Saturday, December 16, 2017

River Mountain via Inner Caldera - 12/16/17

Highest Peak in River Mountains

Caldera Trail Approach to River Mountain

Inner Caldera Trail at Sunrise
Stratovolcano & Caldera of River Mountains (Eroded)

Most Difficult Bike Hill
 The River Mountain Range is an island of peaks located to the west of Lake Mead and the northwest of Boulder City, Nevada. This group of mountains moved away from the Wilson Range to the east. The River Mountains contain several small volcanic domes. The area in which we hiked today was part of an eroded central crater of the River Mountains stratovolcano. Therefore, it is safe to say that the Caldera Loop and the Inner Caldera Loop (bike trails located in the Bootleg Canyon Bike Park of Boulder City) are named for an actual volcano caldera. Eroded as it is, the caldera appears as a widespread sloping desert area with low surrounding mountains.

Low Point area of Hike - Inner Caldera Trail
 The trailhead for today's hike is located on the dirt portion of Canyon Road in Boulder City, Nevada. Approximately, 1.3 miles after you leave the zip line base and start driving on the dirt road, there is a parking area that you cannot see from your drivers' seat! Bear carefully to the left here and a road will lead you down to a large dirt area to park.

Another Bike Hill
 Eleven hikers exited four cars here. The Inner Caldera Trail can be accessed by hiking over to the left from the road.

Holey Rocks on Inner Caldera Trail

Hiking the Dirt Road to River Mountain across the Caldera
 Be careful to choose the correct trail. If you go too far from the parking area, you will connect with the Caldera Loop or the West Leg. Once hiking on the Inner Caldera, the most difficult of the bike hills is reached very soon. Negotiate this hill with care and begin a beautiful undulating hike toward the city view of Las Vegas. We came to the "bottom" of our hike where the terrain opened out. This is the "caldera" area. We followed a sign that indicated the Inner Caldera and passed a lot of holey rocky hillsides. Not much further and we came to a low wash crossing. This was our turn toward River Mountain.

Starting Up Power Pole Canyon
 We saw River Mountain rising up high and steep in the distance to the east. The wash changed into a couple of dirt roads and we took the road that curved slightly to the right heading straight for the highest mountain around.

Power Pole Saddle to Lake Mead
 About half a mile up the road, the Caldera Loop crosses. Here, we turned right and followed the trail until it junctioned with another dirt road.

View to North Side of Lake Mead from Peak Climb

Traverse on Peak Climb
 A left turn on this road, then join the first dirt road that is coming in from the left and we were beginning our climb up to the Power Pole Saddle. This road is maintained so that service workers can have access to the huge power poles in this canyon. It is a difficult climb up through the canyon but only a warm up! The group stayed together strongly and arrived at the saddle with a lake view ready for a break. ... Hmmm. Nope. The break is up the "hill" to the left! So, after a few sips of water, all but two hikers started the final ascent ... a steep buggar. The trail has gotten much more clear and we climbed up without unintentional mishaps. We climbed, traversed, and scrambled to the peak.

View Back to Ascent Ridge
 It was a chilly day. Temps in the 40's. But very little wind. So the stay on the peak didn't last much longer than it took us to eat a little and write in the log book. The sky was overcast so the views were obscured. It was still awesome!

Happy Chilly Campers
 As we got up to start our descent, lo and behold (good words for this time of year), there was a lime green Subaru Crosstrec climbing the service road up to the Power Pole Saddle!

A Subaru Crosstrec Arrives at Power Pole Saddle!

Peak Survey Marker
 We slowly made our descent and upon passing the driver of the car, we learned that he had had a long drive from "over there somewhere." Anyway, brave soul! We gathered at the saddle for one more group photo and returned to the Inner Caldera Trail the same way we had come from it earlier. The sky was slowly turning blue and we could see Las Vegas in the far distance. At the Inner Caldera Trail junction, we turned to the left so that the remainder of our hike would complete its loop.

Lava Butte from Peak
 The bike park was beginning to wake up and we started seeing bikers on the trail.

Starting the Steep Descent
 There were three times that we met up with one or more bikers and they were surprised to see us. Yep, it's winter and the hikers are invading Bootleg Canyon!

Eleven Hikers at Power Pole Saddle

Passing Bikers back on the Inner Caldera Trail
 The other half of the Inner Caldera Loop is more windy and twisty with a lot of small bike hills. During all this hiking, the views of the beautiful desert caldera kept us going. (Well, that and the fact that it was still 46 degrees!) The trail eventually brought us all the way back around to the parking area. This hike is challenging with a moderately strenuous to strenuous rating considering the peak ascent, gravel footing on the dirt roads and the many bike hills along the way. Nevertheless, it was a great morning ... as usual.

6 miles; 1250 feet elevation gain; 3.25 hours

Inner Caldera Trail

City View from Trail

Up and Over as we neared the Cars

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