Desert hiking

Amargosa Trail | McCullough Hills Trail | Canyon Point | Boulder City ride

In addition to the horse/mule trip with Joe Herbst, I spent several more days hiking in the desert. I’ve quite enjoyed being out. For the last few years my trips to Las Vegas have been short, down and back, mostly to see family and a few friends, and I’ve not taken the time to go hiking, but now that I am, I remember how much I love hiking in the area around Las Vegas, what a special treat it is. My sister lives only two blocks from Sloan Canyon NCA, so much of my hiking is there. This week I did the following trips:

small wash on Amargosa Trail
small wash on Amargosa Trail

Amargosa Trail: This trail heads north and then west from my sister’s house, following under the Amargosa intertie high-tension power line, for which is it named. Part of it is semi-natural, and part of it just suburban, but it is a nice path and easily accessible. I followed it as far at Reunion Trails Park, but, with gaps, it continues further west. Photos on Flickr. The photos with flowers are from from hikes in other years. There are very, very few flowers out at this time in this year. Trail on AllTrails.com.

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West End Wash with Joe

Joe & balancing rock
Joe & balancing rock

Friday I had the pleasure of going out on a ride with my friend Joe Herbst to the West End Wash & Gale Hills area off the North Shore Road in Lake Mead National Recreation Area. We’ve been doing these rides about once a year for, hmm, probably at least ten years, usually around Christmas time but sometimes other times of the year. Joe is a friend from my childhood in Las Vegas, we met when we were about 12 years old and started hiking together.

We rode in and out of the washes, over ridges, along routes Joe has been before. Joe spends a lot of time out here, riding at least three days a week (an advantage to being retired). I used to spend quite a bit of time off the North Shore Road, but hadn’t been in this particular area in many, many years. Joe has three animals, Sassy and Ellie the horses, and Ruby the mule, plus two dogs. I used to ride Ellie all the time, but Ellie is in semi-retirement and mostly goes along for the trip now, so I’ve been riding Ruby. Ruby is a very sure-footed mule, easy to ride and safe, except…

Dan on Ruby
Dan on Ruby

Well, I got thrown off / fell off. Ruby stepped down over a ledge and stopped. STOPPED. I did not not, and went down hard on the hard rock of the canyon bottom. A few cuts and scrapes, and a pulled muscle in my rib cage, most of which was incurred in trying to stay on the mule, but without success. Ruby’s saddle was forward, which could have been the cause of the sudden stop, or could have just resulted from me trying to hang on as I was flying. No permanent injury. It’s a good reminder that it is my responsibility to check the cinch, and lazing along old roads doesn’t mean I get to relax when the country gets rougher.

As we ride along, we tell each other stories and remembrances, some from recent times and some from long ago hiking and backpacking with Howard Booth and others. We’ve probably told most of these stories many times before, but one of the advantages to only riding together once a year is that we’ve forgotten during the year which stories, and the details of the stories, so we get to tell them again.

Almost seven years ago we spent a week day-riding in the Escalante in southern Utah, and we are starting to talk about doing it again in April. Yahoo!

Photos on Flickr, some from me and some from Joe

Bowl of Fire on horse

Joe Herbst
Joe Herbst with Sassy & Ellie

On the day after Christmas, Joe Herbst and I did our annual (more or less) horse ride out in Lake Mead National Recreation Area. This year we rode in the Bowl of Fire, off the North Shore Road. Driving up Callville Wash, which was not possible last year with the washed our road and deep mud, we parked the trailer and unloaded Sassy, Ellie, and Ruby. We then headed further up the wash and over a nearly invisible saddle to the back side of the Bowl of Fire, then headed west behind the bluffs, and wound down through a narrow wash and back to the truck. The weather was perfect, a brilliant blue sky of the sort I never see in Sacramento where I now live.

Joe and I have been friends for 48 years or so, starting out hiking, backpacking and climbing with Howard Booth. We lost touch for a while as we both went off to do different things, but have reconnected for about the last 10 years, and immensely enjoy our time together. Our biggest adventure was a 2007 week-long series of rides in the Escalante Canyons of Utah, but we’ve been doing at least one trip a year (last year, in the same area).

After the ride, we went out to dinner with Joe’s wife Pam, which was the first time I’d gotten to spend much time with Pam.

Photos on Picasa at https://picasaweb.google.com/116687105851998007887/BowlOfFire20111226.

With my irregular posting, I miss a lot of things, which I often think I’ll go back and pick up later, but don’t. Recently, my life included seeing friends Ann Pitchford, Jeff vanEe, Howard Booth and Ursula Wilson, Mike Pearson, Mark Vranesh, and Norma Biggar, all long-standing Las Vegas area friends. I spent Christmas with my mom, sister, nieces, and grandniece. Earlier in December I attended the Gaskell Ball and one day of the Dickens Fair, and spent time with Michael Charnofsky. I saw several movies over the month, out at theaters which is rare for me. By far my favorite was Hugo.

Bridge Spring Canyon

Howard and Ursula
Howard and Ursula in Bridge Spring Canyon

I went out for a wonderful mid-day hike with Howard Booth and Ursula Wilson, in the Nelson area southeast of Boulder City. Though I’d hiked a little in the area, and had often gone there for spring wildflower displays, I’d never been to the area we went, Bridge Spring Canyon and Oak Creek Canyon. Bridge Spring Canyon of course has a bridge, a natural rock arch over a waterway (bridges span waterways, arches don’t), a seep below, and quite a lot of oaks (Quercus turbinella). We then went over a ridge and into Oak Creek Canyon, which has no creek except after rains, and only scattered oaks in damp or shady areas. I forget when I’m away from the desert how much I enjoy being out in the clean air with distant views and wonderful close-in details. Though I thought I might go back to Sacramento early, this hike reminded me that I won’t give up any days in the desert. Thanks, as always, to Howard for these days out.

Photos on Picasa at https://picasaweb.google.com/116687105851998007887/BridgeSpringCanyon20111221.

Owl Canyon with Howard

Howard in Owl Canyon Narrows
Howard in Owl Canyon Narrows

On Tuesday, December 28, Howard Booth took me on a hike to a place he has named Owl Canyon. It is off the Lakeshore Rd in Lake Mead National Recreation Area, on the north end of the River Mountains. We parked at one of the lake views just before Vegas Wash, dropped down and across one wash, and took the next one north. It gradually narrows up into a conglomerate slot canyon, heading west into the River Mountains. It passes through culverts deep beneath the new highway and then the old highway, and then gradually opens out again into a broad wash heading into the mountains. We walked to a point just past a major cliff, at which point the wash opens out again. It is surprising how far the wash goes into the mountains. We walked about 4 miles and we did not reach the crest.

The wash bottom in the narrows has been quite scoured by the recent rains, and all along the length of the wash there are signs of erosion and deposition.

There are some flowers out already: rayless encelia (?), encelia (?), Indian tobacco, ground cherry, and burro brush (just one). I’m rusty on my flowers, so take these IDs with a grain of salt. The wash bottom is quite green with grass and herbs, so it would seem to suggest a good to great flower year.

It is always a pleasure to be out with Howard, talking about old times and flowers and geology and politics. Our previous hike was in April, on the other side of the River Mountains near Boulder City.

photos on PicasaWeb

Horse ride with Joe

Joe on Ruby, upper Calville Wash
Joe on Ruby, upper Calville Wash

Sunday Joe Herbst and I got out for a short horse ride. I truly enjoy these days out, though they only happen for me about once a year (Joe goes nearly every weekend), these are always among the best days.

Today we rode upper Calville Wash, north of the North Shore Road in Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The Bowl of Fire is just to the north of the wash, and the wash drains a part of the bowl. Joe was riding his new mule Ruby, and I rode Pam’s Arabian Elle (Pam is Joe’s wife). The dogs Trixie and Rufus also went along. We went up the north fork of the wash, encountering a lot of soft mud and quicksand which was a little sketchy, over the saddle, and back down the wet but more stable east fork. We rode for perhaps four hours, but with such a beautiful day, it seems like enough. A few more photos on PicasaWeb.

For those of you who don’t know him, Joe is a nearly lifelong friend, who I met shortly after moving to Las Vegas when I was 11. His dad Emmett and my dad worked together for an AEC contractor, and we were introduced as hiking partners, which we immediately became under the mentorship of Howard Booth. The only long trip Joe and I have had is a week in Escalante Canyons, Utah, in April 2007, which I did not post about in this blog, but you can see photos on PicasaWeb from that trip.

with Joe and Howard in the Bowl of Fire

Howard and Joe
Howard and Joe

I hiked on Sunday with Joe Herbst and Howard Booth in the Bowl of Fire area, off the North Shore Road of Lake Mead NRA. This was the first time the three of us have been together in… well, not sure, but well more than 10 years. I see Joe at least once a year, and Howard at least twice a year, but this was a long-overdue reunion.

We drove up Calville Wash to the end, then hiked around and through the Bowl of Fire, and back to the car. The day was perfect, blue skies, warm temperatures with a breeze that kept it from being hot, and none better company.

photos on PicasaWeb