Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Anniversary Narrows via New End Around Loop - 3/27/17

Anniversary Narrows

Brittlebush growing from Wall

Rare Blooming Bear Paw Poppies

Arch TH on Anniversary Mine Rd (West End Wash)
 Ah, the saga of Anniversary Narrows! So, during the winter of 2016, the mining property owners of the land at the bottom end of the narrows decided to take their beef with the BLM to the public by refusing easy access to one of Las Vegas' best natural landscapes. At this time, only strenuous and adventurous hikers can reach the beautiful slot canyon in the Lovell Wash which can now only be easily entered into via the top end. One option is to hike up and over the Anniversary Narrows Peak and down to the narrows then return the same way. This is around 10 miles with a double elevation gain. Today, five hikers solidified a second strenuous option.

Hiking Up Road/Wash at Arch TH Junction
 The dirt/gravel road leading to our trailhead is good. The roughest part was the hill going down into West End Wash. This turn off is near mile marker 13 on Northshore Road in the Lake Mead NRA.

Bright Red Walls just before Big Boulder Dry Fall

Plants Blooming Everywhere at Big Boulder Dry Fall
 We drove a little less than a mile up the West End Wash Road then turned to the right onto the Anniversary Mine Road. After driving 1.75 miles on this road, we parked where we could see a large arch in the rocks above to the left and where there is a road/wash junction bearing to the right. We started our hike up this road/wash which quickly deteriorates into a simple wide wash. Around half a mile up, we passed the junction where we would be returning later. We continued up into a red walled section that ended in a large dry fall with big boulders all around. The plants in this area were all blooming beautifully.

Big Boulder Dry Fall
 The Big Boulder Dry Fall is climbed by hopping from boulder to boulder on the left side of the pour over. At the top, we made our way back over to look down. There is a small arch in the rock up on the left side.

Sun Rays, Mariposa Lilies, Beaver Tail, Flatbud Prickly-poppy
 From here, we continued up the wash to start circling around the big mountain up to our right. Attempting to find the correct wash, we got off into a smaller one and were surrounded by many Sun Rays blooming in clumps all around. We later corrected ourselves and dropped back into the main wash that leads around the "end."

Hiking the Washes up to the First Saddle

The "End" we go Around
 Inside the main wash, we came to a fork and chose the left one. The right fork wash wiggles a lot. The left fork is more straight forward. It is a tall slot for a short distance. At the first opportunity, we climbed out to the right and found a use trail over to the wiggly wash and continued up to the First Saddle. It is possible to continue up the tall wash and catch a different trail over to the saddle but ours seemed to be the path of least resistance. On the saddle, we saw Lovell Ridge rising up beyond the canyons below. A cold wind chilled us and after a short water pause, we started down the small and interesting descent wash.

Approaching the First Saddle
 First, the wash was just a nice rocky wash. Then, as it started to become a small canyon, we arrived above two dry falls. The first one might be possible to descend but the second was definitely not doable so we started the up and around on a small slippery trail above the abyss! This is the first somewhat "adventurous" place of the hike.

Descending the Wash with Two Dry Falls

Two Dry Falls Section (Up & Around Required)
 With careful footing, we all got by the obstacle, climbed up to the adjacent ridge, dropped into the next wash then dropped back into the first wash. All of this area is beautiful slot canyon terrain. Continuing down, we passed over two or three dry spots that sometimes hold  large puddles that are interesting to get around. Finally, we junctioned with the Anniversary Narrows Wash, a wash that becomes wider and wider as you progress downward. One mile later, we were at the top end of Anniversary Narrows and taking a snack break.

In the Main Wash to Narrows
 Three of the five hikers were Around the Bend Club members. It was very nice hiking with the other two hikers who belonged to another club in the Las Vegas area. Along with Chuck, these two hikers had done the preliminary exploratory a few weeks earlier. Basically, they did the hard work since there was a bit of difficult trial and error involved!

Arriving at the Top End of Anniversary Narrows

Taking a Break at Top End
 When it came time to start down through the Narrows, cameras were ready! Rita was a newbie and I was excited to get my "anniversarial" trip through the Anniversary Narrows! Chuck hung back for photos as well. One advantage to the whole "saga" thing is that there were no other hikers around. We had the whole place to ourselves! Recent rains had deposited a lot more gravel on the floor of the slot. There was no place where we could see the rock beneath our feet except for the few small familiar scrambles.

Entering the Top End of Narrows

Water Sculptured Walls
 We hiked all the way through the slot to the other end. Just outside the bottom entrance, there is a new iron pole that declares the wilderness boundary. Standing at the pole, we could not see any mining activity except for a dirt road cut up the hillside in the distance. The mining property boundary is still about 0.1 mile down the wash just past the small wash on the left that we used to use to exit before last winter. The problem is that their property line crosses at the top of this wash leaving us nowhere to go here. The terrain is very steep and unwelcoming on the sides.

Narrows Newbie Rita


The Wide Area

The Walls Swallow a Hiker!

And, Spits out another Hiker at the Bottom End

Flirting with the Wilderness Boundary outside the Narrows
 We took a pause before going back into the slot. The ramp we would use to exit was near the entrance on the (now) left side. This ramp has always been mentioned as a possible route out but it has not been tried of late. Today was the day! Up we went! Steep, rocky but the rock was very "sticky." Use gloves. Be sure footed. Hold on. Try not to look down! There are two ways to tackle "The Hill." Three of us stayed away from the slot side of the ramp and two hikers sidled over to the edge gaining less elevation but experiencing more exposure. This put us on opposite sides of the wash at the top.

Starting Up "The Hill" or Ramp near the Bottom End of the Narrows
 The three of us continued by a traverse on a game trail past the next dry fall of the wash below then dropped down. The other two hikers seemed to have an easier time on the opposite side of the canyon wash. We met above the second dry fall.

The Route we Climbed! (Yep, I looked down!)
 We paused for a breath then proceeded up the flower filled rocky canyon cut. There was one more dry fall to negotiate then the route used the wash and a game trail to continue up to the Second Saddle.

Arriving in the Wash Above (after 2 Dry Falls)

Climbing the Canyon Wash
 The wind hit us again on top of the Second Saddle and we saw rain clouds in the distance. Our 20% chance of rain was arriving. So after a group photo at the fancy cairn that Chuck had built on the previous exploratory, we started down on a nice game trail above the wash. This dropped into a larger wash filled with rocks to hike around or climb over. During the previous hike, Chuck had built several cairns in this wash ... all very artistic! ... and we enjoyed finding them as we descended.

The Second Saddle with Chuck's Fancy Cairn
 When we finally reached the bottom of this wash, we had junctioned with the first road/wash half a mile from the car.

Descending on a Game Trail to Right of Wash

Dropping into Descent Wash
 We paused here and built another cairn that we hoped could be seen from the approach. The rain clouds were coming and soon, we were on our way down the wash to the car at the arch. Just as we opened the trunk of the car, we felt one or two sprinkles. Time to leave! Although this route has "adventurously strenuous" sections, it is a shorter way to enjoy Anniversary Narrows. It is not recommended for the faint of heart and remember to hike at your own risk. (Note: The hike would be even more difficult in a counter-clockwise direction.)

7 miles; 1300 feet elevation gain; 5 hours

Following Chuck's Fancy Cairns in Descent Wash

Building Cairns at Main Road/Wash Junction

Three Drops of Rain and Rita's Car Greet Us at the TH

Friday, March 24, 2017

La Madre Spring & Cabin - 3/24/17

La Madre Spring Source

View above Miners' Cabin

Small Waterfall near Old Dam Site

Making the Turn off Rocky Gap Road
 La Madre Spring & Cabin is one of the few official trails in Red Rock Canyon NCA. Although the route up to an old dam site consists of abandoned old gravel roads, the remaining single track trail up to the cabin follows along a stream in a narrow canyon and becomes quite treacherous at times. The extremely worn trail has steep slippery sections, muddy sections, small scrambles on slippery limestone, and a few relatively tame stream crossings. What's not to love? Twelve hikers arrived at the Willow Springs Picnic Area off of the Scenic Loop (just after mile marker 7) and began their hike up Rocky Gap Road.

Old Home Foundation
 About 1.2 miles up the road, we came to the junction of another road leading to the right. This road can no longer be driven. There is a large sign announcing the La Madre Wilderness boundary.

La Madre Mountains
 We turned onto the new road and continued climbing. There are a lot of loose rocks on both of these roads but a path has been worn for the most part.

Approaching Old Dam Site

Hiking up the Stream
 After about 0.3 mile on the new road, we came to the remains of an old home. The foundation complete with flooring remnants is still seen. This is always a good place to take in water and breathe a minute. Another 0.3 mile up the road is the old dam site. Until three years ago, the water from the La Madre Spring was dammed here for wildlife consumption. It was decided that the non-native plant species were taking over the area because of the small pond so the dam was removed. It used to be a great place to watch frogs!

Waterfall Crossing
 The remaining 0.6 miles to an old miners' cabin is on a single track trail that is quite challenging at best.

Trail becomes Treacherous
 Today's group was in no hurry as we methodically negotiated every obstacle. Troopers, one and all!

Taking a Break at the Miners' Cabin

Starting the Slow Descent
 When we reached the cabin, we sat for a snack break. The cabin is not in as good condition as it was ten years ago but, with a little imagination, we could "feel" the miners living here. Their mine is up the hill behind the cabin. Now! We faced the downhill challenge ... and, it was quite a challenge! Ever so slowly, we descended the trail any way we could. And, as far as the writer observed, no one hit the deck! Yea! Every year, this hike becomes more difficult even though wilderness friends do their best to make small improvements. Thanks for trying!

5 miles; 1400 feet elevation gain; 3 hours

Careful with Every Step

On the Road Agin'

Rocky Gap Road