Sunday, December 4, 2016

Cave Canyon / Skull Canyon - 12/4/16

View from Cairn Overlook

Mouth of Cave Canyon

View from Top of Second Dry Fall of Cave Canyon

Horses eat Breakfast at the Upper Corral
 Cave Canyon is, perhaps, the most difficult of the canyons on the North Blue Diamond Hill. At two miles long (using the left fork), the canyon boasts two 3rd class dry fall scrambles. This morning, fifteen hikers invaded the Cowboy Trails parking lot. A few of the hikers knew they would be challenged. Nevertheless, we all headed up to the upper corral where the horses were eating their morning hay. We dropped down behind the corral and climbed up to the mouth of Cave Canyon which gapes open on the left side of Echo Canyon. A steep trail climbs up along the right wall.

First Dry Fall Third Class Scramble
 The climb always wakes you up. It's a tough one first thing in the morning. We finally reached graffiti cave and crossed the wash. A little further up and we were facing the first 3rd class scramble.

Scrambling up above First Dry Fall
 Knowing that we had a few hikers who were challenged by 3rd class stuff, we worked together helping them up the dry fall. It's always a fun place to watch as each hiker climbs over the overhang one by one. There is no go around.

Sun Drenches the Canyon

A little 3 Foot Exposure!
 We passed by the main cave without much of a glance. Not interested today. As we turned the canyon corner, the sun came up over the walls ... right into our eyes. The bright sun came into play as we navigated our way through the obstacles. Pretty sure we chose an unusual route once or twice! Forging ahead, we kept the scrambling up at a constant pace. Finally, we came to the fork in the canyon. The right fork leads to a trail over to Echo Canyon. We took the left fork.

Entering Alcove of Second Dry Fall
 This part of the canyon is slightly less traveled but there is a trail to follow among the rocks and brush. Near the end of this fork, the second dry fall appears in your face as an alcove.

Rita climbs the moderate side of the second dry fall.
 To the left, there is an easiest route up to the top, The moderate route is found on a slanted rock to the right. The "fun" route is straight in front. We divided almost equally into three groups as we took on the twenty foot climb.

Using the Trail to Boneshaker Sign

Following the Three Amigos Trail
 A little further up the wash, we came to a trail crossing our path where we turned to the left. This took us to the Boneshaker sign. We dipped down over the hill and found the Three Amigos Trail and turned right. This trail winds along the contour above Mystery Woman Canyon. We followed it all the way up to the top of the hill. There used to be a large cairn here ... we should build another one. Anyway, we ate our snack while gazing at the wide view of Las Vegas.

Clear view of Las Vegas
 We dropped down to take the Rim Trail down to the Old Las Vegas Overlook. And, from here, we followed the trail up and over to the top of Skull Canyon.

Following the Rim Trail
 The Skull Canyon Trail seems to be in the best shape it's been in for many years. Many of the slippery places have been loosened up. We followed the canyon trail from top to bottom. (Well, a few hikers dipped their toes into the wash a couple of times!)

The Rim Trail

The Old Overlook
 We descended the trail, rounded the corner and merged with the Muffins Trail. From there, switchbacks brought us down to the bottom of the hill. We may have hit 3.3 mph on the hike across the desert to the lower corral. It was a good hike for everyone. Perhaps a long hike for some as well. It should be mentioned that some of the names that we use for these canyons and landmarks are original names that have since been changed by bikers. Skull Canyon will always be Skull Canyon to us. As the story goes, someone once found a burro skull in the canyon ... way back in the day.

7 miles; 1450 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

Skull Canyon

Descending on the Skull Canyon Trail

The Last Descent

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Sloan Canyon South - 12/3/16

Trailhead Cairn view toward Trail Saddle

Petroglyph perhaps meaning "Go Up Hill"

Petroglyph near side of Trail

South Sloan Canyon Access Road
 Previous to this hike, our coordinator did much research that included pre-hiking, pre-driving the access road, visiting two BLM offices to ask questions, and warning the attending hikers not to touch the petroglyphs. Twenty hikers showed up to take 6 high clearance vehicles out the 8 miles of dirt road to the southern Sloan Canyon NCA trailhead. When we arrived in seemingly the middle of nowhere, we started up the marked trail which was a fine gravel wash. It was only the beginning of quite a trudge. When we turned a corner to the left, we noticed a few petroglyphs on the rocks to the right.

Trailhead Parking

Starting out the Fine Gravel Wash

Petroglyph near the Trailhead

Fine Gravel Wash
 Our hike headed up the gravel wash until it narrowed then turned into an actual trail. The trail switchbacked up until we hit the high point saddle. Already, the landscape views were pretty fantastic but when we came around the corner after the saddle, we had a distant view of Red Rock Canyon and then, later, the Las Vegas Strip. Next, a view of Sun City Anthem and Black Mountain showed up. We were heading down into the Sloan Canyon petroglyph area on a nice trail.

Climbing the Wash

Nearing the High Point Saddle

View Back toward Trailhead Parking

Red Rock Canyon from Trail
 More of the fine gravel wash stuff came underfoot as we neared the nucleus of the canyon. We passed a trail junction and continued. On the right side of the trail here, we saw the cowboy petroglyph. Then up to the left, there were more petroglyphs. A little further down, we came to the area of many petroglyphs. We explored around being very careful not to disturb any of the rock art. In previous visits to the canyon, several of today's hikers had been with leaders who welcomed our curiosity among the rocks.

15 out of 20 Hikers

Las Vegas from Trail 300

 Then some kind of "ranger" arrived and began yelling at us about being up in the rocks. He wasn't very nice and it was offensive that he implied that we were not "respecting the rock art." Since the hike, the wheels are already rolling. So far, none of our resources are aware of any rules preventing us from going up into the rocks to look at the petroglyphs. After all, if you don't go up into the rocks, how will we ever appreciate the "300 panels of rock art" that Sloan Canyon touts. If, in fact, there is a rule that we cannot go up into the rocks, then WHERE ARE THE SIGNS? Being in Wilderness does not prevent hikers from looking for and finding petroglyphs. There has to be more to it.

Besides that rude interruption to our morning, this was a beautiful hike.

6.5 miles; 1200 feet elevation gain; 3.25 hours

Bottom Right = Cowboy Petroglyph


Petroglyph perhaps meaning a Calendar

Seven Magic Mountains

 There were many people at the art installation on I-15 south when around fifteen of the twenty club hikers arrived at "Seven Magic Mountains." Personally, the writer was not expecting much but, au contraire, the neon colored rocks were actually artfully evoking a few feelings in the visitors. Very interesting. Take the exit after St. Rose Parkway from Las Vegas and go under the interstate to turn right. It will be on the left side of the road about 1 or 2 miles down. Probably can't miss it!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Cactus Garden / Bird Sanctuary - 11/30/16

Twins in the Blue Diamond Cactus Garden

Five Boulder Arch

Bird House in the Bird Sanctuary

Blue Diamond, Nevada
 Blue Diamond is a small community whose boundaries are inside the Red Rock Canyon NCA. Located on Highway 159, the town is a gateway to many hiking and biking trails of the desert variety. The trailhead that is often used for these trails is found just across the small bridge crossing a large wash on the entrance road. A large dirt parking area is off to the right as you come in. Eighteen hikers arrived at the trailhead on a cold morning but there was very little breeze so the weather was ripe for a great hike.

Cold Morning starting up the Trail
 We wound our way through Blue Diamond until we were at the upper trailhead where we dipped down through the wash and headed to the right.

Climbing the Canyon to the Saddle
 We climbed the trail that takes you up the northeast side of the small canyon until it reaches the saddle or earthen bridge that spans across the two parts of the tertiary ridge.

Hiking out to the Overlook

Blue Diamond from the Overlook
 Upon reaching the bridge, we turned to the right to hike out onto a connecting ridge. This rocky extension ends in a unique overlook where we could see all of Blue Diamond, the escarpment and parks and the extension of the ridge on the other side. Most of us had not been out here so the view was enjoyed by all. We, then, returned to the main trail on the bridge and continued up until we junctioned with the trail that follows the tertiary ridge out to the Cactus Garden.

The Tertiary Ridge from the Overlook
 Our pace was a strong moderate pace. No one was in a hurry and no one was really slow. All eighteen hikers were happily plodding along.

Starting up the Ridge Trail
 The ridge trail has views on both sides. But the view that kept our attention was the one in front. This was a head on view of the middle segment of the escarpment. We were heading straight for Monument Peak.

Hike High Point

Circling around to the Garden Area
 Nearing the end of the ridge, we rose to the high point of the hike. It was simply a large flat place! Then we dropped a little as we neared a saddle below the Cactus Garden; a rocky limestone acre of outcropping that is apparently a favorite location for red barrel cactus. Its hillside is facing the south and the limestone rock provides very well drained soil. We climbed up the hill in front of us and entered the garden with a large red barrel posted in a rock on the side of a large gap as seen in the photo below.

Arriving at the Cactus Garden
 We all climbed up into the garden and explored the area then settled down to take our break on the sharp rocks.

In the Cactus Garden
 The large cairn is still standing here. And, at least two of the big old fat barrels had imploded from an over abundance of autumn rain.

In the Cactus Garden

Taking our Break in the Garden
 After a relaxing break in the garden, we returned to the entrance to make our exit. Instead of going all the way back to the trail, we turned to our right and descended a very steep slippery slope to access the arch area. This arch is made from an adhesion of five boulders. It is quite photogenic as seen in the second photo of this entry. We all took a look see then continued descending to the trail below. The trail took us along a cliffy edge then began an arduous steep and slippery descent to the valley floor.

Yuccas below the Cactus Garden
 As we dropped, the conversation was reduced to a minimum since we were all concentrating so hard to not fall.

Descending the Steep Trail
 At the bottom of the hill, we turned to the right and followed this trail around the hillside. A right fork onto a smaller trail took us up and over a hump that cut off a corner of the otherwise longer choice of trail.

South End of the Escarpment

View North along Trail
 We connected with the Landmine Loop for about a quarter mile and passed a group of 6 or 7 burros that were spread out on the hill. Next, we turned to the left to start down the trail/road/wash that followed along a fence that surrounds the old Oliver Ranch land. As we continued down, the trail/road/wash became more and more sandy underfoot. However annoying, we persevered since the options on side trails seemed to be pretty sandy, too.

Hiking Sandy Wash along Fence
 We turned a corner to the right and continued down lots of sand until, finally, the sand became less annoying. After about a mile of this, we ran into a gate.

Wilson Peak through Trees along Fence
 This gate was the access to the Bird Sanctuary. It is fenced in so that the wild burros won't come down to the wash where there are lots of trees and brush to have a feast. Be sure to close and fasten any gate you hike through.

One Long Mile

Waiting for the Last Hikers at the Gate
 We wound our way through the sanctuary; sometimes on a trail and sometimes through brush. It was a bit of an obstacle course, but very pretty and interesting. Different type of scenery than the desert terrain we had experienced all morning. Finally, we emerged through a second gate and followed the wash until we were able to climb out to the right. Then, it was straight back to the cars. Fun morning and good workout. New stuff.

7 miles; 1100 feet elevation gain; 3.75 hours

Inside the Bird Sanctuary

Very Interesting Tree in Bird Sanctuary

Leaving Bird Sanctuary