Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cleopatra Wash - 12/31/09

Fifteen hikers celebrated New Year's Eve hiking Cleopatra's Wash as the last hike of 2009. Cleopatra's Wash is a new hike for the club and we brought along Jim Boone, of Nevada petroglyph fame, to make sure we were in the right neighborhood. The approach road, named Boathouse Cove Road, is located on Northshore Road between mile markers 29 and 30.

The road begins in pretty good condition then deteriorates dramatically as it meets the wash and battles for ownership. At this point, we parked the cars and began our hike. Mr. Boone instructed us to just keep going downhill and we would arrive at our destination.

As usual, our imagination ran wild. We decided that the wash was so called because of the many jewel-colored rocks and this rock formation up on the cliff. Was it just us or does the rock sticking up in the middle of the picture to the right appear similar to a sculpture of an Egyptian princess facing to the left? Anywho! The wash was certainly full of beautiful rock formations and an array of colors.

There were several slot-type canyons; each one offering a different color or type of rock. Also, there were at least six dry waterfalls which dropped ten feet or more. Most of the waterfalls were negotiable, however, a path around them existed each time. The group usually split somewhere down the middle as to whether they chose to drop down or climb over.

Near the lake, the wash became a canyon with very high steep walls on either side of a 15 foot wide gap where it was obvious that a lot of water has rushed through the narrow openings that it made. On some of the dry waterfalls, the rock sides had worn smooth and the colors of the rock were well defined.

To the left is a picture of the last waterfall we met before entering the canyon. After entering the canyon, we had one 8 foot waterfall (seen 2 pics above)which we went down then realized that we hoped that we could get back up it! The sides of the canyon were so steep and high that we knew if we couldn't, we would be stuck! And, sure enough, the next waterfall was non-negotiable and we had to turn back. Extra hands and pushes got us all up the 8 footer and we retraced our steps a short distance to some cairns we had noticed leading up to the right.

The cairns led us up a steep hill on a path and down the steep hill on the other side. As we crossed the top of the saddle, we were met with this gorgeous view of Lake Mead. We reached the shore of the lake passing through the white water line of old and sat on the beach for a snack. A few hikers went exploring; one group into the canyon from the lake end and two hikers up over the hill to get more of a view of the lake.

After a brief rest, we started the climb back up and over the steep hill and on up the sandy/ gravelly wash. The entire hike was around 6.8 miles with the return elevation gain of around 800 feet. I don't believe the final "up and over" hill is counted in this elevation summary.

Revised view of trail and approach road.

Closer view of trail topography.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Fortification Hill - 12/24/09

Hiking Fortification Hill on Christmas Eve for thirteen members of the Around the Bend Friends seemed like a gift from Santa. We just wished that he hadn't brought the strong cold winds from the North Pole! But, it was a crystal clear day and the views from the top of the hill were breath-taking.

The trailhead is located 5.5 miles out a dirt road which turns off to the north just after the location of the re- situated check point on the Arizona side of Hoover Dam. The road was in very good condition today with a few tough bumps only after turning right at the pit toilets. The top photo of the hill is what you see when you get out of the car to begin the hike.

We began hiking up a small canyon then climbed up to the right to reach a ridge leading from the hill. At this point, the wind became a huge factor. The trail was very steep with loose rock and the wind was hitting us in the face causing us to work twice as hard to climb up and keep our balance. What is so striking about Fortification Hill and its immediate surroundings are the colors in the rock and sand that frame the hill which rises upward largely decorated with dark lava rock.

Finally, we reached the foot of the hill's surrounding cliff wall. Here, we rounded a corner and escaped the worst of the wind. Soon, we were scrambling up the side of the cliff at a place where there were easy footholds. After two scrambling sections, we were on the top of the cliff and began hiking around the edge to get to the highest point of the hill.

On the way around the edge, we saw that the famous "flat" hill is actually not flat at all. In the middle of the "top" there is an ancient volcanic crater and a couple of hills that cannot be seen from the distance. To the right is a photo of the landscape at the top.

The highest point of the hill is marked by an American flag. It is here that views of Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, the Las Vegas Strip, a snow-covered Mt. Charleston, Lava Butte and Boulder City simply blow you away. (Figuratively speaking, of course. The wind was much more gentle here!)The views combined with the clear air made the very tough climb and the even tougher descent worth it.

We ate our snacks and took a break here. There is a log book which we all wrote our name in. There was a survey plaque placed there in the year 1935, the year the dam was completed. Perhaps when there was a way to easily get to the other side of the canyon, some of these hikes we explore every year were established.

After our break, we began the return. Although coming off of the high point of the hill was a piece of cake and scrambling down the side of the cliff also didn't seem too bad, the remainder of the descent was a bear. The steep slippery hill required ultimate concentration. Knees and calves felt the "burn." Most of the group decided to take the ridge all the way down to the cars instead of dropping into the small canyon.

As a side note, someone has placed a rock inscripted with the name of a hiker who died in that spot last year. It was located between the two scramble sections near the top. He had fallen off the cliff wall while attempting to blaze a new trail up a nearby crevice. May he rest in peace.

The hike is just under 4 miles with a net elevation gain of 1600 feet.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Historic Railroad Tunnels - 12/19/09

The Around the Bend Friends Hiking Club had thirty-one members on a hike through the Historic Railroad Tunnels and down to Hoover Dam today. The hike had a distance of around 7 miles with an elevation change of around 500 feet in the section from the fifth (and last) tunnel to the dam.

The hike begins at the Alan Bible Visitor Center located off of Hwy 93 in Boulder City just above the Lake Mead marina. From there, the trail leads through a gate which is closed after dark. Five tunnels which range from around 200 to 500 feet in length are arranged along the lake. There are beautiful views of the lake and benches have been placed there to accommodate those who wish to just sit and enjoy.

The tunnels were made for a short train ride from Boulder City to the Hoover Dam during the time the dam was being built. Dam workers who lived in Boulder City would take the train down into the canyon area to begin their work day.

The hikers spread out leaving those with cameras behind. It was a beautiful day and the photo ops were abundant. All we needed were a few big horn sheep to appear on the hillside! But, ... not today.

When we arrived at the dam, we realized that there were several members of the club hiking today that had never visited the dam. In fact, this was what brought many members to the hike. So, the hike coordinator decided to allow an hour break at the dam so that hikers could "visit Arizona," and the dam snack bar and gift shop.

The new bridge was hanging in its magnifi- cence up to the right. The concrete arch is finished and the highway is now being built along its support. Just as the Hoover Dam was a pioneer in civil engineering, so is its new bridge which should open by 2011.

Club members gathered at the outdoor tables to drink in the atmosphere of excited tourists. Some hikers joined in the revelry and walked across the dam to set foot in Arizona where, for a brief time, they were an hour ahead of the rest of us!

When hikers were finished with their dam visit, they climbed the dam steps or took the dam elevator to arrive back at the top floor of the dam parking garage where they began their hike up the hill and back through the tunnels to the cars. The weather had warmed up considerably and the slight wind was welcomed.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Lone Palm - 12/17/09

Finally ... sorry for the delay. Computer challenges.

Today, 18 hikers hiked the 4.5 mile trail to the Lone Palm on the Colorado River which is not far downstream from Hoover Dam. The trailhead is located in Arizona within all of the construction being done for the Hoover Dam by-pass bridge and approaching highway. However, once you hike out to the left and around the initial cliffs ledges and drop-offs, you are alone with the beautiful nature of the Black Canyon desert.

A new member of the hiking group spotted a small herd of big horn sheep up on the cliffs which we had just climbed around. We had begun dropping into the canyon when she shouted for our attention. We watched as about seven or eight big horns leapt up the wall giving us a near profile of themselves on the top of the cliff as each one reached level ground.

Each of the big horns had to leap across a small but high crevice near the top. If you look closely in the pictures, you can see one making this leap. The muscles in the legs and stomach are incredible. As you see in one picture, the leap required a bit of forethought .... Either that, or he/she was checking us out before he/she took off up the mountainside.

The climb down to the canyon was mostly done in a wash which had many dry waterfalls and boulders to climb over. The line of hikers began to spread out but the hike coordinator would often stop and do a head count to make sure we had not lost anyone. The scrambling was a full body workout for around a mile or two in length. At that time, we were almost to the river and the warm springs that came up in this area were apparent by the many tamarix or tamarisk trees and other scrub which were now yellow with the fall temperatures.

The hike today descended then ascended around 1200 feet in elevation.

At the river, we were presented with a gorgeous view of the lone palm, river and yellow colored vegetation as seen in the picture at the top. A few of the hikers went on down to see the famous waterfall that comes from the warm springs we had passed. On the way down, we saw these stalactites that were forming on the river wall from the mineral-filled water coming from the springs.

Also, down by the "Mighty Colorado" was the original "Lone Palm" which is, yes, dead. But, the lone palm did leave his legacy as there are at least eleven palms now growing in the area. Perhaps we should rename this hike "Eleven Palms!"

When we arrived at the river, one hiker had gone immediately down to the waterfall and was able to cross over to it on dry ground. During the next 10 minutes, water was let out of the dam and the pathway began getting covered with about 6 inches of water. When the blogger arrived at the pathway, she had to step over strategically placed rocks to get to the other side.

At the other side of the rising water, there was a small shore where the 15-foot waterfall flowed strong. To the left, I reluctantly show this horrible picture just to give an idea of how the waterfall relates to the river and shoreline. To return, we walked through the water seen next to the rock wall.

To begin the return to the cars, we crossed the warm springs and headed up the mountain- side towards the dam side. We climbed quite a bit and then dropped down quite a bit into the next big wash. During this traverse to the wash, we were met with a very interesting ladder-like dry waterfall which we ascended out of a box canyon.

At several high-points of the trail, we were able to look back in the downstream direction to see Liberty Bell Arch in the distance.

Near the end of the hike, the group split into two. One group chose to return via the old road that serviced the area long ago. It led up to Hwy 93 by way of a boulder climb then they were left with a 1/2 mile hike up the road. The other group, seen above, continued up the wash, climbed out of the ending box canyon and arrived close to the car park.