Saturday, February 22, 2014

Hike 2014.008 -- White Rock Canyon Trail to Liberty Bell Arch and the Colorado River

Hiked Saturday, February 15.

I had hiked here just about one year ago. Additional details on finding the trail head and the hike can be found there.

I enjoyed that hike. Wished I had a longer telephoto lens on it, though. The overlook down to the Colorado River, you're probably 1200 or 1600 feet above the water. So, this time around, I had a 500mm Tamron catadioptric telephoto lens to play with, and this seemed like the perfect place to try it out.

The Tamron is actually an old lens to me. I've owned it since either the late 1980s or early 1990s. It was mated to an "adaptall" Canon FD base, and I used it with my old 35mm film cameras.

That lens, like the rest of my 35mm collection, has mostly only seen the inside of a camera bag for the last ten years, at least.

But then I came across a mention of an adapter to allow Tamron Adaptall mounts to attach to Nikon autofocus cameras. The resulting mating will not allow autofocus, or even metering or aperature priority shooting. Still, for about $20, I could regain the use of a very long telephoto lens. So I bought an adapter about two weeks ago, and got to try out the contraption on this trip. You've already seen the Kelso Dunes shots. Here are some along the Colorado River.

In the meantime, the other pictures are all from my hike to Liberty Bell Arch and the Colorado River.

The first one is from the trail before you've go get nearest the arch. You're looking sort of southerly with that one, so you have the arch is in its own shade. Kind of like the detail you can see, what with the various large chunks of rock looking like they're about to tumble right off.

The second shot is relatively early in the hike. I thought this rock structure looked a little bit like old pictures of the Crazy Horse memorial in South Dakota, just as they started blasting away the massive sculpture.
Next up is a view from right after the mining remains (got a picture of that in my linked post). You're at a high point, with a fairly long descent into the intervening area before you climb back up towards the arch. The arch itself is in the fin that points right at you, a little right of center. You can't see the arch, but you can see a little bit of sunlight hitting the butte right of the fin, which, of course, is shining through the arch's opening.
Then you've got a shot of the arch from the "sunny" side. The color's much nicer, of course.

On the trail, after passing the arch, you've got a few switchbacks before you reach the crest of this rise, and then venture on to a nice flat area with views down and across the Colorado River.
In this post, there's then a trio of shots looking across the river. The first is a relatively wide-field view. the next one zooms us in maybe 3x "normal." That's followed by one giving you about a 6x view across, letting you see the camp on the other side and some kayaks in the water.
Finally, there's a view through my 500mm catadiop-tric, giving you the equivalent of about 15x magnifica-tion. You can see the kayaks nicely in that one. That's followed by a close-up of the camp, with the boat and the tent.
I then backed off some on the magnifica-tion, to show the boat in context.

The next shots start up somewhat later, after I've already gotten back to the White Rock Canyon, and am now heading down the canyon. The volcanic walls are tall, and the canyon is sometimes quite narrow. I've got one shot of a group heading back up the canyon, to give some idea of the scale of these walls.
The trailhead sign near the start says it's 2.2 miles from U.S. 93 to the Colorado River. Since the split of the trail towards Liberty Bell Arch is only about 1/2 mile down from the highway, I'm figuring on about 1.8 miles roundtrip from the junction to the river and back.

Pretty substantial loss and then gain of altitude on the way down to the river, and even more so if you headed up to the Colorado River overlook after Liberty Bell Arch.
So I was pretty beat by the time I reached the river.

At the river, I saw that a Boy Scout troop had decided to make their camp at the mouth of White Rock Canyon.
It's a scenic spot, but not where I would have camped. I have this disaster mentality that would have me thinking, "If Hoover Dam breaks, I'd be swept all the way to Mexico," so I'd want to camp above the dam's altitude. Yeah, I'm weird like that.
Nonethe-less, I overcame my irrational fear of a cata-strophic dam failure long enough to shoot dozens of pictures, many with my long telephoto. Hard to keep focus with that, but there's a few mixed in.
But my favorite action photo from down there was at about 135mm, with the telephoto lens foreshortening the distance between the canoe and the narrower walls of Black Canyon, up closer towards the dam. So I decided not to post any long telephoto shots from down here.

It's a pretty consistent flow of boats going downstream. I assume the canoes and kayaks get towed back up the river by some sort of motorboat. Otherwise, it would take some pretty serious paddling to make it back up to the put-in point.
I have heard wildly-ranging estimates of how long these hikes are. I'd estimate about 9 miles total, but I could be off by quite a bit. It was a pretty tiring hike, either way. For most folks, I expect they do either Liberty Bell or the Hot Springs. Relatively few do both in one day.