Sunday, December 28, 2014

Railroad Pass Mountain Loop (with lots of bighorns!) - 12/28/14

"Hey, Joe! We're being followed!"

Cascata Waterfall

 Nine hikers arrived from various points around town at the Railroad Pass Casino upper parking lot for a moderate hike on a trail around the mountains located directly behind. Most of the hikers had not hiked this loop and we were all in for an exciting morning. We began by crossing the paved River Mountains Trail and the train tracks above. From there, the trail took us on a climb up to the circling route. This was probably the hardest climb of the morning!

Three Females Overlooking from the Ridge
 Once we were on the main trail, we turned to the right and began circling counterclockwise. It wasn't long before a hiker shouted, "They're up there!" We had all been sneaking glances up to the mountain ridge to our left looking for bighorns. And, yep, there they were! Three females.

Friends Hiking Around the Bend

 We got our fill of bighorn photos and felt quite lucky to have seen them. Then we moved on to where we could see the Cascata Golf Course clubhouse and driving range. The chilly day offered clouds and little sun so the very green grass on the golf course really brightened things up. At the next corner that the trail turned, we could see the large waterfall at the end of the driving range. Oohs and ahhs, all about!

We finished with our waterfall photos and moved down the trail around twenty feet. We looked down and saw a herd of male bighorns staring up at us from the grassy driving range. Fourteen in all.

Bighorns at Base of Waterfall
As soon as the leader saw that we saw him, he led the herd on a run across the grass to gather at the waterfall's drainage where they were camouflaged by the desert terrain. They stood there and watched us hike into the jug handle arch canyon and back out and on around out of sight.

Enjoying the Crisp Air

This canyon is the most interesting part of the trail itself. There is semi-exposure since the mountain side gets very steep as the trail cuts laterally through it. (See the photo to the left.) And, the trail leads through a rock slide so footing is very uneven here. Even though the trail goes right above the Cascata Waterfall, hikers cannot see nor hear it as they go by. (The bikers have a very colorful name for this section of trail. Nuf said.)

The Most "Exposed" Section of Trail
The wash at the middle of this canyon leads directly up to the Jug Handle Arch on the ridge above. It would be a difficult but not impossible climb to reach it.

The Mother Trail Comes into View
After saying goodbye to the herd of bighorns, we rounded another side of the small mountain range and most of the golf course links came into view. There were very few V.I.P. golfers out on this cold morning.

Cascata Links Below

The Mother Trail could be seen across the way and today's break spot could be seen up ahead. When we stopped to point out the upcoming resting place, we were surprised to see our third bighorn sighting of the day. There were two males standing on the trail ahead of us staring across the canyon on our right. (See the photo to the right.) We got as close as we could before one of them turned his head and saw us coming. So, off they went. But, not before we got a pretty good photo!

"Now, who's sneaking up on who?"
By the time we reached the bighorns' original location, they were nowhere to be seen. They travel fast!

Just Below the High Point
The section of trail just prior to the snack spot saddle is the high point. Then, we reached the saddle and sat for a break behind the rocks to get out of the wind. Our view was of the golf course below and Boulder City, NV beyond.

Color at Break Area - Red Rock Canyon NCA in Distance

After the break, we dropped down behind the saddle on a few small switchbacks as we preferred the "moderate" type of descent. Trail signs have been erected on these bike trails in Bootleg Canyon. They are very helpful and ... interesting. They advise which trails are moderate and which are more difficult. Soon, we began dropping into a small colorful canyon that offered distant views of the Las Vegas Strip and the Spring Mountains beyond.

The Strip from the Descent Side of the Loop
This area is used for illegal camping and a few homeless people can be found as well. But, we have never had any trouble, nor have we ever met anyone back here that was of questionable character.

The Moderate Canyon Descent

As we neared the completion of the loop, there is one more fork in the road. The left fork takes hikers up and across to the initial climb up junction. The right fork takes you on a more gentle descent back to the casino. We chose the right fork. Soon, we saw the casino and dropped down to cross the train tracks. The River Mountains Trail took us the rest of the way back to the cars. Fantastic hike for wildlife viewing today!

5 miles; 900 feet elevation gain; 2.5 hours

Almost Back to the Casino

Crossing the Tracks on the River Mountains Trail

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