Thursday, November 1, 2012

Dunes & Slots of Fun (Valley of Fire) - 11/1/12

                                               Valley of Fire Sandstone

                                              Valley of Fire Sand Dune

 It is always a special day when we get together for one of Brian's Valley of Fire hikes. Today, twelve hikers began a hike at the Valley of Fire White Domes parking lot at the end of the park's scenic road. We warmed up our legs with a very fast mile of hiking across the desert via a small wash. We would be hiking for the next 4.5 hours near the same vicinity as the The Big Wall Loop hike from last year.

                    Brian Demonstrates Negotiation of the First Slot Obstacle

                                Jerry Approaches the First Slot Obstacle

 After the first mile, we reached the first of three slot climbs. The obstacle for this slot came near the bottom of the climb and we each had our turn at removing our packs and shimmying up between a rock and a hard place. Use of a rope aided in the progress. A climb to the top of the slot's saddle came next where the sandstone opened out into a meadow (seen to the left) that was evidently frequented by bighorn sheep. Perhaps, they bedded down here at night as the long grass was flattened among the catsclaw bushes.

                               Even Tougher; The Second Slot Obstacle

                                     Climbing to the First High Point

 The second slot climb had an even tougher obstacle but with a helping hand in a couple of places (right foot and right hand), we all made it up. We climbed a little further to reach our first break area lying near the top of the area's high point. Surrounded by sandstone peaks, we ate a snack and enjoyed a nice little breeze under the overcast skies. The cool morning was warming up.

                              Interesting Descent from First High Point

                                         Completion of Steep Descent

 The descent was a route that Brian worked on over several trial runs. He assured us that the way we were going was the only way possible. After meandering a little, we found the way down which ended up being a very steep sandstone hill requiring some use of the fifth hiking limb ... the butt. From there, a short traverse through another wash brought us to a climb up a very steep rock fall; the third "slot" climb. Most of us opted for the rock fall, however, there was a second choice which was a real slot climb that had a very narrow section making it difficult to get through.

                                      Animal Tracks in Big Sand Dune

                                          Root Travels to Find Water

 At the top of this challenging climb, we took our second break. Sitting among the sandstone, we saw the advertised "big sand dune" in front of us. It was fun hiking down the hill in the sand but as the terrain flattened out the sand hiking became a real workout. We hiked the sand dune for its entire length then continued into sand filled washes until we junctioned with the Big Wall Loop at the petroglyphs.

                                Hiking the Length of the Big Sand Dune

                                         The Sand Hiking Continues

 The rest of the hike continued out another wash and up a rock hill back to the road. During this last mile, we not only saw the petroglyphs (seen to the left) but also an unusual spider that Jerry suggested might be a banded garden spider. And, last, we saw many very tiny frogs around a large puddle of water in the wash. Perhaps they were canyon tree frogs? Not sure but the little critters didn't stay still for very long! Thanks Brian for the day at Valley of Fire.

Brian would like to mention that he is available for guided hikes at the Valley of Fire. If you are interested, leave your email address with your request in the comments below.

                 Possibly a Banded Garden Spider (Total diameter around 1.5")

                     Tiny Frog (Possibly Canyon Tree Frog) Lower Left Corner





                                Brian Dodd's Valley of Fire Trails (Nov. 2012)

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