Monday, February 27, 2023

Lava Butte Crest (also Lava Butte summiters) - 2/26/23

Lava Butte from Crest Trail

Ten Falls Canyon from Crest Trail - Virgin Peak range Beyond

Lava Butte from the approach Canyon

Seven Hikers starting out up the Main Wash
So, what happens when two hikers want to go easier and the rest of the group wants a challenge? We went to Rainbow Gardens, the area surrounding Lava Butte. We entered into this area on Lake Mead Blvd. to the north of Frenchman Mountain where the Great Unconformity lies. This is a contact between much younger rocks deposited directly on older rocks where the intervening rocks either were never present or were removed by erosion. Frenchman Mountain began its travels from Gold Butte as part of the Virgin range. With the movement of the Lake Mead shear zone, it travelled southeast through Bitter Spring Valley (13 million years ago) shedding debris and ended up where it is today. Its travels are not over.* 

Approaching Bed Springs Junction

Wardrobe change at Bed Springs Junction

Climbing up through the Lava Butte approach Canyon

Hikers above approach Canyon from Crest View
As we neared the large dark peak of Lava Butte to the right, we drove through an area of Aztec Sandstone, an extensive unit of ancient lithified dunes found throughout the southwestern U.S. that formed in an environment much like the modern Sahara Desert. The low ridge between the highway and Lava Butte has red Aztec Sandstone cropping out at its base and is capped by the Rainbow Gardens Member of the Horse Spring Formation (the oldest member of the Horse Spring, it was deposited at least 17 million years ago). The Rainbow Gardens Member of the Horse Spring Formation takes its name from this area and, in turn, provides much of the color.*

In the middle of all the color of Rainbow Gardens is Lava Butte. Lava Butte is not a volcano. Recent mapping has led geologists to interpret it as a small volcanic plug that came up through the Horse Springs 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.* 

*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 59-61.

Climbing to Lava Butte boulder field Base - Crest rising Beyond with Rainbow Gardens Canyon Below

Rita on steep climb south of approach Canyon

Rita and Kay's climb to Crest Trail

Crest View of Lava Butte Climbers
So, after an effort to superficially explain all the geology of Rainbow Gardens in a tiny nutshell, we parked at Northshore Road mile marker 2 and began our hike toward Lava Butte up the main wash. Our traditional hike follows the main wash up to what we call Bed Springs Junction. This is the top of a small ridge among the arroyos where old miners' bed springs lie about. A right turn on the ridge led us up to a flatter ridge where we turned to the right and headed up the break in the terrain we will call the Lava Butte approach canyon. From the beginning of the hike, we had beautiful views of Lava Butte on a gorgeous day! It was at this canyon's dry fall that the two groups of hikers separated. The summiters climbed up the right side (or scaled the wall in the middle!) and the Crest Trail hikers (Rita and I) climbed up the left side of the canyon. We watched as the other group of five hikers climbed on up to the base of a boulder field with an approximate incline of 45°. Up they went from there. As we hiked on around the overlooking terrain crest, we watched the climbers until they were hidden behind a small ridge.

Lava Butte climb in a Nutshell - Steep and Beautiful - Worth it!

The back side of Frenchman Mountain

Lava Butte from Crest Trail

Arriving at the previous Snack Break Saddle
Our route had climbed up and around the crest to the trail that drops down to the base of Lava Butte. Here, we noticed that someone has raked the trail on a route that we have used before along the crest. It looked inviting and we followed it around, taking views back to the butte, to the snack break saddle we have used several times in the past. Not ready for a break, we continued following the trail to a crest saddle. Here, we could see the splendor of a large area of the Rainbow Gardens member of the Horse Spring Formation. As Rita and I always do, we saw a new trail and decided to take it! I believe the crest trail that we explored has been there for quite some time but we have never used it. The trail climbed up from the saddle, waded through a rocky area and perched onto the ridge crest above high cliffs.

Following Crest Trail above Ten Falls Canyon

The Lava Butte Crest Trail - Lake Las Vegas Beyond

Crest Trail along Cliffs

Kay on the Crest Trail
Ten Falls Canyon was below us on the left. Lake Las Vegas could be seen in the distance. And, Rainbow Gardens dropped colorfully on the right side. Following the trail, we found a couple of places to descend down to Ten Falls Canyon where we knew there were nice dry falls to play on. We descended on a ridge and continued down the canyon. Finally, we reached the bottom of the canyon where we junctioned with the bottom of Rainbow Gardens Canyon. This small colorful canyon represents a lot of the color found in this area. Our inclination was to hike up through the small canyon but we decided not to since we wanted to meet up with the summiters on their way down. We chose the trail that ran straight across from Ten Falls Canyon's mouth.

Rita dropping into Ten Falls Canyon

Rita negotiates a Dry Fall in Ten Falls Canyon

Beautiful Geology in Ten Falls Canyon

View up Rainbow Gardens Canyon
The trail led us through a narrow wash and up to Bed Spring Junction. Staying in contact as best we could, we knew that the summiters were on their way down so we headed on down the main wash to the cars. When we reached the trailhead, it wasn't two minutes before the summiters were hiking in. Good timing! All hikers were anxious to tell their tales. A good time was had by all! And, did I mention that it was a beautiful day!!

Stats: ~ 5.2 miles (for both groups); 700' gain (for Crest Trail hikers); 3.75 hours (for both groups)

Taking trail to Bed Springs Junction

Following Trail through Main Wash

Colorful Lava Butte view from Main Wash

This route for Lava Butte summit climb reflects only one possibility.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Boneshaker Hill / Echo Canyon - 2/24/23

Snow Dusted Red Rock Canyon

North Blue Diamond Hill to White Rock Hills

Across the Desert to the South

Climbing Boneshaker Hill
Yep! It was cold! 28° when we left the cars at the Cowboy Trailhead. We were dressed like we were going to explore the North Pole ... well, we are Las Vegans. But, there was a window in the wind, rain and snow so five of us went out for a hike. A few horses were getting saddled up for a trail ride as we circled around the corral and we headed on out toward the base of Boneshaker Hill. No messing around today. Up the steep hill we went with only a couple of rest breaks before the Boneshaker sign. (Not counting the photo breaks and view checks.) The scenery was awesome. Red Rock was showing off its new universal dusting of snow. The light snow covered all of the escarpment, Red Rock Wash valley and the North Blue Diamond Hill on which we trod. It was just enough snow to enjoy and not so much that hiking in it was slippery.

Escarpment from Boneshaker Climb

Short Rest on Boneshaker Hill

Snow on Trail toward South

Mike and Kay at Boneshaker Sign
At the Boneshaker sign, we veered to the right on the SARS Trail to start across the top portion of the hill. At the first Cave Canyon junction, we followed the trail to the top of the ridge and took the shortcut down the ridge to connect with the SARS Trail, Cave Canyon right fork, 2nd Finger junction. Up to the SARS saddle and down to the top of Echo Canyon, we started down. Reaching the rocks of Echo, we stopped for our break. It was nearing time for the wind to commence. We made quick time (as quick as my unflexible knee could scramble) down the fun canyon. A trail and a few cairns aid in navigating the brush. Before we new it, we were at the bottom and climbing up to the upper corral where three sad horses had been saddled and abandoned ... awww. (They wouldn't even look at us.) Regardless of the cold, we had a really fun hike! Last photo says it all!

Stats: 5.7 miles (with shortcut); 1200' gain; 3.5 hours

Starting down Echo Canyon

Descent of Echo Canyon

Approaching Big Drop

They did it! What a fun bunch!

These maps do not reflect the shortcut between Cave Canyon left and right forks.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Redstone Scramble - 2/18/23

John Ward in Long Slot

Liz through the Rock

Hikers climbing up to do the Drop Scramble

Eagle Rock
On Saturday, the Around the Bend Friends club members drove out Northshore Road all the way to mile marker 26. It was a beautiful day and my turn to lead a hike among the redstone. Since I had not been out in the redstone for about 2 or 3 years, I wanted to concentrate on leading and not taking photos. Therefore, John Ward sent me his photos from the day. Thanks John! We headed out toward the rocks passing by a collection of petrified wood. Next, we dropped into the wash and continued up to more redstone. This time, we came to a great view of Eagle Rock and Scottie Dog Rock. Following a fairly clear game trail, we began hiking over the desert and through the rock to the ridge that holds the Land Bridge Trail. We crossed over the ridge and dropped into the other side to find the long slot we could hike through. The slot is so narrow near the end that most everyone needed to take their pack off to get through! At the bottom of the slot, a left turn presented our first petroglyph panels. Here, we sat for our break while making up stories as to what the ancient writings were trying to say.

Scottie Dog Rock
After the break, we climbed up to the plateau above us and found the drop scramble down to the canyon below. My past research told me that this was the best way to get down from this plateau. There, we hiked past a large arch and turned around the corner to the right. This section has a lot of exposure. It bothers me but it didn't seem to bother anyone else! Over there, we found another petroglyph panel in an indentation of the rock wall. From there, we climbed up a very steep incline to return to the Land Bridge Trail. Turning up to the right, we eventually found a trail that dropped down to the left into a wash. We followed the wash observing a couple more panels of ancient writing until the wash dropped down into a very deep section. Here, we climbed up to the desert pavement and began our hike downhill and back to the cars. Everyone was pleased with the fun and interesting day. Lots of new stuff to contemplate! This is a great place to come and just wander around!

Stats: 3.6 miles; 700' gain; 3.75 hours

A Few of the Petroglyph Panels at Redstone

The Arch and Pinto Valley Beyond

Hikers stop to look at another Petroglyph Panel