Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Yellow Spire - Valley of Fire State Park (Sensitive Area) - 2/12/19

The Purple Section of Yellow Spire Hike

The Yellow Spire

From Valley of Fire State Park to Virgin Peak at Gold Butte

Dropping down to Small Wash
It was finally a gorgeous day and eight hikers were not about to waste it! Rain and cold wind will be back tomorrow. So, Brian took us up to the Valley of Fire State Park to do a reprieve of a favorite hike of mine called Yellow Spire. This hike has so much color and so many rock formations in it that it could be called a photog's paradise! Created in 2014, the hike starts out from the Silica Dome Trailhead on Fire Canyon Road. This road turns off to the right after the Rainbow Vista turnout from the White Domes Road. It would be advisable for all visitors to be very mindful of the speed limits on these roads all the way in from the interstate. Just sayin'. So, we headed down the hill from the trailhead restrooms on the dirt road but quickly turned down off to our left to hike toward a group of white and pastel colored rocks.

Small Pastel Wash

Brian - The VoF Guy

Down the Pastel Wash

Entering the Hoodoo Area
This is where the "sensitive" area begins. On the way down the hill, we were careful not to crush the tortoise burrows. There are many of these on the sandy hillside. When we reached the large rock outcroppings, we found our way to a small pastel colored wash. This is just a fun way to travel down to the Yellow Spire and Colorful Canyons vicinity. After avoiding the telltale puddles and "quick sand" for a short while, we climbed up the hill to the road that parallels the wash and continues down to where the road ends at another wash. When hiking in this area of the park, please stay off of the cryptobiotic soil and stay in the washes. Also, particular to this area, there are all sizes of hoodoos. The smallest ones can easily be tromped on by careless hikers and would disappear forever.

Entering Tiny Hoodoo Area

Gathering at the Yellow Spire

Near Yellow Spire

View back to Yellow Spire
A hoodoo (also called a tent rock, fairy chimney or earth pyramid) is a tall, thin spire of rock that protrudes from the bottom of an arid drainage basin or badland. Hoodoos typically consist of relatively soft rock topped by harder, less easily eroded stone that protects each column from the elements. They generally form within sedimentary rock and volcanic rock formations.

Hoodoos are found mainly in the desert in dry, hot areas. In common usage, the difference between hoodoos and pinnacles (or spires) is that hoodoos have a variable thickness often described as having a "totem pole-shaped body". A spire, on the other hand, has a smoother profile or uniform thickness that tapers from the ground upward. ~ Wikipedia

After hiking this route three times in three years, I am happy to report that the area has thus far been preserved. So, we crossed the wash at the end of the road and hiked into the beautiful colors. The Yellow Spire was our first point of interest. The spire is a very tall spire that is completely yellow in color.

Small Hoodoo, Small Arch, Skinny Hoodoos, and White Formation

More Hoodoos

Golds, Hoodoos and Jim

Small Detour from GPS Track
We made our way down the wash and passed several other hoodoos. Don't touch these, please. I don't want to see one toppling on YouTube ... ever! Next, the pastels turned into reds, yellows and oranges! Brian led us on a fun scramble through the small canyons and washes always walking on either sand or rock. A couple of the scrambles were different from previous years, I noticed. We were a pretty strong group and we were just having fun. One of the new routes started with the ramp in the photo to the left. This took us on a tour through a very colorful canyon area as seen below. Notice the fat hoodoos to the left in the photo. Our route passed over the normal break area without stopping. And, next was the very narrow squeeze passage followed by the Diving Board formation. As we exited the reds and oranges, the terrain turned white, gray and purple. The hoodoos continued as did the yellow hues. Brian chose a beautiful area for our break among the whole spectrum.

Colorful Canyon

Winding through Color

Pack Removal Slot

Diving Board Hoodoo
From the break spot, we hiked down a very narrow wash that gets deeper every year! (It also seems to get narrower!) At the end, a left turn presented more of the purplish hue in landscaping. And, there was a lot of cryptobiotic soil and tiny hoodoos in this area. It is imperative that this soil remain preserved.

Biological soil crusts are communities of living organisms on the soil surface in arid and semi-arid ecosystems. They are found throughout the world with varying species composition and cover depending on topography, soil characteristics, climate, plant community, microhabitats, and disturbance regimes. Biological soil crusts perform important ecological roles including carbon fixation, nitrogen fixation and soil stabilization; they alter soil albedo and water relations and affect germination and nutrient levels in vascular plants. They can be damaged by fire, recreational activity, grazing and other disturbances and can require long time periods to recover composition and function. Biological soil crusts are also known as cryptogamic, microbiotic, microphytic, or cryptobiotic soils. ~ Wikipedia

Passing Cryptobiotic Soil

Gray Hoodoo

Bright Orange Rock

More Color, Hoodoos and Washes
The wash we followed here winded down to a wash junction with a few more scrambles. A waterhole at the bottom of one scramble almost prevented us from getting by. We stepped lightly and quick so we wouldn't be swallowed up by the deep wet sand. We turned right at the junction in anticipation of the rabbit hole. Last time, we ended up having to go up and around the hole because of a large water puddle. Well, today, there was no water ... good ... but, the rabbit hole has disappeared ... not good! Yep! It is completely filled in with sand, rocks and debris. It no longer exists! So, ... there is a climb out over the rock we used to crawl under! A strap is helpful for this. ... And, several very helpful hands! After we all made it to the top, we found a skinny log that we dumped over the drop. IDK but maybe the next hikers can use it somehow. Onward! Up through Wedgewood Canyon with narrow walls and another rabbit hole that still exists.

Up and Over

Break Area

Small Narrow Wash seemed Deeper

Purple Section
We turned left at a wide wash fork where an the old road in this area crosses. On up the wash, the sandstone turns into bright red-orange. Be cognizant here! There is another dry fall scramble at the end of the canyon but, if you would rather go up and around, that scramble starts about 100 feet before. You cannot see the dry fall at that point. Most of the hikers took on the scramble while two went around. After this, the wash becomes really wide. Soon, there is a cairn on the right side of the wash. We could have kept going up the wash but a right turn here leads to a magnificently colorful view. So, we headed for the view! Then, we were very close to the Yellow Spire junction.

Colorful Section coming to an End

Dennis deals with Scrambling through "Quick Sand"

The Rabbit Hole no longer Exists!

Narrow Wedgewood Canyon
We crossed that same wash and climbed up to the road to begin the long climb out. This climb is little more than a mile and all up hill; but, about fifty percent sand. Fun! Well, I knew it was coming! This is where you earn your soreness! Nevertheless, I almost kept up with the sympathetic pace that Brian took on. Tuesdays! Phew! Anyway, the hike was thoroughly enjoyable and everyone was so nice and accommodating. Until next year!

5.6 miles; 950 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours; average moving speed 1.5 mph

One more Scramble

Into the Reds

One last view of All the Colors
We didn't see any wildlife on the hike but we did see a lot of mountain lion, bobcat, rabbit and coyote tracks. These washes must be very busy at night. However, when we drove back by the Visitor Center, there was a herd of female bighorns grazing near the Balanced Rock! Anne captured this photo of one of them below.

Anne captured a Bighorn near the Visitor Center


Kay Blackwell said...


We typically don’t take enough time to appreciate people and what they do for us. So I just wanted to let you know how much I (and all we hikers) appreciate you and your blog ( . Looking at your text and photos of Tuesdays VoF hike was just like reliving it again through someone else’s eyes. What a joy! I’m so glad I was on the hike…and that you were there. I don’t think the Valley of Fire has ever looked so good.

Having done some web stuff before, I have some idea of the effort and commitment that it takes you to do the blog, every week, over many years. Thank you.


Kay Blackwell said...

Kay - Thanks for your devotion to the blog. It's a joy and a wonderful resource.

Kay Blackwell said...

Feels like a Kay Valentine 😊. Happy Valentines Day Kay. Thank you. Tony

Kay Blackwell said...

Thank you Brian and to all of you! The blog is my creative outlet. I enjoy doing it. I have learned so much over the years and hope to continue doing so. Las Vegas is one of the greatest "base camps" in terms of nearby areas to explore and get to know. But, what makes it so great are the diversity of people in the club and your backgrounds. You all have so much knowledge and wisdom that I am learning from on every hike. Every one of you. Keep hiking!

Happy Valentine's Day!


Kay Blackwell said...

I would also like to add my thanks to you and wishes that you have a wonderful Valentines Day,


Donald Sanborn

Kay Blackwell said...

Brian's accolades are a very well stated expression of how myself and our club feels about Kay's blog, many years of enjoyment for us and we hope you continue for many more years!

John W.

Kay Blackwell said...

Thanks so much Kay for leading hikes and your blog, although I never knew it was yours. Happy Valentine's Day.

Barb Hanson