Friday, January 27, 2017

Blue Diamond Canyon #1 Loop - 1/27/17

Blue Diamond Canyon #1

Mt. Potosi from Canyon #1

Starting into Canyon #1

Canyon #1 Narrows
 Canyon #1 is located across Highway 159 from the small community of Blue Diamond, NV. The parking trailhead area is at the junction of Arroyo & Highway 159. Most of this hike is within the Red Rock Canyon NCA boundary, however, the top turnaround route escapes into the gypsum mine property for just a short distance. Five hikers parked at Arroyo and crossed the highway. It was necessary to carefully cross the wild burros' barbed wire fence then we followed a faint trail over a small hill and down into the canyon. The morning was very cold with a very stiff wind so we were very happy to sink within the walls of the deep and narrow canyon. There is somewhat of a trail that travels up the canyon. It led us up and around the many catclaws and acacias that grabbed at us whenever we gave them half a chance. But, for the most part, the fossil filled limestone provided a clear path on either the center or one side or the other of the narrow canyon.

Stair Stepping the Dry Falls
 There was a lot of scrambling to be done as we climbed. All the dry falls were of the "stair stepping" variety. There were no ropes or helping hands to contend with.

Canyon just below Descent Junction
 The floor of the canyon was covered with Precambrian seabed fossils. A few of them are seen in the photos below.

A Few of Many Fossils

Climbing around the Brush
We passed the spot where we would eventually drop back into the canyon after our coming tour up and down the hill. All 1000 feet of elevation gain was accomplished in the canyon and as we climbed out of the canyon at the top. Nearing the top, we turned around to see fantastic views of Mt. Potosi, Blue Diamond, and the Bird Spring Range. The top of the canyon turned into a very narrow stair stepping climb up and out of the "ditch."

View Down Canyon
 Then we had a little further to climb on the hillside. It wasn't long before we crossed paths with a trail on which we turned to the right. The freezing wind hit us face on. Tres brrrr!

Nearing Top
 The trail led us over a small ridge and, le voila(!), we were on the Gypsum Mine property. It was an old corner of the property that the workers no longer use.

Climbing to the Ridge

Snow Dusted Escarpment
 When we curved around a corner, we saw the old ruins of the top of the conveyor belt that can be seen from Highway 159 below. It is no longer in working condition. Nowadays, they use trucks to carry the gypsum down the hill on an improved dirt road. We continued curving around the corner and found a trail that led out along the very high cliffs that the conveyor belt descends. The trail was at a safe distance from the precipice but it still gave the writer the "heebee-geebees." Below, we could see the gypsum wall board plant.

Curving around past the Old Conveyor Belt (Not Working)
 The trail followed all the way down the ridge along the cliffs with a view over our left shoulder of the Las Vegas Strip. Also, on the south facing ridge, were many many cacti. The good news was that the wind no longer hit us in the face and we were somewhat protected by the lay of the land.

Ruins of Gypsum Mine Conveyor Belt
 We continued descending gently, at first, along the trail. When the trail ran out, we began a gradual turn to the right to descend the hill more steeply.

Las Vegas from Ridge above Cliffs

Hiking along Cliffs
Finally, we reached the area above Canyon #1. Winding our way above the cliffs, we found safe ways to scramble down into the canyon and arrived at the appointed junction. The good scramble continued down the canyon and, eventually, over the burro fence and across the road. This is a fun and interesting hike that delves into a corner of the property that is slated to be developed into high end residential housing. Shame, huh? Great hike but very cold morning!

4 miles; 1000 feet elevation gain; 2.75 hours

Scramble Descent from Ridge

Traversing to Canyon #1 Junction

Dropping down Canyon #1

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Prospect Trail (Valley of Fire State Park) - 1/25/17

Side Wash to Barney Rock

Red Rock Vista

Kaolin Clay/Sandstone Rock in Wash

Trail Sign at Trailhead
 The Prospect Trail Trailhead in the Valley of Fire State Park is located 2.5 miles from the fee booth on the west side of the park or 1.5 miles from the turnoff for the Visitor Center on the east side. It is a small gravel parking area with a cable gate across the gravel road that continues on from here. (Please don't park in front of the gate.) There is an old sign marking the trail and the hike begins out the gravel road. Seven hikers arrived for an exploratory hike since, in the past, this trail has not been well marked. We were pleasantly surprised that trail markers led us the whole way.

First Trail Marker
 At first, it was obvious that the trail was an old 2 track road. At the first new trail marker, we veered off the main old road onto an undrivable old road that appears more like a single track trail now.

Surrounded by Red Rock
 The trail led us up over a hill where we became surrounded by red rock outcroppings. The "escarpment" of the Valley of Fire "plateau" rose up to our right. This wall of red rock became a constant source of entertainment for us.

The Raven through Small Arch

Playing in Rock Holes
 The first formation we noted was The Raven. At first blush, this rock appears to be unbelievably balanced on the ridge. A closer look shows that it is part of a larger rock underneath. But, it makes a great photo! Further up, we noted a huge red rock outcropping that David named Ape Head Rock. Up on the escarpment ridge there is a fairly large arch. And, to the left of the arch, a rock formation appears as an owl's head ... with a little imagination! There are many holey rocks in this area, as well, that lend themselves to messing around. We took a short break here.

Trail Narrows
 In this area of the trail, the red rocks narrowed in. It feels like hiking through a forest of tall fat red soldiers.

David's Ape Head Rock
 After a short exploration behind the Ape Head Rock, we returned to the trail and crossed another wash that was marked with a trail marker. This led us into the beginning of a drop through a couple of easy scrambles.

Trail Markers keep Coming

First Scramble
 The first scramble twisted through a fun red rock crevice. After descending a little further down a gravel wash, we found the second scramble. This scramble has an official go around. But, we found that it was easier to scramble down the rocks then use the go around on the way back up during the return portion of the hike. Another smaller scramble brought us around so that we were above the main wash that runs along the red rock escarpment. Trail markers show where the trail descends to the gravel wash below. (A couple of our hikers found that a more solid route was nearby. The trail is a tad slippery.)

Second Scramble
 The trail now travels down this wash that varies from 40 feet to 10 feet wide. There are occasional scrambles but nothing very difficult or scary ... just fun.

Drop into Wash (Note Trail Markers)
 We passed by an area we called the Earthquake Zone. So named because of the many house sized boulders that are laying precariously above the trail. It would not be a good place to be hiking if an earthquake were to occur! We also noted the massive biggest blackest desert varnished walls we ever saw on the escarpment above!

Earthquake Zone

Orange meets Red
 The first side wash on the left side is an interesting slot type canyon that climbs up to the mesa above. Next came a very colorful section of rock that Valley of Fire does so well. Some of the color is seen in the third photo of this entry. An orange wall is seen in the photo to the right. The escarpment on the right side began to break up and we were guessing what landmarks we were passing by. Yes, the Top of the World Arch was up there not too far. We recognized a few of the hills.

We Three Peaks
 We came to another side wash on the left that was marked with a fancy cairn. There were no trail markers around so we turned to see if this was where we should go. It was not the trail but we saw why the fancy cairn was there. Barney!

Barney Rock seen down Side Wash
 We named this rock Barney after the purple lovable dinosaur on TV. We stopped here for our break and to decide how much further we wanted to go.

Rock Fall to Right - Trail to Left

Dropping down to Dry Fall and Up Around
 We stayed for a long break while a few of the hikers scrambled around on the rocks. Afterwards, we hiked down the wash just a little further to see the rockfall section. On arriving at the rock fall to the right, we veered to the left. The wash goes into a large dry fall here but the trail has an easy go around marked by small cairns on the left side of the dry fall. An exploration up the go around showed that the trail drops into a very familiar section of the White Domes area. Since this was an out and back hike, we decided that we would make this our turnaround point having explored the unfamiliar part of the Prospect Trail.

Up Around marked with Small Cairns
 Time to start the return. Hiking up the gravel wash was not difficult since the rock in the wash was largish. It is not the small fine gravel that is so annoying to ascend.

Starting Return up Wash
 The pace throughout the hike was quick even though the breaks were substantial in length. We hiked back up the wash at a strenuous gait.

Small Squeeze

Passing Landmarks on Way Back
 The trail is well marked where the it leaves the wash and scrambles back up to the overland trail. Once we were hiking that trail, the distance went by fast. We crested that initial hill and saw our cars parked a mile away. Even though this part of the hike is just down through the desert, it was a good cool down as we descended back to the cars. Now that the Prospect Trail is well marked, this Valley of Fire official trail should not be ignored. There is great scenery and fun easy scrambling. Go see the Ape Head and Barney Rocks!

8 miles; 900 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

Trail returns to Old 2 Track Road

Scene through Small Arch at Trailside

One Mile to Cars in Distance