Thursday, January 20, 2011
Valley of Fire Scramble - 1/20/11
There were twenty- eight hikers on today's hike in the Valley of Fire State Park. We converged on the parking lot at the eastern entrance of the park which has a small trail up to a rock formation called Elephant Rock. Foregoing the side trip up to this elephant, we began by heading out another trail there called the Arrowhead Trail.
The hike was expected to be 5 miles long, 5 hours, with 5 major uphill climbs. We managed to hike the scramble in around 4 hours. The first three major climbs were completed in the first hour. Wondering what we would do for the remaining time of the hike, we faithfully followed our leader, Brian, who was about the only hiker who knew exactly where we were at all times.
The second climb gave us our high point for the day. We came off of the third climb all the way down to a major sandy wash, seen below. This is the main Valley of Fire wash. It was wide and filled with deep sand. One hiker could not resist making a sand angel while lying on his back in the wash.
Before we hiked out of the wash, we passed the place where a large arch used to be seen up on the cliff about forty feet up. It crumbled last year some time but there are many other arches to be found in Valley of Fire. This was a place where one hiker was inspired to pose for a glamour shot upside down on the red sandstone.
Beginning another major climb which would end up where we would have lunch, the scrambling continued through small washes, up and over red sandstone and up steep climbs. Many of us tried finding routes which would keep us on solid rock instead of struggling through the large scree which might cause slips and falls. For sure, there were plenty of ways to skin this cat of a hike!
For some reason ... not really sure why ... the large rock in the photo to the left reminded the writer of that movie, "2001: A Space Odyssey." All we needed were a bunch of chimpanzees! Anyway, ... we went up and down and up and down, finding that we were in condition for the rhythm of the hike.
After our break, we began another descent. In the photo to the left, one can see the narrow squeeze between two boulders. Even our smallest hiker, Carol, had a fun time trying to get through the tiny opening! The rapid descents of the hike included several instances where it was necessary to sit on the edge of a three foot cliff and reach down with your feet to the best purchase we could find. Hey! Who's going to complain about the small rest that's built into this technique? As you can see high up in the next photo, this technique is widely used and very effective!
During this part of the hike, a sweet scent filled the air at different times. We finally decided that the smell was coming from the ephedra (Mormon Tea) on the hillside where we were. These bushes were turning bright green and probably had been tricked into believing that spring is just around the corner with all of the warm weather we have been having lately.
The line of twenty- eight hikers normally spread out some distance, however, the group stayed together for the entire hike. This is something that we have struggled with in recent hikes. Perhaps today's hike was kept together because none of us knew the trail that Brian had taken the time to blaze and mentally record in recent months. As for other hikes, it is difficult to keep the cows together when they know where the barn is ... or something like that!
Saving the best point of interest for last, we approached the final major climb which was a very large sand dune filled with small scrub bushes and ephedra. On the ascending side of the dune was Dumbo's sister, the Sitting Elephant Rock seen in the photo above. We got our pictures of the rock formation then trudged up the sand, over the saddle, and down to the floor of the desert. From here, it was a straight shot to the cars that we could see about 3/4 of a mile away. Thanks Brian for a great morning of scrambling.
Brian Dodd's Valley of Fire Hikes (Nov. 2012)