Sunday, December 11, 2016

Liberty Bell Arch - 12/11/16

Plateau Overlook above the Mighty Colorado River

Liberty Bell Arch from Trail Above

Fortification Hill from Plateau Overlook

Descending White Rock Canyon
 We were fifteen strong today on an old favorite hike in the Lake Mead NRA. Veteran club members have seen this trail morph from an old mining road that started on the old Highway 93 to an actual official trail that starts from the White Rock Trailhead, a paved parking area that turns off of the new Highway 93. This trailhead serves Arizona Hot Springs, Lots of Slots, Horse Thief Canyon and, our hike today, Liberty Bell Arch. The only thing this trailhead lacks is a restroom.

Just after Right Turn onto Liberty Bell Arch Trail
 (On your way down to the trailhead, stop in the Hoover Dam Lodge, for the restroom, and watch, for free, the video that is set up in the lobby about the building of Hoover Dam. It is different than the one you see as a tourist at the dam and has a lot of actual footage. Amazing!)

Approaching the Manganese Mine Site
 So, we hiked past the informational sign at the end of the parking lot and dropped down the hill to the right to hike under the highway bridge. Here, we were in White Rock Canyon Wash.

Manganese Mine Remnants

Leaving Mine to Hike down Wash
 To go to the river, and subsequently Arizona Hot Springs, all you have to do is follow the canyon wash all the way down. But, for today's hike to Liberty Bell Arch, we had to make a right turn out of the wash on an obvious trail about 1 mile down from the trailhead. There is a trail sign up on the embankment to reassure you of your choice. Now, follow the trail that takes you in the direction of the Colorado River. Soon, after climbing a bit, we passed an old skiff used in mining still laying on the side of the hill.

Climbing up from Wash to Arch Area
 The skiff lays above a manganese mine that is no longer in use. Hikers must use one of about three trails to get down to the wash below. The trail that is the longest distance to the bottom is the easiest.

A few Hikers Climbing up to Enter Arch
 We dropped down to the wash area and hiked up the wash just a short distance. Here, we saw more ruins and remnants from the mine. The cave/mine is still there for a visit with old buckets decorating the inside. Kudos world (!) for leaving the mine in the same condition for at least the last ten years.

Five Hikers in Arch

Mt. Wilson and Wilson Range from near Base of Arch
 After everyone had had a look see, we started hiking down the wash past where we had entered it from above. A nice trail runs alongside the wash now, whereas ten years ago, we hiked down the wash itself. At the "bottom" of the wash, the trail turns up to the right and climbs gently to the arch area. This year, we did not see any of the bighorn sheep that we usually see here. The surrounding landscape is a beautiful moonish looking desert. And, the rock offers several different shades of color.

Lettie approaching Plateau
 At the arch, a few of the hikers decided to climb up to the arch and stand in the center. This is no easy feat! First, they had to climb a steep slippery slope. Then, they had to climb another steep slippery hill. ... Well, you get the idea.

We Three Barrels
 Regardless of the challenge, five hikers made it inside the arch and a photo was taken from two thirds of the way up the first steep slope. Then everyone who had waited below started up the trail to the overlook. The arch climbers still had a little work to do to get down from there.

Moonscape Canyon changing Colors Below

Ed looks for Bighorns
 We climbed further up the trail looking back at the view occasionally. We could see the new Hoover Dam bridge, eventually. Soon, we were cresting onto the plateau that rises about 700 feet above the Colorado River. The photos show the amount of haze hanging in the sky but the views were amazing anyway. Besides the river, we could see Fortification Hill, the new bridge, the cliffs above Lone Palm Canyon, White Rock Canyon and Moonscape Canyon below and kayaks in the river.

The Break on the Overlook
 We took our break on the overlook while we waited for the remaining hikers to arrive.

Down River View
 John had some time to compose the panoramic photo at the top of the entry.

Leaving the Plateau

Returning to Arch
 After the conversation wound down a bit, we started down off of the plateau. Our hike back would be almost non-stop. We passed the arch area and dropped into the wash. Next, we climbed the trail next to the wash. Too soon, we were climbing the steep hill up to the area above the mine. Here, we took our first breather! Then, we started dropping back into White Rock Canyon. Along the way, we noticed the old trail heading up toward the road rather over to the canyon.

Passing Arch Area
 The old trail can still be taken but eventually crosses back over to White Rock Canyon further up. The old trailhead for this part of the old trail can no longer be used and may not even exist.

Descending to Wash
 Having not done this optional route, the writer can only say that it may be the better way to go since it would avoid much of the slogging up through the loose gravel of the canyon.

Climbing next to Wash

Steep Climb to Top of Mine Area
 At any rate, we dropped back into White Rock Canyon at the same place we left it and began a long one mile climb up through that gravel. Even though we had stayed together for most of the hike back, our group got very separated on this final mile. The writer heard a rumor that there was even some running involved in the lead hikers! Where do they find the energy?? Lovely and fun day at the river!

6 miles; 1200 feet elevation gain; 3.25 hours

Interesting Colors

Dropping back into White Rock Canyon

The Trudge up White Rock Canyon

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