Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Cactus Garden Loop - 4/20/14

Arch Located Below the Cactus Garden

The Red Rock Canyon NCA Escarpment from Cactus Garden

Easter Sunday! And, I know that many of the thirteen hikers today enjoyed spending their time of worship on God's planet hiking an 8 mile loop in a desert filled with blooming spring flowers. We parked at the bikers' trailhead on Highway 160 a couple of miles west of the Hwy 159/160 junction. This is a new trailhead for the club and we found a whole new area of trails to hike today. After finding the access gate through the burro fence in the wash below the cars, we began hiking in a westward direction.
Trail Down Gulley Toward Blue Diamond Hills

Mt. Potosi from Landmine Loop Crossing
 After making two turns (right and left) at trail junctions, we started hiking up into the southernmost hills. We found the trail to be interesting and fun. There were a lot of switchbacks and a limestone wash. At the top of the hill, we veered to the right and took the trail that followed a gulley down. At the bottom, we saw two different groups of bikers moving along the bike trails that we shared. (Nice to see everyone that attends our "church.")

LPFs and a "Blooming" Barrel Cactus

 A jog to the left then a jog to the right brought us to a trail that climbs up to the base of the hills we faced. Then we proceeded to follow along the hills in a northwestward direction. Three and a half miles into the hike and we finally faced the most serious elevation gain of the day. We turned right onto the trail that climbs to the saddle above. We had a strong group of hikers and the hill was tough but we made it up soon enough. Just before reaching the top, we noticed a nice limestone arch to the left as seen in the first photo of this entry.

Climbing Up to Saddle Below Cactus Garden

We climbed on up to the cactus garden area and sat for our snack break. A few of us explored the area around where there were many large red barrel cacti and jumbles of limestone rock. Across the way, the escarpment rose up to the sky. This is a very pretty area.

After the break, we continued the loop by hiking the ridge trail that begins at the nearby saddle. This is a nice connector trail that leads to several other bike trails immediately behind the Blue Diamond community.

Cactus Garden

Dropping Down to the Landmine Loop
 At the bike trails, we turned right and dropped to a saddle area. Here, Dave showed us where to connect with the zigzag trail that drops steeply down to the Landmine Loop where we turned left. The loop trail took us to the large wash and we crossed it to continue via the trail on which we had begun. Let's call this trail the Easter Trail!

8 miles; 1300 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours

Hiking Back on the Landmine Loop

Crossing the Black Velvet Wash

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Corn Creek Visitor Center & Trails - Desert National Wildlife Refuge - 4/19/14

New Corn Creek Visitor Center

Desert National Wildlife Refuge

Rosie Channeling her Inner Bighorn
 Twenty-two and a half hikers gathered to visit the new Corn Creek Visitor Center out at the Desert National Wildlife Refuge today. We drove north on I-95 for sixteen miles from our meeting location and turned a sharp right onto Corn Creek Road. This is a 3.5 mile graded dirt road that is in very good condition and leads to the visitor center that has shaded parking spaces. When we arrived, we saw that there was a native plant volunteer effort underway. They were planting various seedlings off of one of the nature trails behind the visitor center. We also shared the complex with a large group of children and adults who were doing the same things that we were doing but we easily stayed well out of each other's way! Our first order of business was to explore the interior displays. They were very informative. One of the favorites was the one Rosie is standing in in the photo to the left. When we stood on the prints, we could feel the padded softness that the bighorns feel from their hooves. It really was quite enlightening! The display read that the outer layer of the hoof is hard and protective. However, the inner organic substance is soft and cushy.

A Few of the Visitor Center Displays
 We spent thirty minutes inside the building. There was also a ranger's desk and gift shop inside.

View from Corn Creek Springs

Exterior Display
 Armed with a small map of the 1.5 miles of nature trail behind the building, we started our walk. The plan was to just keep turning right. That way, we would cover everything there was to cover. The exterior displays were very nice as well. There were signs and sun shelters along the way. It was also impressive to see the mountains on either side of us; the Sheep Range to the north and the Spring Mountains to our south.

Hikers Studying the Grinding Stone
 A short spur trail called Whispering Ben led us out to a large rock that was used as a grinding stone by the ancients.

Grinding Stone

Approaching the Mormon Cabin Display
 A Mormon cabin display came next. We peered into the windows where there were objects set up to look like someone would be home from the fields any minute. After this, we went back up the little hill to a grouping of picnic tables. A woman was standing there with a telescope pointed at a horned owl, her nest and two baby furry owls who the woman said were only 3 days old. We each took our turn at the telescope and those babies were soooo cute!

Mummy Mountain from the Birdsong Loop
 Next, we connected with the Birdsong Loop. This is the longest section of the nature trails. It is also the most exposed to the sun.

Hiking the Birdsong Loop

Sherry Passes Through an Old Gate
 We enjoyed the loop through the desert noting many different kinds of birds flitting about. Then, we came to the spring and pond section. There really is quite a lot of water flowing from the spring here. We commented that the sound of the stream was akin to a "bubbling brook." Just before we finished our short hike, we saw two snowy egrets bathing in the stream. We all decided that this was definitely worth the small drive out for a visit!

2 miles; 150 feet elevation gain; 2 hours

Trail Signs & Statue of Coyote

Snowy Egret Enjoying the Refuge

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Krafft Traverse / Gateway Loop via Calico Basin Road - 4/17/14

Krafft Mountain Peak View

Turtlehead Peak from Gateway Canyon

Starting Up the Trail from the Cars
 Twelve hikers attended this Tuesday Super Scramble disguised as a Thursday hike. Today's route was new for the club, in that, we began the adventure at the big wash parking area on Calico Basin Road. This is the trailhead for many trails that undulate up and around the hills in this area. Our route followed trails that led straight over to the Krafft Mountain and Gateway Canyon junction.

Hiking the Trails to the East Side of Krafft Mountain
 The early hour at the start of the hike afforded us colorful views of the sandstone as we made our approach.

Approach to Krafft Mountain & Gateway Canyon

Last View Before Start of Climb
 Unfortunately, our appreciation of the sandstone in the sunrise light was interrupted by our arrival at the base of Krafft Mountain. The trail in front of us sloped steeply up 800 feet in elevation over the next 0.4 mile. Strong hikers tackled the climb at their own speed. We followed a trail of cairns for the most part but it was usually clear which way to go if we kept in mind that we were headed in the direction of a huge rounded boulder.

Climbing the East Side of Krafft
 There were a couple of places that could be labelled "the crux" of the climb. One of them is seen in the photo above. The view below shows how quickly we gained those 800 feet!

Las Vegas View from Krafft Climb

Resting at the Lower Peak
As we neared the secondary peak, the terrain started leveling out. When the writer arrived on the slanted boulders, the others were speculating on the ease at which one could climb the high point boulder here. It was decided that "ease" was not involved so we started the traverse after a short rest. We could see the official Krafft Mountain peak rising up in the distance.

Traversing Krafft East to West
 Traversing Krafft Mountain sounds easier than it is! The mountain seems to be made up of a jumbled mass of large boulders and traversing it requires route finding and lots of scrambling.

Colorful Saddle Area

Starting Climb from Ridge Saddle Area
 Finally, we arrived at the ridge saddle between the lower peak and higher peak. The climb would be easier at this point if we stayed on the trail. ... The front of the line missed the trail and began an adventure from the north side to the peak. The back of the line prudently climbed a short distance to the ridge, found the trail and strolled up to the peak without breaking a sweat!

Taking a Break on the Peak
 While at the peak, a bandage was wrapped on a large bruise (try to avoid using the reverse gear while climbing on big loose rocks!) and we all signed into the log book. Today's view was fantastic! The weather was a bit warm.

Turtlehead Peak from Krafft Mountain Peak

Descending Krafft Mountain
 We descended on the west side of Krafft that brought us through the sandy "beach" area. The photo to the left shows another interesting place in the descent. This crack is definitely easier when you are going up! Anyway, we dropped into the wash that runs on the west side of the mountain and began our descent to Gateway Canyon. There is a trail in the wash but hikers still have to contend with a lot of brush.

Descending the Wash on West Side of Krafft
 The wash also requires scrambling under and over large boulders. Fun! Eventually, we dropped into Gateway Canyon via the Candy Cane Chute in a very colorfully striped sandstone area.

Funneling Down to Candy Cane Chute

Hiking Down Gateway Canyon
 Our hike through the familiar Gateway Canyon went quickly. The canyon was beautiful today ... as usual. The gravel, at this time, is very high and many of the obstacles are conquered quite easily. At last, the canyon dumped us out into a wide wash where we junctioned with the trail we came in on. Mike OC led us back to the cars on a slightly different trail route than the one we came in on. We will be sore tonight!

5.5 miles; 1600 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

At Least 4 Feet of Gravel Fills in this Obstacle Near the End

Nearing the End of Gateway Canyon