Monday, April 23, 2018

Hidden Forest Cabin (Desert National Wildlife Refuge) - 4/22/18

Historic Cabin in Hidden Forest

Claret Cup in Bloom

Looking Out Deadman Canyon

Trailhead into Deadman Canyon
That huge area of land north of Las Vegas and south of Alamo, Nevada is designated as the Desert National Wildlife Refuge and is managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Within a deep-set canyon (Deadman Canyon) of the Sheep Mountain Range sits an old cabin that was likely built in the 1880's or 1890's. The story that was told to me was that it was used as a ranger's cabin and was, also, considered to be used as a visitor center at one time. This idea was nixed because of its inaccessibility. However, after some good ol' internet research, I have learned that either this isn't the case or there is no solid evidence that it was ever used for this purpose. Moonshiners and prohibitionists were mentioned.

Starting up the Gravel Wash Trail
In 2009, the cabin was refurbished by a team led by Kent Olson. It was a $30,000 project using the help of local boy scouts for a lot of the hiking back and forth.

One Mile Stop
A very interesting article was written in the Review-Journal on May 18, 2009 by a reporter named Keith Rogers. The link for this article is:
https://www.reviewjournal.com/news/historic-hidden-forest-cabin-getting-a-facelift/

Entering Canyon Narrows

Two Mile Stop
Regardless, the cabin is a special attraction for hikers and today, this was shown to be especially true. Eighteen hikers made the 1.25 hour trip out Alamo Road from the Corn Creek Visitor Center in five vehicles. Alamo Road is in pretty good condition but the Hidden Forest Road is quite bumpy. When we arrived at the trailhead, we squeezed our cars into the few parking spots left available. Our first impression was that there must have been quite a party at the cabin the night before! Another surprise was that the temperature at the trailhead (5800') was a lot warmer than anticipated - around 67 degrees. The temperature at the cabin (7800') that morning was in the 40's. That meant that our entire hike stayed around 70 degrees with the 2000 foot elevation climb up to the ponderosa pine forest.

Trail over Scree
We shed a few layers and started down past the Deadman Canyon gate then through the road gate at the mouth of the canyon. As usual on this hike, our plan was to hike at an even steady pace and stop at each mile marker for water, wardrobe, restroom (bush), electrolytes, and recovery.

Three Mile Stop
At the first mile stop, it was clear that one of our hikers was not having a strong day. He insisted that he would be fine, owns and carries a satellite device and is accustomed to hiking alone. I also made him promise to be on the trail in the shade when we returned. (I'm so demanding.)

Trail into Pinnacles

Ponderosa Pines begin Appearing
At our mile 2 stop, the last hikers had stayed with one hiker that was feeling the effects of the heat. He recovered and by mile 3, all were enjoying the intermittent shade and feeling strong again. It also helped that, by then, we had gotten out of the deeper gravel of the wash using the well-marked trails that went along the left side of the canyon. The canyon had narrowed and the limestone rocks of the pre-cenozoic walls were so fascinating. Large pinnacles rose inside the canyon and smaller pinnacles decorated the high canyon rim. When ponderosa pines began rising from the canyon floor, we knew we had arrived near the 7000 foot elevation range. And, suddenly they were everywhere!

Interesting Dry Fall Formation
A point of interest is seen in the photo above. On the right side of the canyon, there is this seasonal waterfall that has formed a hole in the rock above where the water falls down through to the small alcove below. (A short hike over to see it is possible.)

Limestone on Side of Canyon
The left side of the canyon in this area starts to open out a little. There are a couple of steep side canyons where the limestone and ponderosas put on a beautiful display.

Approaching Cabin Area

Checking out the Cabin
The mile 4 stop was in a tree's shade as was the mile 5 stop. Mostly, we were just plodding along enjoying the beauty of the canyon. There were eight exiting hikers that we passed at different times and the word was that there were around 10 tents at the cabin area last night. Most of the campers climbed Hayford Peak either last night for sunset or this morning. Someday, we should do that. The ponderosas were old and large and became thicker as we neared the cabin. We edged around that fallen log and saw the cabin up ahead. We also saw about twenty more campers among the trees. They all had their belongings covering the four picnic tables so that there was very little room left for us to sit. We managed by staking our claims on a fallen log and the pine needles covering the ground.

Cabin Area
We toured the cabin and took note of the running spring. Many of our hikers had not been here before. Others had not been here for a long time. They understood why this was a special place and required an eleven mile hike to see it.

What a crowd!
Soon, we were laughing and joking around with the campers. They made room for us on a couple of tables. It was a good time and, after a relaxed break, we gathered again to leave.

Great Place to Hang Out

Starting down through the Ponderosa Pines
We caught up quickly to the long line of campers that had left five minutes before us and they let us by. We weren't running by any means but we had a steady gradual downhill pace. Our line of 17 hikers were in lock step! We stopped at the mid-way campsite for a short break before we headed into the constant sun. There were one or two shade stops after that but no one wanted to hang out too long since it was hot and the gravel rocks were hard. We located our eighteenth hiker as we came up behind him about half a mile before the trailhead. He was fine and had made it about 3 miles in where there was a lot more shade. All that was remaining was that 1.5 hour drive out and home. A very enjoyable day. Great group of hikers! Until next year ....

11 miles; 2000 feet elevation gain; 5.5 hours

Down through Canyon Narrows

The Last Pinnacle

Arriving at the Canyon Gate






Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Brownstone Canyon / Gateway Canyon Loop - 4/17/18

Brownstone Canyon Pictographs

Escarpment View from Plateau above Brownstone Canyon

Down Gateway Canyon from Rattlesnake Trail Junction

Saddle at Top of 5 Stop Hill
It was a cold and very windy morning. The air was crystal clear after a month of gale force breezes. The epic journey began out of Calico Basin where fourteen hikers shivered in their lightweight clothing. By the end of the six hour scrambling adventure, the group would be whittled down to only eight. Brownstone Canyon is a strenuous hike ... and, it was Tuesday. Keep up or don't show up. (Where have we heard that before?) Regardless, we set out to climb 5 Stop Hill and everyone gave a strong showing. At the top, we were finally warm and we took a look around at the incredible colors of the surrounding sandstone hills. Not wanting to get cold again, we didn't stay long.

Turtlehead Peak rising above Gateway Canyon
After a brief breather, we started down the trail into Gateway Canyon and turned left at the two huge cairns built there. A short trudge up the gravel and we came to the scramble's beginning.

The Scrambling Begins
A short third class climb up the limestone proved to be extremely slippery at this time but with appropriate warnings all around, we got up the familiar climb without mishap. The wind ... still there.

The Third Option up this Dry Fall

Waterslide near top of Gateway Canyon
It was soon established that the character of this particular hike would be to hike to a certain point and then regather as each hiker caught up ... and repeat. Our next gathering place was the Rattlesnake Trail Junction as we waited for the back hikers to make their way up that slippery slide. We tackled the next part of the canyon with fervor; little step ups for 0.15 mile. Then we reached the big boy scrambles and the group started to spread out much more. Since I haven't scrambled this canyon, for one reason or another, for close to a year, I noticed minute changes in the gravel levels. Gateway Canyon is a constantly changing canyon. But, nevertheless, even the big boy scrambles were still on par with the past. Upper Gateway Canyon is 0.6 mile of scrambling, climbing, and deciding. The wind ... still there but we were warmer!
Starting into Small Side Canyon
Our first gathering point within the canyon was the top of the first really big dry fall. There is a trail on the left side of the canyon. Most hikers climb up the rock on the left side. Then, occasionally, you have the hiker who insists that going straight up the dry fall at the end is a great challenge.

High Waterslide from Bottom to Top
We waited patiently for the stragglers to reach the top while we noticed a yellow penstemon growing there. These are called Mersea Yellow Penstemons. (Had to look it up!)

Turtlehead from Top of Waterslide

Hiking over Plateau toward Landmark Rock
With each gathering place, the stragglers who had made a gallant effort at the difficult canyon became more bedraggled. From those who came before; It's not the single climb. It's the constant trail of climb after climb. Relentless. We settled into a patient pace with knowing response to the strenuous hike. Teaching. Helping. Laughing. Cajoling. Encouraging. Our next gathering was at the next big boy scramble where several hikers took the trail around on the right and a few hikers went up to the right of the dry fall. There is a third choice here which attracted two of the scramblers ... straight up. The intermediate scrambles get a little tougher as you near the top of the limestone where the sandstone comes down to meet it. The wind ... still there.

Sunken Tinaja behind Landmark Rock
This area is one of the most beautiful areas for views in Red Rock! I have been here on days when the clouds were low and moist; when the plateau above was shrouded to the point that we had to feel our way over to the Convoluted Crack. Today, however, was our reward! The air was so clear that it seemed like I had donned my driving glasses! (Well, wait till you're 59 and you will know exactly what I mean!)

Convoluted Crack Descent
We followed a trail up through the rocks and curved around to the left at the base of the red sandstone. This is a beautiful sandstone wash with waterslides as seen in the eighth photo of this entry. About halfway up the wash, we found a trail leading into a small canyon to the right.

More from the Pictograph Site

Las Vegas on an Exceptionally Clear Day from Brownstone Cyn
This small canyon can be used to gain the plateau above in a couple of different ways. A favorite way is to climb it (tough scramble) until just past a very high dry fall on the left. The route then climbs up the sandstone and zigzags across the intermediate pool (deep water inside today) of the fall and on up to the top. The route then follows a slot canyon complete with three challenging scrambles up to the plateau. Well, all of this took some time as each hiker braved unpredictable wind gusts while crossing the two foot ledge on the zigzag. We did say this was a strenuous hike ... and it was a Tuesday.

Climbing the Convoluted Crack
On the plateau, we relaxed if only for a few minutes. We visited a small bone dry tinaja and made our way over to the large sunken bone dry tinaja taking note of the appearance of this important landmark for the route.

Crossing the Plateau
We passed the sunken tinaja and continued straight across and down the sandstone. This brought us directly to the crack that drops hikers straight down to the famous Brownstone Pictographs. The crack takes some familiar choreography to negotiate and earns a name similar to "convoluted." This also took quite a bit of time. But, the wind was, at last, beginning to die down a little.

Descent to top of Gateway Canyon

Scrambling down Upper Gateway Canyon
Finally, at the bottom, we were in Brownstone Canyon viewing the large wall of pictographs. Down the canyon, we had an exceptional view of Las Vegas. We sat for our snack on the rocks in the sun trying not to notice the light but relentless cold breeze. There are two old dams and more petroglyphs in the area but none of us had the energy to investigate. It had already been a very long morning. All heads turned when there were screeches of relief and a different voice coming from the rocks above. Yes, Laszlo had arrived! He came to save the day! Super Laszlo came to rescue his wife Rozie and her friend from a fate of a difficult scramble back to the cars. Down two hikers, we were now at twelve. After the break and hugs, the slow beautiful saga continued.

Gateway Canyon just past Rattlesnake Trail Junction
First, we tackled the convoluted crack. Wait. Next, we passed the sunken tinaja and turned to the right. Our route back would make its way across to the top of that beautiful sandstone wash and descend the sandstone. There are a couple of cairns sitting atop crucial rock routes that will help if you are lucky enough to see them.

Into the Calico of Gateway Canyon
We reached the top of the limestone of Gateway Canyon and started down ... after waiting. This part of the hike was the slowest of all. Upper Gateway Canyon is likely more taxing on the body during its descent than the ascent had proven to be. What goes up must come down. Go a little. Wait. Go a little. Wait. Thanks to Mike, Mark and Chris and everyone else who helped out with the constant directives.

Red Buds in Gateway Canyon

High Gravel at Pickle Rock
When we reached the two cairned junction to return to the Kraft saddle, I suggested the choice to everyone that they could return to the cars as we had come. Here, we lost four more hikers. The remaining eight hikers continued down through Lower Gateway Canyon and, oh, what a spectacle that was! With sunlight coming almost straight into the canyon and the clear air accentuating the colors, we floated down the canyon. Red bud trees added to the palette. This was icing on the saga cake. Finally, we circled around Kraft Mountain and learned about the new route that side-steps the private property that we have only recently been made aware of. (This simply routes hikers around a square corner whereas before the trail cut the corner straight across.) Not a problem. When we finished the hike, we were ready to go home. Warm and basically wind-free. The epic journey had ended and our sacrifice had been rewarded with beauty.

7.25 miles; 1800 feet elevation gain; 6 hours (probably 5 hours on an average day)

Zigzag off of Rock

Starting up Trail around Kraft Mountain

Sign of the Times (New Trail Route)