Monday, February 4, 2013

Hike 2013.004A -- Lost Canyon, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

(Picture 1: The trail-head that leaves from the "left" side of the parking area). Hiked Saturday, February 2. Yeah, it's been two weeks since my last hike. Pretty sad.

And, here I was, back in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Partially, it's because this is the quickest and easiest place for me to get to when I'm in Las Vegas. Also, I can use my America the Beautiful Pass, so it feels like I'm getting my money's worth.

On the other hand, it finally occurred to me that I could also use this pass to get into Lake Mead National Recreation Area, so I might try a hike in that park in a few weeks. In the days since this hike, I've researched a couple of possibilities in Lake Mead NRA, although I think at least the one I want to do next is, I think, outside of the fee area.

(Picture 2: The trail-head that leaves from the center of the parking lot, straight towards Lost Canyon). I've also been reading a Wilderness Press book with lots of hikes in a very broadly defined "Las Vegas and Southern Nevada," so I've got no shortage of places and ideas for future hikes.

However, on this Saturday, the plan was to try to link several hikes around Lost Canyon and Icebox Canyon into one moderately long hike. The roughly 3/4 of a mile I hiked in Lost Canyon was the first phase of the day's plan.

Today, I took the "official" way to Red Rock" U.S. 95 north, to Summerlin Parkway. Summerlin Parkway East, to the 215 Beltway. Beltway south, to Charleston Blvd. Charleston Blvd/NV-159 east, to Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive. Once on the Scenic Drive, I drove it about 1/2 way around, to the signed Lost Creek trailhead. That's the first trailhead after you have turned off the Scenic Drive and right, on to the Rocky Gap Road that would take you to the Willow Springs picnic area.

(Picture 3: The Boardwalk by the Springs). In addition to the pit toilets here, there are two clear trails that lead away from the parking area. One heads from near the center of the lot and goes towards the southwest. The other heads from the "right" end of the lot (if you are facing the lot from the road) and heads to the west. In practice, both are two ends of a short loop. There are also numerous interconnections around this loop, though I failed to find the one that would have taken me to the northwest, and some petroglyphs and pictoglyphs.

(Picture 4: Close-up of the springs that the boardwalk passes over). I took the trail that leaves from the center of the lot, which heads straight for Lost Canyon. After about 100 yards, there's a branch to the left that heads towards Icebox Canyon. I took that route for Hike 2013.004B, right after I completed my loop and decided to just head off for Icebox.

Lost Canyon is quite obvious when you're this close to it. It's a narrow canyon between towering sandstone, which ends in an alcove, at the base of what will be a dry falls most of the time, but an actual waterfall on rare occasions. This was not one of those rare occasions.

En route to the seasonal waterfall, you pass right over a small spring. I believe this spring is perennial. A short boardwalk/bridge allows you to view the spring without trampling the vegetation.

(Picture 5: A wide view of the alcove from which Lost Canyon Falls ought to be flowing over). After arriving at the alcove, I spent a few moments to appreciate the size of the drop--probably 30 feet, right off the ledge. It could be an impressive sight. Not today, but sometimes.

On my return, I bore to the left at a fork in the trail. This took me more northwesterly, past the agave roasting pits. That's basically small caves, where I guess the ancestral Pueblans would have tossed the hearts of agave plants, packed what burning material they could around them, and prepared the agave for consumption.

(Picture 6: Close-up of the seep where Lost Canyon Waterfall ought to be). Shortly after the agave pits, there should have been a trail that continued to the northwest. It probably looked too much like a use trail for me to take, so I stayed on the main trail until it became obvious that it taking me right back to the parking lot. Oh, well.

So I walked past my car, then headed back out on the trail that left the center of the lot. This time, at the fork, I took the one heading to the left (South). This was the SMYC trail, which was sign, but the importance of those letters was not explained. It's a 1.1 mile link between Lost Canyon Trail and Icebox Canyon Trail. Between the connector and the actual Icebox Canyon Trail, and the short segment I took to get to this fork, I'm figuring about 4.75 miles total for Hike 2013.004B (which I'll blog about next). Just .7 or so miles for 2013.004A, which I completed once I was back at the parking lot.

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