Saturday, January 20, 2018

Rubber Ducky Yucca - 1/20/18

Rubber Ducky Yucca in its Natural Environment

View from Switchy Hill

Brrrr on Mustang Trail
 A common name for yucca brevifolia is Joshua Tree, named by the Mormon settlers for the way the branches reach up to the sun as if in prayer. This tree can have roots up to 36 feet long, can survive hundreds of years and can grow a rapid 3 inches per year when it is young. Years ago, someone decided to single out a particular Joshua Tree in a protective small wash of Cottonwood Valley of the Red Rock Canyon NCA by hanging toy rubber ducks among its branches. Although the BLM frowns on this practice and periodically removes the toys, hikers and bikers enjoy the spectacle and continue the decoration. On a very desertly cold morning, eight hikers went out to check on the tree.

Clouds flow off of Escarpment
 The wind was blowing in very cold air. The clouds had dusted the Keystone Thrust with snow last night. And, the now, low clouds shrouded the peaks threatening us with some kind of precipitation. Rain? Sleet? Snow?

Brrrr ... Again ... on Inner Loop
 We bundled up, jumped around, and started out the Mustang Trail from Late Night Trailhead. There was some blue sky overhead and we took a positive outlook on that.

Wash Crossing

A Little Sun coming Through
 From the Mustang, we connected with the Inner Loop and headed toward Black Velvet Canyon. The clouds had begun to cover our heads but the sky was beautiful with the morning sun and varied cloud cover reaching across north Cottonwood Valley. Before the Inner Loop began its curvy section, we found our trail junction to the right. This was called Lil' Daytona Trail. It was a very nice trail that ran along the side of a small curvy wash between two small red hills. We crossed Black Velvet dirt Road and continued until we came to another wider wash. Here, there were a few sitting rocks and we were sheltered from some of the wind. So, we stopped for our snack break.

Sign Repair
 Having had a snack and a few good laughs, we continued on Lil' Daytona until we came to another junction. Straight and left put hikers and bikers on the Landmine Loop. Our turn to the right put us on the Switchy Hill Trail!

Watching Sign Repair
 This is a nice little trail that leads out to an overlook, then takes a dive downward by way of a few switchbacks. The view from the overlook was very nice as seen in the third photo.

Side Wash

Snack Spot Wash
 We saw a few bikes today but, just a few. The government shutdown did not affect the Scenic Loop nor the many trailheads around Red Rock Canyon NCA for today, Saturday.

At the bottom of the Switchy Hill, we turned right on the Cactus Slalom Trail then soon veered left onto the Rubber Ducky Trail. (Sometimes, it is simply referred to as the Ducky Trail on those little low-to-the-ground signs.)

Lil' Daytona Trail
 This section of trail climbs up and over the end of a trailing ridge and passes the junction for the Wounded Knee Trail. (Don't you love the bikers' creativity in naming trails?!)

Junction to Switchy Hill Trail
 Eventually, we veered into a small wash where the trail runs alongside. We were, again, out of the wind.

Another Colorful Wash Crossing

Hiking the Rubber Ducky Trail
 Soon, we came around a corner and saw the Rubber Ducky Yucca tree filled ... and we mean "filled" ... with ducks! They were so colorful against the threatening sky and the morning sunlight. Seeing the tree was like spotting elusive large wildlife! ... well ... not really, but. There were a few ducks that had been blown off by the wind so we replaced them and took our photos. Next, we climbed out of the wash and headed back to the cars. The wind was at its worst on the way back presumably because the shelter effect was gone. As we started back home, we saw that the Red Rock Scenic Loop was getting pounded by rain. We were very happy to have had a great morning for hiking in the desert.

5.5 miles; 500 feet elevation gain; 2.75 hours

Rubber Ducky Yucca

Cottonwood Valley

Happy Ending

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Cholla Forest - 1/18/18

Cholla Forest to Wilson Peak in Arizona

"Bacon" Rock Vein in 7 Falls Canyon

Lake Mead & Fortification Hill from Return Trail

Entering the Canyons
 One of Las Vegas' favorite Lake Mead NRA hikes is a figure 8 loop that visits Cholla Forest, a large grouping of Teddy Bear Chollas. The hike is popular because of the fun dry falls that have to be climbed to get there when ascending through 7 Falls Canyon. Then, the fun doesn't end! After the cholla visit, the descent includes many fun dry falls as well. The hike can be considered a scrambling hike since there are so many challenging obstacles. Nineteen hikers showed up today! We started from the Water Tower Trailhead, located at the end of a road that leaves Lakeshore Road one mile from the Boulder City Lake Mead NRA fee booth station. The dirt road turns to the left away from the lake. We were about to enter the River Mountains; a chain of residual eroded peaks from an ancient volcano.

First & Second Dry Falls
 We parked in the large lot at the water tank then dropped down into the wash to hike up the canyon that flows out past the construction area. (Don't bother the equipment there!)

7 Falls Canyon
 After entering the narrow canyon, we took the first turn to the right. The first dry fall climb is almost immediate. Following this, the second dry fall is very soon. The second one offers a rabbit hole.

Climbing the Difficult Third Dry Fall

Scrambling up Wash
 These first two dry falls travel through a very large vein of rock that is so colorful that it appears like uncooked bacon! Upward, as the scrambling ensued! There are several small step-ups like seen in the photo to the right, then the third major dry fall stared us in the face. This climb is definitely third class since you have to use both hands and feet to gain the top. Many of us climbed the wall on the right side and cliff-walked our way to the left and over the hump. Two of our rock climbers made it straight up the wall on the left side. (See the photos above.) Then there were about 6 or 7 hikers that took an extended up and around on the right side of the canyon. The larger group of hikers met them not too far up the wash.

A Go Around
 The next three dry falls came in quick succession. The first one was pretty easy but the other two made many of us go up and around to the right.

Dry Fall after Junction
 After turning left at a 4-way junction, there was one more fairly major dry fall and then we were "out of the woods" so to speak, ... for the time being.

Tame Terrain after Junction Right Turn

Reaching the Saddle
We followed a trail in this wash that took us all the way up to a saddle. When we turned around, we had a distant view of a small part of Lake Mead. (See photo to the left.) Next, we followed a trail down the other side that led us into a very wide wash with powerline poles strung through the middle of it. Our route crossed the wide wash and veered to the right then took a sharp turn left into a canyon. Not too far up this canyon is the forest of teddy bear chollas. We took our break taking in the view of those prickly opuntias. Make no mistake! They will grab onto you if you brush past them with your skin or any part of your clothing that might be warm. They have their waze of surviving and proliferating!

Crossing Powerline Wash
 After a decent break, we had just a little more climbing to do. Ugh! Up the little canyon to a saddle, we went. (We passed by another canyon to the left that also has a smaller cholla forest within.)

Arriving at Cholla Forest
 Up and over the saddle, we turned to the right to begin our descent. This canyon wiggled a little then required a large precarious scramble down. Fun, fun, fun!

Cholla Forest

Snack Break at Cholla Forest
 This canyon widened into a large wash that joined the Powerline Wash. We passed the place where we had originally entered the wide wash and continued down another quarter of a mile. Rounding a sloping ridge, we turned up to our left at a large red rock outcrop. Two climbs from here, we turned to the right and connected with a trail. This trail rounded a couple more corners then we found ourselves above the unassuming upper portions of Bacon Canyon. A gentle drop down a descending ridge put us in the wash below and we began our final long descent.

Big Dry Fall at Beginning of Descent
 As we dealt with the dry falls and scrambles down, we were constantly deciding which way to tackle the rocks. Some dry falls required particular routes and others provided a couple of choices.

Red Rock Outcrop marking the Left Turn on Descent out of Powerline Wash
 The group had stayed together for the ascent and most of the descent but now, the straight shot to the cars was difficult for a few hikers to resist! Regardless, everyone got their safe workout!

A Break with a View

Following the Game/Hiker Trail
 Nearing the bottom of Bacon Canyon, we entered the "Bacon" vein of colorful rock. There are several step downs in this part of the canyon. Almost every step down here, can be more easily accomplished by dropping on the left side. At the bottom of the step downs, the 7 Falls Canyon turned off to the left. This is where we began our scrambling. So, from here, we hiked back down the approach wash and returned to the cars. Cholla Forest is a hike that never disappoints! Great fun and great hikers!

6.5 miles; 1300 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

Scrambling in Bacon Canyon

Tricky Dry Fall - Sit and Scoot to Right

Dropping through "Bacon" Vein