NV – Lake Mead National Recreation Area . . . . Surprisingly Awesome Hiking

On my previous visit through the area, I don’t remember being motivated to venture out. One of things I recalled was Rogers Spring, an oasis in a stark arid environment. There is a nice trail at this location leading up into the hills.

The hills were alive with color on this trip. You’d never guess that a wimpy plant (Leafless Milkweed) when dispersed in mass could produce such color.

The northern end of Lake Mead (Overton Arm) is a visual indicator of what Hoover Dam created, leaving me with lots of questions. The high water mark is from 1983 with lowest levels reached in 2010 when the lake reached 37% capacity. Levels are now holding around 50%. Much of what was river valley is returning to it’s pre-reservoir status. Overton Road is closed; the once thriving resort areas of Echo and Callville Bays are now nearly ghost towns with noted ranger stations long ago closed. The entrance station near Valley of Fire is self-pay only with no way to validate your annual permit or to gather information about things such as road and trail conditions and dispersed camping regulations.

The park has quite a few maintained trail.

The Northshore Summit Trail was my favorite trail. The sign indicates it’s a quarter mile trail, but it continues for a long while. Nancy (WhyNot?!) and I were still traveling together and hiked this trail for a couple hours. Oh how I love hiking ridges! Those views were fantastic.

There is not a designated trail into the Bowl of Fire at this sign pullover location. The park map showed a hiker looking into the bowl. It didn’t take much detective work to find the well established route.

Late afternoon, early evening light captures the fire best.

As you can see morning light doesn’t capture the essence.

While not an official nor maintained trail, the route was easy to follow.

We had fun exploring once we entered the Bowl of Fire.

Look what I found, colorful geology plus flowers.

The Bluff Trail is on the western end of the lake near Las Vegas Bay.

This view is from the Bluffs Trail looking down at Las Vegas Bay, the outflow creek from Las Vegas Lake, and the Wetlands Trail.

It might not have been such a good idea to try to turn this into a loop hike.

Muddy Mountain Wilderness

There are a lot of old mining roads and washes to explore. Much of this area is just outside the park on BLM land but there is also a mix of private lands so it’s important to be respectful by not trespassing.

Look at this invite to rockhound.

Scars from mining activity.

Oh the color you might find walking washes.

I initially thought the pink mounds were mine tailings but nope natural sandstone formation.

Crazy how sometimes these washes run through slot canyons that once again invite further exploration.

There were a couple challenging spots that we had to work hard with body mechanics to up climb while also being very aware we’d need to down climb on our return.

With recent rains, we found a few pot holes including this one with tadpoles.

Lizards seem to like the washes also.

We found a few wildflowers on our jaunts.

I believe this was my first time seeing Matilija poppies.

We stopped by Hoover Dam. What a zoo. It felt like Disneyland with zillions of cars, buses and people. Not my scene! However, the views did provide a better view of the bathtub ring showing high water level.

We would have liked to walk the high memorial bridge but the crowds and parking made this an easy NO.

We didn’t take any of the paid tours, but found the design and mechanics interesting.

Before exiting Nevada, we drove through Red Rock Canyon. Although I avoid urban areas like Las Vegas, this was on my list and I’ll be back to hike. As it was Memorial Day, we elected to skip the crowds on this trip.

Still on my bucket list . . .

Adventure Date(s):

  • May 23-27, 2019

Tips:

  • If you arrive from the north as we did, you’ll be hard pressed to find information about the park except for the map. The ranger stations at Echo Bay and Callville Bay appear to be permanently closed. You won’t get your annual or senior pass validated until you reach the entrance station near Boulder City.
  • Dispersed camping is NOT known as such in this park. There was nothing listed on map or on their website. This was my first experience getting busted for camping in an illegal spot. The Law Enforcement Rangers informed us we were responsible for knowing the Superintendent’s Compendium, seriously? Once home, I also found a link on their site for backcountry camping which states “Vehicle camping is permitted at designated backcountry campsites only.” Of course not very helpful unless you have the associated map.
  • Showers and WiFi are available at the campgrounds. We used the showers at Callville Bay. $1.50 for 6 minutes.
  • Gas and groceries are available in Overton.
  • Bring a rock hammer if you want to search for gems. One sign talked about agates.

Resources:

Links:

NV – Valley of Fire State Park . . . WOWtastic May Weather

I would normally never consider visiting this park in late May, but the weather systems of 2019 provided unseasonably cool weather and a perfect opportunity to share this geology eye candy with my friend Nancy (WhyNot?!).

Last March I first visited this park and was beyond impressed and in fact ended up spending two days hiking and photographing the many sights (NV – Valley of Fire State Park, Part 1 and NV – Valley of Fire State Park, Part 2).

Since I’d explored most of the park previously and given we were both ready to stretch our legs, we decided to hike the longest trail in the park. If you want solitude and to see sights few others see, this is a great option. We saw one person within the first half mile, a couple in the middle and another couple at the end. With two cars, we had the luxury of making this a one-way jaunt. Although the sign indicates “not maintained or marked” we found it well used and easy to follow.

There was plenty of geology WOW along the way.

We also found some interesting flora.

We hiked from White Dome to the Visitor Center.

I couldn’t resist sharing the rock art with Nancy since we’d both visited many sites during our spring jaunts.

Adventure Date(s):

  • May 22, 2019

Tips:

  • If you want people free photos at the Fire Wave, go early. We had great light and had the place to ourselves.
  • Showers are available at the truck stop in St George
  • Gas and grocery stores etc are available in Overton
  • Good dispersed camping opportunities are available north of the park off Highway 169 most notably at Sand Mine Road.

Resources:

Links:

UT – Capitol Reef National Park, Cassidy Arch

I’d been running from thunderstorms and precipitation for about a week, and had been lucky enough to stay in front of them. It looked like my luck was about to run out but Capitol Reef was in my direction of travel and had paved roads, key in the southwest during rainy weather.  There are several ways to reach Cassidy Arch. I started with the Cohab Canyon Trail on this day.

I figured I’d hike as far as I could and turnaround if weather determined it was time before I reached Cassidy Arch.

It was a gorgeous day as I climbed and looked down at the lush Fruita valley.

I transitioned to the Frying Pan Trail.

I saw some firecracker penstemon along the way.

And some mariposa lilies. 

I can’t remember what these black rocks are called, but I believe they are from a volcanic event.

With intermittent showers, I considered turning around several times. I was nervous about wet slickrock and slippery mud. But then the sun would come out and I’d find the motivation to continue my forward progress.

Cassidy Arch! I was so glad the weather granted me this view.

The dark skies helped that Navajo white pop.

Walking slickrock sidewalks is one of my favorite types of terrain.

Wildlife is sure to be happy with full pot holes from the recent rains.

Picture perfect!

Does the world feel a bit tilted? That’s the monocline geologic formation.

Will I be rewarded with pie at the Gifford House? Tip: if you really want a treat, purchase and leave in your car prior to the start of your hike. Often the bakery sells out early.

I can’t visit Capitol Reef without stopping by and saying hello to another favorite geologic feature, the monocline Waterpocket Fold. This section is nicknamed the Navajo Knobs.

Sunrise paints them red. (Note: the spot is sand on my camera lens)

Adventure Date(s):

  • May 9, 2019

Tips:

  • There is dispersed camping along Notom Road off Highway 24
  • Showers and laundry are available at the Chuck Wagon General Store in Torrey

Resources:

Links:

 

CA – Picacho State Recreation Area

While visiting my friend Petra in the Yuma Arizona area, she invited me to join her for an adventure in Picacho, the California Picacho not the Arizona Picacho. How confusing! More so as I had the Arizona park on my list for chasing wildflowers and had never heard of the California park.

Of course I said YES. I love new adventures and especially ones recommended by friends. You all know by now I’m an opportunist and when opportunity arises I usually say YES!  This park is 25 miles north of Yuma and includes the Colorado River as well mining history and colorful badlands. Upon arrival, we were joined by Petra’s friend Lorene and hiked the Picacho Mills Historic Trail.

According to park interpretive literature, “the colored slopes are natural formations of volcanic tuff. Minerals cause the color variations.” As one who loves this type of geology, I was in heaven. That’s the Colorado River a haven for folks who enjoy fishing and boating.

The trails are in good condition and easy to follow, however they are made of decomposed rock so can be slippery.

The Beavertail cactus were just beginning to bloom. The bright pink was such a standout among the otherwise barren landscape.

The history is interesting.

Such fun to experience an area long loved by new friends Petra and Lorene.

Later that evening we were joined by another friend Jan, what two Jans? Ha! We hiked up Red Mountain.

We were treated to views like this.

What a fun hike. So great getting to hang with new friends.

Later that evening, we took a short jaunt to the river where the group was catfishing. Would this spooky full moon result in good fishing? YES!

We stayed in the park campground where I said good morning as the moon said goodbye for another day.

Temperatures can be unpleasantly hot as this is the Sonoran Desert. In fact the park brochure indicates huge swings in temperatures from 20F in the winter to 120F in the summer. Since I was still in winter mode, anything above 70 seemed hot. Thus we got an early start. I’d provide a photo of the lake . . . but it’s dried up.

The hike though is mostly on ridges, definitely my preference.

Thank you Petra for being an amazing host and adventure partner.

This shows what I believe are the maintained hiking trails but there are many roads and others to be explored. 

Adventure Date(s):

  • March 20-21, 2019

Tips(s):

  • This park seems to be under visited in part due to it’s remoteness. Be prepared to drive 18 dirt miles, rough but okay for most any car. Call or visit the web site to check on current road conditions.
  • Plan to stay in the park campground although there is nearby public land available for dispersed camping. A benefit to staying in the campground is showers as well as much more walkable access to trails and the river.
  • The best time to visit is mid-October through mid-April.

Resources:

Links:

Photo Credit: Lorene

OR – Three Sisters Wilderness, Tam McArthur Rim Trail

I love interpretative signage. 

The hike climbs out of the Three Creek Lake basin providing views of the cascades. My friends Jill and Robert were great about helping to orient me and learn the names of the peaks. 

You also get views of the Tam McArthur Rim high above the lake.

As you enter Three Sisters Wilderness, you lose the views while wandering through the forest.

There was still a bit of snow around on this mid June day. 

Looking back at Three Creek Lake from Tam McArthur Rim. There were wildfires and subsequent smoke affecting the distant views. 

This is the jump off point for further exploration including Broken Top summit attempts. 

From this vantage point you can see Broken Top and South, Middle and North Sister Mountains. 

Mount Bachelor appears to be a hop, skip and jump away.

Broken Top (you can see how it got it’s name). 

I had a hard time picking up my jaw when I saw this view. WOW WOW WOW! 

Then we off in search of Lava Bombs, which I’d recently learned about during my visit to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. The Wikipedia definition, “A volcanic bomb is a mass of molten rock (tephra) larger than 64 mm (2.5 inches) in diameter, formed when a volcano ejects viscous fragments of lava during an eruption. They cool into solid fragments before they reach the ground.” 

There was so much to love about this day. Thank you again Robert and Jill. This was my kind of place. Your company and knowledge added much to this adventure. You know I’m in heaven when I take a zillion photos!

There were lots of other volcanic treasures to explore. 

Adventure Date(s):

  • June 19, 2018

Hike Details:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources:

Links:

ID – Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve

From Dinosaur National Monument, I continued my wanderings by taking a drive through the Sheep Creek Geologic area in Utah, followed by a quick but uneventful visit to Fossil Butte National Monument in Wyoming (maybe third time will bring success), and finally I reached Idaho. 

With a few days remaining before I needed to be in Boise for a wedding, I found the perfect place to explore.

Of course my eyes were immediately drawn to the Pioneer Mountains. I wondered how soon they’d be accessible.

I found the geologic history interesting. 

These tiny pink monkeyflowers were a great accent to the black volcanic landscape. 

I hiked most of the trails with the exception of the Wilderness Trail. 

Signage was exceptional. 

Since there weren’t many wildflowers I found myself drawn to rocks.

Hiking the Broken Top Loop Trail provides many opportunities for learning. Be sure to grab an interpretive guide from the Visitor Center. 

Pressure ridge 

Pahoehoe (ropy) lava flows 

Tree molds were one of the more challenging features to find. If you look closely at this picture, there is a trough just above the sign and to the right. Per NPS literature, “tree molds are an impression left in the lava of the charred surface of a tree.” 

I also visited several of the lave tube caves including this one on the Broken Top Loop Trail. NOTE: be sure to grab a cave permit from the Visitor Center as one is required to enter caves.

Collapsed lava tube 

A benefit of staying in the park campground was hiking at sunset and sunrise. The North Crater Trails begin at the campground. 

Views along the North Crater Trail were exceptional. 

It was an awesome experience to walk the ridges of the cinder cones, especially early in the morning when I had the place to myself.

Yep, all MINE – even mid morning on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. Notice the duck tape on my fender.

If you’re lucky, you might just spy some petrified wood. 

Keeping the cinder from shifting isn’t an easy task. Kudos to the trail builders and maintainers. There’s a reason they ask hikers to stay on trail and to respect closed areas. 

Look at all that volcanic activity. So much history in one place. 

My wildflower finds. 

It’s a harsh environment for wildflowers. They are few and far between as demonstrated in the following photo. 

I truly love being surprised when places exceed expectations; this one was a home run! 

My one frustration this trip was road construction. I got stuck several times waiting my turn in one-way traffic but this incident topped the cake. I’d planned to hike the Caves Trail when I completed my early morning jaunt on North Crater Trail. But, due to construction the normal one-way driving loop to Caves Trail was blocked with only access to Broken Top and Tree Molds trails. Since I’d already hiked Broken Top I hiked the Tree Molds trail. On my return I was happy to find the Caves Trail parking open. I hiked to the various caves but upon returning to my car I found myself and many others included a couple buses of preschoolers blocked in. No one was manning the blocked entrance/exit. I was first in line to exit. We waited and waited and waited as the road has just been sealed. We called the visitor center and they didn’t know status either and weren’t able to contact the contractors. Finally the bus drivers decided to bust through the barricade. What was I to do but follow? HELLO, this was the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. 

Adventure Date(s):

  • May 24-25, 2018

Tips:

  • Obtain a cave permit from the Visitor Center. It’s free and required to enter the caves. Also grab a copy of the caves interpretative guide.
  • Pick up a copy of the free hiking trails guide from the Visitor Center, plus the one detailed for Broken Top.
  • If you are interested in geology be sure to ask for the free handout at the Visitor Center. 
  • Consider staying at the NPS campground. It was worth it for me to have evening and morning access although there is dispersed camping opportunities within 30 minutes of the park.
  • Photography is especially challenging under harsh sunlight conditions.
  • It’s a HOT place in the summer!

Resources:

Links:

CO/UT – Dinosaur National Monument

I landed in Fairplay after my Lost Creek Wilderness backpack trip. I was on my way to a wedding in Boise. With a week and 800 miles before my deadline, it was time to update my loose itinerary. Options, options, options . . . 

Weather as usual would play a role.

I decided to put in a few driving miles on this weather day, pushing my way north to Steamboat Springs. I enjoyed seeing the fresh snow dusting the mountains, but most of all these glacier lilies. 

I took a stroll through the Yampa River Botanic Park in Steamboat Springs. It was impressive.

I found more signs of spring as I headed west. 

You know it’s gonna be a bad day when . . . my morning started by accidentally activating my pepper spray in my car, then this deer decided he should take a run at me from behind (surprisingly he/she survived).

Remember those new tires I got a few weeks ago? Well that front tire got smacked hard but no damage thank goodness, although the deer hair was embedded around the rim. I was lucky. My car was driveable and I wasn’t injured. 

Not only does Dinosaur National Monument straddle Colorado and Utah, but it also has several access roads and offers so much more than dinosaur fossils.  Canyon Visitor Center is on the Colorado side near Dinosaur, CO. I was on my way out Harpers Corner Road when the deer decided to smack me. Rather than continuing on into a more remote area I decided it was best to have my car check out. First though I stopped at Quarry Visitor Center and Exhibit Hall on the Utah side. 

I was beyond impressed with what I saw at the quarry. I could have never imagined such a display. My photos couldn’t begin to capture the x size with 1,500 embedded fossils. 

The area marked in red is what’s available for viewing and known as “the wall of bones.” 

The interpretive materials were outstanding. 

A shuttle bus takes you from the visitor center to the Quarry in the summer, or you are guided there on foot in other seasons. You have the option of returning to your vehicle via the Fossil Discovery Trail, a 1.2 mile jaunt. 

I found these beauties along the way. 

I drove Cub Creek Road, and using their interpretive guidebook found more photographic worthy subjects. 

Lots of geology to learn about. 

Petroglyphs can often be found on rocks with varnish (the dark areas) such as these. 

McKee Spring Petroglyphs

Rainbow Park deserves further exploration. 

Car maintenance was the first priority before further travels. 

It worked surprisingly well and held my car together for several months before returning home to have it properly repaired. Yes, it was a great conversation starter!

Adventure Date(s):

  • May 19-21, 2018

Tips:

  • Fill your gas tank. My #3 near miss on this leg of the trip was almost running out of gas.
  • Avoid wet weather trips if you want to go off the paved roads.
  • This area can get quite hot in the summer. It was in the low 80’s during my visit in late May.
  • One day wasn’t near enough to experience this park. I’ll give myself much more time on my return visit.

Resources:

Links: