Friday, January 31, 2020

Lava Butte Gardens - 1/30/20

Lava Butte from Overlook Ridge

Rainbow Gardens Member of the Horse Spring Formation Colors

Lava Butte from Approach Wash

Swift Start Pace to Warm Up
Today's hike was a route that travels among the foothills of Lava Butte and within the area known as Rainbow Gardens. Thus the name, Lave Butte Gardens. Lave Butte is often confused by newcomers as a volcano, however, geologists have been led to interpret it as a small volcanic plug that came up through the Horse Spring Formation, forcing its way laterally along the formation for a short distance at one or more horizons. It now stands up as a prominent peak above its surroundings because it is composed of rocks that are more resistant to erosion than the soft sedimentary rocks that it forcefully penetrated. The Rainbow Gardens Member of the Horse Spring Formation is the oldest member of the Horse Spring having been deposited at least 17 million years ago. The dacite of Lava Butte has been dated at about 13 million years. Also noted, the Paleozoic sedimentary rocks of the Horse Spring traveling Frenchman Mountain are much much older (540-248 million years).*

Wash starts to Narrow
What a complex world of geology it is in which we live!
*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 60.

Rainbow Gardens Colors
So, thirteen hikers parked at the mile marker 2, Northshore Road, turnout and started down the nearby wide wash beyond the posts.

Dropping into Rainbow Gardens Canyon

Almost 2.5 miles of the first part of this hike is the same as our moderate hike called Rainbow Gardens. We hiked up the sandy main wash at a good clip until a trail appeared on the left side. This trail took us up a small hill. At the top of the bump, there are bed springs from an old mining camp up the hill to the left. I call this Bed Springs Junction. We turned to the right to follow a trail up to another ridge. This ridge approaches a craggy canyon at the base of Lava Butte but we simply crossed over the ridge and dropped into the next small colorful canyon called Rainbow Gardens Canyon. This canyon is the main attraction to the moderate hike and we enjoyed the scenery down past the ever present mining ladder propped against the wall.

Other Colors of Rainbow Gardens Canyon
At the first large canyon junction to the right, we turned, leaving behind the moderate route. We began an exhilarating climb up a series of small dry falls. I call this Ten Falls Canyon!

Points of Interest
It is a very scenic and colorful canyon. All the dry falls are easily climbed except for one and a simple climb on the left side does the trick there.

Climbing one of Falls in Ten Falls Canyon

Ten Falls Canyon
Once past all the dry falls, the ridge trail appears on the left side. Choosing to do the canyon scramble, I have never tried the trail. But, it appears that the trail rejoins and follows the ridge then reappears at the top Overlook Ridge where we were headed. The last part of the canyon climb gets slightly steep but it isn't long before you are taking in the view at the two saddles above. We took our break here where we could gaze upon the now much closer Lava Butte or the wider  view of Lake Las Vegas in the other direction. That trail passes right by our break spot and where there is a large cairn constructed. After a leisurely break, we joined the trail for a short distance then climbed on up to hike just below the ridge.

Nearing Top of Ten Falls Canyon
The Overlook Ridge is possibly an overturned anticline. I'm not a geologist and I don't play one on TV but suffice it to say, the knife edge crest of the ridge overhangs just a tad from its base wall over the Lava Butte Road Valley.

Break on the Saddle
So, we had a little bit of fun scrambling along the ridge about 3 feet under the crest for a short distance. There is a saddle near the end of the ridge where a vague trail drops down toward Lava Butte. We turned here and descended to a saddle that overlooked that valley then continued up the trail until it petered out into the dark dacite rocks.

Hiking along Overlook Ridge

Lake Las Vegas from Overlook Ridge
Here, there is another vague trail that traverses the base of Lava Butte in the rocks. The Butte towered over us to our left. We dipped in and out of a wash then crested the far ridge. Seeing a light brown rocky hill in an 11:00 direction, we headed to the left side of it and dropped to a ... yes ... vague game trail that traverses along the side of the steep hill above a wash to the left. Our first foray into this hike led us into that wash that turned out to have a particular dry fall that needed to be circumvented on a precarious path. Since then, the higher game trail has been chosen as the preferred route. This trail leads either along the side or top of the ridge above the wash. It involves two or three steep down climbs to a flat area dotted with cacti.

Playing with the Knife
The large flat area has one or two large very old cairns built on the side with the wash. These were used for a very long time as beacons for an assault on Lava Butte. Once in the flat area, we headed toward a gap between two white mud hills.

Lava Butte Road Valley
We dropped through the wash between the white hills and followed this wash down to a cross wash to turn to the right. Shortly, this wash drained into the main wash that we had used as our hike approach.

Crossing below Base of Lava Butte

Connecting with Game Trail
A left turn into the wide main wash led us back to the cars. This is a good hike with colorful terrain and a nice climb. There is a lot of balancing among the rocks and the whole thing is watched over by the daunting and mysterious Lava Butte. It was a fun group of hikers, today, that kept up with me on the ascents and tolerated me on the descents! And, yes, the game trail is there! It is very difficult to see! Fun, fun, fun!

5.5 miles; 800 feet elevation gain; 3 hours; average speed 1.8 mph

Following vague Game Trail along Ridge

White Hills Wash

Leaving White Hills Wash to Connect with Main Wash

Friday, January 24, 2020

Zabriskie Point Loop (Death Valley National Park) - 1/23/20

Manly Beacon & Red Cathedral

Group at Red Cathedral Overlook

Manly Lake below Telescope Peak

Beginning of Loop Trail right of Parking
 Our once a year foray into the Badlands of Death Valley National Park was attended by twelve great hikers! Gorgeous as ever, the celebrated scenery awed everyone ... especially our two newbies! The weather was absolutely perfect! Temperatures in the high 50's to the high 70's with a little bit of morning breeze. Some of our hikers were dressed in short pants and sleeves and loving every minute of it! We had six hikers coming from the north route and six from the south route through Pahrump. The two hour drive is worth it, folks! Since this hike has been blogged on almost every year of the past eleven, I will leave you to research this blogsite for a more detailed description of the hike.

Old Mining Road leading down into Badlands

Starting down Gower Gulch

Further down Gower Gulch

Starting into Gower Gulch Narrows
  This is a simple photo essay of scenery you definitely want to bring your camera to. Suffice it to say, the simple north route to the trailhead is as follows: Drive north on SR-95 to a left turn onto SR-373. At the junction, there are two gas stations and a rest stop. All bathrooms are kept nice. Drive down through Amargosa Valley, pass the entrance road to Ash Meadows NWR, pass the Longstreet Casino with the big black & white cow out front, cross the California state line and turn right onto SR-190 just before the Amargosa Opera House. (You will see a Dispensary on the right after your turn.) Twenty-five miles down this entrance road to Death Valley NP, the Zabriskie Point Trailhead will be on your left. Be sure to display your national parks pass while you are parked there.

Bottleneck into Scrambles

Narrows Scrambles

Just before High Dry Fall to Valley

Gower Gulch Wash in Valley
 We begin the loop here for two reasons. First, this trailhead is closest! Second, the loop hike is much easier from the bottom instead of the top where we begin! If we're going to drive this far, we're going to get a good workout! In other words, the last three hills coming out will challenge you so be careful of the temperatures. Bring plenty of water and electrolytes. Dress appropriately. And, take your time if you need it. Today, we found the temperature at the bottom of the hike (in the valley) to be quite warm ... maybe in the mid to high 70's. When we exited the hike at the top, they may have been around 70 degrees.

Hot Cross Trail to Golden Canyon Trailhead

Starting up Golden Canyon

Red Cathedral comes into View in Golden Canyon

The trail is well marked at this time. There are arrow signs all along the trail and there are distance signs placed at the key junctions. Since this was a Thursday, the trail was only moderately busy. However, there were two groups of school children that had visited Golden Canyon. They seemed very well behaved and very happy. There were plenty of adults shepherding them along. BTW, we were very impressed with the bus driver's way to spend the day! He was lounging in a chair under his umbrella next to the bus while he waited for his charges to return! (I think he's done this run before!)

Colorful Side Views of Golden Canyon

Junction Sign

Manly Beacon from climb to Red Cathedral

Trail to Red Cathedral Overlook
As usual, we took our break at the Golden Canyon Trailhead then enjoyed the scenery up the canyon and past the signed junction. We hiked up to the Red Cathedral Overlook. (A first for me!) The previously loose rock trail up the steep incline is now a nice sandy dirt trail. It is still ridden with exposure but the view is quite spectacular. We took a group photo here then most of the hikers decided to balance a descent route back down past this small canyon's narrows. They reached the main small canyon before we did since we decided to return the way we came. From here, we returned to the signed junction and started up the first of the three final hills.

Canyon Narrows Scramble

Arriving at Overlook

Hikers descending around the Narrows

Starting up to Base of Manly Beacon
The group started spreading out on these hills but I couldn't resist several photos on the first two. The first hill climbs up to traverse under Manly Beacon. The view back into the Badlands is fantastic ... still! From there, the trail travels across a hardened sand dune and starts up the second hill at another signed junction pointing out the direction to Zabriskie Point. Nearing the top of this hill, the views of Manly Beacon, Red Cathedral and Gower Gulch captivated my camera ... again. By this time, half of the group had tired of waiting for the other half. I arrived at the Gower Gulch junction and the last six hikers started up the last big hill.

Rear View from Half Way up Big Hill

Tony & Alex take a Breath on Big Hill

Rear View from Near Top of Big Hill

Crossing over to the Old Mine Road Junction
This last climb is a killer so be careful here! By the time we reached the parking lot, everyone was there with large smiles on their faces! I can't help but love these guys and gals.

As a side bit, our car was zooming along happily on SR-95 on the way home when we came upon a super double wide load escorted by two or three police cars. It was a few cars ahead of us so we pondered and pondered during our 30 minutes of 10 mph about what it could be. See photos below. What do you think? Finally, they stopped and let the build up of traffic go around.

7.6 miles; 1350 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours

Climbing Another Big Hill to Gorgeous View

Gower Gulch from Old Mine Road

Descending to Gower Gulch Junction

What in the world? ... I mean, "Really?"