Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Rufus Cove - 2/11/14

Rufus Cove from Shoreline

Rufus Cove from Above

Morning View Behind of Wide Wash Around Mt. Hope

Chuck Points Out Flat Butte During a Wardrobe Adjustment
Whew! This was a challenging hike fit for the Super Tuesday hikers. Decidedly very strenuous, the Rufus Cove hike began at mile marker 16.5 on Northshore Road in Lake Mead NRA. There were only seven hikers today, possibly due to awful morning commuter traffic through town. We noted a mountain off to our southwest that we later dubbed Mt. Hope, explanation to come. Our route would take us around the base of that mountain to its backside. On the way, we had to first cross over a ridge before diving into the washes and ridges on the other side. We could already see the lake from the ridge saddle.

Taking a Break near the Corner End of Wide Wash

Starting Up Wash Beneath Flat Butte
We made our way down the ridge, through a wash, up on a ridge then down to a very wide wash. There was not a trail, however, there were two very large cairns sitting on the left side of the wide wash as you rounded the base of Mt. Hope. At around 1.3 miles into the hike, the wide wash brought us to a corner where we took a right turn into another wash that would take us up past the base of a flat butte rising up on the right side of the wash. This wash was a good climb on our fresh legs up to a saddle that we called the crest.

Nearing Crest with Mt. Hope in Background

Starting Down Rufus Cove Wash from Crest
We were ready for the prime time show. Before us, lay the wash that would lead us to Rufus Cove. Down we went into a wash that began very wide but soon narrowed into a colorful gravelly descent. The small scrambles came intermittently. The morning light came shining in directly in front of us so when we turned around for a view, the sun brightened the colors that we had passed through. There were reds, oranges and yellows. Then we began passing through a section of rising towers of sandstone tinted green.

First View of Lake Mead

Many Small Scrambles
This area is also part of the remnants of the ancient Cleopatra - Hamblin Volcano. The sides of the canyon not only offered rock towers and spires but there were also at least a couple of huge rounded amphitheatre type areas. We didn't see any large wildlife but there was plenty of evidence from the top of the wash to the bottom. About half way down, Lake Mead came into view. It appeared that we were almost there but Chuck assured us that we still had a ways to go.

Hiking Through a Colorful Area

Diving Into the Rock
The nature of most of the scrambles down were small. Two hands on the rocks on either side and down you go. But there were three or four higher dry falls that you had to find a way around ... or not! The last dry fall was, indeed, the most difficult. We all opted to climb up the left side of the wash and travel over a sheep trail high above the canyon below. It was scary slippery and exposed for the writer but nothing that scooting on your butt won't cure. In the end, we lowered ourselves back into the canyon now beneath the high water line of Lake Mead.

"Piece of Cake"

Below High Water Line After Big Wash Up and Around
Whichever way you decided to get down, all the dry falls were behind us by the time we reached the shoreline. Rufus Cove is a quiet little cove decorated with a large submerged boulder and a few reeds growing about. The present water line was too high to simply cross over to the opposite side of the cove to reach the peninsula. So, leaving three hikers at the shoreline, the remaining four hikers decided to try to find a way up and around to hike toward the long peninsula to the right.

Reaching Rufus Cove Shoreline

Climbing Up Out of Wash
The hike down the gravel wash literally flew by so the formidable up and around route that we faced seemed doable and we tackled it like scrappy hikers. The route we chose was filled with very loose stuff but we made it to the top where we connected with sheep trails. The sheep trails led us over to the sandy area to the left of us. Here, we could see the three hikers at the cove and had an impressive view of the wash we had just descended.

Following Sheep Trails Out to Peninsula

Rufus Cove Wash and Waiting Hikers
We crossed the sandy beach hill and more of our energy reserves were depleted. We headed in the direction that we thought was the main peninsula but came to a place where we had to climb up and over yet another difficult hill. (Seeing the route on Google Earth after returning home, it seems that we were headed in a slightly wrong direction.) Cutting our losses, we decided this looked like a beautiful place for lunch!

A Sandy Walk in Wrong Direction

Snacking at a Spot of Beauty
As we sat for our break, we noted that Rotary Cove was just beyond our sight across the water and the open water of Lake Mead was to our right. There were jagged rock outcroppings appearing from the deep water of the cove. And, we assumed that the water nearest the shoreline got deep very quickly. Lake Mead was formed in an area where there are deep canyons everywhere. What used to be Boulder Canyon is the area we were sitting above.

Our Snack View Toward Open Water

Climbing Back Down the Treacherous Up and Around
We finished our break then began finding our way back to the main wash. Hoping to find an easier way to return, we did a small amount of exploring. There was one way that we could have used that looked easier but, from the top, we didn't want to chance it. In the end, we came back down the very loose crack that we had come up. Of course, down was a bit easier ... just dangerous. Again, sitting and scooting worked for the writer! Back down in the main wash, we saw that the other hikers had started their trek back and we began ours.

Coming Back Over the Big Wash Up and Around

Wash in Afternoon Sun
The first order of business was to get up and around that huge dry fall. We later heard that two of the hikers that stayed behind actually got up the thing. Our route on the return took us further up canyon and gently dropped us back to the wash. The trudge of 2.5 miles up the gravel wash in the unusual February heat of 65 degrees was tiring, to say the least. We had to stop in the shade 4 to 5 times to rest our legs and drink up our water reserves. Our hike up the wash lasted almost two hours. We were very thankful when we reached the crest and Mt. Hope came into view. (Ah, you get the name now, huh?)

Taking One of Several Much Needed Breaks in the Shade

Trudging Up Through the Colorful Area
We put our legs on autopilot and started down the rocky wash below Flat Butte, rounded the corner into the wide wash, and then climbed up on the ridge to the right. Working in the general direction of the cars, we didn't know how correct we were until we got to the top of that initial ridge and saw the cars with the three hikers standing beside them. Yep. We bad!

11 miles; 2600 feet elevation gain; 6.5 hours

Finally on the Downhill Leg

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