my notebook before I left. In my tent I pull out that book and I read:

Wilderness. The word itself is music. Wilderness, wilderness . . . We scarcely know what we mean by the term, though the sound of it draws all whose nerves and emotions have not yet been irreparably stunned, deadened, numbed by the caterwauling of commerce, the sweating scramble for profit and domination.

Why such allure in the very word? What does it really mean? Can wilderness be defined in the words of government officialdom as simple as “A minimum of not less than 5000 contiguous acres of roadless area’? This much may be essential in attempting a definition but it is not sufficient; something more is involved.

Suppose we say that wilderness invokes nostalgia, a justified not merely sentimental nostalgia for the lost America our forefathers knew. The word suggests the past and the unknown, the womb of earth from which we all emerged. It means something lost and something still present, something remote and at the same time intimate, something buried in our blood and nerves, something beyond us and without limit, Romance–but not to be dismissed on that account. The romantic view, while not the whole of truth, is a necessary part of the whole truth.

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