Monday, February 25, 2013

Railroad Pass Mountain Loop - 2/25/13

                                       Trail and Cascata Waterfall

                                  Railroad Pass Mountain Loop Trail

Another new hike for the Around the Bend Friends Hiking Club of Las Vegas! Coming in at only 4.7 miles with 900 feet of gross elevation gain, the Railroad Pass Mountain Loop is a trail that begins and ends in the upper parking lot of the Railroad Pass Casino in Henderson. The trail loops around above the Cascata Golf Resort and leads the hiker just above their famous waterfall which flows as a beautiful backdrop for their driving range.

 Probably the most difficult part of the hike happens in the very beginning as nineteen hikers climbed the hill behind the casino to reach the trail level. A few small switchbacks help in this ascent. Once we reach the trail level, the hike proceeds at an even elevation with only small ups and downs that the bikers so love to challenge themselves with. Although this trail is a mountain bikers' trail, we did not see anyone else on the trail all morning.

                        Cascata Waterfall and Jug Handle Arch Above Left

                                               Cascata Golf Resort

When we rounded a corner about 45 minutes into the hike, we saw the beautiful waterfall on the opposite side of the small canyon that we would hike around. There is a rumor that the golf course doesn't turn on the water on Tuesdays so be aware of that. High above the driving range, we were out of danger and we had a gorgeous view. Up to our left, on top of the small mountain range, we could see a large jug handle arch.

 When we got to the other side of this canyon, we hiked above the waterfall on a rock fall with uneven footing. Just be careful here. There is also a vein of white and pink here. Gypsum? Perhaps, but the mineral that put this area on the map was alunite. When alunite was discovered in these mountains, a mining camp was established due to the relationship between alunite and gold. However, gold was not found before the boss ran out of money.

                        Informational Sign Explaining History of This Area

                               Climbing the Last Real Hill Before Break

 We continued around and we could see the Mother Trail across the way. The high point of the hike was at a point where we were only around 100 feet away from the Mother Trail's apex. We took our break out of the wind while gazing down at the golf course. Afterwards, we wiggled our way down in elevation with expansive views of Las Vegas and the Spring Mountains.

 At one point, the hiker is given a choice about whether to go right into the wash or go left down a ridge. We chose right and continued around at desert floor level. The last mile brought us up a level and then we dropped back down to the casino. Everyone enjoyed the new hike and suggested that they would like to do it again someday.

                     Rock Formation and Trail on Second Half of Loop

                                Mt. Charleston Peeking Out From Wash

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Baby Wilson - 2/24/13

Four hikers bagged the peak of Baby Wilson this morning led by Richard Natale. Continuing his escarpment saga, Richard found a route up a nice little peak that sits on the base of Mt. Wilson and today was its debut. Richard wrote a little for us as seen below.

Very cold and windy at the meeting place this morning.
After some deliberation the group decided to give it the old college try.
With hats, hooks and neck warmers we  four, maybe not the smartest, trekked across the desert for one and one half miles to the canyon at the foot of Baby Wilson.
At last,out of the wind we climbed to the summit where the wind let up for a short time so we could take a picture.
We started down the east side obstacle course and waited for Paul to grab his cache.
The next 150 ft down was the worst of the wind.
We managed to get back down to the desert floor and back to the trail head in record time. ~ Richard Natale

Gold Butte - Little Finland & The Subway - 2/23/13

                                Little Finland at Gold Butte, Nevada

                               Virgin Peak (in distance) at the Trailhead

 Once again, the Around the Bend Friends took the day trip up to Gold Butte. North on I-15, exit #112, 3 miles and turn right on Gold Butte Road. Then, twenty miles of roughly paved road, 4 miles of graded dirt road, and 4 more miles of high clearance dirt road toward Red Bluff Spring. After two hours of driving, (with a whole lot a' shakin' goin' on), twenty-five hikers piled out of seven high clearance vehicles at the well-known wall of petroglyphs to bag a geocache and begin the hike.

 The next order of business was to find our way over to Little Finland from the Petroglyph wall so we entered a break in the red rock found about 100 yards to the right. Following our noses ... yes, Kay and John do this section a little different every time ... we found the high point red rock and circled around it to the left. There is a slight trail leading to a down climb to the right that leads the hiker into the Little Finland area from its northeast corner.

                 Descending Into Little Finland From the Northeast Corner

                                                 Large Fin Sculpture

 When we got to Little Finland, Kay requested that everyone meet at the fence on the opposite end of Little Finland in approximately thirty minutes. This would allow time for all the photogs in the group to get creative with their pictures and cover most of the large area. Everyone else, had fun climbing up and down among the odd terrain looking for interesting shapes and dinosaur footprints!

 Henry David Thoreau once said, "The finest workers in stone are not copper or steel tools, but the gentle touches of air and water working at their leisure with a liberal allowance of time." His words can be applied to Little Finland, an area that is amazing in its creation. Little Finland, also named Devil's Fire and Hobgoblin's Playground among others, is filled with other worldly rock fins.

                                     Navigating Little Finland Terrain

                                      Little Finland Alligator Sculpture

Geologists suggest that millions of years ago, dissolved minerals seeped into cracks of hardened sand dunes. It is these crystalized minerals that proved to be the harder substance. Eventually, through erosion, the fins were created. We knew to be careful around the delicate landscape and, after getting our fill of photography, we gathered at the fence as planned.

 We sidled through the fence opening and hiked down the dirt road to the floor below Little Finland's cliff decorated with fan palms. As this is BLM land, camping is allowing just about anywhere here and there were people camped along the cliff. We passed their tents and moved on to Red Bluff Spring. Ducking under the fence surrounding the spring (to keep open range cows out), we hiked up by the water and straight out to the corral. After corral inspection, we decided it was still being used to gather the bovines who have freedom in Gold Butte.

                                     Hiking Out By Red Bluff Spring

                                                 Gold Butte Corral

The next leg of the hike led us across the wash road, up a small wash, and across the desert toward a large separated rock called Baby Butte. We crossed a deep ravine using cow paths and hiked over to a slot which proved to be an interesting way to attain the next plateau up. A very dirty pool of water sat at the bottom of the climb at the end of the slot. We placed rocks in the deep pool that aided us to get to the beginning of the ascent.

 Throughout the hike, Kay and John stayed very close to the original 2012 track; only deviating when they found an "improvement." The GPS information below is detailed from last year's hike but straighten out some of the curves and you have this year's endeavor. All the "fun" stuff is still in place!

                                           Starting the Slot Climb

                                         Small Slot and Its Petroglyphs

 So the next "fun" stuff was the small slot canyon found in one of the canyons to our right after the slot climb. This small slot holds some very interesting petroglyphs as seen in the photo collage above. Although this is a very unknown treasure, Gold Butte offers many of these unknown treasures. This is why this land is deemed sacred to the Native Americans. They ask that visitors not touch the writings to preserve their integrity.

 From the small slot of petroglyphs, we exited the canyon and curved around the point to the right. Approaching a cliff, we separated into those that don't mind a little exciting exposure and those that prefer not to test their skills to that extreme. In the photo above and to the right, you can see the finer points of the exposed down climb. After this Act I finale, we took an intermission outside of the Subway. During the break a few hikers inspected some of the petroglyphs on the outside walls there.

                                 Paul Enters the Subway (aka the Grotto)

                                                 Inside the Subway

 The entrance to the Subway is camoflaged by a bit of brush but getting past that, we could see why it is nicknamed as such. The shape of the slot is sort of like a tube. The best petroglyphs in the tube slot are located at the end of the tube where the slot climbs a rock fall as seen in the photo to the left. Be careful getting too excited about some of the drawings in the Subway. There are some drawings that are quite a bit more modern in nature.

 We exited out of the Subway through a side canyon that led us around the point of the rock ridge that we were in. Thus, the Big Boulder Canyon Scramble began! This adjacent canyon is filled with humongous boulders and the seldom used trail takes the hiker up, over, under and around some of the boulders up near the wall on the left. After the boulders run out, we were obliged to wade our way through quite a bit of brush in the narrowed slot at the end.

                         Fighting the Brush in Boulder Canyon Scramble

                        Climbing Out of Boulder Canyon to Plateau Above

 After around a half mile of brushy canyon terrain, we climbed up to our left onto the plateau above. In the photo to the left, Susan Murphy's camera took in the sandstone landscape. A final climb on the plateau led us to the top of what will forever be known as Lubinsky Point! This sandstone fin is a dubious test of will. Until today when Ed F. found an easier route down, this obstacle was a necessity when accomplishing the Big Boulder Canyon Scramble. From here on out, Lubinsky Point will be a choice.

 The Lubinsky Point obstacle requires the hiker to trust the hiking shoe soles and/or butt slide down a steep sandstone fin that has a drop of around ten to twenty feet on one side and a drop of around sixty feet on the other side. In 2012, John Lubinsky dealt with the exposure as only John Lubinsky can! This year there were a couple other hikers who had the same experience. Nevertheless, we all got down safely.

                    Jerry's View of the Lubinsky Point Descent from Above

                 Jerry's View of the Lubinsky Point Descent from the Side

Kay's View of the Lubinsky Point Descent as the Group Funneled Down to the Wash

 The hike continued through the canyon below after we funneled down to it. Making a straight route toward the top of the Subway, we passed a few cow pies that were quite impressive! At the Subway, we found a way to drop back into it from above in another side canyon, thereby completing the Big Boulder Canyon Scramble Loop.

Right after our break, the sky had instantly turned from a warm blue to a very gusty and cold gray. We were all feeling a little vulnerable to the weather so the last leg of the hike began without much ado.

We hiked up through a pretty arch and followed a red wash down toward Baby Butte. Again, we had to cross the deep ravine via cow trail then hike over to the wall to the right of Baby Butte. Here, there is yet another slot that leads into a small box canyon inside the rock. We scrambled up past "toilet seat rock," down a fun chimney and up another fun chimney to make a sort of short cut over to where we wanted to go.

                        Cold and Windy Weather Rushing in at Mid-Hike

                                 Navigating the Baby Butte Box Canyon

After the box canyon, we turned to the left and crossed over the desert and sandstone to a place where we could hike down to the next level. Here, there is the end of a small abandoned dirt road. We immediately turn right off of the dirt road and followed the deep wash on our right until we found a place to hike down into it. Continuing in the wash in the same direction, we crossed the wash road near the old corral, found a cow path and turned right.

This cow path took us over to the cars after rounding a point to our left. We were happy to see the cars but equally happy that it was a wonderful and fulfilling hike. Gold Butte has a lot to offer and, today, we explored 8.2 miles of it. The drive home put us on the Gold Butte Road at dusk and the interstate at sunset. The sunset was an appropriate curtain call of a beautiful light show. Thanks all for a successful hike!

                  Heading Home From the Subway and Baby Butte Area

                                 View of Last Three/Fourths of a Mile