Saturday, April 9, 2011

Fern Canyon - 4/9/11

Sometimes a hike ... even when you've done it before ... will just blow you away. Today, Fern Canyon did just that to the thirteen hikers who were there to see it be all it could be. We started out from the Pine Creek parking area off of the scenic loop in Red Rock Canyon NCA on a cold morning. The sky was partially clear, however, some clouds hung low over the escarpment and there were snow flurries in the forecast. As it turned out, that was the last time we thought about the impending bad weather until we emerged from our trip through the beautiful canyon.

Water was flowing heavily through the narrow canyon and there were waterfalls and pools galore. Every thirty feet or so there was a photographic moment. The word "gawking" was thrown around as we slowly scrambled up the boulders, over the water, through the brush and, yes, sometimes in the water! Our coordinator of the morning, Jane, patiently waited for us to take our pictures or just simply stand and stare as we took it all in.

The scrambling was intense at times as we had to jump here and there to avoid the water which was around four feet deep in some pools. There were at least a couple of places that were made even more difficult with the surrounding wet stuff threatening a splash. We counted at least five different hikers that slipped into the cold water to different degrees. One hiker got wet up to her knees but enjoyed the hike just the same.

If you are familiar with this hike, then you probably remember the huge boulder that presents a "ladder" up to the top of it. It's quite fun! And, when you get to the top of the ladder, you get out of the brush for a minute and can see down the canyon to the Blue Diamond Hills. Up canyon, the fun continues.

Up until this point, we were hugging the left wall. Now, we crossed over to the right wall where there is a slanted sandstone slab offering a trail past the water and brush. In the photo to the left, Jane turned around right as the shutter clicked but the sandstone slab with the line of hikers gives you a good idea of this part of the "trail."

About seventy- five feet further and the hikers came to the base of a thirty- foot waterfall coming from the left fork of where the canyon splits at this point. We tip- toed over the rocks placed strategically in the water next to the right wall and climbed steeply up to the top of the falls. Circling a rock outcropping, we arrived at a wide sandstone approach to the precipice. This was, indeed, an outstanding theatre for resting and taking our morning snack break as seen below.

The photo to the left shows one hiker as she made her way back from the top and the photo below shows three hikers returning around the rock outcropping above the waterfall. It was time to retrace our steps. Fortunately, the challenges were not over. The return trip presented all new predicaments as we attempted to jump from rock to rock as we had on the trip up.

Jane led us back almost exactly as we had come and when we reached the mouth of Fern Canyon on the floor of Pine Creek Canyon, we didn't get the expected shot of warm sunny air. No, instead, the air was cooler with a stiff wind whipping up. We even saw a few snow flurries as we passed the old Wilson homestead.

Looking out past the Blue Diamond Hills, the clouds appeared as if it was raining across the Las Vegas valley. On the way home, we saw light snow falling at parts of the escarpment. Getting closer to home, we saw that the rain was falling east and south of Las Vegas. Personally, this blogger just wanted to go back to Fern Canyon!

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