Monday, January 29, 2018

Three Slots (Valley of Fire) - 1/28/18

Fins in Sandstone, Valley of Fire

Climbing the Wave Wall

Slot down to Rock Bottom

Chandelier Rock Formation
 As you enter the Valley of Fire State Park from the west, tall and craggy Cambrian limestone and dolomite peaks rise on either side of the highway. You notice driving down a long hill then, suddenly, red sandstone abounds! An ancient sea thrived and dried here at one time. The sand of the sea laid silent while the limestone and dolomite was formed on top by decay of sea creatures and the desert environment. Over the eons, some of the limestone eroded and left beautiful rock formations of Aztec Sandstone. Within the layout of sandstone rise mesas and buttes of the limestone / dolomite top layer. But, within the colorful sandstone below lies formations of slots, crags, tafoni, bedding planes, arches, domes, beehives, crossbeds, and desert varnish with petroglyphs inscribed by Anasazi and Paiute tribes that inhabited this area several hundred years ago.

Sandstone Path
Named by a traveler, the Valley of Fire resembles a humongous camp fire lying within a ring of limestone on three sides. The fourth irregular side is represented by the northern portion of Lake Mead, Overton (Nevada), and two mining facilities.

Group following Sandstone Path
* Sand is mined from the Cretaceous Baseline Sandstone about 4 miles southwest of Overton. The sandstone contains nearly 97% silica. ... making it highly desirable for use in production of glass and in the chemical industry.

Avoiding Fins

Sandstone Colors
*The magnesite (magnesium carbonate) mine nearby is now idle since it lies in fairly thin beds layered with dolomite. Magnesite is expensive to process yet has many uses.

*Geologic Tours in the Las Vegas Area (Expanded Edition with GPS Coordinates), Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Special Publication 16, University of Nevada, Reno, Mackay School of Earth Sciences, 2008, Bear Printing, Sparks, NV; pages 81 - 82.

The mining industries and native american art are not the only historical credits of the park. Within the park lies several historical structure ruins from CCC camps to old visitor centers (Buena Vista). Also, every year, an Atlatl competition is held to celebrate the atlatl, a weapon once used to hunt large prey.

Dropping down into Kaolin Wash
So, today, the first of two moderate 3-4 mile hikes was attended by seventeen club members. We would hike through some of the most colorful scenery of the park including slot canyons of the Kaolin Wash.

Climbing around on the Fire Wave
Our trailhead was Parking #2, the second dirt pullout on the left after passing Rainbow Vista and Fire Canyon Road on the Scenic Drive.

Hiking up the Fire Wave Trail

Crossing over to the Wave Wall
We crossed the Scenic Drive and started out a trail that is blocked by rocks at this time. While hiking off official trails in the park, please remember to stay off of the cryptobiotic soil. Use either trails that others have taken, small washes or sandstone to make your route. Also in this area, there are many fins; very thin rock that stick up from between layers of sandstone. Please avoid breaking these by stepping on them. Once they are broken, they are gone. Take pictures but don't destroy. We made our way across the desert terrain to a pathway of red and white striped sandstone. Once on the sandstone, we followed it to the leftward (north) direction with the Rock of Gibraltar landmark in our sights.

Climbing the Wave Wall
The next half mile has some of the most colorful scenery in the park as we traveled over the sandstone toward the Kaolin Wash. After multiple photos, we dropped down into the wash and turned to the right.

Wave Wall Wash
A little further down, we turned left to go up to the Fire Wave formation. Although we've seen this many times before, it was especially beautiful today since there were no other hikers here yet and the morning light was the best.

Awkward hike through Narrow Slot

Approaching the Road at Wash #5
After more photos, we hiked up the Fire Wave trail a little then dropped back toward the Wave Wall. Here, some of our more adventurous hikers took the time to climb the dome. Bunches of fun! Back down in the Wave Wall wash, we climbed up and over the rock to our left and dropped down, again, into the Kaolin Wash. Three weeks ago the slots in this wash were flooded and impassable. Now, they are dry and the sand on the bottom is changed around. In the first slot, there is very little sand as seen in the third photo. We awkwardly sidled through! Next, we crossed the Scenic Drive at Wash #5.

Kaolin Wash
Continuing up through the wash, we passed through a couple more slots. These seemed to have a lot more sand in them making us bend down to get under some overhead rocks.

Movie Set at White Domes
We reached the movie set where we junctioned with the White Domes Trail. Other hikers and sight-seers were moving about. The White Domes rise very high and narrow here.

Passing through the Tall Slot

Starting up Prospect Trail
After a visit to the movie set, we continued in the same direction in the Kaolin Wash to find the tall slot dry as well. We passed the second junction of the White Domes Trail then found the Prospect Trail (marked by a sign) turn to the left. This canyon trail took us up and through to junction with the Main Alley at the Chocolate Wall. A left turn in the Main Alley took us shortly to the Eye of the Iguana (look up on the right side of the Main Alley) junction where we turned left down the most beautiful wash in the park! We immersed ourselves in the colors of the familiar wash and hiked down to where the wash curves around to the right. We had a choice of either turning to the right here or a little further on.

White Domes through a Side Canyon
For variety this time, we turned here at the curve and followed the orange sandstone out this wide canyon.

Dropping down into Chocolate Wall Wash
Staying on the sandstone as far as we could, we then veered to the left and followed a use trail through the small wash and sand dunes.

Dropping down into Eye of the Iguana Wash

Eye of the Iguana Wash
When the sandstone on the left side of us dropped to our level of hiking, we started a wide curve to the left. We found another use trail in the sand when we saw our cars at the trailhead. This was one of the best Three Slots hikes ever! All enjoyed the warm day. The second hike would be a short 3 miles out and back hike to the Painted Pinnacles so we piled into our cars and traveled to the Silica Dome Trailhead at the end of Fire Canyon Road. We took a nice break here with a tailgate lunch.

4 miles; 500 feet elevation gain; 2 hours

Hiking down Wash

Stripes after a Right Turn

Circling around end of Rock Ridge to Cars

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