Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Indecision Peak (East Route) - 1/30/18

 Today, the strenuous and adventurous hikers climbed Indecision Peak from the east. This is the peak to the left (south) of Wilson Peak. This is a big accomplishment, especially since there were thirteen hikers involved. Laszlo took these photos and Mike provided the Strava statistics. Mike said it took 6 hours from car door to car door. Congratulations are definitely in order!

5.5 miles; 2900 feet elevation gain; 6 hours

Monday, January 29, 2018

Painted Pinnacles O&B (Valley of Fire) - 1/28/18

Painted Pinnacles

Small Wash Descent (Baseline Mesa in Distance)

Silica Dome from Start of Hike

Shortcut Trail to Road
Baseline Mesa is one of the mesas in Valley of Fire State Park where the limestone and dolomite stand firm. Just below one end of the mesa to the west, Fire Canyon begins. This immediate area has been dubbed the Painted Pinnacles and are quite an impressive sight as seen in the first photo. The colors are striking as they paint the Bryce Canyonish pinnacles over a large area. Seventeen hikers finished their tailgate lunch at the Silica Dome / Fire Canyon Trailhead. The short out and back 3 mile hike would finish the day that started with the 4 mile Three Slots hike.

Hiking down Small Wash
We hiked past the trail block sign and quickly dropped down onto a shortcut trail that took us past precipitous cliffs and over to the road that also leaves at the trailhead restrooms.

Small Wash
After a very short time on the road, we veered to the right on a seldom used trail through the desert. Next, we curved around a small hill on our left, went to the end of an old road and descended adjacent to a draining wash that poured down into a shallow wash.

Old Tortoise Shell

Arriving at the Painted Pinnacles
This shallow wash can be followed all the way down to where an old dirt road crosses it. Turn right on the road or wait a little longer and turn right in another small single banked red wash. Today, we used the road. It took us over toward the upcoming hill. Aiming for the small saddle on the left end of the hill, we sidled over to the wash and found a small road/trail that ran up the ridge. At the top of the road, there is a vague trail that leads around to the left. This brought us to the Painted Pinnacles Overlook. Oohs and ahhs were heard as the group of hikers rounded the bend. It really is quite a sight! ... Hmm, I think I said that already.

Leaning into the Color
We took just a few moments at the overlook for photos then turned around. The return begins by retracing steps to the initial small wash then continuing on the approach road until it junctions with a large dirt road perpendicularly. Turn left.

Painted Pinnacles
This is the same road that begins at the trailhead next to the restrooms.

Trail Around and Road Down at Start of Return

Road across Desert
After a long day, the seventeen hikers took on the gentle hill of the road at different speeds. There is a big washout on the road about 3/4 of the way up. We walked around it to the left then down and up through the dry water channel. The shortcut trail could be used to return but the ascent is a little more gentle if you stay on the road. Everyone was very impressed with the overlook and had enjoyed the day. This one's an easy one to do yourself if you are not directionally challenged. Always use GPS (mechanically or your brain), don't get lost and have loads of fun!

3 miles; 400 feet elevation gain; 1.75 hours

Left turn Road up to Trailhead

Climbing Road on Return (Baseline Mesa in Distance)

Dealing with the Road's Washout

Three Slots (Valley of Fire) - 1/28/18

Fins in Sandstone, Valley of Fire

Climbing the Wave Wall

Slot down to Rock Bottom

Chandelier Rock Formation
 As you enter the Valley of Fire State Park from the west, tall and craggy Cambrian limestone and dolomite peaks rise on either side of the highway. You notice driving down a long hill then, suddenly, red sandstone abounds! An ancient sea thrived and dried here at one time. The sand of the sea laid silent while the limestone and dolomite was formed on top by decay of sea creatures and the desert environment. Over the eons, some of the limestone eroded and left beautiful rock formations of Aztec Sandstone. Within the layout of sandstone rise mesas and buttes of the limestone / dolomite top layer. But, within the colorful sandstone below lies formations of slots, crags, tafoni, bedding planes, arches, domes, beehives, crossbeds, and desert varnish with petroglyphs inscribed by Anasazi and Paiute tribes that inhabited this area several hundred years ago.

Sandstone Path
Named by a traveler, the Valley of Fire resembles a humongous camp fire lying within a ring of limestone on three sides. The fourth irregular side is represented by the northern portion of Lake Mead, Overton (Nevada), and two mining facilities.

Group following Sandstone Path
* Sand is mined from the Cretaceous Baseline Sandstone about 4 miles southwest of Overton. The sandstone contains nearly 97% silica. ... making it highly desirable for use in production of glass and in the chemical industry.

Avoiding Fins

Sandstone Colors
*The magnesite (magnesium carbonate) mine nearby is now idle since it lies in fairly thin beds layered with dolomite. Magnesite is expensive to process yet has many uses.

*Geologic Tours in the Las Vegas Area (Expanded Edition with GPS Coordinates), Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Special Publication 16, University of Nevada, Reno, Mackay School of Earth Sciences, 2008, Bear Printing, Sparks, NV; pages 81 - 82.

The mining industries and native american art are not the only historical credits of the park. Within the park lies several historical structure ruins from CCC camps to old visitor centers (Buena Vista). Also, every year, an Atlatl competition is held to celebrate the atlatl, a weapon once used to hunt large prey.

Dropping down into Kaolin Wash
So, today, the first of two moderate 3-4 mile hikes was attended by seventeen club members. We would hike through some of the most colorful scenery of the park including slot canyons of the Kaolin Wash.

Climbing around on the Fire Wave
Our trailhead was Parking #2, the second dirt pullout on the left after passing Rainbow Vista and Fire Canyon Road on the Scenic Drive.

Hiking up the Fire Wave Trail

Crossing over to the Wave Wall
We crossed the Scenic Drive and started out a trail that is blocked by rocks at this time. While hiking off official trails in the park, please remember to stay off of the cryptobiotic soil. Use either trails that others have taken, small washes or sandstone to make your route. Also in this area, there are many fins; very thin rock that stick up from between layers of sandstone. Please avoid breaking these by stepping on them. Once they are broken, they are gone. Take pictures but don't destroy. We made our way across the desert terrain to a pathway of red and white striped sandstone. Once on the sandstone, we followed it to the leftward (north) direction with the Rock of Gibraltar landmark in our sights.

Climbing the Wave Wall
The next half mile has some of the most colorful scenery in the park as we traveled over the sandstone toward the Kaolin Wash. After multiple photos, we dropped down into the wash and turned to the right.

Wave Wall Wash
A little further down, we turned left to go up to the Fire Wave formation. Although we've seen this many times before, it was especially beautiful today since there were no other hikers here yet and the morning light was the best.

Awkward hike through Narrow Slot

Approaching the Road at Wash #5
After more photos, we hiked up the Fire Wave trail a little then dropped back toward the Wave Wall. Here, some of our more adventurous hikers took the time to climb the dome. Bunches of fun! Back down in the Wave Wall wash, we climbed up and over the rock to our left and dropped down, again, into the Kaolin Wash. Three weeks ago the slots in this wash were flooded and impassable. Now, they are dry and the sand on the bottom is changed around. In the first slot, there is very little sand as seen in the third photo. We awkwardly sidled through! Next, we crossed the Scenic Drive at Wash #5.

Kaolin Wash
Continuing up through the wash, we passed through a couple more slots. These seemed to have a lot more sand in them making us bend down to get under some overhead rocks.

Movie Set at White Domes
We reached the movie set where we junctioned with the White Domes Trail. Other hikers and sight-seers were moving about. The White Domes rise very high and narrow here.

Passing through the Tall Slot

Starting up Prospect Trail
After a visit to the movie set, we continued in the same direction in the Kaolin Wash to find the tall slot dry as well. We passed the second junction of the White Domes Trail then found the Prospect Trail (marked by a sign) turn to the left. This canyon trail took us up and through to junction with the Main Alley at the Chocolate Wall. A left turn in the Main Alley took us shortly to the Eye of the Iguana (look up on the right side of the Main Alley) junction where we turned left down the most beautiful wash in the park! We immersed ourselves in the colors of the familiar wash and hiked down to where the wash curves around to the right. We had a choice of either turning to the right here or a little further on.

White Domes through a Side Canyon
For variety this time, we turned here at the curve and followed the orange sandstone out this wide canyon.

Dropping down into Chocolate Wall Wash
Staying on the sandstone as far as we could, we then veered to the left and followed a use trail through the small wash and sand dunes.

Dropping down into Eye of the Iguana Wash

Eye of the Iguana Wash
When the sandstone on the left side of us dropped to our level of hiking, we started a wide curve to the left. We found another use trail in the sand when we saw our cars at the trailhead. This was one of the best Three Slots hikes ever! All enjoyed the warm day. The second hike would be a short 3 miles out and back hike to the Painted Pinnacles so we piled into our cars and traveled to the Silica Dome Trailhead at the end of Fire Canyon Road. We took a nice break here with a tailgate lunch.

4 miles; 500 feet elevation gain; 2 hours

Hiking down Wash

Stripes after a Right Turn

Circling around end of Rock Ridge to Cars