Thursday, February 26, 2015

Yellow Spire / Colorful Canyons (Sensitive Area) - 2/26/15

Yellow Spire

Colorful Canyon

Starting Down over the Hill

Nice Small Wash

 Today, the Around the Bend Friends premiered a new hike in Valley of Fire State Park led by Brian and created by Brian and several co-explorers. This hike takes the adventurers into a very sensitive area of Valley of Fire and a neighboring land owned by an unknown entity. It leads through large areas of cryptobiotic soil, over thin fragile fins and molded sand that crumbled under our feet when we stepped in the wrong place. Anyone who wishes to repeat this hike should be very aware of where you step.

Twenty-Eight in a Line (Footsteps in Footsteps)
 Our large group of 28 hikers were extremely careful to hike in a line using each others footprints to make our own footprints.

End of the Old Road
 We also used an old road and stone and sandy washes for travel as much as possible.

Our Beautiful Women

 Starting at the Silica Dome parking lot, we started down the old road near the new restrooms and cut off to the left in short manner. This took us down to a nice shallow wash and the colors began. It had rained recently so the sand was damp and there were several puddles. The sand on our shoes made the going dicey as we hiked down the sloping rock.

White Sand Dunes
 After passing through this beautiful area, we had warmed up our cameras and reconnected with the old dirt road.

Yellow Spire in Setting
 At the end of the road, we dropped into the Yellow Spire area. Photographers were invited to take first dibs on the scenery. The mustard yellow color of this spire was interestingly different.

Tiny Hoodoos
 Along with the taller hoodoos that adorned the area, there were thousands of tiny hoodoos that could be captured at ground level.

Don't do it, Jerry!

 Throughout the hike, there were probably around ten hoodoos that were especially noteworthy. These were either tall and thin or shaped in an interesting way. We were very careful not to disturb the geologic anomalies. The next corner we turned took us to an orange canyon with more hoodoos. Our senses were ignited from all sides! Again, the photographers were invited to go first.

Hoodoos and Whatnots
 This canyon provided a little scrambling as we climbed around looking for the best views.

Small Scramble

 A rock squirrel (or shark) gazed over us as we sat here for our break. Twenty- eight hikers had, at least, ten different conversations going at once. What a great turnout of club members on this fine cool morning!

After the break, we dropped down into a choice of two very narrow slots.

Break Time
 The more difficult slot came first. A couple of hikers enjoyed the challenge.

Interesting Slot
 The rest of us came down via the slot seen in the photo below. We had to remove our pack to be able to squeeze through the crack.

The Tight Squeeze

 From the tight squeeze, we continued down a colorful wash. There were more hoodoos and whatnots. The wash puddles captured at least two different feet and the scrambling was a little difficult due to the water. We followed Brian while taking way too many photos! (It was very difficult to decided which photos not to use in this entry!)

Desert Hoodoo
 We looked forward, backward and all around as we hiked. That's not easy at a steady pace, you know!

Colorful Canyon

 Next came a more open area where the color was toned down temporarily. This area reminded the writer of the area around The Pinnacles of the Valley of Fire. We were probably in the same geologic vein of rock. We were constantly reminded of the fragility of the landscape.

Valley of Fire Sensitive Area
 Our trail can be seen in the photo above in the lower right quarter. We stepped in each others tracks when crossing through sensitive areas.

Colorful Canyon

 There were still more hoodoos and we passed a few more areas of color before we scrambled over a little shoulder of rock as seen in the photo to the left. This brought us to another wash and we started down. Again, puddles of water and sand-covered dry falls plagued our progress but these are challenges that we thrive on. The long line of hikers moved along with impressive speed.

Desert Hoodoo
 This wash started sandy and progressed quickly into sloping sandstone. We were dropping at a good rate.

Dropping Down

 At the low point of the wash, we came to a slot with high walls. We kicked the sand off our shoes as best we could and tackled the winding drops then met the crux of the hike in the form of a smallish dry fall up. There were no foot holds that could be used for steps but the hand holds were sufficient to pull ourselves up. But, then, right after that we met the rabbit hole! Okay, everybody! Head first or feet first, your choice!

Lori Avoids the Water Below
 This rabbit hole was triangular in shape on the flat surface of the sandy ground. Not a problem!

Kay Avoids the Water, Too
 It took a few minutes for everyone to get up the sandy dry fall and through the hole so we took a small break here while we waited.

Slippery Dry Fall to Right and Low Rabbit Hole on Left Above
 There were several onlookers as we each "did it our way!"

One More Dry Fall

 We climbed on up the wash then made a turn up to our right. This could have been another section of the old road. But, then, we found ourselves going up in another wash ... a red wash. Brian stopped and warned that there was a large dry fall at the end and we needed to decide (sight unseen) if we wanted to try it or go around with him. The writer decided, oh why not try it!

Reprieve from Scrambling
 About half of the group went one way and the other half went the other way. On our way up to the climb, we passed underneath an interesting tree log crossing the wash above.

The Red Canyon
 The tree seemed to be caught in time as it stuck out from the old sandstone wall. Soon, there it was! The climb up! It actually didn't look so bad. It was just that first really big step that was a little daunting!

Mike Climbs the Big Dry Fall while Others Wait in Line

 With a little boost from behind, the writer made it up and another spectator climb ensued. The up and around group joined us and we hiked back over to the place where we had dropped down into the Yellow Spire area. All that was left was a really tiring long climb up through sand back to the cars. As Brian says, "There's a price to pay to see the good stuff!"

Please remember, THIS AREA IS FRAGILE!

5.5 miles; 950 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

Last Bit of Color before Climb Out

Passing the First and Last Hoodoo

Major Sandy Climb

Old Cholla with Shadow

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Gateway Canyon ... River - 2/24/15

 A "bunch" of men plus Anne decided that the best hiking route to do today was the Kraft Mountain Loop. It snowed down into the Red Rock area on Sunday and Monday so the Tuesday hikers had to forgo their foray onto Gunsight Peak. It would have been a tad slippery up there ... YIKES! In fact, the weather did not encourage any of the peak climbs by Tuesday and, well, why not enjoy Gateway Canyon?

Mike OC and Jerry Thomas sent photos of the romp but only a few comments were made. The photos probably speak for themselves. The GPS tracks below are from a previous hike we did when there was water in the canyon, however, the group today started and ended at the upper dirt parking area in Calico Basin. Jerry's comments are found below:

 We had a bunch of men show up and Ann Maserati.  Mike Castle was there who I haven't seen in a long time.  It was windy and cold.  We started up five stop hill and took a shortcut into Gateway Canyon.  Oh, Tim and Patrick Connor were there, too.  Because of all the water the scrambling was a little more difficult.  At one point Doyle bent over to let people use his shoulder as support for a steep down climb off a boulder.  After we got to the end of the canyon, Steve Allen, Chuck Stinnent, Larry Shahan and I decided to go to the top of Kraft mountain and traverse across the top back to five stop hill.  The wind was really blowing on top.  We explored some areas that I rather not go back to! ~ Jerry