Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Five Mesas Loop (Valley of Fire) - 2/24/16

Valley of Fire from Mesa #5

Climbing onto Mesa #2

Diving into Valley of Fire

Waiting for Hikers to Catch Up
 Although the geology of Valley of Fire is complicated from being formed by, likely, two different fault systems, a simplified version would be that is was formed very much like Red Rock Canyon further to the south. The Paleozoic limestone and dolomite shoved itself over the Jurassic Aztec Sandstone. This area contains a continuation of the Horse Spring Formation which is made up of tuffaceous sedimentary rocks. Included in this are: limestone, sandstone, dolomite, mudstone, siltstone, evaporite, tuff, lava flow, and other volcanic rock.

The "Easy" Way
 The Horse Spring Formation is evidenced by the mesas that spot the state park among the beautiful colored sandstone. Much of the mesas are made up of tuff or igneous rock that forms as a product of an explosive volcanic eruption.

Climbing through a Canyon
 If the rock, ash, magma and other volcanic output falls back into the area and is compacted, or cemented into rock, the result is tuff. Today, we hiked over five of these limestone / dolomite / tuff filled mesas in the Valley of Fire State Park.

Interesting Descent

Following Brian
 The Around the Bend Friends combined with the Lone Mountain Hiking Club to have twenty-eight hikers on the red sandstone. The clubs were both well represented with Valley of Fire expert Brian D. at the helm. We parked at the Mouse's Tank Trailhead parking lot and started by hiking back down the road a little way. We crossed the road and dove into one of many canyons and washes. The scrambling was hot and heavy all morning and we warmed up quickly on a beautiful day with temperatures in the sixties.

Climbing to the Next Level
 In the distance, Brian pointed out Mesa #5 and Mesa #4. Our route would start with Mesa #1 and go up from there. So, the first 2 miles were used to get to the "start of the hike!"

Starting Up the Ramp to Mesa #1
 So, to get to the "start" of the hike, we climbed a long ramp up to the top of Mesa #1. It started out narrow as seen in the photo above but then became very wide. When we surmounted the mesa, Brian declared our extended snack break! We were ready.

Mesa #1

Taking in the View from Mesa #1
 This was the first time that we were able to see the wide vistas that are offered at the park. All of the mesas are the highest points around. We could see all the way across the northern water of Lake Mead to Virgin Peak in one direction. In another direction, we could see Overton. But, the real beauty was the colorful sandstone landscape below us. We sat for our break then proceeded to hike the length of the mesa. At the end, we dropped off the sharp tuff.

The Break on Mesa #1
 Not far away, Mesa #2 rose above the red sandstone. The traverse over to the second mesa was short.

Traversing over to Mesa #2
 The long line of hikers had not finished dropping off of Mesa #1 when we were ready to descend from the smaller Mesa #2.

View Back to Mesa #1

Mesa #2
 In the near distance, we could see both Mesas #3 & #4. But, it was difficult to decipher the difference since they were both about the same height as us from this viewpoint. We had to drop quite a bit before we began climbing up to Mesa #3. This was, perhaps the longest of the distances between mesas. The scrambling was the feature throughout the hike that kept us entranced!

Drop off of Mesa #2
 The descents were usually filled with loose rock so we had to be cognizant of our footsteps.

Reaching Mesa #3
 At the same time, the ascents were relatively gentle.

Mesa #3

Descending from Mesa #3
 After, zigzagging up to Mesa #3 and crossing the small mesa, we had another drop off of the five to ten feet of limestone / dolomite / tuff then down we skated to the depths of another intermediate canyon. Mesa #4 was the largest of the five mesas. We couldn't see Mesa #5 until we were on top and crossing the large area. This mesa had a crease in one end of it through which a beautiful view could be seen.

View from Mesa #4
 One more descent off a mesa and another gentle climb up brought us to Mesa #5, the star of the loop.

The Long Line Drops from Mesa #4
 Mesa #5 is where helicopters land and where there resides a nice green picnic table. It is assumed that besides the obvious need to helicopter rescue someone once in a while, this mesa is used for the occasional wedding.

Mesa #5 (Helicopter Landing & Picnic Table)

The Top of the Big Drop
 From Mesa #5, it is all downhill ... literally! The drop is long and steep with several different sections. After leaving the mesa, the first descent section includes two choices. One, called a bum slide, is scary and several helping hands were utilized. The other choice is the rope ... probably the better choice. Anyway, we dropped and dropped until we hiked right into the trailhead parking. Fantastic scramble and views. It was also fun joining up with the Lone Mountain Hiking Club. Kudos.

5 miles; 1200 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

The Tricky Start to the Big Drop

Still Dropping

Still Dropping

No comments: