Saturday, December 31, 2016

White Domes & Fire Wave Loop (Valley of Fire) - 12/31/16

Fire Wave

Fire Wave & Beyond


Descending from Trailhead
 Valley of Fire State Park is located just outside the Great Basin Desert of Nevada. When it rains at the park, the colors change from unbelievable pastels to equally unbelievable multiple colors of reds, yellows, purples, pinks and creams. Today was such a day. When fifteen hikers drove into the park, there were low hanging clouds throughout the valley. A sight to behold! We started hiking at the White Domes Trailhead dropping immediately down to the old movie set.

Movie Set
 We knew we were in for some go arounds. The slots in this small canyon flood after rains. So we turned to the left and came to the first flooded slot.

First Flooded Slot
 The go around was to the left. The leisurely hikers don't scramble much but, with no other choice, up we went on the sandstone.

Go Around

Second Flooded Slot
 At the top of the go around, we were able to get photos of the slot from above. We dropped down to the wash then had to climb out again at the next flooded slot. This slot had only a narrow crack and three hikers decided to cross over the slot and make their way down the sandstone on the other side. The rest of the group did some more scrambling over boulders and back down to the wash. Some of the hikers got their merit badge for scrambling today!

Go Around
 Everyone learned about their fifth leg! AKA five points hiking! As we hiked, we were mesmerized by the color all around us.

Different Go Around
 It was such an unusual sight to see Valley of Fire in these hues. There was also more definition in the rock as far as patterns and designs went.

More Puddles

Third Flooded Slot
 We crossed the scenic drive and headed into the third and final slot. Although this slot was very flooded, it was also the most photogenic. We went as far as we could in the slot and took several photos. From there, we climbed up on the rock to the right and ... went around. We were only in the wash again a short way after that before we had to climb out to the left. Here the red rock had actual yellow stripes in it. We climbed up and over this hill to drop into the wash that wraps around the Wave Wall.

Every Slot worth some Photos
 We dropped through this wash then headed over to the Fire Wave. Usually, the sun is in exactly the wrong place to photograph the Fire Wave properly. Today, with an overcast sky, we clicked away!

Unbelievable Colors!
 Here, we took our break. There were not any other recreational hikers, yet.

Cameras Everywhere!

Rock of Gibraltar from Fire Wave
 Now, we had 3 choices for our return. We could go back the way we came making our way around all the puddles. We could return a longer way using the canyons and washes we knew about from other hikes. Or, we could make a shorter route by using the Fire Wave Trail. Everyone voted for the short route! Hmmm. Anyway, we finished our break and started climbing over the expansive sandstone slab along a trail marked by reflector cairns. These reflectors were set up by the park service to guide hikers back to their cars without destroying much of the surrounding terrain.

Fire Wave Dip
 The trail took us up next to the large rock hill we playfully call the Rock of Gibraltar.

Finishing Break
 From there, we climbed to and crossed the road to parking area #3. There were now a couple of choices for getting back to the White Domes Trailhead which wasn't very far away as the crow flies.

Starting up Fire Wave Trail (Wave Wall Beyond)

Hiking up next to Rock of Gibraltar
There is one trail that dips down into the canyons and washes. But, we decided to take a trail that climbed an earthen hill. It turned out to be a great overlook and we could also see the target parking lot. We had to wind our way back and forth a little but we got down to the trailhead without much effort. An absolutely beautiful morning!

3 miles; 750 feet elevation gain; 2.5 hours

Rock as Backdrop

White Domes Trailhead from Overlook Hill

North End of Park

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Arizona Hot Springs (aka Ringbolt Hot Springs) - 12/29/16

Hot Springs Slot Canyon

Colorado River

White Rock Canyon

Starting down White Rock Canyon
The Arizona Hot Springs Trailhead is found on the Arizona side of the Hoover Dam, 4 miles south at the White Rock Canyon Trailhead. Fifteen hikers arrived for a fun hike down to the river, through the hot springs and back up via some interesting dry falls. Although Mike scheduled the hike, John B. led us along with his expertise on this trail. We started down White Rock Canyon with quite a bit of speed! Everyone was keeping up just fine and seemed to enjoy the gravity-aided three miles.

A Little Scrambling
 Almost all of this canyon is bedded with gravel. There is only a few spots where hands are required to help our legs take a large step down.

Crunch! Crunch! Crunch!
 With thirty hiker feet crunching through the gravel for three miles, it was a pretty loud hike!

White Rocks between Black Walls

Swift Descent
 White Rock Canyon is so called because over time, white granite rocks from the Wilson Range above have tumbled down through this canyon to the gorge and river below. These rocks lend a beauty to the dark rock of the Black Rock Canyon area as do the winding steep tall walls we hiked between. The fine scenery did not escape us as we sailed down the canyon. At the mouth of the canyon, the wash spreads wide emptying into the Colorado River that runs between Arizona and Nevada at this point just south of Hoover Dam. We turned left onto the River Connector Trail.

Up Colorado from White Rock Canyon
 The water in the river was low at this time of day as seen by the high white line, or bath tub ring. Our first stop was on Ringbolt Rock.

Standing on Ringbolt Rock
 The nearby hot springs are also referred to as Ringbolt Hot Springs due to this location's history. Before Hoover Dam was built, there were difficult rapids running through Black Rock Canyon in this area.


Down Colorado River from Ringbolt Rock
 In order for large boats to press upward through the rapids, it was necessary to use a system of cables threaded through several ringbolts anchored in the rock on either side of the canyon. The cables would cinch the boats up through the rapids. One of those ringbolts is still embedded in this rock that sticks out into the canyon. This rock is also the best place to go cliff diving in the area. Even though the water is so clear that you can see the bottom of the river, it is rumored to be around 85 feet deep down from the tip of Ringbolt Rock.

Dropping into next Wash on River Connector
 The River Connector Trail passes Ringbolt Rock, dips down through a couple of old tamarisk trees, climbs up a steep hill, scrambles up through a crack, then follows a trail over the ridge and down to the next canyon wash.

Passing Boat and Coots Beyond
 There is a restroom that sits somewhat near the river here. We took a snack break on the rocks and prepared ourselves for getting wet!

Preparing to get Wet!

Waterfalls in Hot Springs Slot
 We returned to the canyon where we had dropped into it then continued up the gravel where water is running down from the hot springs at the end of the slot. To reach the pools, you have to climb up through a series of waterfalls. It is best to be wearing something that you don't mind getting wet. It is very difficult to do this scramble if you want to stay dry. Next came the famous twenty foot ladder. Thirty? Well, at any rate, you will get wet climbing this steel, secured ladder since it climbs right up in the waterfall.

The Ladder
 Please climb the ladder one at a time. Since the rungs are wet, you don't want to get tangled up in a fall.

One at a Time on the Ladder
 There are three pools in the hot springs that have been built with sandbags. The first pool is 100 degrees, the second pool is 105 degrees and the third pool is 110 degrees.

Passing through the Hot Springs Pools

Putting shoes back On
 We passed about five bathers (with bathing suits) in these pools then tested the water coming out of the wall at the top. That water was 123 degrees! We climbed out of the slot and redressed for hiking. This took a few minutes. Next, we started up Hot Springs Canyon; a canyon with several scrambles. Our expert leader knew all the shortcut trails and where to put your feet and hands on the scrambles. We went slower on the way up but we still made good time. Everyone was doing very well.

Starting Up Hot Springs Canyon
 The geology in this canyon is different but just as interesting with changes in type of rock in the walls. Soon, we were passing the Saddle Trail junction. This is simply another way to return to the cars.

Various Scrambles on the Way Up
 Today, we had chosen the Dry Falls Route and so, we continued up the canyon wash. There are two sets of petroglyphs along the way and we marveled at both as we passed.

Two Petroglyph Sites near Trail

Helping Out
 The last two dry falls are the absolute best. One is about 30' and the next is about 40'. Everyone stepped up to the challenge and had a blast doing it! When we were all up and safe again, we continued out the top of the canyon and followed the trail that leads over to the wide wash in which we had started down. The highway bridge was in sight and we climbed through the gravel up to the trailhead. Fantastic day! And, all is well with the world!

6 miles; 1100 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

First of Two Biggies

Second Biggie - ("Come here often?")

Trail crossing back to Wash, Bridge & Cars