Friday, January 14, 2011
Pinto Valley - 1/13/11
Twenty members of the Around the Bend Friends, with the capable leadership of Chuck and Joan, accomp- lished an eleven mile journey through Pinto Valley. The hike began off of Lake Mead's Northshore Drive at mile marker 18 and ended at that highway's mile marker 26. It was a five hour hike through colorful surroundings.
Pinto Valley is the location of part of the old Arrowhead Highway which was used for travelling between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City way way way back before Highway 15 was even a dream. We hiked up the familiar wash and soon the remnants of the road became apparent. When we saw this picture to the left side of the wash, we hung a right.
The wash was quite muddy until the sun was able to do its job and we slogged through the mud with much chagrin and enthusiasm; a paradox we enjoyed. Our shoes became thick with the sandy mud and some of us felt taller for a while! As we slogged, we passed the familiar three mile mark just past the switchback where the highest point of the hike resides.
About another mile down the "road," we passed a rocky mount which had the appearance of an eagle taking flight. A little further, at a place where there were a few sandstone rocks at the side of the wash that reminded us of Little Finland in Gold Butte, we headed up out of the wash in search of our first set of petroglyphs.
We hiked across the desert to the rock wall and found a very nice set of petroglyphs in the bright sun. There were many figures inscribed which were unfamiliar to us. There were also at least two snake petroglyphs. Hmmm. We didn't see any snakes around but ... we did see some petrified wood.
Back on the road, we passed a large boulder with writing on it from 1922. Presumably, it was put there before Boulder Canyon was made into Lake Mead. Other points of interest seen in the photo below include a plant, the Bear Claw Poppy, which is only found in the Lake Mead area; Ripple rocks which were made by the receding ancient seas; a bird's nest found on a sheltered rock ledge; and a lot of crytobiotic soil.
Next we visited a bouldered area that was probably used as a camp. There was shelter with 2 x 4 pieces of lumber inside and a bench made of rock outside. We inspected the shelter and found the bird's nest inside. Not far from this site, we came to the next petroglyph site. Again, the carved figures were not "run of the mill" petroglyphs. Or perhaps, just not common figures of the Red Rock NCA area. Maybe Lake Mead had different artists than Red Rock.
After a snack break at the "chair" seen at the top of this entry, we returned to the road/wash for a short while then took an abrupt right turn down a smaller wash that headed toward the right side of the valley again. At this point, the hike became a challenge to keep up with the leader and we got separated. The hikers in the front could only hope that the hikers in the back would see the arrow we placed at the wash fork.
The detour down the side wash was well worth the mileage as we ended up at Sandstone Springs. The spring here always has water and there are oodles of evidence that the big horn sheep know about it. Coyote and big cat prints were also spotted in the area. Here, we waited for the second group of hikers to catch up. As we headed back to the road once again, one hiker spotted an old mining claim and chewing tobacco can from 1955.
As one hiker put it, at 10.5 miles into what was once billed as a 9 mile hike, we ascended "heartbreak hill." Actually, the hill wasn't so bad and we were all anxious to get back to the paved highway so we readily hiked up the hill still following the old Arrowhead Highway. There was some searching for the right wash and ridge used to take us out of Pinto Valley. Finding them, we made it quickly to the highway where amazingly, we found the spotted car right where we thought it would be!
A small hike up the paved road to the parking lot was a welcome aside to our long hike. The picturesque area around the parking lot kept us entertained as the drivers were all shuttled back to mile marker 18 to retrieve their cars. We settled in for a fifteen minute wait. During this time, we stretched, talked, laughed and paced.
The length of the hike was not what affected us so much as the speed at which we hiked. Granted we got back home before dark! Thank you so much, Chuck and Joan, for enriching our hiking experience by exploring Pinto Valley and its many treasures today. May we all be able to walk tomorrow!