Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Cactus Garden / Bird Sanctuary - 11/30/16

Twins in the Blue Diamond Cactus Garden

Five Boulder Arch

Bird House in the Bird Sanctuary

Blue Diamond, Nevada
 Blue Diamond is a small community whose boundaries are inside the Red Rock Canyon NCA. Located on Highway 159, the town is a gateway to many hiking and biking trails of the desert variety. The trailhead that is often used for these trails is found just across the small bridge crossing a large wash on the entrance road. A large dirt parking area is off to the right as you come in. Eighteen hikers arrived at the trailhead on a cold morning but there was very little breeze so the weather was ripe for a great hike.

Cold Morning starting up the Trail
 We wound our way through Blue Diamond until we were at the upper trailhead where we dipped down through the wash and headed to the right.

Climbing the Canyon to the Saddle
 We climbed the trail that takes you up the northeast side of the small canyon until it reaches the saddle or earthen bridge that spans across the two parts of the tertiary ridge.

Hiking out to the Overlook

Blue Diamond from the Overlook
 Upon reaching the bridge, we turned to the right to hike out onto a connecting ridge. This rocky extension ends in a unique overlook where we could see all of Blue Diamond, the escarpment and parks and the extension of the ridge on the other side. Most of us had not been out here so the view was enjoyed by all. We, then, returned to the main trail on the bridge and continued up until we junctioned with the trail that follows the tertiary ridge out to the Cactus Garden.

The Tertiary Ridge from the Overlook
 Our pace was a strong moderate pace. No one was in a hurry and no one was really slow. All eighteen hikers were happily plodding along.

Starting up the Ridge Trail
 The ridge trail has views on both sides. But the view that kept our attention was the one in front. This was a head on view of the middle segment of the escarpment. We were heading straight for Monument Peak.

Hike High Point

Circling around to the Garden Area
 Nearing the end of the ridge, we rose to the high point of the hike. It was simply a large flat place! Then we dropped a little as we neared a saddle below the Cactus Garden; a rocky limestone acre of outcropping that is apparently a favorite location for red barrel cactus. Its hillside is facing the south and the limestone rock provides very well drained soil. We climbed up the hill in front of us and entered the garden with a large red barrel posted in a rock on the side of a large gap as seen in the photo below.

Arriving at the Cactus Garden
 We all climbed up into the garden and explored the area then settled down to take our break on the sharp rocks.

In the Cactus Garden
 The large cairn is still standing here. And, at least two of the big old fat barrels had imploded from an over abundance of autumn rain.

In the Cactus Garden

Taking our Break in the Garden
 After a relaxing break in the garden, we returned to the entrance to make our exit. Instead of going all the way back to the trail, we turned to our right and descended a very steep slippery slope to access the arch area. This arch is made from an adhesion of five boulders. It is quite photogenic as seen in the second photo of this entry. We all took a look see then continued descending to the trail below. The trail took us along a cliffy edge then began an arduous steep and slippery descent to the valley floor.

Yuccas below the Cactus Garden
 As we dropped, the conversation was reduced to a minimum since we were all concentrating so hard to not fall.

Descending the Steep Trail
 At the bottom of the hill, we turned to the right and followed this trail around the hillside. A right fork onto a smaller trail took us up and over a hump that cut off a corner of the otherwise longer choice of trail.

South End of the Escarpment

View North along Trail
 We connected with the Landmine Loop for about a quarter mile and passed a group of 6 or 7 burros that were spread out on the hill. Next, we turned to the left to start down the trail/road/wash that followed along a fence that surrounds the old Oliver Ranch land. As we continued down, the trail/road/wash became more and more sandy underfoot. However annoying, we persevered since the options on side trails seemed to be pretty sandy, too.

Hiking Sandy Wash along Fence
 We turned a corner to the right and continued down lots of sand until, finally, the sand became less annoying. After about a mile of this, we ran into a gate.

Wilson Peak through Trees along Fence
 This gate was the access to the Bird Sanctuary. It is fenced in so that the wild burros won't come down to the wash where there are lots of trees and brush to have a feast. Be sure to close and fasten any gate you hike through.

One Long Mile

Waiting for the Last Hikers at the Gate
 We wound our way through the sanctuary; sometimes on a trail and sometimes through brush. It was a bit of an obstacle course, but very pretty and interesting. Different type of scenery than the desert terrain we had experienced all morning. Finally, we emerged through a second gate and followed the wash until we were able to climb out to the right. Then, it was straight back to the cars. Fun morning and good workout. New stuff.

7 miles; 1100 feet elevation gain; 3.75 hours

Inside the Bird Sanctuary

Very Interesting Tree in Bird Sanctuary

Leaving Bird Sanctuary

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