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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Red Rock Canyon

Dear Blog!

On Wednesday, April 26, 2017, we drove from Lake Mead to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area located just west of Las Vegas, Nevada. The conservation area showcases a set of large red rock formations and sandstone peaks in an area exposed by the Keystone Thrust. The walls of the Keystone Thrust are up to 3,000 feet high. These gray carbonate rocks of the ancient ocean have been thrust over the tan and red sandstone in one of the most dramatic and easily identified thrust faults to be found. We wanted to learn more about this unique area, so our first stop was the Visitor's Center.

After exploring the exhibits, we discussed our hiking options with the park rangers. We settled on the Ice Box Canyon Trail and the Pine Creek Canyon Trail. The trailheads are located on a one-way 13 mile Scenic Drive. Since we had to drive all the way around the park to reach our trailheads, we decided to make a couple of the earlier stops. First was the old sandstone quarry. These huge chunks of rock were loaded on wagons pulled by a steam tractor and then shipped off to various construction projects.

Our next stop was the High Point Overlook. You can see from the picture below why it was called High Point. For here, we could look down and see the entire Scenic Drive as it circled its way around the park.

We ran into road construction on the far side of Scenic Loop. A road grader had plowed up a one foot berm in front of the parking lot for the trailhead. Lucky for us we have a Jeep. It was no problem driving right over the construction berm. The was our first look at Ice Box Canyon from the trailhead:

As we hiked across a wash to get to the entrance of the canyon, we were able to look back uphill to White Rock and the Keystone Thrust beyond.

As we started our journey up the canyon, the walls rose up beside us. The canyon rarely gets full sun, resulting in perennially cool conditions, hence the name - Ice Box Canyon.

The further up the canyon we went, the larger the rocks became. The park ranger did warn us there would be some boulder hopping, but we were not deterred. The trekking poles were put away and the scrambling began.

However, some boulders were just too big to be scrambled, so we went around them.

Before long, we reached the first of the waterfalls. At this time of year, the falls are dry, which makes for much easier hiking when your trail goes right up the middle of the wash.

After chatting with some fellow hikers, we turned our attention to the next waterfall. The upper part of the canyon doesn't see as many hikers. We found the way to be overgrown. After shimmying under tree branches and belly crawling over boulders, we soon found ourselves at the base of the next falls. We took one look at the rock face and decided this was as high as we were going today. Dave did find a climber's rope and scrambled as far as he dared.

After a well deserved snack, it was all downhill from here.

Needless to say, the downhill went much faster than the uphill. At one point, we stopped to watch a couple mountain climbers work their route up the canyon wall.

We finished our hike of the Ice Box Canyon and drove over to the trailhead for Pine Creek Canyon. We got our first look at the pine trees that give this canyon its name:

The trail was once part of an historic homestead nestled at the base of the rocky pinacle at the head of the canyon.

Scientists believe that pine trees have existed along the Pine Creek watershed since the Ice Age.  They speculate that these pine trees have been here continuously since the Ice Age because of the uniquely cool and moist conditions that have been maintained along Pine Creek here.

The folks who homesteaded this valley certainly put their house in a scenic spot.  Here is the view they had from the back of their cabin:

How would you like this view from your front porch?

After taking in the view, we followed the trail over to Pine Creek. It didn't take Kathy long to shed her boots and soak her tired hot piggies in the cold mountain water.

We explored further up the canyon, but time and tiredness were taking their toll. It was time to head back to camp. It was time to say good to Red Rock Canyon.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Valley of Fire

One big reason for us to stay at Lake Mead National Recreation Area was to visit Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada, which we did today.  The landscapes are spectacular and surpassed our hopes and expectations.

We did five hikes.  Here are some photos from each of them.


The White Domes hike is a short loop hike that showcases white, pink and red sandstone formations.  It was the location for perhaps a dozen major motion pictures, including "Star Trek: Generations."  The variety is magnificent:

Here are some of the most typical "domes" to be seen on the hike:

 The hike includes a surprise slot canyon as well:

We saw some great arch formations, including this one --

-- and this one: 

 We like to call this formation, "The Turtle":

 The shapes went on and on:


We moved on to another popular hike, "Fire Wave," which is also of moderate length.  It requires hiking about a mile to get to the wave formation.  Here, David has climbed the last stretch and is excited to see the Fire Wave just on the other side.  That's a very small David at the top of the red rock slope:

 Once we arrived at the wave, we saw lots of awesome, colorful formations with bands of multicolored sandstone:

On our hike back, we stumbled on this very large lizard, chasing his paramour.  When we got close, she skittered off, but he chose to freeze and hope that we wouldn't attack him.  Well, the only attack was photographic, so he wasn't harmed.  He ran off without injury and had the opportunity to court again:


Two parking areas are offered in the park to visitors who want to simply wander through this fantastical landscape.  We chose one of the parking lots and headed off into the wilderness to see that we could see.  Here are the results:

Below, Kathy seems to have been inspired by this little sandstone formation to point the way back to our Jeep: 


Our fourth hike was to the Fire Canyon overlook.  The hike was marked by immense cliffs of red sandstone, but these were often counterpoised with delicate green plants:

About 1.75 miles in, we came to a point where the Fire Canyon dropped off steeply, giving us a dramatic view of this wild landscape:

Above us, unearthly formations continued to stand guard.  This was only one of many:


Our final hike was a short one into Petroglyph Canyon, where thousands of ancient petroglyphs stand open for inspection.  This rock formation bore more than we could count:

Here are some petroglyphs we found on the rock.  They look like two humans and two rectangular beings dancing hand in hand:

The rock also contained more "traditional" petroglyphs, carved into the desert varnish covering the sandstone rockface:

Our visit to Valley of Fire turned out to be longer and much more exhausting than we had expected.  We hiked around for almost 5 hours, with a little time off for lunch and drives between hikes.  We trudged through deep sand and up steep stone.  The weather was sunny and hot.  So, by the time we got back to our campground, we were ready for a little rest and refreshments.  Got to rest up for tomorrow's adventure!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Devil's Bridge and Red Rocks State Park

Hi Blog!

Friday, April 21, 2017, was our last full day in the Sedona area. After a couple of 9 mile hike days, we were looking for something a little shorter, but still scenic. We pored over the hiking materials we received from the Visitor's Center and decided on two short hikes. The first would be to the Devil's Bridge and the second would be around Red Rock State Park.

After researching the Devil's Bridge hike, we discovered the trailhead could be accessed from the Chuckwagon Trail. This would save us over a mile of walking on a sandy dirt road and cut down on the crowds on what promises to be a very popular hike. Here's Kathy at the trailhead.

A short spur trail led us from the Mescal Trailhead to the Chuckwagon Trail. As we crossed over Dry Creek, we were surprised to find it wasn't dry at all. The shallow water made great reflecting pools.

The wagons that use to traverse this trail cut wide swaths through the red rocks.

After hiking out of the creek drainage, we were rewarded with a 360 degree view of red rock country.

We got a good look at Capitol Butte. The Devil's Bridge is up there somewhere.

After a short mile, we found the cut-off for the Devil's Bridge Trail. The first part of the trail follows a wide forest road. Before long, we began to climb. Several scenic overlooks give us some amazing views of the red rock buttes.

After we waited our turn, a fellow hiker snapped this photo of us crossing the Devil's Bridge.

We took this photo in that rare moment when there weren't dozens of tourist posing for pictures.

After snapping a few photos for other tourists, we hiked down below the bridge. Kathy agreed to provide some scale.

Devil's Bridge selfie!

On our hike back, we saw the valley in a different light.

The hike back was very social; we hiked the first part of the way with a young couple and compared notes on travels; in the second half, we ran into dozens of hikers starting out toward Devil's Bridge.

It didn't take long to make it back to our car. Since we got such an early start, we were ready to head over to our next stop by 10:30. As soon as we arrived at Red Rock State Park, we took the opportunity to rest and watch the park videos on the Sedona area. We then asked the Park Ranger where a good lunch spot would be. He recommended the Kisva Trail.

We started our hike by trekking down to the banks of Oak Creek. The creek meanders through the park, creating a diverse riparian habitat.

The meadows on the far side of the creek allowed great views of the red rocks surrounding the valley.

The famous red rocks of Sedona are formed by a layer of rock known as the Schnebly Hill Formation. The Schnebly Hill Formation is a thick layer of red to orange-colored sandstone found only in the Sedona vicinity. The sandstone, a member of the Supai Group, was deposited during the Permian Period (299 to 251 million years ago). The red color is due to the presence of hematite (iron oxide, otherwise known as rust) that stains the sandstone. Love those rusty rocks!

We were sorry to see our hike end. We enjoyed our visit to the Verde Valley and Sedona area. We look forward to coming back sometime. Tomorrow, we head north, working our way to Lake Mead.