Saturday, January 30, 2010

Rainbow Gardens - 1/30/10

The Around the Bend Friends Hiking Club has been very busy this week and today was no exception. Hiking Rainbow Gardens at the base of Lava Butte in the Lake Mead NRA, we numbered 45 strong, another record of attendance for the club. We descended on the small roadside parking area about one mile south of the Lake Mead Blvd. entrance to the recreation area, got our gear together and began hiking up the wash towards Lava Butte.

Just before we climbed a ridge to drop over into the small canyon wash beyond, we hiked through a junkyard of sorts. Actually, these old rusted antiques are remnants of a homestead of long ago. In fact, this area is still claimed by someone for mining but there hasn't been any action here for years.

We climbed over the ridge, dropped into the Lava Butte wash and were immediately surrounded by color. There were yellows, greens, whites, browns and pinks. Each color is a different mineral and put together, one might call it a "rainbow!" There were a few muddy places in the wash that are the results of the heavy rains we received last week. However, it was plain to see that the plants were very happy.

At around 2.25 miles, we sat for a snack where there was a small tributary ending with a dry waterfall. Just past this, another part of the wash drains in. The group broke up into a small group and a larger one. The small group headed back to the cars taking this new wash. The larger group kept hiking down-wash to the back door of Lake Las Vegas. A very large wash with a water pipeline lying in it led the way to a finger of the lake. Some of the hikers chose not to navigate the huge mudhole right before approaching the lake and waited for the others' return.

After viewing the lake and avoiding any security concerns, the group hiked back up the big wash to another dry waterfall. Then, we headed back up the Lava Butte wash and out the same way that the other group had gone.

It was a beautiful day. The air was cool in the shade and warm in the sun with little or no breeze. The first group of hikers to return to the cars did around 3.5 miles. The second group put 6 miles under their belt with minimal elevation gain.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Snowshoeing on the Bristlecone Trail - 1/28/10

Seven participants (see above minus Kathy who took the pic) showed up at the Santa Fe for the Bristlecone Loop Trail snowshoe hike. They piled into two cars for the trip up Lee Canyon Road which was open all the way to the ski resort. The lower end of the Bristlecone Trail was inaccessible, therefore, the two cars traveled on up to the upper end trailhead where they had their choice of parking around 9am.

Milo, the event coordinator and photographer extraordinaire, reported promptly about the hike and had the following to say. "After 'futzing' with the fasteners of our 'mitten-friendly' snowshoes, putting on our gaiters if we had them, duct-taping the bottoms of our pants to the tops of our shoes (Carol), or wrapping our shoes in plastic grocery-bag gaiters, and feeling glad that we weren't attempting to perform all of these operations in 4 feet of new powder snow we soon were on our way" with Bud as our intrepid leader. Bud is seen in the photo to the left. (It sounds like the preparation was a lot of the fun!)

Milo continues, "We could not have asked for a better weather day. There was absolutely no wind at all -- contrary to predicted weather reports -- and the temperature felt like it was in the mid-thirties. The sky was a clear deep blue (through my sunglasses) and the Pine trees were flocked with clumps of snow where they were deposited by yesterday's snowfall, undisturbed by the windless morning. It was a Winter Wonderland, awesome and indescribable."

To the left, Carol proudly displays her duct tape gaiters. Total cost ~ 5 cents. The duct tape was still firmly attached at the end of the hike! As Milo goes on to say, "On the early part of the trail, there appeared to be a snowbase of around 4 feet of packed snow and 4-5 inches of new powder from yesterday's snowfall. The top rails of the restraining fence built to keep casual summer hikers from trampling some of the rare plant life found only in the Spring Mountains were sometimes just covered, or just barely visible poking out of the top of the snow. Yesterday's snowfall put a fresh blanket of snow over everything. The only visible tracks were those made by a cross-country skier earlier in the day. The only people we saw on the trail were a few less than a dozen kamikaze snowboarders schussing their way down the trail.

After following the Bristlecone Loop trail for a few hundred yards we veered off onto a drainage to the right and began to gain some significant altitude. After we had gained sufficient altitude we veered away from the drainage and zig-zagged our way to the top of a local peak where we were treated a great view of the valley areas below including a long stretch of the lower-end of the Bristlecone Loop trail.

After we had spent 10-15 minutes or so at the top enjoying the views and eating our snacks, a couple of young guys without snowshoes or skis, who had apparently been following the trail we broke, came post-holing their way to the top. On our way down, encountering all of the post-holes they'd left we understood why it had taken them about the same amount of time to make their ascent as it had taken us. We found it was easier -- and safer -- to break a new trail to the side of the one we'd made on the way up. The wind, which had been still all morning, had picked up to a just discernible level, was beginning to shake some snow loose from the trees. After we had merged back onto the trail we encountered more snowboarders, at least one of which seemed to have a goal of seeing how close he could come to the snowshoers without colliding with one of us."

"Thanks to everyone who made this hike possible -- especially Bud and Larry -- Larry for his work in hooking us up to sources of information we needed and also for scouting out the trail for us in advance for a hike he was unable to participate in -- and Bud whose snowshoeing experience and real-time decision-making made as our de facto "hike leader" as opposed to "hike coordinator" made this outdoor experience so much better for all of us than it would have been without his being there."

And, thank you, Milo, for bringing this all together in such an organized fashion. We can all agree that the snowshoe event of 2010 was a success from all perspectives!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Beyond Mouse's Tank - 1/28/10

Today, thirty hikers made the trek up to Valley of Fire where Brian promised a great hike of 6 miles (which "will feel like 8 miles") that leads you beyond the small popular trail to Mouse's Tank. Yes, it was somewhere between 5 and 6 miles; and yes, because of the up, down, over, under, around and through features of the hike, it felt like at least 8 miles!

Throughout the entire hike, we were surrounded by the red sandstone that makes up most of the Valley of Fire. It was a beautiful day and photographers of the group were everywhere. We would like to thank Brian for showing us this fantastic hike. Although, it is doubtful that it can be described in detail after only one time through, an attempt will be made to generalize.

The hike began with a bit of serious scrambling. There was one place, in particular, that required instruction. After about a mile or so, we began hiking down the Valley of Fire wash. It was full of sand that was still damp from the rains we have had recently. We saw many footprints from a huge coyote and a few big horn sheep.

We were in the wash for around another mile then after passing around an interesting yet unreachable slot canyon, we climbed for another mile up to a plateau where we took our much needed break. Here, there were views of snow-capped mountains in the distance.
Throughout most of the hike, the white peak called Silica Dome was in view. The first and third pictures above show the peak as it "peaked" out from behind a lot of red rock. The plateau area was expansive and was the high point of our hike.

To the right is a picture of some remains of a big horn sheep. It remains hidden from view when the right people are not around so that future generations may enjoy it. We saw very little wildlife on the hike. A raven and a chipmunk about summed it up.

After the break, we continued scrambling for a while heading back in the direction of the cars. The loop hike began to the left of the Mouse's Tank Trail and ended by coming up behind Mouse's Tank, past the petroglyphs and out. Six miles in the heart of Valley of Fire turned out to be quite a workout.

                                        Mouse's Tank ... and beyond!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Red Rock Snow - 1/25/10

On Monday, 29 hikers set out for a hike on Fossil Ridge.

The hike began at the horse corrals where the only snow in view was on the mountains across the road.

As we got higher, snow patches began to appear. At the same time, we began shedding layers! It was surprisingly warm!

The snow was very "packable" and snowballs were appearing right and left.

At the top of Echo Canyon, the snow was covering a majority of the ground. The trail was muddy but we felt like we were in a wonderland!

A panorama using the Photomerge program of Photoshop CS2.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Red / Black Mountains (Boulder City) - 1/23/10

One could not ask for a more gorgeous day for a hike to the top of Red & Black Mountains in Boulder City.

After a rainy, hikeless week in Las Vegas, thirty-eight hikers came out for a 6-mile hike. The weather was beautiful. The air was clear. The snow on surrounding mountains was fresh. And, the sun was in full bloom. Las Vegas was doing its best impression of Salt Lake City with snow as a backdrop covering all the way down to the foothills.

We immediately divided into two groups. The first group went out at a fast clip with intentions to climb to the saddle between Red and Black Mountains then up to the peak of Red and back then up to the peak of Black to meet with the other group who intended to only climb to the peak of Black. Follow me?

Red Mountain approach.

The trail begins in Boulder City on the River Mountain Trail system. It is a well- maintained trail which gradually climbs about 1000 feet up the side of Red Mountain with switchbacks to the saddle. As the second group of hikers began climbing up the switchbacks, they could see the first group already nearing the saddle as seen to the right.

As the second group neared the saddle, the clear picture of Black Mountain's peak came into view. To the right, if you enlarge the picture, you can see the park bench and information sign on the peak. In the foreground, you see a clear difference in colors of terrain. I guess you can deduct for yourself why they named these mountains Red and Black.

Crossing the saddle towards Black Mountain is when Las Vegas comes into view.

Arriving at the top of Black Mountain, Lake Mead can be seen on the other side from the Strip. It was a beautiful blue color today and, in the picture to the left, you can see Hamblin Mountain sitting prominently in the center. Remember, Hamblin is the hike we cancelled two days ago due to very rainy weather.

The first group of hikers who climbed Red arrived from their adventures a few minutes later. We took our leisurely break on top of Black then proceeded back down the switchbacks escaping a chilly wind that had kicked up on the peak. We descended as a group, albeit a very spread out group. There was a rumor that two very large big horn sheep had been spotted by the hikers near the end of the line. Unfortunately, the camera was somewhere in the middle of the long line!

The lake seen past the relaxing hikers is what is usually the playa which is used for recreation purposes between Boulder City and Henderson.

A slightly better attempt at stitching together a panorama than the one that was attempted last summer.