Friday, November 28, 2014

White Owl Canyon (long version) - 11/28/14

Terrain on Backside of Hike

Water Rushes Through the Narrows Below

Coyote at Lower Right

Hiking the Shoreline Trail
 Eleven hikers drove out East Lake Mead Parkway and passed through the Lake Mead NRA fee booth. Bearing around to the right, we drove about two miles then turned left onto the old marina road. Again staying to the right, we followed the road all the way down to where there used to be a bustling boat landing. Now, there is no water to launch any water craft at all. Only a small river way passes by a couple of hundred feet below where we parked on the old ramp.

Long Lost Anchor
 We walked down past the concrete barriers and turned right onto the Shoreline Trail which is marked by rocks lining the path. The trail is well-maintained and easy to follow as it leads along what used to be the shoreline only a couple of years ago.

Hiking the Shoreline Trail

Circling the Upper Plateau
 This area is good for fishing and we always see fishing boats out in the water. We also see water fowl such as white egrets and blue herons as we did today. On previous hikes, we even saw an osprey and several turkey vultures! Today, as we gazed out over the mud flats, we spied a coyote as it stared back at us. We are not sure if it was the same coyote but, later, we saw another coyote below the plateau at the "corner" of the route below the Hole 33 Picnic Area parking lot.

Coyote at Lower Right
 When we reached the plateau, we decided to explore the trail that circled around the higher plateau to the right. We very carefully balanced above the steep bank that dropped down to the mud flats. Fun!

Blue Heron in Lake Mead Backwaters

Circling the Upper Plateau
When we got back around to the beginning of the circle, no dirt had caved in underfoot. We learned that the trail completes the circle with a small scramble at the end. An option was provided to hike down below (in a dry Turtle Cove) toward the point at which we had climbed up to the first plateau area. Together again, we hiked around via trail to White Owl Canyon that could be seen in the distance away from the lake.

Finishing the Circle Around the Higher Plateau
 As we neared the canyon, the word was spread to be as quiet as possible so as not to scare the resident white owl away ... if he is roosting nearby.

Entering White Owl Canyon

White Owl Nest
 No such luck! The white owl was nowhere to be seen. But, the nest clearly sat in the same place as always up on the cliff to the right side of the canyon. This is a beautiful canyon and we hiked through silently. At the end of the canyon, we hiked through the first culvert. This single culvert runs underneath Lake Shore Road. The rounded corners of the canyon continued until we passed through the second culvert, a double culvert that runs underneath the River Mountains Trail.

Canyon Between Culverts One and Two
To the right after exiting the second culvert, there is a cubby in the wall that hides an old bighorn skeleton. About all that remains is the backbone vertebrae.

Old Bighorn Backbone near the Second Culvert Exit

Rita Scrambles Up
 The next section of the hike leads up the wash for 1.7 miles. There are a couple of easy scrambles to start then the wash widens and turns to heavy gravel. It is (and always will be) a long slog up the shallow slope. We had been seeing a lot of bighorn scat through the narrow portions of the canyon and it seemed quite fresh. Sure enough, one hiker finally spied the majestic creatures up on the hill to our left. There were four that we could see. The big one on the bottom left seemed to be the boss.

Finally Found the Bighorns!
 We reached the top of the wash, finally, where there is a huge wash junction of sorts. The wash we had been following continues up to the left. There is a small hill with rock seating up on the right and we stopped there for our break.

Gravel Wash Ascent

Approaching Break Area
 Below the rocks we sat upon, another wash flowed past. This would begin our final leg of the route. So, we dropped down by way of the "cement" drainage between our previous wash and the new wash. This wash was much more interesting than the first. As we hiked, the drainage narrowed and the walls became more colorful. Our direction headed straight toward Lake Mead but, at our low level, we could not see it.

Descending into Wash after Break
 About half way down to the lake, we came to Corkscrew Canyon. After today's revelation, we suggest that everyone take the treacherous up and around to the left side of the slot. In years past, the slot was navigable without ropes. Now, there is a large boulder blocking the final slide.

Wash Narrows above Corkscrew Canyon

Colorful Section
 Once you make the first formidable drop, there is no going back. So, what are you going to do when you get to the boulder as seen in a photo below? (Is there is a way up and around for this?)

Anyways. We all did the treacherous up and around for the whole slot. At the top, some of us sat and slid on the fine gravel slope but most of us descended next to the wall on the left. Either way, we were all safe at the bottom eventually.

Several Ways to Descend the Up and Around at Corkscrew Canyon
 As we continued down the narrowing canyon, we ran across a recently deceased bighorn. Hard to say what happened but it was likely either a mountain lion or he fell onto his back from the top of the wall.

Bottom of Corkscrew Canyon (BEWARE) - 10' total

Hiking Through the Wash Narrows
 At the bottom of this canyon wash, we met our final point of interest, Hippie Canyon. We ducked through the third and final culvert then proceeded to find our way through the slot maze below. We had so much fun even though, alas, the resident great-horned owls were not at home. After contorting ourselves through the obstacles, we hiked out of the canyon and connected with the Shoreline Trail near where we began earlier in the morning. This is a fun hike with a lot of variety!

7.6 miles; 1000 feet elevation gain; 4.25 hours

Large Bighorn R.I.P.

View from Third Culvert

Scrambling Through Hippie Canyon

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