Thursday, December 15, 2016

Yellow Spire (Valley of Fire) - Sensitive Area - 12/14/16 - Photo Essay

Yellow Spire

Abundant Color

Purples and Grays

Good Morning, Silica Dome!
 Yellow Spire is a tall, yellow hoodoo located in a very sensitive area of Valley of Fire State Park. This hike is best done with the guidance of someone who knows the area well and can inform hikers of ways that the area can be preserved. Therefore, this hike was created by utilizing washes and an old washed out road previously used for mining claims in the area. Today, there were a few puddles of water within the washes which we could easily go around with the exception of one.

What comes down through sand, must go up later through sand!

Sandstone Guard

Landmark Dome with Virgin Range in Distance

Dropping down to Sandstone Wash
 With thirty-one hikers in tow, Brian led us down the road from the Silica Dome parking lot then dropped to the small wash on the left side. As we followed an old trail between the cryptobiotic soil, we found ourselves among many many tortoise burrows, a new housing development! Perhaps, hikers should avoid this in the future. Those tortoises are officially protected. Soon, we were doing an easy scramble down a beautiful small wash. The long line of hikers scrambled in lock step.

Tame and Beautiful

Fun Scrambling

Good Shoe Soles

Helping Others around Water Hole
 After a particular drop seen in the photo to the left, we climbed up the embankment to join the old road that we started on in the beginning. Every time we hiked in the soil, we followed each others' footsteps carefully. Otherwise, we were either in a wash or on sandstone. The writer did this hike previously (2 yrs ago) and she was very pleased that the terrain and all the sensitive accoutrements seem untouched. Just as they should be.

Following each others' Footsteps through the Sensitive Area

End of Old Road

Hiking into the Yellow Spire Vicinity

Pow Wow about Respecting the Area's Sensitivity
 The old road has long been washed out just before we entered the Yellow Spire vicinity. We crossed the big wash here and joined a small feeder wash to hike through the area. Brian gave another warning about respecting the terrain and the photographers were "let loose!" A particularly interesting anomaly in the terrain was multiple tiny hoodoos made by pebbles perched on small columns of sand. Later, we also saw larger rocks on columns of sand. There were also many regular sized hoodoos within sight. These geological formations are the result of erosion.

Hiking past the Yellow Spire

Tiny Hoodoos ... Everywhere!

Skinny Hoodoo and Brian

Following the Wash Again
 After our first photo op, the photos never stopped! Just for the blog purposes, 150 photos were taken! (I tried to whittle it down!) Anyway, we continued out the wash to another fun drop seen below. Then proceeded to a bit of scrambling through an especially colorful area of red sandstone. Finding a perch with an unbelievable view, we stopped for the first of two snack breaks. While we were there, we saw a tarantula walking down the side of a rock.

Fun Spot

Color and Hoodoos Everywhere!

Fun Scramble up and Over

First Snack Spot View
 The first obstacle after the break was "The Squeeze." Although many of the less patient hikers found easier ways around the slot, most hikers sucked in their gut and maybe removed their packs to squeeze through the tiny space. In at least one instance, a hiker's pack was pushed from behind. Fun! Fun! Fun! It took a few minutes for everyone to get through. Then, we continued down ... yep, another wash. The colors were starting to change from the flaming reds, yellows and oranges to purples, pinks and grays. Still absolutely gorgeous!

Looking for Love in the Valley of Fire - oooh!

The Squeeze

Diving Board Hoodoo

Entering the Purples, Pinks and Grays
 We followed the wash until it narrowed down quite a bit, then we scrambled over another rock saddle. A little bit of zigzagging left the back of the line wondering where the front of the line was waiting but it was all in fun. (... just follow the wash ...) In this area, there was a lot of cryptobiotic soil on the embankments and it was obvious that we had to stay in the wash no matter how winding it became. The wash also became more and more precipitous.

Still Following Washes

Sometimes the washes are Narrow.

Note Cryptobiotic Soil on Left - STAY OFF!

Yellow Finger?
 The fine sand, or silica, found in and near Valley of Fire State Park was and is mined to make glass. The nearby community of Overton, Nevada grew up around these mines. From certain points in the park, the major mine resevoirs can be seen. Further in the distance, Lake Mead can also be seen even though it is receding from this area. The park is also home to several forms of wildlife. We followed several different tracks in the sand throughout the hike.

Bush in Yellow Rock

All Colors

Rock Hoodoos

Following another Narrow Wash
 There were a couple of very large drops in the wash at the apex of the hike. We were working our way down to the rabbithole slot. As we weaved our way down and turned the corner, we faced a very large water hole at the bottom of the rabbithole slot. Unless we wanted to slither through the water before slithering through the rabbithole, we had to find an up and around on the tall walls on either side. Up, up, up, we went. We found ourselves on a plateau covered largely with ... you guessed it, cryptobiotic soil.

Scrambling up and Over ... again

Back group wonders where the front group is!

Simply Art

Another great Wash
 Single file again through the soil looking for some way to return down to the wash far below. It wasn't long before we found a great safe scramble down. At the bottom, we took our second snack break. Now, basically, we had one more mile in this wash then another mile climbing back to the trailhead. But, not far after the break, we had one more great scramble that required a blind choice of direction. 1) Do you continue up the wash to face a difficult scramble that possibly has another water hole at the bottom? Or, 2) Do you go ahead and take the exit from the wash on the right side long before the scramble and make your way around the very interesting crack?

Another Hoodoo

Down a More "Interesting" Wash

The Big Dip to the Low Point of the Hike

Up and Around the Large Puddled Rabbithole
 A handful of hikers decided to take their chances and continue up the main wash. The rest of the hikers followed Brian up and around. The report was that there was no water and sand has built up to make the scramble easier. From here, the day had gotten a little slow and long. Up the sandy wash, we went using the flat sandstone sides when we could. It is difficult to manage thirty-one hikers but help was always available as we conquered each obstacle.

Back in the Wash for the Second Snack Break

Watching a few Hikers go for the Scramble from the Up and Around

No Water Reported at the Big Scramble Below

Nearing the Old Road Terminus
 Finally, we finished the loop and returned to the washed out old road. Brian bade adieu and said he would see us at the cars! Yep, the group spread out as the sandy ascent was dealt with on an individual basis. It wasn't difficult to follow the footprints in the sand and the trailhead restroom building raised obviously above the horizon. One by one, we crossed the finish line! This hike is one of the most beautiful hikes ever! It deserves respect and time to appreciate it!

6 miles; 900 feet elevation gain; 4.25 hours

Cleopatra Formed Rock, Perhaps?

The rest of the hikers reach the old road.

Hiking (er, trudging) up to the Cars ... Worth the Trudge

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