Saturday, December 31, 2011

Liberty Bell Arch - 12/31/11

Ring the Bell !! And, bring in the New Year! Liberty Bell, that is! The Liberty Bell Arch is located south of the Hoover Dam in Arizona. After crossing the new bridge, White Rock Canyon trailhead parking lot is four miles and to the left. Almost forty hikers from the Around the Bend Friends started their hike from here today.

The hike was divided into two groups of hikers but since we were only fifteen minutes apart, the groups got jumbled together at the arch. The first group had twenty hikers and we hiked down White Rock Canyon until we soon found the right turn onto the arch trail (almost 1 mile down). We began here with a little climb up to the old manganese mining area. There are still some relics lying around.

We dropped down into the wash and continued on the trail which has been improved since last year. The "steep" hill going down to the wash was not as slippery as in years past. As we were enjoying the arch, the second group made their approach.

Several hikers from the first group and two hikers from the second group decided to hike up the steep slippery hill, go over the saddle and climb around the back side of the arch to step inside the bell. Only six hikers ultimately made it to the bell. Photos were taken and we moved on.

We climbed to the top of the plateau above the arch to take our break overlooking the Colorado River. We could see the new bridge in the distance. By this time, all of the hikers in both groups were there.

The weather was fabulous. We saw several other hikers on the arch trail and even more on the White Rock Canyon trail which leads to the hot springs near the river. Happy New Year to all!!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mother Loop - 12/27/11

The Super Tuesday hike for the Around the Bend Friends of Las Vegas was an eleven mile modified version of the Mother Loop biking trail in the area of Bootleg Canyon in the River Mountains of Boulder City, Nevada. Presumably, the trail is so called because it is the main trail from which many other biking trails spur off. Fifteen members began a search for the Mother Loop from the River Mountain Trail paved parking lot on Highway 93.

We headed up the concrete drainage and connected with the trail that leads to the saddle between Red and Black Mountains. This part of the trail was very familiar with us and we made short time climbing up the switchbacks and over the saddle. As we made our way down the other side, we got the view below of the Las Vegas Strip on a fairly clear morning.

Dropping off of the trail, we headed down to a wash and followed it a short way. Crossing over a couple other washes / trails / 4WD roads we finally found a clear trail to the left on which we settled. This was the Mother Loop.

Before we got very far, we stopped to wait for people to catch up. The pace was very fast ... not an easy pace to keep over the course of eleven miles. During our small break, Chuck pointed out the tortoise burro at our feet. In the spring, the tortoises come out of their burros but, right now, they are hibernating in burros like seen in the photo above.

View towards the west from the Mother Loop at snack junction.

At the six mile point, we finally stopped for a much needed snack break. The cairn in the photo above rested at the trail junction here. The weather was beautiful even though the light wind blew consistently. After the break, following the ins and outs of the lateral trail, we came upon a view of the back side of the Cascata Golf Club, a very well- maintained exclusive golf course of the stars.

Beyond the resort, we could see the traffic on Highway 93 going into Boulder City was backed up. Smugly, we continued through the gorgeous reds and yellows of the rock around us. In this section of the hike, around every corner, there were vibrant colors and interesting trail layouts that zigzagged in and out and up and down.

Eventually, the colors settled down and the wiggly trail straight- ened out somewhat. Then ... there ... up on a small peak stood a magni- ficent bighorn sheep. We watched in awe as she began running with her girl friend and kid following behind. Back to the fast paced hike, we went. Not much time for dilly dallying!

We finally reached the Bootleg Canyon trailhead where the zip line excursion begins and ends and stopped for a bathroom break. We chose to finish up the hike on the paved River Mountain Trail. A choice that we payed for on sore and beaten feet. Only two more miles and we were back at the cars. This hike had its beauty and its tediousness but it seemed to satisfy our need for speed.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Jerry in Wisconsin - 12/26/11

Hiking in Wisconsin with my brother. Hope everyone has a great holiday season!

Grand Staircase of Calico Hills - 12/26/11

Well, we never knew that a mile and a half could be such fantastic fun! Today, eleven hikers got together to do a new hike called the Grand Staircase of Calico Hills. The hike is located on the southern end of the Calico Hills of Red Rock Canyon NCA and begins from the Red Springs Picnic Area parking lot. The sandstone we crawled around on today is of the red and white striped variety. Therefore, ... "Calico" Hills.

We hiked almost directly up to the base of the sandstone from the parking lot and began the "staircase" climb up a ramp- like area. The climbing involved a lot of hand use to keep our weight forward. We were following along the base of a wall to our left for most of the climb and, at one point, we had to squeeze between it and another boulder in a space about a foot across at our hips.

Barely breaking a sweat in the cool perfect day, we made it to the top and could see colors all around us. To the north, we saw the view in the first photo. To the south, we saw the view in the photo below. While we played around on top of the hill, we could see Calico Basin on one side and the Visitor's Center of Red Rock Canyon on the other. Our fearless coordinator, Jim, demonstrated "the leap" while he hoped that the feet and knees would not fail him on landing!

It was just a joy to be on this hike today. The weather was so nice. The scrambling was a delight. Most of us were somewhere that we had not been before. And, the holiday cheer was still in the air.

Continuing to walk south on the sandstone, we faced several interesting predica- ments. The coordinator playfully went up ahead to allow us to figure everything out for ourselves. It must have worked because we did have fun. Eventually, the continuance took us down on an enjoyable route with a lot of hand holds and bare sandstone on which to place our feet. (Note: There were several panels of graffiti in this area.)

Dipping down through a rabbit hole, we came within view of the saddle above Red Springs to the south. From this point, the descent became easier and we merged with the saddle trail near the bottom. In less than two casual hours, we had scrambled for a little over a mile up and down 750 elevation feet.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Historic Railroad Tunnels, Hoover Dam & O.T. Bridge - 12/24/11

Thirty- four Around the Bend Friends celebrated Christmas Eve this morning by hiking the seven to nine mile Historic Railroad Tunnels, Hoover Dam and O'Callaghan- Tillman Bridge Trail. Although this seems like a mouthful of words, the hike covers a lot of interesting attractions. We divided into two groups (a fast group and a more leisurely group). Then the second group divided into two sub-groups when they got past the tunnels. One sub-group went to the bridge and one sub-group went to the dam.

We would like to thank Steve A., Guy and Chris D. for coor- dinating the groups. Steve's group took off like a shot! We didn't take any breaks until we reached the bridge, our first stop. As we passed by Lake Mead, the early morning sun danced blue on the surface. There was noticeably more water in the lake as promised. We hiked from tunnel to tunnel in the shade but stayed warm by walking as fast as we could!

At the bridge, we took our time enjoying the scenery. There were very few tourists today and we almost had the bridge to ourselves in the beginning. A few hikers nervously peered over the railing at the dam from a standpoint three feet back. Others perched on the concrete wall behind the railing or hung over the railing getting our photos. Mike O'C contributed those photos with his name. The other photos were taken by the writer. Below, Mike took this photo of the writer and her husband high above the Colorado River below Hoover Dam.

After the group finished with the bridge, we headed down the steps next to the restrooms in the bridge parking lot and hiked over to the dam. The stairs are a new addition to the attraction. There have been many improvements to the trail from beginning to end. However, there remains one needed set of steps that should lead from the tunnel trail down to the road by way of a spur trail that, of course, hikers will continue to use.

By this time of the morning, the 34 hikers were spread all over this area of the hike. We stayed down at the dam's picnic tables for around twenty minutes. Some hikers crossed the dam. Some hikers just took a break. And some hikers stayed up at the top level of the parking garage just overseeing the whole business. As we left the dam area, tourists were starting to come out of the woodwork. Buses had arrived and families were joining in the hiking fun. The weather had warmed up to near 60 degrees with no wind. Folks, it just doesn't get any better than that!

We hiked back through the tunnels as fast as we could but it was not as fast as we started out. Nine miles is still a pretty long way to hike at full throttle! We hope that everyone has a very Merry Christmas and an equally Happy New Year! Or, otherwise, just have really really Happy Holidays! Now ... where's that sliced ham?