Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Africa Loop (Valley of Fire State Park) - 2/15/17

View from Black Cap

White Nipple from Black Cap

Toward White Domes

 Brian D. named this hike "Africa Loop" because the outline of the GPS track appears like the outline of either Africa or South America. I guess South America didn't have quite the same ring to it! This loop hike is located in the Valley of Fire State Park and begins at the Parking Lot #3 Trailhead. This is the Fire Wave TH, if you are familiar with it. The "Rock of Gibraltar" and the huge rock fins of White Domes are visible from here. Twenty-five hikers arrived at the trailhead and listened to the briefing of the hike by Brian.

Over Hill and Dale
 We started down the Fire Wave Trail but turned left instead of right when reaching the rock wall.

Climbing Fault Mesa
 As soon as we could, we turned to the right and began a series of short climbs to the top of Fault Mesa.

Dropping down to Drop Slot

Slot from Top
 Lengthwise down the middle of Fault Mesa, there is a ... well, ... fault. We dropped into this crease in the hill and followed the crease down to the sandstone at the bottom. The crease continues into the sandstone becoming narrower and narrower until the canyon could officially be called a slot. We followed Brian down through somewhat of a maze of slots but, in reality, it was only one main slot that presented obstacle after obstacle.

Descending into the Slot
 Hikers have to be strong and agile to lower themselves through the slot obstacles which includes very narrow footing.

A Few Warm-Up Drops
 Each obstacle was more difficult than the previous one. Things were getting very interesting very fast!

The Drop Slot

Last Minute Instructions
 Before we hit the "drop" part of the Drop Slot, Brian stopped us and gave a few last minute instructions such as, please arrange yourselves in boy, girl, boy, girl order! (Well, sort of like that!) It never hurts to have a strong hand nearby even though the women are ... of course ... extremely capable! Nevertheless, onward we went into the feature obstacle. We all had on long pants and long sleeved shirts for this part of the hike. Nicknamed "The Grinder," the Drop Slot tends to remove skin if it is not protected.

Passing by the Pinnacles Wash
 One by one, we dropped through the slot amazed that it actually worked! Then, there were a few additional obstacles, that might be considered even more awkward, to be able to exit the slot. At the end, most of us unzipped pant legs and rolled up shirt sleeves to prepare ourselves for the warm temperatures. It took some time to get everyone through the entire slot but then, we were ready to go. We continued down the wash we were in passing the turnoff for the Pinnacles.

A Tough Drop
 There were a series of three washes during the next mile. All three washes had plenty of obstacles to keep us busy.

Hiking the First Wash
 Brian pulled no punches on the pace. A workout, indeed.

Hiking the Second Wash

 The third wash was small and climbed up steeply through medium sized rocks. We passed right by the boulder seen in the photo to the left that sat on top of three small stones. (Hmmm. I wonder how that happened.) The wash petered out and we continued the climb until we hit the hill's pointy high point. The slope dropped steeply down on the other side and ... yep, down we went. We each made our own trail down the rocky slope looking for the easiest footing.

Climbing the Third Wash
 The writer was doing just this when she ran across a very nice old rock axe. One of the park rangers was on the hike and he contended that it was not an artifact so I got to keep it!

Up and Over a Pointed Top
 At the bottom of the hill, there was a land bridge that led over to the other side of a gully.

Descending the Rock Axe Hill

Approaching Black Cap
 From here, we approached and climbed an interesting rise called Black Cap. Black Cap was made of sandstone but had a cover layer made of a strong black conglomerate. We climbed up to the top and took our break. The views were breathtaking as we sat in the stadium style seating that the rock offered. The rest was well deserved but, soon, it was time to continue the hike. We climbed down off the rock and descended behind it.

View from Black Cap
 There was another small slot obstacle to go through afterwards. It required straddling the narrow slot about three feet up from the bottom.

Stadium Seating on Black Cap
 Another obstacle required a difficult climb up a steep four foot sandstone wall.

Below Black Cap

Line of Hikers enter One More Slot
 Next, we made our approach to the White Nipple rock. This rock can be seen from the White Domes Road. It is a pure white sandstone rock that rises out of the red stone and sand surroundings. We almost got twenty-five hikers on the small rise for a group photo. We were all having a lot of fun today. It is always nice when the Around the Bend Friends join forces with the Lone Mountain Hiking Club on one of Brian's Valley of Fire hikes.

Red turns to White
 After the "nipple," we marched through sand with unbelievable views to our left.

Group Embracing the White Nipple
 It was especially fun, going down the hills in the deep sand!

Rock of Gibraltar & Fire Wave Area

Valley of Fire Color from Traverse to Fire Wave
 Our last hoorah was a visit past the Fire Wave. Then we followed ... basically ... the Fire Wave Trail back to the trailhead and the cars. Mike's birthday celebration with cupcakes ended the hike in style. This is a tremendous hike that is considered strenuous by our strong club hikers. Any day at the Valley of Fire is a great day!

5 miles; 1100 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours

Passing by an Arch

Fire Wave

Starting Up the Fire Wave Trail

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