Thursday, December 17, 2015

North Bowl of Fire - 12/17/15

Raven's Balcony Crack View

North Bowl of Fire

North Bowl of Fire with Muddy Peak Beyond

Climbing Northshore Summit
The morning started out cold; unusual for the Lake Mead NRA. However, along with the cold temperatures, there was virtually no wind. So, nine hikers set up a shuttle car at mile marker 18 of Northshore Road, north of the lake, and everyone drove to the mile marker 20.5 parking area ... the one with the restroom. Here, we found the trailhead next to the restroom and started up the Northshore Summit Trail. The views from this trail are amazingly colorful and vast. At the top of the hill, we could see today's target, the red sandstone of the North Bowl of Fire.

View near Northshore Summit
 We chose the upper trail that led along the top of the ridge. To our left, we saw the Northshore Wave Rock.

Northshore Wave Rock
 Staying on the ridge, the trail drops down then turns to the left. The continuation of the trail took us down a very slippery slope that ended by dropping down into a shallow wash where we turned to the right.

Hiking Summit Ridge

Junctioning with Callville Road
 We zigzagged through the wash, connected with a large wash in which we turned to the left, and, finally, junctioned with Callville Road. This is an old dirt road that requires high clearance vehicles with 4WD. This part of the old road connects the camelops tracks on one end with the Anniversary Mine Road on the other end. We turned left on the road and followed it for only a short distance. We turned right into a wash that is marked with a very small cairn in the grass. This wash is small and leads up in another winding route. Soon, we turned to the left to follow yet another wash for a short way.

Following Washes
 Another left turn took us to a red saddle with black rocks strewn around the hills to the left and right.

Red Saddle
 From the top of the saddle, we followed a sort of game trail through the sharp boulders along the contour of a hillside. This brought us to another saddle and into red sandstone.

Game Trail?

Over the Next Saddle
 A small scramble down led us to a large rock outcropping where we often take a decent water break before heading across the desert. A few of the hikers climbed up to the top of the rock and took in the "Grand View" of the area. Set to go again, we found a trail leading across the desert toward the North Bowl of Fire. The walls of red were growing ever nearer. Finally, the trail led us directly into a funnel. This funnel allowed us to easily drop into another wash. This wash leads to the entrance of the North Bowl and we hiked it among yellow flowers all the way to the mouth of the entrance canyon.

Approaching North Bowl
 This particular section of the hike provides many interesting photo opportunities. This is the desert at its most colorful.

Dropping into Entrance Wash

Following Entrance Wash
A few random scenery photos can be found below. It should also be noted that, as we hiked, we were careful to not trample the cryptobiotic soil. This black crusted soil is very important to prevent erosion in the desert. Be sure the stick to the trails. When we arrived at the entrance to the canyon, we stopped for a moment. There is a rabbit hole that some hikers enjoy using to start up the canyon. At this time, it is in disarray. So, the nine of us took the up and around scramble to the right.

Desert Scenery
 We could see the canyon walls closing in as our eyes traveled up the rocky wash.

Entrance Canyon

Climbing Canyon
  At this point, two of the hikers in the group took the lead hoping to learn a little more about the hike without the benefit of our knowledgeable leaders. This is the best way, sometimes, to learn a hike. So, we picked our way slowly up the canyon checking ourselves on which was the best ways to go. We were careful not to go past the rabbit hole escape route and were first to make our way up through the tight scramble. One by one, each hiker made their way up through the hole. Some needed help and some didn't.

If it looks like something, give it a name!

Passing King Kong and Square Pinnacle
 The unusual shapes in the red sandstone of the North Bowl nudge hikers into giving them names. So, the tour of the North Bowl of Fire includes passing by a museum of odd random rocks that look like something. The first of these is the Kissing Aliens. Then comes the Skeleton Fingers. Up a hill and over a difficult scramble that could be circumvented, a 4 inch Snow White reigns inside a wall hole. She has been there for as long as the writer remembers. Good for her. From here, we turn right and climb the hill. A trail takes you over a dicey rock and turns left up a wide area.

Climbing the Slabs
 Next comes, the Square Pinnacle and King Kong. A climb up a steep set of broken slabs takes you into a large basin area.

Cresting the Slabs

Through the Slot
 Straight in front is the magic area. Look for the cairn that is usually there up on the wall. Climb the wall and turn to your right entering the slot canyon. Upon exiting the slot, you have arrived on Raven's Balcony! This is a "balcony" high above the desert with large distant views in a 180 degree direction. If it is a windy day, head for the piano bar in a protected area in the wall. Otherwise, enjoy your lunch break on the rocky overlook. Don't be crazy here! One false step and it's lights out!

Raven's Balcony East View
 We took our break in the warm sunshine then headed back down the slot canyon and wall beyond. The temperatures had heated up into the high 40's and we were very comfortable in our fleece.

Taking our Break on Raven's Balcony

Raven's Balcony West View
 Instead of descending the slabs, we went straight through the moonscape area, a field of sandstone slab with scattered rock covering it. (See photo below.) At the end of the field, the trail dropped down a hill into a large wash bordered by a wall covered in holes ... a virtual bird condominium. The winter sun was getting low on the horizon and it lit up the red sandstone to a bright red/orange. The large wash ended in a twenty foot dry fall. As is necessary, we climbed up to the left and dropped down an easier scramble to circumvent the drop.

Moonscape Route to Large Descent Wash
 On the other side, we dropped into a smaller wash and continued our descent.

Large Descent Wash
 On each side of this smaller wash, the named rocks kept coming. Elephant Rock, Skull Rock, Alien Fingerprints, Goblins, etc.

Cat Prints in Small Exit Wash

Starting the Overland Trail
 Yet, the best surprise of the day was finding perfectly molded cat prints in a dry mud puddle of the wash as seen above. When we poured out into the larger wash that flows away from the west end of the North Bowl, we climbed the hill and took a straight path to the same wash beyond. This wash took us to Callville Road again then a beeline was made to our car that we left at mile marker 18. Six of us waited for the return of the cars from the trailhead. This is a great hike that will remain one of the more popular routes in the Lake Mead NRA.

8.5 miles; 1200 feet elevation gain; 5.5 hours

Back in the Wash

Junctioning with Callville Road Further Down

Waiting for Our Rides

1 comment:

Las Vegas Cockapoo said...

Kay--We've enjoyed your photos and narratives on the recent North Bowl and Pinto Valley hikes. Glad you captured those cat tracks! While the tracks are probably from a bobcat, maybe they are from a small cougar. Chuck & Joan