Sunday, December 16, 2018

Hamblin Mountain - 12/15/18

Northshore Peak, Bitter Springs Cliffs, and Razorback Ridge

Lake Mead from Hamblin Mountain

Panorama from Hamblin Mountain

Beginning of the Race, er, Hike up the Wash
Hamblin Mountain is one of Lake Mead NRA's most beautiful hikes ... it is rumored. Thirteen hikers did the hike today ... very fast. It was a beautiful day and a bit of a waste to do a beautiful hike on a beautiful day and not take more time to enjoy the scenery. But, alas, I was not leading this time. So, here is the "run" down on the hike.

We started at a turnout on the north side of Northshore Road near mile marker 18. The trail begins across the road then drops into the wash to the right.

Through the Boulder Slot
Two hikers stopped for a very quick peek at the ripple rock on the left side of the wash. When other hikers stepped over to look at the interesting anomaly, the front hikers widened their lead.

Up the Trail that Parallels the Wash
Finally, the group re-gathered at Cottonwood Spring before the dry fall. Then, we were off again.

A Quick Look Back

Break at the Saddle
We crossed over to the wash to the right and started up, squeezing through the fun boulder zigzag. Next, we took a left into a side wash to catch the trail that parallels the boulder wash. A right turn then up the trail. Fast, fast, fast. Finally, we gathered again at the saddle. Luckily, Lettie needed to do a wardrobe change here so the back hikers had a chance to rest, too. Continuing down the trail, we passed the junction we would use on the way back. And, I quote, "If you get ahead or if we lose you on the way back, use this trail." Hmmm. Really?

Down from the Saddle
So, we continued up the trail to the slippery dry fall. We waited for everyone to get up the rock. Yea!

Up the Dry Fall
The climb slowed down as we gained the ridge, then some of the front hikers got ahead and clamored for the peak. A few of the back hikers stole the chance to just enjoy the views around.

A Look Back at the North Bowl of Fire

There they go again! Starting the Final Ascent
I took my time getting as many photos of the beautiful surroundings as I could. As I sat for the break on the ridge, I watched and listened to a raven that was giving a speech on top of a nearby tor. Lake Mead shined below to the south. Pinto Valley laid out to the east. The Bowl of Fire burned in the north. Snow-capped peaks of the Spring Mountains could be seen toward the west. There was very little wind which is unusual for this peak. But, alas, our break was over too soon and I tried to get a head start on the descent.

Northshore Peak from Hamblin Climb
No can do. Here comes everyone! Again, mercifully, Lettie took the most treacherous part of the descent at a slower pace down to the trail junction.

Pinto Valley from Climb
Then, we were off to the races again. Over to the next canyon following the trail and down into the canyon via a bottleneck dry fall.

Jack Rabbits on the Peak

Raven talking on a Perch
Hikers were all over that dry fall trying not to be left behind and vying for places in line that were not behind some of the slowest participants. This was the last hope of the back hikers. We all tore down the wash to the junction with the Arrowhead Road. It was beautifully colorful here ... but, off we went. And, I quote again, "See you at the cars." What? Two miles of beautiful scenery remaining and we're going to race right through it?

Back Down the Dry Fall
At that point, I knew I didn't have enough in me to keep up. But, I gave it a college try.

Up and Over to the other Canyon
Soon, I couldn't even see the front group of hikers but I knew the way.

Down into the Other Canyon

Down the Other Canyon ... Hurry!
There's not much else to expound on about this hike. Suffice it to say, we got back to the cars as Lettie was getting ready to drive away. Hmm. Really? This is not the way I suggest to see Hamblin Mountain on a perfect weather day!

I vow to never let speed get the best of my hikes again.

7 miles; 1500 feet elevation gain; 3.25 hours (a record, I think)

There they go again! Down Arrowhead Road

They're gone.

Oh! They waited at Cottonwood Spring. ... Then, they disappeared again.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Baseline Mesa / Painted Pinnacles Loop - 12/11/18

Painted Pinnacles and Silica Dome from Baseline Mesa

Ruins of Buena Vista Campground

Beautiful Small Wash to Baseline Mesa

Dropping into Small Wash
Baseline Mesa rises out of the southeast corner of the Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada at an altitude of 2379 feet, 500 feet above the surrounding terrain. It is not the highest mesa in the park but it is the largest in surface area. In the era when it was being formed by the eroding of soft sandstone around it, the terrain sloped down as it does today into the direction of Boulder Canyon (Lake Mead) and away from the other mesas that were formed higher up in the park. Now, it is an excellent high point to view much of the colorful park starting with the Painted Pinnacles; an area of red and white sandstone at the base of the high end of Baseline Mesa.

A View back to Trailhead before Drop
These two points of interest, plus the ruins of Buena Vista Campground (circa 1935), are the main reasons for today's hiking route for eight club members.

Upper Small Wash
Careful to obey all speed limits while traveling to and from the park about 1 hour north of Las Vegas, we started at the Fire Canyon Road Trailhead where Silica Dome is located.

Starting into Lower Small Wash

Scramble Attempt - Aborted
We made our way with connecting trails and abandoned roads around to the top of a small flat wash. An option for the first quarter of this hike is to use the road that starts out behind the trailhead restrooms. But, the small wash is much prettier. About half way down the wash (~1 mile), the terrain goes from a cream sandstone to a red sandstone and the paralleling road has a connecting old road that meets the wash. As we descended the pretty wash, we were reading the saga of a mountain lion ... or two ... chasing a bighorn. The cat prints were running up the wash and so were the bighorn's. There was a scuffle at one point and cat prints were seen going the opposite direction. This cat was likely making the prints that we saw throughout the hike.

Scrambling in Lower Small Wash
As we got deeper into the wash, it became more narrow and there were a few scrambles. The potholes at the bottom of every scramble were dry mud that we found we were able to crunch through.

Climbing out of Small Wash
And then! The last scramble, a fun narrow corkscrew type squeeze, appeared innocent enough. Chuck made the drop and I figured that if Chuck could do it, so could I. Hmm. Yes, achilles deep in gooey mud. We all got a laugh! And, there was no water around to clean off the gunk!

Buena Vista Ruins

Previous Appearance of Buena Vista Campground
Not far after this, we made our turn to the right to climb out of the pretty wash. We knew there was a trail that climbed up to the road above but it took us a few minutes to find it. We did and the road led us to the ruins of the Buena Vista Campground whose heyday was around 1935. This is where we took our break. All that is left of the campground is the stone work, however, it was clear why it was named Buena Vista! We could see much of the colors of Valley of Fire, all the way to Overton and across to Gold Butte where Virgin Peak stands.

Starting up to Baseline Mesa
We could also see the tip of the lower end of Baseline Mesa which is where we went next. We went back up the dirt road then continued on an increasingly narrow trail.

Trail Narrows on Ascent
The trail up to the mesa becomes treacherous as it threatens to fall off the side of the mesa in the scree. We were very careful using this trail that did not appear to have been used lately.

Top - Views from Mesa / Bottom - Steep Descent off Mesa

Painted Pinnacles from Overlook
Gaining the top of the scree and black bush covered mesa, we hiked 0.75 mile to the opposite and higher end. The Painted Pinnacles lay out before us with Silica Dome on the horizon. (See first photo.) There is a parting of the rimrock here where we began a steep descent of faith! The first part was sharp limestone /dolomite, then we dove over the edge to redstone. At each juncture of a zigzagged route, we peered down or over the edge and wondered if the descent was actually possible! (Not to ruin the excitement, but I have descended this several times!! Just not recently.) Anywho, we made it down to the Painted Pinnacles Overlook. Determined to find the trail route out from the bottom, we opted not to give in to the temptation to just return to the cars the easy way.

Scramble Descent into Bottom of Pinnacles Area
Down we went on a somewhat difficult scramble on slippery crumbling sandstone. Our experience brought us down safely and we began roaming through the wash at the bottom.

Assortment of Painted Pinnacles Views
The pinnacles are impressive from the overlook ... but, wow, they are super more impressive from the bottom! Yep, lots of photos!

Painted Pinnacles

Hiking past the Lower Pinnacles
We continued following the small wash down until we came to a layered dry fall. The trail that we sought comes into the wash a little above this but we wanted to check out another idea. This idea led us on an interesting scramble onto a trailing ridge from the crest above. Still determined to find the trail that we had initially ignored, we climbed the ridge until we intersected with the said trail.

Find the Balanced Rock
One hiker who knows the area really well, Chuck S., decided early to hike a traverse route straight across to Silica Dome. This worked well for him.

Lower Pinnacle Views
However, we reached the crest on our trail and turned to the left to follow an old abandoned road (barely visible) all the way back to join Chuck on his intersecting route.

Red Sand vs. White Sand

Today's Scramble Out
Our trail out was steep and perhaps would be more useful for a descent. Nevertheless, we all hiked into the trailhead with smiles having had a great workout filled with fun. Brian D. has taught us about the beauty that the Valley of Fire has to offer and it's fun to go out and put some of that knowledge to use. By the time I got back to the cars, the mud on my shoes and pants had dried but I put my feet in a plastic bag for the trip home in Jeannie's car! What a day!

6.8 miles; 1100' elevation gain; 3.75 hours

Following a Ridge to Trail

Silica Dome from our Exit Route

One View Back then it's Between the Trail Out and the Trailhead