Saturday, October 12, 2013

Hike 2013.047 -- Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area --Trails 100, 200 and 300

Hiked Friday, September 27. This is a repeat of my Hike 2013.013, from March. And, yes, I'm posting out of order. I do that, sometimes. :D

[Edit in addition to the trailhead information noted in the post linked above, please see this more updated post for trailhead access directions as of November 2014]

Drove out from Los Angeles on a Friday morning, arriving in the Las Vegas area in early afternoon. I considered several possible hikes on the way here, but eventually settled on this one. It's sort of the equivalent of Echo Mountain back in the L.A. area, in the sense that it is the closest interesting hike to my LV apartment base. It's pretty much on the way into Henderson from the south, so it's got essentially a zero drive time. And it's got a nice payoff, despite the short distance.

The payoff, of course, is the plethora of petroglyphs in a very short section of Sloan Canyon. Who knows why the local indigenous population picked one canyon over another, but they did. It's only about a 100 yard section where most are located.

[Note -- In the years since I wrote this, there has been a lot of development in the area. It's now paved all the way to the "new" visitor contact station, as tagged below, under "location."]

Getting to the trailhead is probably the toughest part of the hike. As noted on the hike I linked above, the official, BLM-approved route takes you over a long and extremely rough dirt road. The unofficial route requires only a short drive over a well-graded dirt and gravel road, with an optional additional mile over a rough road that is no rougher (but much shorter than) the rest of the official BLM-endorsed route. If you have a high clearance vehicle, it's a piece of cake. Otherwise, you just have an extra mile (each way) to walk.

This being almost exactly six months after my previous visit, the tempera-ture was not all that different. It was pleasantly cool. There were even some flowers, from the then-recent summer monsoon season. There were also a lot of what look like annual grasses, which are probably non-native, and the reason why desert wildfires have become so common where once they were unheard of.

From my "above the wash" parking location, I walked west maybe 1/4 of a mile to the unobtru-sively signed Sloan Canyon Road. Then I headed north, walking a jeep trail on which I saw only one car coming out during my entire walk. After about 1/2 mile, I noticed a a fair number of these rather large yellow worms. They had little horns on their butts, and they weren't true worms, because they had feet. I don't know what they were eating, where they were going, and what they would turn into after their metamorphosis, but there were a number of them inching across the road.

After maybe another 1/4 mile or so, past the sign welcoming you into the NCA and past the wilderness boundary, is a series of obstructions to keep cars from going further. There'a a kiosk display there with some info about the area. There was also a metal container holding a register. I signed in, on the assumption that visitation numbers might eventually lead to an improvement in monitoring and interpretation at this site. From there, it's an obvious walk along the wash bottom. That path is designated "Trail 100."

It's mostly volcanic rocks along the way, with desert varnish on the rocks that provide the "paper" for these ancient etchings. Some etchings look familiar, similar to what I have seen at other petroglyph sites. I've been to a number of such sites. The ones linked in this post are just the ones I've visited since getting a digital camera.

There are a couple of dry "waterfalls" along this walk. I suppose on very rare occasions, there would be water running through these canyons. However the presence of largish mesquite trees in the wash suggests that powerful waterflows are pretty rare.

Nonethe-less, there are a few class two or maybe class three segments where a little dexterity, and/or reasonable size and strength would be required. You don't have to be a great climber, nor necessarily young, but you will need to go up and/or down those short climbs.

Well, you don't *have* to go up and down, as there's a "backway" to the petro-glyphs. That's taking Trail 200 and looping around and descending Trail 100. That way is probably six times the distance, however. But combining Trails 100 and 200 does make a nice loop.

Trail 200 also takes you near an impressive volcanic plug, and provides a nice view both farther into the McCulloch Mountains and back into the Las Vegas Valley. Also, because it's a loop, you don't need to retrace as many steps. Somehow, that always seems like a plus.

It being somewhat cool, I saw a bit of wildlife this time: A number of birds, none of which stayed still long enough to be photographed, a California King Snake (that was just sprawled across the wash bottom as I approached, though he moved when he detected me), a chuckwalla, who lumbered into the shaded nooks as I approached (That's him, right of center, in the fourth picture of this post); lots of little lizards, some butterflies, and the aforementioned "worms."

Good hiking weather. About 4.5 miles walking for the day. As a reminder, please do not touch, climb over, etch on, or try to take or move the ancient petroglyphs. They are irreplaceable cultural artifacts, and easily damaged by the oils in your hands or the lug soles of your boots.

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