Friday, January 24, 2020

Zabriskie Point Loop (Death Valley National Park) - 1/23/20

Manly Beacon & Red Cathedral from Trail

Group at Red Cathedral Overlook

Manly Lake below Telescope Peak

Beginning of Loop Trail right of Parking
 Our once a year foray into the Badlands of Death Valley National Park was attended by twelve great hikers! Gorgeous as ever, the celebrated scenery awed everyone ... especially our two newbies! The weather was absolutely perfect! Temperatures in the high 50's to the high 70's with a little bit of morning breeze. Some of our hikers were dressed in short pants and sleeves and loving every minute of it! We had six hikers coming from the north route and six from the south route through Pahrump. The two hour drive is worth it, folks! Since this hike has been blogged on almost every year of the past eleven, I will leave you to research this blogsite for a more detailed description of the hike.

Old Mining Road leading down into Badlands

Starting down Gower Gulch

Further down Gower Gulch

Starting into Gower Gulch Narrows
  This is a simple photo essay of scenery you definitely want to bring your camera to. Suffice it to say, the simple north route to the trailhead is as follows: Drive north on SR-95 to a left turn onto SR-373. At the junction, there are two gas stations and a rest stop. All bathrooms are kept nice. Drive down through Amargosa Valley, pass the entrance road to Ash Meadows NWR, pass the Longstreet Casino with the big black & white cow out front, cross the California state line and turn right onto SR-190 just before the Amargosa Opera House. (You will see a Dispensary on the right after your turn.) Twenty-five miles down this entrance road to Death Valley NP, the Zabriskie Point Trailhead will be on your left. Be sure to display your national parks pass while you are parked there.

Bottleneck into Scrambles

Narrows Scrambles

Just before High Dry Fall to Valley

Gower Gulch Wash in Valley
 We begin the loop here for two reasons. First, this trailhead is closest! Second, the loop hike is much easier from the bottom instead of the top where we begin! If we're going to drive this far, we're going to get a good workout! In other words, the last three hills coming out will challenge you so be careful of the temperatures. Bring plenty of water and electrolytes. Dress appropriately. And, take your time if you need it. Today, we found the temperature at the bottom of the hike (in the valley) to be quite warm ... maybe in the mid to high 70's. When we exited the hike at the top, they may have been around 70 degrees.

Hot Cross Trail to Golden Canyon Trailhead

Starting up Golden Canyon

Red Cathedral comes into View in Golden Canyon

The trail is well marked at this time. There are arrow signs all along the trail and there are distance signs placed at the key junctions. Since this was a Thursday, the trail was only moderately busy. However, there were two groups of school children that had visited Golden Canyon. They seemed very well behaved and very happy. There were plenty of adults shepherding them along. BTW, we were very impressed with the bus driver's way to spend the day! He was lounging in a chair under his umbrella next to the bus while he waited for his charges to return! (I think he's done this run before!)

Colorful Side Views of Golden Canyon

Junction Sign

Manly Beacon from climb to Red Cathedral

Trail to Red Cathedral Overlook
As usual, we took our break at the Golden Canyon Trailhead then enjoyed the scenery up the canyon and past the signed junction. We hiked up to the Red Cathedral Overlook. (A first for me!) The previously loose rock trail up the steep incline is now a nice sandy dirt trail. It is still ridden with exposure but the view is quite spectacular. We took a group photo here then most of the hikers decided to balance a descent route back down past this small canyon's narrows. They reached the main small canyon before we did since we decided to return the way we came. From here, we returned to the signed junction and started up the first of the three final hills.

Canyon Narrows Scramble

Arriving at Overlook

Hikers descending around the Narrows

Starting up to Base of Manly Beacon
The group started spreading out on these hills but I couldn't resist several photos on the first two. The first hill climbs up to traverse under Manly Beacon. The view back into the Badlands is fantastic ... still! From there, the trail travels across a hardened sand dune and starts up the second hill at another signed junction pointing out the direction to Zabriskie Point. Nearing the top of this hill, the views of Manly Beacon, Red Cathedral and Gower Gulch captivated my camera ... again. By this time, half of the group had tired of waiting for the other half. I arrived at the Gower Gulch junction and the last six hikers started up the last big hill.

Rear View from Half Way up Big Hill

Tony & Alex take a Breath on Big Hill

Rear View from Near Top of Big Hill

Crossing over to the Old Mine Road Junction
This last climb is a killer so be careful here! By the time we reached the parking lot, everyone was there with large smiles on their faces! I can't help but love these guys and gals.

As a side bit, our car was zooming along happily on SR-95 on the way home when we came upon a super double wide load escorted by two or three police cars. It was a few cars ahead of us so we pondered and pondered during our 30 minutes of 10 mph about what it could be. See photos below. What do you think? Finally, they stopped and let the build up of traffic go around.

7.6 miles; 1350 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours

Climbing Another Big Hill to Gorgeous View

Gower Gulch from Old Mine Road

Descending to Gower Gulch Junction

What in the world? ... I mean, "Really?"

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Red Pinnacle Loop (Valley of Fire State Park) - 1/22/20

The Red Pinnacle

Pinnacles Ahead

Weird Canyon

Hiking down to North End of Gibraltar Rock
 Just when Brian and Chuck thought they had explored every corner of Valley of Fire, a little bird tells them about yet another beautiful section of the state park. Mike OC and I joined the Lone Mountain Hiking Club as guests, today, for a new 4 mile moderate hike called the Red Pinnacle Loop. Twenty-one hikers began at the Parking Lot #3 of the White Domes (aka Mouse's Tank) Road. This is also the trailhead for the Fire Wave Trail. We crossed the road and headed down toward the left end of the big red Gibraltar Rock. Ducking into a large slot that is also used for the Drop Slot hike, we climbed up into another slot to continue our climb up to the right then left.

Approach toward Fault Mesa
 When we leveled out, we found a game trail that led along the Gibraltar Wash. In front of us, we saw open desert and a large mound. We headed toward the left side of the mound.

Game trails are nice when you can find them!
The game trail led us across the desert over a small rise toward some red sandstone in the distance. Soon, we began crossing some white sandstone.

Color Ahead

Dropping into Sandstone
 The white turned to yellow, pink, purple, and orange as seen in the photo above. Although the terrain was flattish, a slight indentation suggested that we were "flowing" down into a wash or small canyon. Finally, Brian arrived at the top of a small very interesting canyon that another writer has temporarily dubbed Weird Canyon. (Watch out what you say! I think this name might stick!) It wasn't long before the easy scrambling brought us to a covey of red and orange pinnacles. One pinnacle, in particular, offered several photos as seen at the beginning of this entry. Two photos down gives you an idea of the "covey." Lying next to the Red Pinnacle was the business end of an old rusted pick axe.

Weird Canyon
 There was some discussion about whether we would carry out the pick axe but it was really heavy! Besides, it was probably older than fifty years ... historical artifact!

Red Pinnacles
 After the Red Pinnacle, Weird Canyon offered some really nice scrambling within its narrow walls.

Entering Red Pinnacle Area

Rusted Pick Ax near Red Pinnacle
 Near the end of the canyon, we were stopped short by a large pool of water. We climbed around the pool and came back to look. It had cattails and is rumored to have water in it year round. This is what we have dubbed Delta Spring ... after Charlie Spring that is also found in the park. Not too much further, we came to another deep pool. Of course, why not "Epsilon Spring?" Mike tested the depth of the pool and buried his hiking stick. The pool was at least 3-4 feet deep. We came to a junction with a large wash that crossed perpendicular to ours. It is rather large and very sandy. Here, we found some shade on this spring day in January and sat for our snack break.

Weird Canyon
 This part of the park is different from any other area we have hiked. It is full of the signature pastel colors but the terrain appears more flat even though the small canyons cut down into unseen passages.

Weird Canyon
 After our break, we turned left to hike up the sandy wash for about a third of a mile. We hiked past another pool of water. Oh, why not. Call it Gamma Spring! On the left side, there was a small trail. We turned here.

Weird Canyon

Weird Canyon
 The small trail connected with the larger wash to the right we'll call White & Black Wash. The reds, pinks and yellows were temporarily abandoned for black and white walls. These walls were topped off by a brown and black conglomerate rock. They held a beauty all their own. After a curve of white wall, we came abruptly to red sandstone again. This landmark had tiny stripes of red and white running vertically in the wall. See one of the photos in the collage below. We climbed up a yellow sandstone slab after that and hiked over to a light pour over of a spring above. It's so unusual to see water in the Vally of Fire. I'm sure these pools are crucial to the wildlife here.

Delta Spring
 In fact, coming into the park this morning, we saw a group of bighorns on the left side of the highway before we came to the fee booth.

Epsilon Spring (at least 3' deep)
 Then, we saw a larger group of bighorns crossing White Domes Road just north of Mouse's Tank.

Junction with Large Wash

Snack Break at Large Wash Junction
The slab that the spring was flowing on continued up the hill. We followed it until the leader stepped off and into the sand dune that led up the hill toward the cars. We aimed for another sandstone slab near the top and ended up very near the Fire Wave Trailhead.

Brian hikes into the White & Black Wash
 This is a short hike but it is very nice in color and  terrain.

White Walls
 Stats: 3.5 miles; 400 feet elevation gain; 2.25 hours

Interesting Geology

Climbing out of Stripes
 I would like to thank the Lone Mountain Hiking Club for allowing me to join them on this new hike at Valley of Fire. They are a wonderful group of people. And, I hope that I will be able to perpetuate the life of the hike by leading it for the Around the Bend Friends someday.

Zigzag up the Sandstone Slab

Spring overflowing down the Slab

Almost back to the Trailhead