Sunday, January 6, 2019

Rainbow Canyon Loop - 1/5/19

Rainbow Canyon

Overlook at Base of Rainbow Ridge

Long Lived Ram

Climbing out of Shortcut Wash
Rainbow Canyon lies in BLM land just outside of the Lake Mead NRA boundary on the north side of Lake Mead. It is an incredibly colorful canyon that is a joy to hike ... or ride horses ... through. The canyon is formed at the base of Rainbow Ridge, or more precisely, the Bitter Ridge Limestone Member of the Horse Spring Formation. The colors in the Lake Mead NRA of Northshore Road from mile marker 13 through 16 are explained in 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; page 68, as follows:

Deep Wash that flows into Lovell Wash
The red rock on the right side of the road (below Ejection Seat Ridge) is Aztec Sandstone. The soft, red shaly rocks exposed in the wash to the left of the paved area (near MM 13.5) belong to the Triassic Kayenta, Chinle, and Moenkopi Formations (248 to 206 million years old) that lie below (are older than) the Jurassic Aztec Sandstone (about 180 million years old).

Lovell Wash
You can see white gypsum weathering from the red sedimentary rocks. Some of these rocks are stratigraphically equivalent to rocks that make up the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest of northeast Arizona.

Hiking up Hard-Packed Lovell Wash

Entrance to Rainbow Canyon
Thier vivid colors are a result of a combination of normal weathering processes and a generally oxidizing environment. Yellow colors are produced by hydrous iron oxide minerals, red colors by anhydrous iron oxide minerals (hydrous minerals contain water, anhydrous minerals do not), and black by manganese oxide minerals. Combinations of these minerals produce the various intermediate hues. Like cake coloring, a little goes a long way. A mere trace of a mineral can give strong color to a formation. In sandstones, the color is usually not in the sand grains themselves, but in the cement (silica, iron oxides, or calcium carbonate) between the grains.

Hiking Rainbow Canyon
So, twenty-four hikers signed in (I thought there were 25!) to hike a 6.5 mile loop that includes some of the most colorful parts of this area between MM 13 and MM 16. We parked at MM 15, and in the interest of making the loop interesting from beginning to end, we formulated a shortcut that took us over to Lovell Wash by using a couple of washes on the other side of Northshore Road.

Mine Shaft 
This turned out to be a great adventure and now that we have the details, we will use this shortcut again in the future. It required three drops into washes and two out but pretty fun!

Bear Paw Poppy, Bighorn Skull, Mining Claim, and Miners' Tin Can Pile

Long Line of Hikers
Once in Lovell Wash, we hiked up the hard-packed wash for about half a mile to the entrance of Rainbow Canyon.

  About two miles up the wash to the north is the Anniversary Mine, one of several mines in the Muddy Mountains that produced borate from deposits of colemanite in the upper part of the Horse Spring Formation. In this area, in addition to borate, the Horse Spring Formation contains thin layers of algal mats (fossil organic material deposited through the action of algae), fossil animal tracks, and ripple marks indicative of a mudflat environment.

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; page 69. 

Starting up the Old Road
The long line of moderate to moderately strenuous hikers turned left into Rainbow Canyon and followed the kaleidoscope up. Soon, we came to the old mine shaft up on the side of the wash. Since fencing to protect hikers from the very deep hole is long gone, please take care here. Believe me when I say the hole is very deep and straight down.

Rainbow Ridge up to Left
Eventually, the colors fade and Rainbow Ridge is prominent on the left peripheral. There is a nice 10 foot arch on the ridge that you can see from here. After the colors all temporarily disappear, the remnants of an old road starts up between a wash fork. This was an easy climb up to the high point of the hike.

Griffith Peak from Old Road

Junction with the Mining Road
There are three dirt roads we use for the next 1.4 miles. For our purposes, we'll call this first one the Old Road. The second will be the Mining Road and the third will be the Wash Road. This Old Road is not navigable for HCVs because of deep wash out trenches. We hiked down from the high point and junctioned with the Mining Road to turn left. This road is definitely good for HCVs. We saw tracks leading toward Anniversary Mine. At 0.15 miles down the Mining Road, we turned left down the Wash Road. Although we saw car tracks, we imagine that they came from a very HCV driven by someone who loved the adventure of possibly tearing up their vehicle! Anyway, 0.25 miles down the beautiful and colorful Wash Road, we rounded a sharp curve to the left and found the climb out wash on the left. Today, there was somewhat of a cairn there.

Starting down the Wash Road
This climb out wash had a deeply colored yellow vein in it that provided a scramble with rocks set below as seen in the photo below. At the top of the wash, we took a game trail out to the right and divided ourselves into the scramblers and the up & arounders. It was half and half!

Climbing out from Wash Road
The scramblers headed toward the cut in the dark rock hill to the southwest. The up and arounders headed to the hill to the cut's left. The up and arounders reached the other side first and watched as the scramblers managed their way down the big dry fall. All except one hiker avoided the strategically grown rock nettle on the side of the falls right where you want to place your hand!

Half of the Hikers head toward the Scramble Canyon

Scramble down the Big Dry Fall
This was a lot of fun, then we sat for our break. Next, we continued our trajectory down to the next cut in the hills. (A vague trail aided in this section.) Then, we circled around the end of a trailing ridge to the left. Here is where it becomes very important to take the "stay out of the cryptobiotic soil" seriously. We climbed the wash "straight" up to the top to be awed by the overlook of color! (See the second photo.) Here, we dropped down into the wash to the left of the overlook being careful to stay in the middle of the crevice. Then, we began a magical descent down toward the paved road.

Turning the Corner toward Overlook
The wash is very hiker friendly. Colorful and interesting. Part of the interest is the beautiful formation of cryptobiotic soil on its sides. Let's preserve that friends!

Overlook Approach
Slowly, we hiked down the wash taking photos but the photos didn't do it justice until we neared the bottom and the main wash that runs alongside the road. We turned left in the main wash and followed it all the way down to our favorite steel culvert!

Descent into Wash from Overlook

Descent Wash
Twenty-four, uh maybe twenty-five, hikers ducked their head and hiked through the culvert to deal with the ragged steel at the other end. Nevermind us, but the animals might have a difficult time with the steel mess. The animals might just avoid this culvert! Anyway, we continued down this suddenly very red (Aztec Sandstone) wash. We passed the first turn to the left that leads to the MM 14 trailhead and turned at the second one. This is the main wash on the south side of Northshore Road. It passes all the turnouts of the paved road from MM 14 through MM 15. Now, it was just a matter of hiking up the beautiful red wash between the road and Ejection Seat Ridge for about a mile.

Colorful Main Wash
The wash was hard-packed making the hiking optimal. We passed the MM 14.5 trailhead then the wash became a little messier.

Main Wash
Finally, we climbed out of the wash up to the road a little early and hiked up the road to our cars. Next time, we'll be a little more patient and climb out at the right place. Matters not.

Hiking down Hard-Packed Main Wash

Escaping the Culvert
It had been a cold overcast day but there was only spotty wind. We had stayed warm by hiking! ... And gloves, hats, sweaters, fleeces, jackets and whatever else we had in our car! Oh, and by the way, we accidentally ran across a bighorn skull. He was an old guy! May have died of old age. No, I'm not telling you where! Anyway, today's group was fantastic! I loved the pace and I loved the love! This hike is a keeper.

6.5 miles; 800 feet elevation gain; 3.75 hours; average speed 1.7 mph

Hiking into the Redstone

View down Wash toward Lake Mead

Hiking the Last 1.5 Miles

No comments: