Thursday, March 31, 2011

Windy Peak - 3/31/11

Oh Happy Day! Our weather here in Las Vegas is GORGEOUS! And, today's hike to Windy Peak was the icing on the cake as seventeen members of the Around the Bend Friends Hiking Club made their way up, up, and up behind the escarpment of Red Rock Canyon NCA to find the second peak from the southern end. We started the hike at a roadside parking area at the Mountain Spring Pass on Highway 160.

"The first mile will get your attention," said Jane, today's Grand Poobah. ... And, it did! ... Up past the contro- versial new radio tower; up the road which has recently been made a trail; up to the junction of the Hollow Rock Peak Trail. We were still hiking among the limestone, agave and junipers as we continued up more and around to the right on a ridge which led to the sandstone of Windy Peak.

We reached the sandstone at a low saddle and began a precarious climb onto the rock as seen in the photo above to the left. All one needs is a pair of "sticky" shoes and the small climb with minimal exposure is in your rear view mirror in no time. Next, it is a tame scramble up, down, across and up over the sandstone to the peak.

Mt. Potosi watched from across Highway 160 as we enjoyed its view and surrounding views of the valley. The air was somewhat clear today and the Las Vegas Strip was visible in the distance. Neighboring peaks of the escarpment (Black Velvet to the north and Hollow Rock to the south) stood their ground with deep canyons guarding their prowess.

The highest point of Windy Peak sits about 50 yards back from the precipice at Cottonwood Valley. Here, we sat for a break and wrote our name in the well-used book. Wandering over to the edge, this writer found a well-sculpted cairn marking the end of the hike. The next step would be a big one!

We enjoyed the views and the weather then it was time to mosey back. Jane led us down, up and over the sandstone. We passed one large patch of snow hidden in a shady corner. No snow ball fights broke out, however, this writer believes she saw one hiker looking it over for possibilities.

The climb down that one precarious scramble seemed somehow easier to stomach and we moved onto the limestone once again. From here, the trail goes up steeply and, as always, ups are more difficult in the second half of the hike. Feeling the burn, we huffed and puffed until all we could see ahead of us was downhill.

We returned to that trail junction then continued straight for about a quarter mile. We turned right onto a burned out ridge and followed the ridge back down the mountain. At the bottom of the mountain, we hit a service road which led us back to our cars. It was a 5 mile hike with temperatures in the 70's.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Juniper Canyon - 3/24/11

Jerry's photo of Juniper Canyon, today, shows Rainbow Wall to the left, Gunsight Notch behind the large pine tree in the middle and snow dusting the brush and boulders in the middle of the canyon as he neared the sandstone slab at the top. Thanks for the photo, Jerry!

Today's hike into Juniper Canyon was very cold! Red Rock got snow last night and the peaks of the park were beautifully dusted with the white stuff. The arctic blast of wind was still lingering and we didn't find relief until the seventeen hikers of the day entered between the walls of the canyon.

We began at the Pine Creek parking area off of the Scenic Loop of Red Rock NCA. After quickly hiking down to the old Wilson homestead ruins, we stopped for a moment for people to catch up, bandage an ankle and get a drink of water. We crossed a very full and flowing Pine Creek then headed up the hill on the Arnight Trail. The trail for Juniper Canyon, the next canyon over to the south, takes off to the right a bit further up.

At the mouth of the canyon, the hiker with the bandaged ankle, (me), decided to forgo the scramble to the top where the sandstone slab provides a lot of excitement and scenery. While this hiker waited sitting on a large rock, a helicopter came along exploring the side of the escarpment above. Trying not to attract attention lest the helicopter think that it was I who asked for assistance, I sat very still and took a couple of pictures. Finally, after eyeing me closely, the helicopter left to explore another part of Red Rock. We hope it found the injured party.

In the canyon above, the rest of the group found flowing water on parts of the sandstone slab. There were also patches of snow and a rumor that a snowball fight ensued. The photo to the left and below were both taken last year. Rainbow Wall is a challenging climbing wall found to the left of Gunsight Notch which is the top of the middle of the canyon. Sitting on the sandstone slab provides a great view out of the canyon toward the Blue Diamond Hills.

There were many rock climbers in the area who appeared to be unbothered by the chill in the air. They are possibly leftover visitors from the recent Red Rock Rendezvous event. Juniper Canyon and Pine Creek Canyon are only two of the many popular rock climbing areas at Red Rock. In fact, anywhere there's a sandstone wall, someone has probably tried to climb it and name it.

The group returned to the opening of the canyon, picked up the waiting hiker (me), and hiked back to Pine Creek by way of a short cut using part of the Fire Ecology Trail. The air was beginning to warm up a little and the snow was already melting. A beautiful hike on a beautiful day in Las Vegas.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Death Valley Excursion - 3/ 18 thru 20 /11

Death Valley Manly Lake Bed as Viewed from Base of Manly Peak
Wing of Dead Bird
Death Valley. What's in a name? Well, the only death we saw was the remains of this large bird found in Fall Canyon. Other than that, Death Valley was anything but dead this weekend. Up to thirty- six members of the Around the Bend Friends found this national park alive with sun, wind, and rain; flowers, fun, and free time; colors, wildlife and big cows!
Borax Works
  Cindy W. graciously added her beautiful photos to this entry and she began the weekend early by staying overnight at the Racetrack to photograph the sliding rocks in the morning light. Previous to this she visited one of the old borax mining sites and the Ubehebe Crater.Watch for her name on the photos she has offered. She does great work.
Tea Kettle Junction
Cindy says that the twenty- eight mile dirt road that leads to the Racetrack is in good condition but it took her 2.5 hours to make the trip. The road wash- boards heavily. On her way, she passed Tea Kettle Junction.
Signs in Death Valley
Fall Canyon
On Friday, we met at the temporary Furnace Creek Visitor Center where thirty hikers set off for the southwestern terminus of Titus Canyon Road. Twenty hikers hiked up Titus Canyon for about two miles for an out and back hike of four miles. They enjoyed their hike and only had to dodge a few of the cars making the trip on the one way road through the narrow canyon. The other ten hikers made their way up through the neighboring Fall Canyon. This was a canyon which narrowed more and more as you reached the dry waterfall at the three mile mark. The only drawback to this hike was that the floor of the canyon is layered deeply with large gravel.
Fall Canyon Dry Fall
The hike up the canyon was laborious but the hikers persevered. At the waterfall, photos were taken. The hike back down the canyon was much easier. At the end of the day, these hikers were definitely the most tired. It was a hard hike.
After the hikes, some members explored other parts of the park such as the crater. However, the wind had picked up mightily and standing on the edge of the crater was a dangerous challenge. Most of us headed out of the park to our little hotel in Amargossa Valley, Nevada.
Ubehebe Crater
Zabriskie Point Sunrise
Starting Up Golden Canyon
Cindy left the hotel before sunrise to capture this hauntingly beautiful photo of Manly Peak at Zabriskie Point where several other photogs were set up for the sun's appearance. The rest of the group were either taking a leisurely breakfast at the hotel or making the drive up from Las Vegas for this morning's hike at the Golden Canyon / Gower Gulch Loop.
Golden Canyon
Most of us waited for our Weekend's Grand Coordinator, Guy, at the trailhead on Badwater Road while he gathered a few hikers from the visitor's center. Thirty- six hikers started the hike at around 9:30am heading into a canyon which soon opened out into golden colored hardened sand dunes called the Badlands of Death Valley. The trail headed into the badlands toward Manly Peak and Zabriskie Point. The scenery all around was gorgeous with many colors of beige, yellow, brown and white.
Trail Junction Below the Red Cathedral
The large group re-gathered at the trail junction sign seen in the sign collage above where the hike transitioned from the Golden Canyon to the Gower Gulch Loop. Taking the right turn into the hardened sand dunes, we headed up to the base of Manly Peak which rose to a height of around 500 feet above sea level. We had begun the hike at around 150 feet below sea level.
Panorama from High Point of Golden Canyon/Gower Gulch Loop
Base of Manly Peak
We circled around the base of Manly Peak on a narrow trail with steep terrain on either side of us. (One side up and one side down.) After we reached the saddle of frozen sand, the trail began its downward trek through more sand dunes and into the canyon of Gower Gulch. From one point here, we could see Zabriskie Point in the distance. There was also a trail which turned off to the left which would take you there.
Dropping into Gower Gulch
Heading into Narrows of Gower Gulch
In Gower Gulch, the wind picked up again and, here, a few words must be said about the weather during our weekend outing. The wind was definitely a factor throughout the weekend. It brought in very cold air beginning Friday afternoon. It blew hard all night Friday, all day Saturday and all day Sunday. We found relief when hiking inside the enclosed canyons and actually got quite warm in Golden Canyon. However, when we hiked into the more wide open Gower Gulch, the wind returned and the jackets were donned once again.
Exiting Gower Gulch
The colors in Gower Gulch changed into golds, greens, browns and oranges. The canyon had a beauty quite different from Golden Canyon with jagged edges to the darker colored rock. It was clear that a lot of water travelled through the canyon on a regular basis when it rained. There were several small dry waterfalls which had to be scrambled down but they were not difficult and all thirty-one hikers negotiated them well. (Five hikers had decided to return to the cars back through Golden Canyon.)
Traversing Back to Cars
After passing a couple of old mines, the canyon soon opened out into the floor of Death Valley by way of a forty foot dry waterfall. We gingerly climbed up to the side of the canyon at the top of this waterfall and began our hike back across the foot of the mountains to our cars which were located about 3/4 of a mile away.
Panorama from Zabriskie Point
After this hike, members of the club dispersed again. Guy and Rosie went to Dante's View where they were barely able to climb out of their car for the strong wind! A photo was taken then they returned to the hotel where all of the remaining hikers partied in room 107 where there was wine and cheese for everyone. Later that night, several club members took part in karaoke night at the casino bar. One of the weekend participants had quite a wonderful voice and much fun was had by all.
Full Moon Night
Longstreet Hotel and Casino
Statue of Herman the Cow at Longstreet Hotel and Casino
Loraine Feeds the Burros
The Longstreet Hotel and Casino is a wonderful place to visit even if you aren't staying overnight ... but it is a bit out of the way for us folks from Las Vegas. Located north of the Amargossa Opera House about ten miles, the hotel is announced by an extremely large fake cow to the left of the road. To the right of the front of the hotel, an extremely large real cow sits chewing his cud. Both cows are the same color and the real cow's name is Herman. Herman has three friends to spend his time with; two charming burros and a really quirky goat. Feeding these domesticated pets is welcomed ... especially by the pets.
Duck in Hotel Pond
Hotel Pond on a Windy Day
Between the hotel and its RV Park, sits a large duck pond ... gazebo included. While we were there, the ducks were swimming for their little lives against the strong wind which pushed large waves up on the normally quiet water.
The hotel and casino has many antiques inside. A few of these are in the photo collages below. They have quite a wonderful collection and the hotel and casino employees are very friendly.
Antiques in Hotel
Antiques in Hotel
Badwater on a Cloudy Day
Hikers on Salt of Badwater
On Sunday, there were around twenty club members still at the park and we met at the visitor's center for a pow wow. The weather had not improved and there was actual rain in parts of the park. Our plan was to hike in a narrow slot canyon called Sidewinder Canyon located around 31 miles south from the Badwater Road junction. There was some discussion as to whether an attempt should be made to hike a slot canyon with the weather being what it was and several hikers decided to go ahead and make the drive back home by way of the southern route.
Death Valley Flowers near Southern End of Park
A few hikers did decide to explore the canyon with watchful eyes and ears. The report was that it was interesting and warranted a return for more exploration. On the route back home, we passed through the Badwater area which displayed more salt than water. Also, at the southern end of the valley, there were many yellow flowers already popping up. As you can see by the photos, the weather presented a different sort of view with clouds covering the horizon. But, nevertheless, a weekend at Death Valley trumps a weekend at home any time. Thanks Guy, our Weekend's Grand Coordinator, for putting together this great weekend of hiking, socializing and relaxation.
Death Valley Flowers
Titus Canyon Road at Southwestern Terminus (Exit)
Fall Canyon
Golden Canyon/Gower Gulch Loop
Golden Canyon/Gower Gulch Loop
Golden Canyon/Gower Gulch Loop
Sidewinder Canyon