Saturday, February 12, 2011

Liberty Bell Arch - 2/12/11

Fun! Fun! Fun! Fifty- five hikers showed up for an unusual trip to Liberty Bell Arch on a Saturday. At the trailhead, we divided into three groups. Don led the fast hikers. Chris led the medium hikers. And, Jane and Ann led the hikers who must have found some roses to stop and smell! Just kidding. The writer participated in the fast group, therefore, this entry will report on that portion of this morning's event. We parked at the "spanking new" paved White Rock Canyon parking lot, dropped down to cross under the Highway 93 bridge in Arizona, and hiked down the wash which is the beginning of the Arizona Hot Springs Trail.

Nine-tenths of a mile from the parking lot, we took the turn-off to the right which is marked by cairns. This is a small wash which leads over to the Liberty Bell Trail which can no longer be accessed from the highway as it used to be unless you do some scrambling to get over to it. Upon meeting the old trail and climbing the first hill, we saw our first big horn sheep. She was standing alone. She looked at us warily and cautiously walked away. At the second siting, she had joined her friend and they both disappeared over the edge of a steep hill.

We visited the old World War II era mining operation site where all the old relics still reside. In the photos above, you can see the skiff used to transport the mined ore; the buckets hanging outside the mine; and, a blurry photo of buckets still inside the mine where a small bit of light filters through from openings above. From the mine, we continued down another small wash. At the end of this wash, we spotted the big horns for a fourth time. It was now a herd of around eight females and they were headed in the same direction that we were going.

We began the upward portion of the trail from this wash. We could see the rock outcropping that contained the arch, however, the view was of the side of the outcropping. We would not be able to see the arch until we hiked up past this outcropping. Once we got past the arch and looked back, we could see the view in the first photo. Part of the new Hoover Dam bridge was also in view.

A shout from a few feet away alerted all of us of the fifth and final siting of the big horns. They were coming up over a nearby hill and we watched in awe as they skimmed the hillside like they were dancing on feathers. We stood there until they were out of sight then continued up the hill beyond the arch.

This hill had around four sections of climb. By the time we got to the top, we had climbed around 400 feet of elevation from the wash below. Add this gain to three other climbs throughout the 5.5 mile hike and there was a total of around 1000 feet in elevation gain. From the high point of the hill, this view of the bridge could be seen with the Colorado River flowing around 700 feet below us.

We took our break on this magnificent perch. Many photographs were taken of the river where kayaks and a motor boat could be seen. Twenty minutes later, the second group arrived from below. We stayed another five minutes then took our leave passing the third group on the way down to the arch area.

Reaching the arch area again, several hikers decided they wanted to stand inside of the arch which sits on a very high steep and slippery hill. Don led the small group up to the saddle then showed them how to access the arch from the other side. We watched from below where we were rewarded with a few photos of their accomplishment. Retracing our steps, with the exception of the visit to the mine, we returned to the cars the same way as we had come.

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