Monday, February 2, 2015

Lava Butte Gardens - 2/2/15

Lava Butte from Ridge

Lava Butte from Rainbow Gardens Canyon

Rocky Canyon

 Five adventurous club members set out to explore the ridge and foothills below Lava Butte in the Rainbow Gardens vicinity. In interest of setting this hike apart from the Rainbow Gardens hike, we named this 6 mile loop Lava Butte Gardens. It is on the strenuous side of moderate and includes a little easy scrambling on the way down. The views attained up on the ridge and down through a rocky canyon that we named Rocky Canyon are colorful and different.

Miner's Junk
 We parked at the turnout on Northshore Road nearest the mile marker number 2 and started down the wash leading toward Lava Butte on the left side. Another club hike had begun from this same trailhead this morning, but they were climbing all the way to the peak of the steep black-rocked  butte.

Rainbow Gardens Canyon

 We followed the wide gentle wash while staying to the left side as we were given choices. At 0.6 miles in, we passed the wash junction where we hoped to be on the return. When we reached the old road bed on top of a little hill, we turned to our right and followed the old road up to an intermediate ridge. The route crossed the ridge and dropped into the small canyon beyond. This is Rainbow Gardens Canyon. We followed the beautiful little canyon with its familiar colors. Lava Butte watched us from behind.

Small Dry Fall in Ascent Canyon
 Just after passing the old wooden ladder ... don't try to climb it guys ... we came to a canyon junction. The left turn takes you back to the cars. Today, we turned right and began a climb in new territory.

Ascent Canyon Colors
 This is a very colorful and interesting canyon. There were a few small dry falls that were easily climbed. We ignored the trail up to our left since the canyon was a lot more fun to use.

Pinnacle Area seen from Near Ridge

 We followed the canyon all the way up to a saddle. We had views behind us of Lake Las Vegas. Another small rocky climb up to the ridge on our left and we hit the mother lode of views! We think it's called Kodachrome Valley. The Pinnacle was to our left. Lava Butte rose to our right. And, color reigned in the valleys and canyons below our knife edged ridge. We sat for a snack break to enjoy the view and as we rested, we could see the other club group on top of Lava Butte. ... just barely ...

Canyons on Northwest Side of Lava Butte - Frenchman Mtn in Distance
 We waved but they didn't see us. Ed whistled and we learned later that they definitely heard that! As we sat, we saw that they were starting down.

View Back at our Ascent

 After our break, we continued hiking safely along the ridge as seen in the photo to the right. It was clear that we were not the first ones to be up there. There was a very very slight trail among the rocks that we were following. When we reached the foothills area, we dropped off the ridge on an easy slope ending on a saddle where we got our last view of the Kodachrome Valley. A short small trail started our traverse around the bowl of the foothill canyon before us.

View from Saddle at Lava Butte Foothills
 We had been watching the Lava Butte hikers and they were just about to intersect our route. We met them on a ridge they were descending and talked excitedly about our respective hikes. Soon, we went our separate ways.

Seven Club Members Descending Lava Butte

 Continuing over the ridge in front of us, we saw a colorful canyon inset into Lava Butte as seen to the left. We dropped into the wash in front of us and began our descent. This was a very very rocky canyon. Every step threatened a turned ankle. We were careful and got a good workout from it. The canyon offered two dry falls that were not easily negotiated for a descent. We went up and around for the first one and dropped immediately back into the canyon.

Starting Down Rocky Canyon
 The second dry fall could have been skirted to the right but we decided to go all the way up to the top of the embankment here just to see if the trail that we could see up there was a good way to go.

Lava Butte Watches over Rocky Canyon
 The trail took us along a steep part of the canyon embankment and we didn't have a way to return to the canyon right away.

Liz Happily Demonstrates a Step Down

 We passed an area covered with many small red barrel type cacti that were not your normal red barrels. Then we found another area covered with beaver tail prickly pear cacti. It was in this area that we found a very large cairn. We never figured out the significance of the cairn but we heard that another hiking group used to use this area years ago as an approach for Lava Butte.

Lower Rocky Canyon from Large Cairn Above
 After the cairn, we found a reasonable way to drop back into the canyon. But we decided that the higher excursion was worth the effort due to the views we got of the surrounding area.

Dropping Back into Rocky Canyon

 The canyon was still rocky for a little bit longer as it wiggled its way down to junction with a wider and more gentle wash. This wash soon junctioned with our original wash of the day and we turned left to return to the cars. This is a very nice hike that should be repeated. Everyone seemed to enjoy the exploration into the unknown!

6 miles; 900 feet elevation gain; 3.25 hours

Exiting from Rocky Canyon via Gentle Wash

Last View Back of Lava Butte from Rocky Canyon

Gentle Wash nearing Original Gentle Wash Junction

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