Saturday, December 28, 2013

Liberty Bell Arch - 12/28/13

Liberty Bell Arch

Three Red Barrels and the Mighty Colorado River

Wash and Trail

Hiking Down the White Rock Canyon Trail
Sixteen hikers came out for a predicted warm day's hike to Liberty Bell Arch in the Lake Mead NRA. They got a cool overcast morning! Although most of us were a little under-dressed for the occasion, we did eventually warm up with the exercise. We drove out to the White Rock Canyon Trailhead parking lot found near mile marker 4 on Highway 93 in Arizona just over the Hoover Dam bridge. We all made sure that we had no valuables left in our cars due to occasional window breakage at this location.

Then we started out down the wide wash under the highway bridge. This is also the beginning of the Arizona Hot Springs Trail. We followed the official hot springs wash trail for approximately 0.9 miles. At the Liberty Bell Arch Trail junction, there is often an arrow in the gravel pointing to the right turn. If there isn't, look for a trail leading gently up through a wash just past a sandstone wall to the right.

Liberty Bell Arch Trail Junction

Old Mine Sled
 This trail takes the hiker up through a wash with a layer of yellow and then a layer of white rock. Eric, a geologist in our group, suggested that this area may have once been a hot springs area due to the rock colors. Interesting. He also noted that there are many granite boulders in the White Rock Canyon. These boulders, being largely out of place, probably made their way down to the canyon from mountains in the distance. Still, the abundance of volcanic rock in the area makes him wonder where exactly did the granite come from? Interesting, again.

We passed the old mine sled and dropped down to the ruins of the old manganese mine below. Checking out the inside of the mine, we found old rusted buckets, wood and train rails.

Scott Explores the Old Manganese Mine

Hiking to the Arch (Vertical Rock on Right is Side of Arch)
 After leaving the mine, we followed the wash down to a junction where the trail led up to the right. We could already see the side of the Liberty Bell Arch above. The trail would lead us up to an area just below the arch. The best place to view the arch is on up the trail past the arch. It is here that you can clearly see the "Liberty Bell" shape. You can also see part of the Hoover Dam bridge in the distance to the right of the arch.

Today's cloudy skies gave the desert a different appearance. Not necessarily bad. Just different. Colorful in a monochrome sort of way! However, the red barrel cacti were spots of bright red. Usually, these cacti are redder after a rain. Another sign of recent rain was the plumpness of the beaver tail cacti. Many of these opuntias had bites taken out of their leaves. Tortoises enjoy this delicacy!

Climbing Past Arch to River Overlook

Climbing Up to the Plateau
 After passing the arch, we continued up to the plateau above where we could overlook the Colorado River and Black Rock Canyon while we took our break. Below us, we saw kayakers cruising the river and campers enjoying a nice little river beach cove. Not a single bighorn sheep around - a little unusual for this area. Bald eagles also live here but we didn't see any of those either. At the end of the trail, there is a larger view of the bridge up river. Most of us chose to stay on the down river end of the plateau.

Break Time at the River Overlook

Camping, Boating & Kayaking on the Colorado River
After enjoying a few minutes at the overlook, around half of the hikers decided to return to the arch for a side trip. The hike up to the inside of the arch isn't for just anyone! There is a steep slippery hill under the arch, a rocky slippery climb next to the arch and a balancing act on a four inch ledge with exposure involved in reaching the inside of the bell. Six hikers made it! (Side note: Hikers used to go to the top of the arch. It is now considered unsafe. Crumbly, in fact.) Photos were taken from below then the group started the arduous down climb over the steep terrain. During this time, the remaining hikers left the overlook and a few hikers began the return to the cars.

Six Hikers in the Arch

Possibly a Defunct Hot Spring Area
 Five hikers were ahead of the crowd. Then the last group of hikers arrived at the arch as the first group of hikers made it back down to the trail. Being in the lead group, the writer took the photo of the eleven hikers coming down off of the arch hill below. Since we had plenty of time to go slow and enjoy the hike, Eric took us to school on a little geology.

Statistics: 5.25 miles; 1400 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours
Eleven Hikers Leaving the Arch Area

Tortoise Food

Two Red Barrel Cacti

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