Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Beyond Mouse's Tank - 1/29/14

Valley of Fire Wash

High Window

Pinnacle Marking a Dry Fall

 The hike today took us up to Valley of Fire State Park for a 5 mile loop hike full of scrambling and "kung fu hiking." The Around the Bend Friends joined forces with the Lone Mountain Hiking Club and Brian found himself in charge of thirty-two enthusiastic hikers. We began at the Mouse's Tank turnout off of Valley of Fire's Mouse's Tank Road, the scenic road that cuts through the park from south to north.

First Descent
 We headed off into the red rock to the north (left) of the regular trail to the tank area.

Tricky Scramble
 We immediately enjoyed a scramble drop down the red rock ending in a tight brushy wash.

Valley of Fire Wash

 The tight wash opened out into a large sandy wash and we learned about a great technique for hiking in deep sand, "kung fu hiking." We aren't really sure why it is given this name but the technique is described as walking flat footed on the sand, thereby not digging into the sand with your heels and pushing off with your toes. By walking flat footed on the surface of the sand, less sand is kicked up and less resistance is produced. (It feels a little like marching.)

Silica Dome Rises Behind Red Rock
 The kung fu hiking technique served us for almost half the hike as we walked through the wide Valley of Fire sandy washes.


 There were many footprints in the sand and not all of them were made by humans. Bighorns, coyotes, kangaroo rats and even a mountain lion had crossed the wash in recent days. At one point, we had to do an "up and around" to bypass a particularly tough dry fall in the wash. Finally reaching the escape junction, we turned right out of the sand and began a climbing scramble up a gentle slope.

Unusual Arch with Rock Hill in Distance
 As we hiked, it was difficult to keep our attention on the trail. There were so many interesting rock formations everywhere we looked.

Another Climb
 At the end of a steep climb, we stopped for our snack break. We had a partial view of the Painted Pinnacles in the distance.

The Snack Spot

 After our break, we proceeded across a large relatively flat area then dropped down a little only to begin another climb. The hike continued like this, up, down, up, down for another mile or two. Every time we got to the top of a climb or rounded a non-obvious corner, we would stop and wait for the tail end of the line of thirty-two to come into sight. While waiting, we would enjoy the view, do a short exploration or simply sit and drink water. There was a lot to be said for just enjoying being out in the fresh air.

By now, we were well on our way back toward Mouse's Tank and the cars. In this section, there were many interesting arches and windows in the red rock.

Checking Out the View
 We would grab our photos quickly when we were on the go!

Scrambling Down

 Although we looked all morning, we never saw any of the wildlife that were evident by the sand tracks. The green brush was accented by the red rock and the smell of mormon tea (ephedra) permeated the air as we walked by the plants. Everyone was doing a great job of handling the challenges and the route was finally leading us down into the wash below the Mouse's Tank area.

Paul Conquers the Rock
 Paul scrambled up a rock while waiting for the back of the pack.

A Window to Hiking
 Hikers could be seen through a rock window at the side of the trail.

Interesting Stuff

 We made our way through the wash to the bottom of Mouse's Tank's overflow. There was a steep but short up and around then we inspected Mouse's Tank from above as seen to the left. Several panels of petroglyphs lined the walls of the sandy wash on the way out to the parking lot. We passed several tourists who wondered where in the world we had come from.

5.2 miles; 1000 feet elevation gain; 5 hours

A Few Petroglyphs at Mouse's Tank

A Few Petroglyphs at Mouse's Tank

Finishing at the Mouse's Tank Wash

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