Thursday, April 29, 2010

Blue Diamond Canyons #2 & #3 - 4/29/10

"Scramb- ling" was the word for the day. Blue Diamond Canyons are filled with dry waterfalls, some of which require some thought in order to negotiate. The canyons are steep at times and have an abundance of plant life. Twelve hikers, which quickly turned into ten due to an injury, enjoyed the beauty of the hike which was laced with challenges.

We parked next to Highway 159 across from the Blue Diamond community where there is a utility building and fence gate. The gate was open and we marched through. Dropping down into Canyon #2, we immediately began our climb through a very rocky wash. The wind whipped at our backs until we finally hiked around a bend ....

In the photo to the left, Candice demon- strates how to scramble up the first real challenge. We hiked up to the source of the canyon for about a mile and a half. During this part of the hike, the sky was blue with a few clouds. The wind was chilly and the sun peered down into the canyon. At one point, an owl flew over us.

At the top of the canyon, we hung a left that required climbing onto the hilltop which was shared with the gypsum mining operation which will someday become the Rhodes' home community. What a shame.... We saw many different plant species that we do not see any other place on the Blue Diamond hills. For instance, pencil cholla and a ferocactus with a red "hat" unlike the common red barrel cactus. There were also a couple of flowering plants that we did not recognize.

After making the crossover, we dropped down into the top of Canyon #3 and began our descent back to the cars. The reason we use this canyon for the descent is illustrated in the three photos below. This waterfall is the tallest of the hike and we needed help from each other and a rope at this point.

Guy prepares. (Preparation is the key. Rope - check. Another rope - check. Someplace to put the rope(s) - check. Many people around you giving you instructions - check. Someone at the bottom that somehow got down another way without a scratch - check.)

Guy takes flight. (At this point, one just hopes that enough preparation was made. There's not much you can do once you commit to the descent except wish for a solid landing.)

Guy lands safely. (Here's where you breathe a small unnoticeable (you hope) sigh of relief.)

When we finished the hike by exiting Canyon #3 and crossing back over to Canyon #2, we had only travelled 3 miles. During the final half mile, quarter- inch hail had begun to fall so we were happy that the 3 mile hike, which seemed slightly longer due to the intense scrambling, was over.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Calico I to Sandstone Quarry & Return - 4/24/10

Forty- two hikers arrived at the Calico I parking area on the Red Rock Scenic Loop for a hike to Sandstone Quarry and back, 3.8 miles. Five of the forty-two hikers opted to park at the Visitor's Center so that a drive around the loop would not be required at the end of the hike. The hike from there to Calico I added about 1 mile to the total hike. From Calico I, we headed down into the red sandstone canyon.

The hike up to Sandstone Quarry was beautiful as we explored the red sandstone overlooks. There were ups and downs and everyone was in good spirits. The weather was perfect as evidenced by the huge number of people and cars which filled the park even at the early hour. We arrived at Sandstone Quarry and took our break in the shade of the towering red and white sandstone wall to the right of the parking lot. After the break, forty hikers returned to their cars the way they came; two hikers continued and completed the Grand Circle Trail.

The two hikers that completed the Grand Circle found flowers to photograph at every turn. Some yuccas were blooming. There were many very small flowers of lavender, red-violet, and yellow. We found the Mormon Tea blooming yellow. There were purple multi-flowers, white flowers made of many separate blooms, and the rhubarb was in full reddish-pink bloom. Even the orange globemallow was beginning to show.

We hiked the trail up to the White Rock Springs parking area, took a break, then began the second half of the hike which lead downhill, with the exception of one nasty uphill, back to the Visitor's Center. On our way, we stopped by the White Rock Spring, noted the huge number of cars parked at the Ice Box Canyon trailhead, and passed a few hikers going the opposite way who had gotten a late start for the 11.5 mile loop hike. We finished the hike 5.5 hours after we began.

Trail from Calico I to Sandstone Quarry.

Complete Grand Circle Trail.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Death Valley Flowers Are Still Strong

Looking for something to do on Sunday? This picture was taken by Cindy Wilson on Thursday of the flowers at Death Valley. They are apparently still going strong. Cindy had many great pictures but you really should go see for yourself!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Calico II / Red Cap Loop - 4/15/10

Twenty hikers arrived to do a four- part loop hike which began at the Calico II parking area on the Scenic Loop of Red Rock Canyon NCA. It was a beautiful warm day for the 5-mile hike. We started down the hill at Calico II for the first part of the hike.

Hiking the Grand Circle Trail from Calico II to Sandstone Quarry, we admired the Calico Hills as we passed by them. We noted the boulder with the petroglyphs; we warmed up our legs and lungs; and, we commented on the wildlife ... two models in cocktail wear up against the red rock while being photographed for a spread somewhere.

Part Two of this hike lead from Sandstone Quarry to the top of Red Cap Peak. This is a route that can only be described as "fun." There are fantastic views at every turn and several scrambling sections to challenge your memory of the monkey bars. After starting with the Rookie's Climb and Fat Man's Squeeze, the trail climbs a very steep section of sandstone to circle around the mountain which is topped by a cap of red sandstone.

The climb continues past a few areas which might be considered exposed to thin air as the sandstone takes a dive down a steep slope to the right. We hugged the wall! Then a couple more steep climbs through rock-filled cracks brings the hiker to the final climb of the summit. On the top of Red Cap, the views are 360 degrees of Red Rock Canyon NCA.

We took our first break while gazing at Turtlehead, Gray Cap, the Escarpment, the La Madre mountains, a haze- covered Las Vegas Strip and Calico Peak which we were to climb next. We also saw several water tanks, or tanajas, which help keep local wildlife alive through the summer in the sandstone below us.

Part Three of this hike began here. We climbed down off of the Red Cap summit and passed by three large tanajas. Last summer, someone had built a sundial, which still stands, in the largest tank when it was dry. Reflections of Red Cap and Turtlehead Peak show strong in the water.

Next, we began the most exposed scrambling section of the day. Traversing the ridge, we made our way to Calico Peak summit. This required one very steep dip down 35 feet. When approaching the edge, the hiker can't help but wonder, "We're going down there??" However, after taking that first step, it becomes clear that the steps and hand- holds are abundant. Help was given when needed by friends and all minus three made it down. Those three decided to return to the cars a different way. We summitted Calico Peak and descended down to the main Calico Tank to begin Part Four of the hike.

Part Four extended from the main tank back to the Calico II parking area. This was an extreme downhill scramble of approximately half a mile. We followed Don down red boulder after red boulder finding interesting rock formations along the way. Caves and shelters dotted the hillside and small arches and holes were common in the red rock.

We reached the bottom of the wash, climbed over the connecting sandstone plateau and climbed the hill back to the parking area where we were met by the three hikers that had returned by the different route. This was a beautiful way to escape the weight of "tax day."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunset Photos at Little Finland, Gold Butte - 4/8/10

Cindy Wilson, a member of our club and photography hobbyist, made a night of it at Little Finland last week. Camping in her car with a friend nearby, she was there to witness a sunset, sunrise and billions of stars among the unusually shaped sandstone.

We appreciate that Cindy has allowed us to post these pictures for the club. They are truly well done.

Thank you, Cindy.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Potato Knoll - 4/10/10

The Around the Bend Friends celebrated a beautiful spring day, when tempera- tures reached 80 degrees, with a jaunt around Potato Knoll in front of Wilson Peak of the Red Rock Canyon escarpment. Nearby, the Visitor's Center and Scenic Loop was crawling with activity as the new Visitor's Center was having its Grand Opening and Senator Reid was attending for the ceremony. We were able to avoid the bustle by starting the hike from the parking lot at the exit of the scenic loop.

There were forty- two hikers hiking the 5 mile trek around the knoll. We started out through the desert on the horse trails which were worn into the terrain. Throughout the hike, we crossed Oak Creek four times. The creek was still flowing with a small to medium amount of water. The desert had an abundance of indications of spring. Every direction you looked, was a beautiful view. We hiked around the knoll in a clockwise direction.

When we arrived at the backside of the knoll, a small group of hikers took their break as they waited for a larger group of hikers to climb the knoll. While waiting for the climbers, we took note of some of the details that the desert had to offer.

The Joshua Trees are blooming this year after taking a break last year. This bloom to the left was one of the few that had already made a showing here at Red Rock.

The Indian Paintbrush is blooming in full force.

LPF's (Little Purple Flowers) were carpeting the ground underneath creosote bushes. Periwinkle flowers are a trailing ground cover whose real name is vinca.

The beaver- tail prickly pear cacti are budding. This particular one will have many blooms very soon.

This beetle quickly made his way across the trail while we were waiting for the climbers.

This is a common lizard of the southwest found in hot and dry locations. They start becoming very active as the weather begins to warm up.

Wild rhubarb has been appearing in the area for three to four weeks.

The flowers and berries of most of the 106 species of manzanita are edible. The bark can be chewed to deter thirst.

When the climbers returned, we continued around the knoll passing between Potato Knoll and Rainbow Peak. Back here, the earth is very red. As you round the corner, the floor of Red Rock Canyon comes back into view. Oak Creek Canyon is also seen close by.

When we met Oak Creek for the third time, some hikers decided to balance their way down the creek to the fourth crossing. We hopped from rock to rock and made our way through some tall brush. The creek was still flowing all the way through. In the summer, this creek bed becomes dry in spots as the water goes underground for yards at a time. After our creek excursion, we all returned to the cars.