Saturday, April 30, 2011

Calico Tanks - 4/30/11

Seventeen people took a hike today ... or, rather, scrambled ... to the main Calico Tank. We set off from the Sandstone Quarry parking area on the Red Rock NCA scenic loop and stopped by the quarry leftovers and the agave roasting pit (seen in the photo to the left) to talk a little about this area's history. A few of the hikers had not been introduced to the rich culture found in the Las Vegas surrounding area before today.

As we hiked up through the white and red sandstone canyon, we noticed that many of the flowers have begun to bloom. Among them are the banana yuccas, firecracker penstemens, red bud trees, Indian paintbrush, desert marigolds, globemallows, and evening primrose. After the hike, we also saw that the cliffrose is blooming over on the other side of the loop.

The scramble up to the tank proved to be every bit of a moderate hike that it was billed to be. A few of the hikers were surprised by the toughness of the challenges. However, almost all of us made it to the main tank and climbed up to the overlook just beyond. We huddled out of the cold bite of the wind or explored around the area while we took our snack break.

It was a clear day and the view of the Las Vegas Strip was great. It has been a while since the air has been clear. The wind has been blowing quite a bit as is normal for the spring time. Sometimes this stirs the dust but, today, the wind has taken the dust away for a while. Unfortunately, along with the wind came a lot of cold air. We were just getting used to the arrival of warm weather previous to this.

On our way back to the other side of the tank, we saw a few dogs taking the plunge in the tinaja. The dog seen below waded out until his legs no longer reached the bottom then began to swim back. He/she had a lot of fur and maybe this felt really good to him/her. However, we suspected that the water was very very cold to those without the fur coat.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Grand Canyon/Phantom Ranch Hiking Trip 2011 - 4/11 thru 15/11

During the second week of April 2011, eleven friends hiked down to Phantom Ranch at the Grand Canyon. There were six members of the club and five various brothers and sisters of said members. (The sixth club member caught a cancellation and stayed in a nearby dorm.) We rented a ten-person cabin one year previous to the trip and held our collective breaths as the United States Congress played "chicken" over the national budget threatening to close the national parks and, therefore, abort our fantasy laden emergence into that huge eons old crevasse called the Grand Canyon.

The writer's brother and she arrived at the South Rim the day before and took a stroll through telltale patches of snow over to Maricopa Point where we viewed the Bright Angel Trail below us switchbacking its way up the side of the canyon. In three days, we would be facing those zigzags from the bottom.

Tuesday - South Kaibab Trail - DOWN

Tuesday morning, the eleven hikers chose different routes and times to make their way to Phantom Ranch. While most of the ten began their trip down via Bright Angel Trail, their start times varied. There were two hikers who made a side trip to Plateau Point and two or three that took the Tonto Trail over to the South Kaibab Trail to finish their descent. We decided to descend the South Kaibab Trail from the top to provide the best views possible for the purpose of being "blown away!" Along with another Bright Angel hiker, we were the first to arrive at the ranch to check in even after multiple photos and casual breaks.

Early morning view to the east from Cedar Ridge.

View from South Kaibab Trail to the snowy North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

NOTES: The South Kaibab Trail has been worked on using stimulus monies. One section of steps has been removed. The section just above the Cedar Ridge rest is now a much more pleasant ramp. - Since this was still early in the season, only one supply mule train passed us. - The profound chill that we felt in the air on the rim in the morning had dissipated by the time we reached Cedar Ridge. Then, by the time we reached the ranch, we were very warm with a temperature in the 80's.

Descending just past The Tipoff in the red dirt layer.

Looking back to the tunnel on the Black Bridge.

South Kaibab Trail

Phantom Ranch

Phantom Ranch needs to use some of that stimulus money to replace their water filtering system with a bigger stronger apparatus. Even though the ranch is all about history and keeping up the look of when it was refurbished in 1922, perhaps keeping back the tremendous amount of silt that comes pouring down the Bright Angel Creek every spring can be done behind the scenes. Below, note the requirements for most of the women and some of the men at Phantom Ranch during this week. Those buckets were heavy!

Wednesday - North Kaibab Trail - Ribbon Falls Trail - Clear Creek Trail Overlook
Ribbon Falls
Wednesday morning, we all woke for a 6:30 breakfast served family style and "don't be late!" A few of the more heartier hikers left for a Clear Creek Trail hike. It is assumed that they passed the overlook and reached the base of the Zoroaster Temple. This is a good workout but the report included implications that the hike became dull after reaching the flat terrace above the inner canyon.

A few of the hikers took a well- deserved day off from the foot- pounding and four of us left early for a twelve mile round trip hike to Ribbon Falls.

One of six bridges which cross Bright Angel Creek along the trail.

We hiked along the very pleasant Bright Angel Creek on a fairly flat trail at a casual pace. We noted the small wildflowers that had bloomed and the spiny back lizards on the trailside rocks. Many photo opportunities existed and we enjoyed every minute.

When we reached the falls, there were already a gaggle of young men at top of the falls enjoying themselves with showers and photos. We squeezed in their midst and took our photos, too. There was a lot more water coming over the cliff than in May of last year. The waterfall was likely at its best. We took our snack break then hiked back to the ranch thankful that the clouds covered the sun while we were in the open area north of the slot canyon.

The open part of the North Kaibab Trail to the North Rim.

Thursday - Bright Angel Trail - UP
Morning light reaches the inner canyon.

The Silver Bridge.

Thursday morning, we all woke around 4:30 for a 5:00 breakfast ready to face the music! It was the day to climb.

Nine of the hikers ascended by use of the South Kaibab Trail. We chose the Bright Angel Trail. The difference in the trails is about 2 miles, Bright Angel being the longer. Coincidentally, the hikers met at the top outside of the Bright Angel Lodge at the same time. Granted, the Kaibab hikers met up with a few delays along the top for trail workers.

Suffice it to say, the Bright Angel Trail has not lost any of its valor. The hike out was challenging. We passed many other hikers, so the six hours, give or take, that it took the two of us was nothing to be ashamed of! The hike along the river at the bottom continues to be a favorite of this writer. The Devil's Corkscrew is not too bad given the early part of the hike and being somewhat in the shade at the early hour. Indian Gardens was lush and placid. Then ... the rest of it. Remember the second photo of this entry?

Indian Gardens

The Battleship in the foreground.

Back on the South Rim

After a bath, lunch and recovery time, we took the park provided shuttle bus out to Hermit's Rest stopping at a few points along the way. The air was hazy but there is little that can ruin any view of the Grand Canyon. Before heading out the next morning, we walked along the rim a short way. There is now something they call "The Trail of Time." There are rocks placed monument style and placards placed to indicate the age of rock found below the rim. (NOTE: Someone's money built beautiful new large bathrooms with automatic toilets in the Bright Angel Lodge. Much needed.)

We stopped by the Visitor's Center and walked out to Mather Point for a few photos. Here, we got the photo panorama of the South Kaibab Trail. Our trip to the Grand Canyon concluded and we left. Can't wait till next time!

Mather Point view.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Search and Rescue Demonstration - 3/31/11

Jim gives us this report about the Search and Rescue Demonstration that Jane arranged in March. Thanks Jane and Jim.

On March 31st, six ATBF members met Sergeant Vesp at the North Las Vegas Airport. Sergeant Vesp talked to us for some time in the training room, showed us a movie about their operations, and then gave us a tour of the hanger where they had several helicopters and one fixed-wing aircraft. Some of the aircraft was in for repair, but others were ready to go at a moment's notice. Sergeant Vesp showed us the helicopters and equipment, and he explained how they perform rescues.

It was interesting to see and hear about how the crew operates behind the scenes and during rescues (they also fly support for SWAT). It was reassuring to realize how quickly and easily they can find and rescue injured hikers and other outdoors people, but Sergeant Vesp made a point of saying that in most cases, an ounce of prevention would go a long ways in making the difference between an epic hike and a disaster.

In particular, Sergeant Vesp suggested the following:

• Let someone know where you are going, where you expect to park, and when you expect to return.
• Bring what you need of the ten essentials, but in particular, always bring a flashlight, a windbreaker, a wool cap, a space blanket, and a fire starter (bic lighter or better).
• If you are lost, stop and think carefully about where you need to go
• Know that pilots with night-vision goggles can see small lights (e.g., the glow of a cell phone) from several miles away.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Tank Discovery Scramble - 4/18/11

The Tank Discovery Scramble hike that thirteen members of the club did today is a new hike. Four members of the club worked on the route during four previous explorations and today was the hike's debut. All members of the hike had fun and enjoyed the new discoveries over 4.25 miles with a net gain of 1200 elevation feet over three separate ascents.

The hike began at the Sandstone Quarry parking area off of the Red Rock Canyon NCA scenic loop. We hiked past the quarry and took a right turn into the hills. Our first stop was at the hidden arch where we took our photos then began a strenuous trek up into the sandstone. Up, down, up and up brought us to the top of a peak where we overlooked the floor of Red Rock Canyon.

Partially retracing our steps down to a junction, we then descended down to a mid-point on the Calico Tanks Trail. Phase I of the hike was done. Phase II would begin after climbing just past Rooster Rock on the Tanks Trail. An obscure trail heads up to the right just after the first set of stairs past the introduction of red sandstone. Up we went onto the yellow sandstone again.

Continuing in the initial direction of the right turn, we crossed over to a place where we could climb up (steeply) onto the large sandstone hill in front of us. Up we went again. This time we were in search of a large tank about half of the size of the main Calico Tank. Keeping to the left, we found the tank as seen in the photo to the right. It was somewhat deep into the sandstone but it appeared that animals could probably get down to it if motivated.

Next, we found our way up to the layer of sandstone above. Passing smaller "puddle tanks" (most of which were dry after last week's warmer weather), we came to another decently sized tank that looked out to Turtlehead Peak. Although only half of the hikers decided to climb down to the tank, photos of this tank were the most promising (as seen below). Unfortunately, today's sky did not help matters as it was very overcast and windy.

From this tank, we scrambled over to the other side of the hill and dropped down into a dirt and brush area as seen in the photo above. We followed this down into a rocky slope, crossed a couple of downed trees which lent their trunks to the cause and climbed up to the base of another deep tank as seen in the first photo of this entry. After climbing up to view this tank, we continued our climb up a rocky slope and reached the top of Calico II Peak. Finally, here, we sat and ate our snack where we could get out of the wind.

On Calico II Peak, there are three tanks, only one of which was filled with water (as seen in the photo to the left). There is a view of the Las Vegas Strip and the sandstone formations are very interesting. Although there are a couple of easier ways to get down off of the peak, our route, today, was chosen for excitement. And, excitement was what we got as we headed down off the side of the peak with nothing but the main Calico Tank about 500 feet below us.

This descent requires two hands, two feet and two butt cheeks for most of us. It's fairly steep and the provided ledges are quite narrow. The first large photo immediately above shows this section.

Next, we leaned against a large boulder to descend another twenty feet. The photo above shows the view from here. The main tank is visible in the small triangle near the center of the photo. Stepping across the strong trunk of a small shrub, we then descended down the sandstone to a particularly frustrating crack that must be negotiated. This crack descent is seen in the photo to the right. There were almost as many variations to the method as there were number of hikers. Some methods worked better than others, however, we all got down safely.

Finally, we were back down to the main Calico Tank as seen in the photo to the right. It is full of water and ready to settle down for a long hot summer. We turned to our left to hike down the trail a few feet before we took a side trail up to another small tank as seen in the next photo. A few photos later, we returned to the trail and climbed down to the red sandstone at Mass Production Wall. At this junction, we kept going straight instead of beginning the climb down the nicely built steps that turn to the left. No, we preferred scrambling down the side of the hill!

We made our way over to the bottom of the Red Cap scramble, went through the small sideways slot and headed out a graveled wash seldom used by any other trail. At the end of this wash, we climbed the dry waterfall of Turtlehead Canyon (named by us!). There is a trail above the wash which we followed to the left and entered into a sandstone inlet. Phase III of the hike was well underway.

The final climb of the day was located here inside the inlet. We started steeply up to the left where there was a slightly slanted slope to the rock. Up, up and up we went. Lo and behold, there was the final tank; a beautiful tank which overlooks Turtlehead on one side and the Escarpment on the other. The sandstone dips gracefully down to the water and when one sits at the edge and speaks, one's voice dies immediately into the rock (no echo!). It would be a great place for a string quartet to perform!

We descended back into the inlet, curved around some more rocks and came out onto the Turtlehead Peak Trail. We followed this trail out to the parking area and rested the rest of the day!

Oh, yeah! There were petroglyphs somewhere....