Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Hoodoo Forest Loop (2nd Version) - Desert National Wildlife Refuge - 3/6/18

Grandfathers of Hoodoo Forest

Hoodoo Forest

Balanced Hoodoo

The Drive
 The Desert National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1936. Its most important objective is to perpetuate the desert bighorn sheep. The refuge's 1,615,000 acres is also home to many other animal and plant species of the Mojave desert and is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It lies in northwestern Clark and southwestern Lincoln counties of southern Nevada; a large portion of which is also on the Nevada Test and Training Range. This refuge is the largest of its kind in the continental United States. However, Alaska holds eleven wildlife refuges that are even larger.

Starting up Abandoned Road from Trailhead
 The area of the refuge that we visited today is part of the larger Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex. The Complex includes Desert, Ash Meadows, Moapa Valley, and Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuges.

Resting at the Hoodoo View
 There are six major mountain ranges in the Desert NWR. Today's hike lies within the slopes of the 10,000+ foot high Sheep Mountains.

Climbing up to Traverse the Cliff Zone

Rounding the High Small Arch in Hoodoo Canyon
 In the spring of 2014, a brand new beautiful visitor center opened on Corn Creek Road and, the next year, the three mile entrance road was paved from US 95. Previous to that, the visitor center was no more than a shack with a sign in book. The new visitor center is open Thursday through Monday from 8am to 4:30pm. Our hike, today, was on a Tuesday so we stopped only for a restroom break before we headed out on our fifteen mile bumpy dirt road ride. Alamo Road is not so bad. Cow Camp Road is also not bad until you reach the Black Hills Pass. Here, there are mysterious pipes sticking up very near the road that the driver has to avoid. (Wide vehicles take caution!) Then, the remaining Cow Camp Road gets worse as you go. Next, we took a left at the fork and drove to the end. This is Wagon Wheel Trailhead.

Flowers and Sunshine
 The morning in this area started out at around 20 degrees! But, by the time we got to the trailhead, it was probably at a very comfortable 40ish. It was warming up quickly and most of us decided against starting with too many layers.

Dead Tree Photo Opp
 When ready, we started up the continuation of the dirt road. This part of the abandoned road was in great disrepair ... perfect for hiking!

Hoodoo Canyon (Yes, a little snow!)

Hiking past Last Year's climb to Rita's Ridge
 As we closed in on the cliffs in front of us, we veered to the left and headed to the end of the nearest cliff to view a gathering of hoodoos on the other side of the opening. Now, we were in a good position to climb up to the top of the cliffs and traverse over to the next canyon to the right. This is Hoodoo Canyon; a beautiful hoodoo-filled canyon that provides a good rappelling dry fall where it comes out at the cliff. (Not so good dry fall for hiking!) We turned to our left and started climbing up the canyon immediately passing a high small arch in a zigzag. Just past the arch, we looked up to gaze at the eagle and two dogs sculptured in some small hoodoos above.

Starting Moderate Scrambling in Upper Hoodoo Canyon (Breaching Whale Hoodoo)
 Last year, when we initially explored this hike, we took a route that jumped up to a steep ridge after passing a fork. This ridge was somewhat unpleasant to climb.

View down Hoodoo Canyon
 This year, determined to find a better alternative, we ended up continuing our climb up Hoodoo Canyon and, oh, what a treat that turned out to be!

Pez Dispenser, Mailbox, Square Frog, & a Chorus of Hoodoos

Breaching Whale Hoodoo from above Narrow
 As we climbed, we noticed small cairns here and there. Hmmm. Maybe we weren't the first to be here! Anyway, the cairns were a good indication that the canyon might be a good way to climb up to the high point touring ridge. So, up we went through a gauntlet of hoodoo sentries. Mild scrambling then moderate scrambling ensued. We passed several interesting hoodoos which we named ... (disguised rest breaks!) There was one particular landmark hoodoo which we finally settled on naming "The Breaching Whale." On the other side of the canyon, the hoodoos were embedded in high rock walls. Finally, these rock walls came down to the wash of the canyon!

Steep Stuff above the Narrow in the Wash
Here, there is a narrow dry slide of around fifteen feet in length. This required some creativity to negotiate; especially since the patches of thin snow that we had trod through made the rock climb a little slippery. (On a dry day, it would be somewhat easier but still a challenge.)

Ridge Junction & Snack Break
After the narrow, we veered into a right fork of the increasingly small wash. This put us on a very steep sloped climb to the ridge. Steep but only around fifty vertical.

View toward Higher Territory at Ridge

Hiking past Rita's Ridge Junction
And, then, there we were on the ridge where we took a well-deserved snack break. Our position on the ridge was approximately 100 feet before the point where Rita's Ridge came into the touring ridge. Fantastic! A great canyon climb then a very pleasant descent with hoodoo views! We turned to the right and started along the ridge. A little after this point was the high point of the hike then down we gradually went above the hoodoo forest that surrounds the canyons below to our right. So many photos!

Jerry's Butte or The Snail?
The background to the interesting hoodoo forest was gorgeous mountainous Nevada desert to the west of Las Vegas.

View back along Ridge starting into Hoodoo Forest
Our route circled the hoodoo forest while slowly descending staying on top of the ridge.

Hoodoo Forest comes into View

Top of Hoodoo Forest
At one point, our route snaked through some particularly large black hoodoos as seen in the first photo. Soon after this, the ridge began a steep descent. The terrain was loose dirt and rock which was fairly easy to negotiate. After circling the big black hoodoos, we were sure to stay as far to the right as we could so that we didn't descend too soon into a previous canyon. Our next objective was to drop into the canyon on our right called Teresa Canyon. Today, we chose a long trailing ridge for our descent. Last year, we went a little further down to descend a short shallow gulley. Either way, we dropped into beautiful Teresa Canyon. We noted the view of the Hoodoo Forest above us.

Western View above Hoodoo Forest
There are a few small scramble drops in this canyon which add a little interest to its descent.

Passing through Hoodoo Grandfathers
The strong group had stayed together throughout the hike. It is a friendly jovial group!

Steep Ridge Descent

Descending Teresa Canyon
Near the mouth of the canyon, before we reached the cliff, we connected with a trail that headed overland to the right. (Difficult to find the trail but it is there!) This trail is likely used by the rangers to maintain a nearby guzzler for the wildlife. For a quarter mile, we followed the trail over to a place where we could drop off the cliff onto the end of the old abandoned road. From there, we followed the road back to the trailhead. Fantastic day! This route for the Hoodoo Forest Loop is likely a "keeper!" Great day in the desert.

5 miles; 1700 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours

Trailhead from Cliff Traverse

Trailed Cliff Traverse

Descent down to Abandoned Road

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