Friday, April 27, 2018

North Peak (Sandstone) v Red Rock Wash - 4/26/18

Calico Hills from North Peak (Sandstone)

Black Girdle Lizard

Blooms in Red Rock Wash

Well-Built Cairn
Sweltering would be too strong a word. After all, it is still April. But the temperatures rose to the 90's in the valley and the 80's at Willow Springs. On North Peak (Sandstone), there was an occasional breeze with temps in the 70's ... perfect, if the whole hike was on the peak! Regardless, seventeen strong hikers started up from the Willow Springs Picnic Area to climb the Red Rock Wash up to the North Peak (Sandstone) trailhead. All agreed that the 2 miles in the wash was a great substitute for the 2.5 miles on sunny Rocky Gap Road. Besides being beautifully decorated with colorful sandstone boulders to scramble, there was intermittent shade that cooled us off from the hot morning sun. We set a strong pace up the wash as the whole group stayed close behind. A couple of times, the momentum was interrupted while we found the best way to climb up obstacles. The last obstacle was a large dry fall, easily climbed but different in appearance from the rest of the wash.

Red Rock Wash
About a quarter mile after this last obstacle, the official North Peak (Sandstone) trail crossed the wash and we turned to the left and started climbing.

A Warm Morning
The steepness of this trail that climbs a trailing ridge up to the peaks above hit us in the face. The strongest hikers were not fazed and proceeded climbing without stopping.

Enjoying Shade with another Well-Built Cairn

Steady Scramble Climb
There are two North Peaks in Red Rock Canyon NCA. One rises in the limestone of the Keystone Thrust. Then, along the same ridge (or bench), a sandstone peak holds court above the cliffs. On the south side of this bench, Bridge Mountain is clearly seen across the depths of Ice Box Canyon. On the north side of the bench is the craggy Rocky Gap Road and the Red Rock Wash. On the other side of the road, the La Madre Mountain Range and Wilderness lays out in its full limestone glory. Around half of the trailing ridge is in the limestone with several treacherous sections of slipperiness.

Scrambling in Red Rock Wash
Then the trail hits the sandstone. At first, after hitting the sandstone, there are sections of trail in the dirt among the rocks and it is easy enough to follow. After that, the trail starts climbing slab and it is necessary to follow cairns that are sometimes few and far between.

Last Wash Obstacle
The large cairn at the top of the ridge is obvious. Known as the gateway cairn, this one becomes very important to find on the way down!

Rocky Gap Road from Steep Ridge Trail

Climbing the Trail
Meanwhile, the front hikers have passed the gateway cairn, most likely visited Dragon Rock and were on their way over the half mile of scrambling on the ridge to the peak. The peak is reached by going east along the ridge and circling around a high outcropping to its left. This outcropping is technically higher than the "peak" but the "peak" is a better place to sit and take in the view. All of the west side of the Calico Hills, Turtlehead and Gray Cap Ridge can be seen from this vantage point and to the east is a great view of all of Las Vegas.

Taking a Break under a Tree
One by one, all but one hiker (moi) reached the sandstone perch. Considering that the day was a warm one, I was very impressed with the strength that the Around the Bend Friends showed today.

Onto the Sandstone
As I made my way up onto the sandstone slab, I observed two black girdle lizards doing a mating dance near my position. Fascinating! (Shout out to David Hardy!)

Boy and Girl Lizards

Beauty from the Sandstone
Ed was within shouting distance above me and I let him know my plans to go slowly back down the steep trail. I waited at Rocky Gap Road and the remaining sixteen hikers eventually descended in two groups (one on the trail and one in a nearby wash). From there, we were a ragtag bunch of hikers straggling down the dirt road in the sun! But, we all made it and everyone had a smile on their face. A great day outdoors soaking in the warmth ... and a lot of water and electrolytes!

7 miles; 2500 feet elevation gain; 4.75 hours

Dragon Rock

Sixteen Hikers on Top

Hiking down Rocky Gap Road

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Laszlo's Scouting of the South Loop Trail - 4/24/18

North Ridge View (Cathedral Rock & The Vatican)

South Loop

Ice Fall going up to the Vatican (Cathedral Rock Overlook)
Well, above 10,200 feet, the Griffith trail gets a bit deep with snow, making it a tough go...maybe in another month when the sun can penetrate the alpine foliage for a bit longer each day, the trail will be more accessible  - Laszlo

Monday, April 23, 2018

Hidden Forest Cabin (Desert National Wildlife Refuge) - 4/22/18

Historic Cabin in Hidden Forest

Claret Cup in Bloom

Looking Out Deadman Canyon

Trailhead into Deadman Canyon
That huge area of land north of Las Vegas and south of Alamo, Nevada is designated as the Desert National Wildlife Refuge and is managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Within a deep-set canyon (Deadman Canyon) of the Sheep Mountain Range sits an old cabin that was likely built in the 1880's or 1890's. The story that was told to me was that it was used as a ranger's cabin and was, also, considered to be used as a visitor center at one time. This idea was nixed because of its inaccessibility. However, after some good ol' internet research, I have learned that either this isn't the case or there is no solid evidence that it was ever used for this purpose. Moonshiners and prohibitionists were mentioned.

Starting up the Gravel Wash Trail
In 2009, the cabin was refurbished by a team led by Kent Olson. It was a $30,000 project using the help of local boy scouts for a lot of the hiking back and forth.

One Mile Stop
A very interesting article was written in the Review-Journal on May 18, 2009 by a reporter named Keith Rogers. The link for this article is:

Entering Canyon Narrows

Two Mile Stop
Regardless, the cabin is a special attraction for hikers and today, this was shown to be especially true. Eighteen hikers made the 1.25 hour trip out Alamo Road from the Corn Creek Visitor Center in five vehicles. Alamo Road is in pretty good condition but the Hidden Forest Road is quite bumpy. When we arrived at the trailhead, we squeezed our cars into the few parking spots left available. Our first impression was that there must have been quite a party at the cabin the night before! Another surprise was that the temperature at the trailhead (5800') was a lot warmer than anticipated - around 67 degrees. The temperature at the cabin (7800') that morning was in the 40's. That meant that our entire hike stayed around 70 degrees with the 2000 foot elevation climb up to the ponderosa pine forest.

Trail over Scree
We shed a few layers and started down past the Deadman Canyon gate then through the road gate at the mouth of the canyon. As usual on this hike, our plan was to hike at an even steady pace and stop at each mile marker for water, wardrobe, restroom (bush), electrolytes, and recovery.

Three Mile Stop
At the first mile stop, it was clear that one of our hikers was not having a strong day. He insisted that he would be fine, owns and carries a satellite device and is accustomed to hiking alone. I also made him promise to be on the trail in the shade when we returned. (I'm so demanding.)

Trail into Pinnacles

Ponderosa Pines begin Appearing
At our mile 2 stop, the last hikers had stayed with one hiker that was feeling the effects of the heat. He recovered and by mile 3, all were enjoying the intermittent shade and feeling strong again. It also helped that, by then, we had gotten out of the deeper gravel of the wash using the well-marked trails that went along the left side of the canyon. The canyon had narrowed and the limestone rocks of the pre-cenozoic walls were so fascinating. Large pinnacles rose inside the canyon and smaller pinnacles decorated the high canyon rim. When ponderosa pines began rising from the canyon floor, we knew we had arrived near the 7000 foot elevation range. And, suddenly they were everywhere!

Interesting Dry Fall Formation
A point of interest is seen in the photo above. On the right side of the canyon, there is this seasonal waterfall that has formed a hole in the rock above where the water falls down through to the small alcove below. (A short hike over to see it is possible.)

Limestone on Side of Canyon
The left side of the canyon in this area starts to open out a little. There are a couple of steep side canyons where the limestone and ponderosas put on a beautiful display.

Approaching Cabin Area

Checking out the Cabin
The mile 4 stop was in a tree's shade as was the mile 5 stop. Mostly, we were just plodding along enjoying the beauty of the canyon. There were eight exiting hikers that we passed at different times and the word was that there were around 10 tents at the cabin area last night. Most of the campers climbed Hayford Peak either last night for sunset or this morning. Someday, we should do that. The ponderosas were old and large and became thicker as we neared the cabin. We edged around that fallen log and saw the cabin up ahead. We also saw about twenty more campers among the trees. They all had their belongings covering the four picnic tables so that there was very little room left for us to sit. We managed by staking our claims on a fallen log and the pine needles covering the ground.

Cabin Area
We toured the cabin and took note of the running spring. Many of our hikers had not been here before. Others had not been here for a long time. They understood why this was a special place and required an eleven mile hike to see it.

What a crowd!
Soon, we were laughing and joking around with the campers. They made room for us on a couple of tables. It was a good time and, after a relaxed break, we gathered again to leave.

Great Place to Hang Out

Starting down through the Ponderosa Pines
We caught up quickly to the long line of campers that had left five minutes before us and they let us by. We weren't running by any means but we had a steady gradual downhill pace. Our line of 17 hikers were in lock step! We stopped at the mid-way campsite for a short break before we headed into the constant sun. There were one or two shade stops after that but no one wanted to hang out too long since it was hot and the gravel rocks were hard. We located our eighteenth hiker as we came up behind him about half a mile before the trailhead. He was fine and had made it about 3 miles in where there was a lot more shade. All that was remaining was that 1.5 hour drive out and home. A very enjoyable day. Great group of hikers! Until next year ....

11 miles; 2000 feet elevation gain; 5.5 hours

Down through Canyon Narrows

The Last Pinnacle

Arriving at the Canyon Gate