Saturday, January 14, 2017

BC Arch & Overlook Loop - 1/14/17

Lake Mead from Black Mountain Overlook

The Big Cairn

Red & Black

Culvert Shortcut
 Sometimes what you plan is not what you get. Sometimes what you expect is not what you get. Sometimes what you get is even better that what you thought would happen. The plan, today, was to do River Mountain via the Inner Caldera Trail. When we arrived at the base of the zip line area of Bootleg Canyon, there was a large bike competition event going on and we couldn't even get to our planned trailhead. Wanting to escape the crowd, we headed on over to the River Mountain Trailhead pondering a longer hike to the peak. (BTW, Canyon must be taken to get to the zip line base now. Yucca no longer goes through. However, a beautiful trailhead has been designed at the end of Yucca. Go and see the rabbit!)

On the River Mountain Trail
 The weather forecast for today listed a 20% chance of rain (check - we got that on the way over) and a lot of wind with partly cloudy skies.

Trail up to the Red & Black Saddle
 Yes. The wind was blowing and it was chilly. The skies were partly cloudy ... during the first hour of our hike.

Climbing the Switchbacks

View over the Saddle
 So, eleven hikers who were out for a decent hike started up the River Mountain Trail by taking the shortcut through the cement culvert. We still didn't know what route we would weave! Just hike! We warmed up with a quick pace and at the bottom of the switchbacks, we split into a faster pace and a moderate pace. When we arrived at the Red & Black Saddle, bikers came swooshing by. Pedal to the medal ... ahem ... boot. Whoa Sally! It seems that Snakeback wasn't the only trail being used for the race as we were told. They were doing some practice runs down the trail from Red Mountain.

Down the Wash Waterfalls
 We couldn't go left and right was too short of a hike, so we dropped down the trail on the other side when we saw an opening in the bikers. One biker stopped to tell us we were on the race route.

Outer Caldera Bike Trail
 No worries. A planned drop down to the wash on the right side of the trail fixed that. A moderate scramble down the wash ensued and we eventually crossed paths with the Outer Caldera Loop. No bikers. Perfect!

Arriving at the Arch

Snack Break
 We turned to our right on the trail and followed it until we reached a familiar wash gaping out from the hills. We turned right into the wash and did some more moderate scrambling up until we saw the large arch on our left. Here, we stopped for our break. We tucked ourselves into the base of the arch to escape the wind. There was a great view of Las Vegas from just above the arch. Even though the skies were mostly cloudy now, they were beautiful and added to our photos. The colors were striking.

Las Vegas from Arch Area
 Just up the wash from our position rose the Big Cairn. Not sure of its history but it is surely impressive. We hiked past the cairn and continued up the wash until we had made a couple of turns.

Passing the Big Cairn
 Next, we turned to the right and began a climb up to a saddle on the ridge above. Here, we turned to the left and started a traverse on the steep hillside.

Continuing up the Wash

River Mountain from the Traverse
 There are faint sheep trails in this area and we found a couple to help in the hike from here over and up to the Black Mountain Overlook Trail. We had considered doing the longer version of the River Mountain Peak hike but opted out of the long day with three steep climbs. Besides, the coordinator was leading the way. So, when we reached the trail above, we turned to the left and climbed on up to the overlook where the views promised to be spectacular on this cloudy windy day.

Climbing to the Overlook
 The first photo of this entry was taken at the overlook. Indeed, it appeared that Lake Mead was slightly fuller than a month ago. Lots of rain lately.

Wide View from Overlook Trail
 After a few photos, we turned to go back down to the Red & Black Saddle. We noticed that the practice bike runs were over and the actual timed raced had begun.

Taking in the View

Bike Competitor
 We were careful to not get in the way of the racers as we made our way through the saddle area. They were really going fast!! As we hiked down the switchbacks, we heard as one biker wiped out right on the saddle. He yelled but I think he was okay since he finally got up and went to get his bike. Then, on the way back, we took the signed trail back to the cars. It was a great morning even though none of our initial plans panned out!

6.3 miles; 1500 feet elevation gain; 3.25 hours

From Saddle to Trailhead


River Mountain Trail (Wilson Peak in Background)

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