Thursday, May 3, 2012

Black Velvet Canyon - 5/3/12

                                       Entrance to Black Velvet Canyon

                      Cottonwood Valley trail leading to Black Velvet Canyon

Fourteen hikers set off from the Late Night Trailhead paved parking lot in the Cottonwood Valley area of Red Rock Canyon NCA this morning for a cross-desert hike to Black Velvet Canyon. This canyon is located in the Red Rock Canyon escarpment between Black Velvet Peak and Monument Peak. It is very popular with rock climbers who aspire to climb the vertical wall to the south of the canyon. The wall was very busy today as you will see in a photo below.

 Black Velvet Canyon is hiked by our club only once a year due to the long arduous desert traverse going to and coming from the canyon. The canyon can be reached by car on a dirt road but it would shorten the hike to a mere three miles or so. When we reached the parking lot for the canyon, there were five out-of-state cars there. We completed the approach on a very rocky trail and dropped down to the canyon mouth. At this point, two hikers decided to stay back.

                      The familiar high point of the Black Velvet Canyon hike.

 Black Velvet Canyon offers great scrambling over huge sandstone boulders for around 1/3 of a mile before the trail dead ends at a lodged boulder. There used to be a rope to aid the hiker in climbing further up but today the rope was gone. Hikers and rock climbers usually use a route to the left anyway. Nevertheless, we stopped here as we were then four miles from the cars.

 We sat for our break on comfortable sandstone and watched some of the rock climbers on the wall above us. If you look closely, you can see four climbers in the photo to the right above. Eventually, we started back down the canyon while giving our scrambling muscles a workout.
                                          Black Girdled Lizard

Along the way, we spotted a black lizard which was new to us. Internet research provides, "Black Girdled Lizards are diurnal. They are a solitary species which takes shelter in small cracks. Its black color enables it to absorb heat on misty days (in the desert?). They defend themselves by quickly retreating into rock crevices or burrows." 

Brian used a large sloping rock as a sliding board which looked like great fun then we gathered the remaining two hikers and began our return to the cars on the Black Velvet Bike Trail.

 The Great Pyramid rock always attracts a couple of hiker/climbers so Mike and Steve did the honors. Coming out of the cholla-filled landscape, we joined the Late Night Bike Trail again and finished the loop to the parking lot. The hike was 8.5 miles long but had only a small amount of elevation gain here and there.

                           Crossing the desert on the Black Velvet Bike Trail

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