Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Cactus Garden / Bird Sanctuary - 11/30/16

Twins in the Blue Diamond Cactus Garden

Five Boulder Arch

Bird House in the Bird Sanctuary

Blue Diamond, Nevada
 Blue Diamond is a small community whose boundaries are inside the Red Rock Canyon NCA. Located on Highway 159, the town is a gateway to many hiking and biking trails of the desert variety. The trailhead that is often used for these trails is found just across the small bridge crossing a large wash on the entrance road. A large dirt parking area is off to the right as you come in. Eighteen hikers arrived at the trailhead on a cold morning but there was very little breeze so the weather was ripe for a great hike.

Cold Morning starting up the Trail
 We wound our way through Blue Diamond until we were at the upper trailhead where we dipped down through the wash and headed to the right.

Climbing the Canyon to the Saddle
 We climbed the trail that takes you up the northeast side of the small canyon until it reaches the saddle or earthen bridge that spans across the two parts of the tertiary ridge.

Hiking out to the Overlook

Blue Diamond from the Overlook
 Upon reaching the bridge, we turned to the right to hike out onto a connecting ridge. This rocky extension ends in a unique overlook where we could see all of Blue Diamond, the escarpment and parks and the extension of the ridge on the other side. Most of us had not been out here so the view was enjoyed by all. We, then, returned to the main trail on the bridge and continued up until we junctioned with the trail that follows the tertiary ridge out to the Cactus Garden.

The Tertiary Ridge from the Overlook
 Our pace was a strong moderate pace. No one was in a hurry and no one was really slow. All eighteen hikers were happily plodding along.

Starting up the Ridge Trail
 The ridge trail has views on both sides. But the view that kept our attention was the one in front. This was a head on view of the middle segment of the escarpment. We were heading straight for Monument Peak.

Hike High Point

Circling around to the Garden Area
 Nearing the end of the ridge, we rose to the high point of the hike. It was simply a large flat place! Then we dropped a little as we neared a saddle below the Cactus Garden; a rocky limestone acre of outcropping that is apparently a favorite location for red barrel cactus. Its hillside is facing the south and the limestone rock provides very well drained soil. We climbed up the hill in front of us and entered the garden with a large red barrel posted in a rock on the side of a large gap as seen in the photo below.

Arriving at the Cactus Garden
 We all climbed up into the garden and explored the area then settled down to take our break on the sharp rocks.

In the Cactus Garden
 The large cairn is still standing here. And, at least two of the big old fat barrels had imploded from an over abundance of autumn rain.

In the Cactus Garden

Taking our Break in the Garden
 After a relaxing break in the garden, we returned to the entrance to make our exit. Instead of going all the way back to the trail, we turned to our right and descended a very steep slippery slope to access the arch area. This arch is made from an adhesion of five boulders. It is quite photogenic as seen in the second photo of this entry. We all took a look see then continued descending to the trail below. The trail took us along a cliffy edge then began an arduous steep and slippery descent to the valley floor.

Yuccas below the Cactus Garden
 As we dropped, the conversation was reduced to a minimum since we were all concentrating so hard to not fall.

Descending the Steep Trail
 At the bottom of the hill, we turned to the right and followed this trail around the hillside. A right fork onto a smaller trail took us up and over a hump that cut off a corner of the otherwise longer choice of trail.

South End of the Escarpment

View North along Trail
 We connected with the Landmine Loop for about a quarter mile and passed a group of 6 or 7 burros that were spread out on the hill. Next, we turned to the left to start down the trail/road/wash that followed along a fence that surrounds the old Oliver Ranch land. As we continued down, the trail/road/wash became more and more sandy underfoot. However annoying, we persevered since the options on side trails seemed to be pretty sandy, too.

Hiking Sandy Wash along Fence
 We turned a corner to the right and continued down lots of sand until, finally, the sand became less annoying. After about a mile of this, we ran into a gate.

Wilson Peak through Trees along Fence
 This gate was the access to the Bird Sanctuary. It is fenced in so that the wild burros won't come down to the wash where there are lots of trees and brush to have a feast. Be sure to close and fasten any gate you hike through.

One Long Mile

Waiting for the Last Hikers at the Gate
 We wound our way through the sanctuary; sometimes on a trail and sometimes through brush. It was a bit of an obstacle course, but very pretty and interesting. Different type of scenery than the desert terrain we had experienced all morning. Finally, we emerged through a second gate and followed the wash until we were able to climb out to the right. Then, it was straight back to the cars. Fun morning and good workout. New stuff.

7 miles; 1100 feet elevation gain; 3.75 hours

Inside the Bird Sanctuary

Very Interesting Tree in Bird Sanctuary

Leaving Bird Sanctuary

Monday, November 28, 2016

Monument Peak - 11/22/16

Although attempts were made to retrieve the GPS track for this hike, it was to no avail. For further assistance on the route for this hike, please contact Richard Natale. The photos were so good that the blogger could not ignore the hike all together. They speak for themselves as to the difficulty of this Tuesday hike. We should also give this group a shout out for their attempt at a "mannequin" photo! Maybe next time, we should try a video. So much fun! According to Mike, the statistics are as follows:

7 miles; 2500 feet elevation gain; 5.5 hours

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Windy Peak - 11/26/16

This tree is finally ready for prime time!

Las Vegas view from End of Windy Peak

Lovell Canyon from Windy Peak Trail

Now that's cheating!
 On this Saturday after Thanksgiving Day, the weather on top of the Red Rock Canyon NCA escarpment was gorgeous! Sure, the wind is coming in this evening and rain/snow is coming in tonight and tomorrow but, today, nine hikers soaked in the calm cool temperatures on top of what is ironically called Windy Peak. This familiar favorite hike starts at the trailhead located at the top of Mountain Springs Summit Pass. Turn toward Red Rock on a hidden gravel drive just where Highway 160 west is merging into one lane.

Mt. Potosi behind Sunlit Burnt Ridge
 We waited until the appointed time to start up the trail toward the radio relay tower. When we got there, we saw that 4 high clearance vehicles had driven their lucky hikers up to the gate and parked. (That's cheating!)

Nine on the Saddle
 Although the hike was posted moderately strenuous, no one was in any particular hurry and running was not on the menu.

Climbing the Ridge

Trail View
 We took Heartbreak Hill at a moderate to moderately strenuous pace and arrived at the saddle for a group photo with smiles all around. The next gathering spot was the fork in the trail after a couple of climbs along the ridge. We started our hike over to Windy Peak from here by taking the right fork. Again, the pace was kept simple. The day was so nice and the air was so clear. Even this hike that so many of us have done over and over was worth yet another inspection.

Waiting at the Fork
 We enjoyed the hike down and along the contours of the ridge that leads out to the sandstone outcropping.

Hikers' Arrival at the Fork
 The escarpment was made by old limestone thrusting over the top of newer sandstone that eroded into several peaks along its cliffs. Windy Peak is the third named peak from the south end of the cliffs.

Limestone / Sandstone Line

Las Vegas There, Limestone Here
 The limestone/sandstone line is seen clearly from this trail. A little further and Las Vegas appears with a backdrop of Frenchman Mountain. Our trail is well worn. Occasionally, an extraneous trail is found but it never leaves the main trail for long before it returns. Too soon, the trail crosses into sandstone and drops down to a huge "bubble" of sandstone slab. The first scramble getting onto the bubble is the most difficult and most exposed part of the scramble. If you are a seasoned hiker, this scramble is simple.

Climbing onto the Slab
 Two of our hikers, today, were still becoming "seasoned." Everyone pitched in to help them up onto the slab and try to make them feel safe. The first couple of times you do this, it is a little disconcerting.

Scrambling across the Slab
 We continued the familiar scramble across the slab. There are several cairns that show the way ... at least right now. Once in a while, someone comes along an tears down the cairns. Not helpful if you are new to the hike.

Arriving just below the Peak

Wilson Peak from Landmark Tree
 However, if you ARE new to the hike, the rule is to stay just to the right of the "ridge" as much as you can. You will still have to find your way up or down and around difficult obstacles. The peak is a high point on top of the slab. Nearby to the north, there is a precipitous cliff. Follow the small trail past the peak (after signing the log book) and you can reach the end of the outcropping. Be careful here ... cliffs all around! A few of us went out here for our break. Did I mention that it was a gorgeous day?

Trail out to End of Peak
 There is usually a cairn at the end of the peak above the last cliff. Please don't think this is indicating a trail!

Gorgeous Day to Enjoy
 As we sat, small clouds began blowing in improving the already gorgeous aesthetics of the morning.

Gorgeous Day for Photos

Coming down off the Slab
 After a lengthy break, we turned to go back. Again, we watched each other until we got off the sandstone slab. From there, we climbed back to the high point and dropped down past the fork. Onward, we returned to the saddle then descended Heartbreak Hill. Still smiling, we hiked into the trailhead parking. As we drove back by the entrance to the Red Rock scenic loop ... well, ... crazy, really CRAZY! For today, we were very happy to have a few secret places that only avid Las Vegas hikers know about!!

5 miles; 1700 feet elevation gain; 3 hours

Climbing back into the Limestone

Trail through Limestone Boulders

Starting back down Heartbreak Hill