Monday, January 12, 2015

Cascata Loop - 1/12/15

Cascata Golf Course from the Railroad Pass Mountain Loop

Mother Trail Canyon

View from POW Trail

Hiking Up the Hill from the Casino
 Fifteen hikers converged deep within the fog that hung over the upper parking lot of the Railroad Pass Casino on the outer edges of Henderson, NV. It was a very unusual weather day, indeed, for the Las Vegas area. However, the fog eventually burned off leaving a gorgeous day in Boulder City. Our hike started up the hill while we enjoyed the scenery.

The Trail and the Fog
Circling around the mountainside, our pace was quick while we warmed up in the cool morning mist. Soon, we could see the Cascata Golf Course club house appear as we began climbing up above it. Next came the driving range as we hiked on the bike trail underfoot. Our pace slowed a bit and we settled into a moderately strenuous speed.

Cascata Driving Range
When the driving range came into full view, we could see a few golfers sort of practicing their swings. Why were they not swinging? They were just looking down toward the other end of the range.

Cascata Waterfall
Next, the waterfall appeared. Those hikers who had not seen the waterfall up close and personal were duly impressed. Then, ... cue the bighorns!

She was just getting ready to choose.

Hiking Above the Clouds!
The same herd of fourteen male bighorns that we saw a couple of weeks ago were down on the driving range. Probably why the golfers were gawking! There was one additional bighorn and she was a she. Hmmm. She seemed to have her choice of mates! He loves me ... he loves me not ... he loves me .... We slowly made our way into the Jug Handle Arch canyon while we got our photos. The large animals stared at us the whole way.

Herd of Bighorns on Driving Range - Fog in Boulder City
This canyon is the most interesting part of the Railroad Pass Mountain Loop section of today's hike. The trail is slightly challenging in a couple of spots.

Unusual Morning in Boulder City
The view out of the point of the canyon is seen in the photo above. This shot was taken after we temporarily got out of the view of the driving range.

The Exposed Section of Trail

View Across to the Mother Trail
We circled above the waterfall and saw the bighorns still watching us. After that, a few of the golf links came into view. A few golfers were enjoying the morning as they avoided one solitary bighorn munching grass near a bunker. Maybe he was already married! Anywho, the sun was beginning to occasionally break through the clouds and the colors were brightening.

Cascata Links
The last part of this section of the hike brought us around the group of mountains to a saddle area. Here, there is a saddle connector trail that took us to the apex of the Mother Trail.

Approaching the Saddle Connector
Before we crossed over to the Mother Trail, we noted that the Las Vegas skyline which is usually seen from this vantage point was invisible. Finally, someone found the Stratosphere sticking up through the fog.

The Las Vegas Strip in the Fog

Hiking the Saddle Connector Trail
We connected with the Mother Trail on the other side of the saddle area and turned to the right dropping down a few switchbacks. This part of the hike would take us above some more of the Cascata golf links while zigzagging in and out of canyons emanating from the colorful peaks above us. Once in a while, an obvious short cut would tempt a few of the hikers to relieve the continuous back and forth.

Cascata View from Mother Trail
The Mother Trail is also a bike trail. We commented on how difficult it must be to ride the trail. Some spots on the trail are so worn that the flat trail gives way to a steep drop when turning some of the corners.

Mother Trail Colors
We could see the small range of hills bordering the east side of the golf course. We would be dropping down on a trail just outside of these hills.

Mother Trail Fun

Trail Junction Sign
At 4 miles in, we chose a small side canyon to sit and rest for a few moments. After our break, we continued and soon found the Coyote Loop bypass. Just after the bypassing, we found the POW Trail as indicated by one of the new signs. (See photo to right.) This was our junction. We turned right and began our descent down to the River Mountains Trail.

POW Trail
The POW Trail was new for us and we didn't know what to expect. We enjoyed it very much. It was interesting and different. There were no views of the golf course from this trail since Cascata had built berm mounds to hide the links.

Golf Course beyond the Berm
Nevertheless, we saw a few of the trees and saw the determined fence that completely surrounds Cascata.

POW Trail Fun

Finishing the POW Trail
As we neared the bottom of the hill, we could see the Veterans' Home coming up on the left. We stayed on our trail as we crossed the River Mountains Trail paved path once. Finally, at the bottom, we stopped at the Veterans Home Trailhead parking where there are signs erected among a "Stone Henge" of sorts. We took a small break here, stretched a little, and prepared for the last two miles on the paved path.

Trailhead Stone Henge
Turning right, we hit the paved path on a stepped up pace. Might as well leave all our energy reserves out here on a tremendously fabulous day! We passed the front side of the Cascata Golf Course and we could see the waterfall in the distance. A bridge led us over the entrance road, then we crossed the train tracks that carry the tourist train sometimes. At last, we hiked into the upper parking lot of the Railroad Pass Casino. All participants agreed that this route was a great way to tuck 8 miles under their belt!

Happy Hikers on the River Mountains Trail
By starting at the Veterans' Home Trailhead, cutting off the first and last half mile of the route described above and using a connector trail from the River Mountains Trail to the Railroad Pass Mountain Loop Trail, the loop would be only 7 miles. Your choice!

Crossing the Bridge over the Cascata Entrance Road
8 miles; 1200 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours

Crossing the Railroad Tracks - Almost Done

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