Sunday, May 1, 2016

Muffins / 2 Overlooks / Boneshaker - 5/1/16

Calico Hills from The Muffins

Las Vegas View from Overlook Rim Trail

Cave Canyon and Escarpment from Boneshaker Hill

Approaching the Mouth of Skull Canyon
 We have had unseasonal weather here in Las Vegas of late so yesterday all hikes were cancelled due to rain. Therefore, seventeen hikers of moderately strenuous nature arrived at the Cowboy Trails trailhead this morning to cure themselves of a bad case of cabin fever. It was a happy bunch! We started up past the horse corral in the Red Rock Canyon NCA and hiked quickly to the base of Boneshaker Hill and the mouth of Skull Canyon. After a brief pause, we started up the Muffins Trail at a strong but not too fast pace.

Skull Canyon
 The sky started out clear this morning and it promised us that the rain was over in the valley and the lower elevations. We could see that a tremendous amount of snow had fallen over the Spring Mountains next door. There were only snow patches dotting Red Rock in the higher parts.

Starting Up the Muffins Trail
 But, we surmised that the tanks (tenajas) were full to the brim in the Calico Hills and Gateway Canyon probably looked a little different from the torrents that likely flowed down between the colorful walls.

Passing a Canyon Wash

Arriving at the Muffins
Conversations were nonstop as we climbed the hill to the conglomerate boulders we call The Muffins. There were a few stops for water, breathing and re-gathering. But the pace stayed steady and we arrived nearly the same time.

One hiker was carrying a thirty pound backpack today. Yes, it is the time of year when various hikers start training for exciting backpacking excursions. If you see a hiker on the trail with an over-large backpack over the summer, ask him or her what he or she is training for. It might be Kilimanjaro!

View from the Muffins
 We stopped at the Muffins for a water break and to make sure the last hikers were doing okay. Blooming strawberry hedgehog cacti complemented the colorful view of the Calico Hills.

Old Las Vegas Overlook from the Ridge Above
 Next, we chose the Muffins Trail that climbs up along the ridge then down to the continuation of the SARS Trail where we turned left.

Overlook Rim Trail

The Hike High Point
The SARS Trail took us down to cross the upper reaches of a short canyon then back up the other side to the Old Las Vegas Overlook. At one time, this was the only Las Vegas Overlook. Another short break for added sun block and a few photos. Then the hike continued up the rim of the North Blue Diamond Hills on the Overlook Rim Trail. We could see the city all along the rim but the view behind us was getting large enough to include snippets of the snow capped mountains beyond the La Madre Mountain Range.

Bow Tie on Rock Outcropping
 As we turned the corner at the hike's high point, we saw a blooming cactus on the wall of that tall rock outcropping. It looked like a bow tie!

New Las Vegas Overlook
 Arriving at the New Las Vegas Overlook, we found a place to take our extended snack break. The city view was almost clear and there were very few clouds to the east.

Passing the Radio Tower

Passing the Boneshaker Sign Junction
But, as we finished our break and turned around to start our descent, we saw that the clouds were building over the Red Rock escarpment as moisture was sucked up into the warmish atmosphere from the abundance of snow that had fallen in the last few days. It was not threatening; simply a beautiful display. We hiked down past the radio tower and on to the Boneshaker sign junction. Still talking up a storm.

Dropping Down the Upper Boneshaker Trail
 The upper portion of the Boneshaker Trail slopes gently in nature. It gave us a chance to enjoy the scenery ahead of us.

Hillside of Blooming Strawberry Hedgehog Cacti
 As the trail begins to pass through a narrow section of the hill, the trail becomes a bit steeper. Still, it offered great new perspectives for photography.

Blooming Utah Agave Century Plants

Yucca Frame
 Finally, we reached the top of the main Boneshaker Hill. There was a steep trail drop down to the area near the mouth of Skull Canyon where we began our climb earlier. Careful as we went, we re-gathered at the bottom of the hill then turned left one more time to hike back over to the horse corral. The dark clouds billowed over Wilson Peak as we signed out of a great hike on the North Blue Diamond Hills.

7 miles; 1450 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours

Beginning Steep Part of Boneshaker Hill

Boneshaker Hill Descent

Returning with Rain Clouds over the Escarpment

Friday, April 29, 2016

Bristlecone Trail - 4/29/16

Snow on Bristlecone Trail
Club hikers got a treat today up on the Bristlecone Trail in the form of up to 8 inches of snow on the ground.

South Sister from Lower Bristlecone Trail

Valley Trail - 4/29/16

Oak Creek Wash & Rainbow Peak

Trail and Red Rock Canyon Escarpment

Full House
 Two club members set out to pre-hike an easy hike along the valley north of Spring Mountain Ranch State Park. It was good to do a pre-hike for this trail since portions of the trail are very faint and junctions are difficult to locate in some instances. Nevertheless, the hike is a good one and includes a couple of hills, beautiful rocky washes and views of the Red Rock Canyon NCA escarpment from beginning to end. This trail can be connected by other trails along the same line to have end points at the Red Rock Overlook pullout on Highway 159 and Spring Mountain Ranch State Park.

Oak Creek Road Junction
 The total mileage for the entire length one way would be around 4 miles. We began at the Scenic Loop Exit and turned around at the First Creek Trail for a 5 mile out and back hike. Within our hike, there was a partial loop which increased the hike's interest. We experienced light rain for most of the return hike and enjoyed seeing only a handful of other hikers and several rabbits and lizards.

5 miles; 300 feet elevation gain; 2.25 hours

Rain Clouds Make Appearance at First Creek Trail Junction

Dodging Light Rain on Return

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Cliff Shadows Hidden Canyon - 4/24/16

Up Hidden Canyon Wash

Hidden Canyon

Eagle Mountain from Loop Trail

Summerlin Peak
 So! There is a large system of bike trails in the Summerlin Peak area of Red Rock Canyon NCA out of the two Cliff Shadows parks! The trails are old and very clear. Today, thirteen club members mapped out a very nice route starting at the Buckskin Cliff Shadows Park which included a trip deep into Hidden Canyon where a rock climbers' slot turns up into the mountainside. It was a beautiful day for the lower elevations of 3000 to 3500 feet. The temps were in the high 60's and a cool breeze continued to blow past.

Descending to Wash
 We left out of the right (NE) side of the park and climbed up to the Eagle Ridge Loop Trail to turn to our left. As we circled around the end of the mountain ridge, we were very high above the wash to our left.

 Approaching Base of Summerlin Peak
 An interesting rocky short climb gave us a short thrill of exposure then we junctioned at a trail crossing. We continued straight. This took us down to cross the wide wash with the benefit of a trail. Up to our left was a swath of land that had been razed for a housing development.

Crossing Top of Deep Wash

Cave Mansion
 As we crossed the wash, we were being watched by a cave dweller high up in the Eagle Ridge. He had a nice view of the Las Vegas Strip. Our trail led us up and up as we headed into a small canyon inlet at the base of Summerlin Peak. We climbed along a deep wash then crossed the top of it. As we dropped down the other side of the deep wash, we passed by a very large cave. Inside the cave, we saw a tent and rocks for sitting. There was a person in the tent but we didn't bother him. At any rate, the person's cave was also in the high rent district. Very nice.

Trail Along Base of Summerlin Ridge
 Out of the inlet, we continued along the base of the ridge above. We noted the routes that we usually use to climb Summerlin Peak and wondered if our trail might improve its hike.

One of a Few Interesting Parts of the Trail
 We passed the very steep down slope that we had used a few years ago to descend the ridge above then our trail passed over a couple of limestone slabs. We wondered if the slabs were difficult for bikers to negotiate.

Mojave Yucca Fruit

Crossing the Top of Another Big Wash
 Our trail passed through another large wash and a few more slabs then it dropped down to the wash below. A limestone wall stood in front of us to prevent the trail from continuing on the same contour. When we reached the wash, there was a lone biker patiently waiting for us to get out of his way. There was no way that we could all fit on the trail anyway! The trail climbed up the gravel wash for about 50 feet then headed back up the side of the mountain.

Saddle from Whence we came Once Upon a Time
 Now, we could see Hidden Canyon in the distance. There were several rugged sections of trail here so, our concentration was needed.

Rugged Dirt Biker waiting for Us
 At the apex of the trail in the canyon, we saw another person sitting on a rock. By the time we reached the rock, the person was gone. We never saw him again.

Another Rugged Section

First Good View of Hidden Canyon Junction
 As we approached the narrows, we noted a large nest built on a tiny ledge in a limestone wall. (See photo below.) At the time, we could not tell what kind of nest it was but, later, we saw a red-tailed hawk flying around as he hunted. Perhaps it was his nest. Just past what would be a good scramble up the wash, we saw the deep crevice of the Hidden Canyon slot turning to the left. It was far enough away that we did not want to go and investigate. The limestone wash below us was smooth and beautiful.

Another Rugged Climb
 We thought about taking our break here but decided to go on up a little further. Across the canyon, we could see the long switchbacks of the trail that would take us up the other side of the canyon.

View Up Hidden Canyon Wash from Crossover
 So, we climbed the switchbacks then came upon an old shot up Volkswagen Beetle sitting upside down next to the trail.

Possibly a Red-Tailed Hawk Nest

Long Switchbacks out of Hidden Canyon
 A little more climbing and we could feel a nice breeze. Here, we took our break with a view of Hidden Canyon on one side and the Las Vegas Strip in the far distance on the other side. Afterwards, we climbed more as we contoured in and out the small canyons coming off of the mountainside. A small overlook knob was the turnaround point for the trail and we headed back up a rocky ridge. This ridge was the high point for the hike today.

Passing a Lost VW Beetle
The rocky ridge had steep drops on either side of it and also held our last view of Hidden Canyon.

Climbing Up to the Hike High Point
 As we looked behind us, we saw an interesting peak above Hidden Canyon. We never figured out its name. At any rate, its elevation is 4341'.


Distant View of Las Vegas Strip
 The trail switchbacked a couple more times in this area then we came to a trail junction. If you continue straight here, you climb to the highest section of these bike trails. Wanting to work our way over to the other side of the canyon to our right, we turned right to descend a steep-sloped trail. This brought us to another trail below where we turned left. Again, we began the ins and outs of the little mountain canyons.

Hike High Point Ridge
 The group was patient with the extra mileage. The trail was still the easier way to go most of the time.

Steepish Descent
 Finally, we reached the area above a terrain bridge that led over to the other side of the canyon. We bushwhacked down missing several curly Q's of trail.

Circling Around to the Bridge

Crossing the Bridge
 After crossing the bridge and climbing up to intersect the Eagle Ridge Loop Trail, we turned to the right. This section of trail, between here and the junction below the cave dweller, was rugged and curvy. It was a good ending to a nice hike. By the time we reached the junction to complete the loop we had made, we were ready for the return to the cars. This was a great new route that we deemed another "keeper." (In an effort to keep names consistent, please send word to us if you know the proper name for the Hidden Canyon wash or the Peak 4341.)

7 miles; 1150 feet elevation gain; 3.25 hours

Hiking Down the Rugged Eagle Ridge Loop Trail

Cheyenne Peak from Junction at end of Eagle Ridge

Circling Around to the Trailhead