Saturday, November 27, 2021

Table Top Mountain, Mojave National Preserve, CA

Hiked Sunday, November 7, 2021. Been thinking about doing this hike again for quite some time. I'm somewhat surprised to discover I first hiked this over ten years ago. Hiked it again about two years after that.
In the interim, there had been at least one major fire and at least one major flooding event, which resulted in a regrading of Black Mountain Road. For a while, I couldn't find the turnoff. The place I stopped the first time doesn't seem to exist, any more. But, being a crosscountry hike, that doesn't matter too much. I mainly just needed a wide spot to park my car.
About five miles past the turnoffs for Hole in the Wall visitor center/Black Canyon Equestrian and Group Campground, a jeep trail crosses Black Canyon Road. From the left (as you are heading north), the road comes up from the wash. To the right, it climbs steeply away from the road. I backed my Prius up, with its tail towards the wash and its nose pointed in my direction of travel.
Followed the jeep trail up out of the canyon, and continued forward for about a mile. (I'm ignoring my 45 minutes or so spent circling the boulders near the crest, as I climbed up towards them, removed my backpack as I scrambled, then couldn't find it for quite some time). Ran into a small herd of cows as I did this. Not wanting to tempt them into charging, and knowing I needed to go north, I left the jeep trail and turned left, up a sandy, slightly eroded seasonal waterway.

A quarter mile or so later, I reached the familiar water tank and windmill. Then I turned right, and walked along the boundary fence for the next two miles.

Slid under the fence near the "final" rocky outcropping before coming parallel to the west face of Table Top mountain, and headed up towards the ridge.
While the trail along the fence is pretty clear, there are numerous intermittant trails heading up and along the ridge, towards the west face of Table Top Mountain. Some are "ducked," and some are not. I probably take a different route each time. Somewhat steep in places, and very slippery on that final pitch towards the lava rocks that are the face of Table Top Mountain. I usually wind up heading near the boundary fence that runs along that ridge, crossing slightly over the line after the fence ends, and head towards an approachable notch that faces mostly west.
Those rocks are unstable, so you should take extreme care as you pick your way up. Also, try to avoid damaging the plants as you climb the slippery way towards that notch, and avoid damaging the lichen on the rocks near the top. Obviously, if this trail were more heavily used, this would quickly become an issue. But, in practice, this is a somewhat rarely-walked route, despite the prominence of the mountain, within sight of the campgrounds in this area of the Preserve.
Because of all that wasted energy around those boulders near the start, I was pretty tired making my way up to the summit. I had no appetite for continuing across the top of the mesa, as I had done, in the past. Instead, I took a number of photos right near the register, then scribbled my blog and handle name in one of the notebooks, there.
Drank and ate a bit, took a few more shots, then headed back down. Wound up taking a different route back than I had taken up, which is not unusual.
My Alltrails app says I walked 7.5 miles, so maybe 7 miles, if you subtrack my wandering. Add close to another mile, if you walk across the mesa and back. Thirteen hundred feet of elevation gain. Pretty rare to see anyone else on this hike.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Anniversary Narrows and Anniversary Peak, Lake Mead NRA, NV

This has been a year for me to "discover" Lake Mead NRA. It's existence is not a secret, of course. But as a repository of interesting hikes, this has been a good year for checking new things out.
My first set of hikes was on trails around Lake Mead were from NPS handouts and flyers, and that kept me busy for a year or two. Then you've "done everything," and then what? Well, yes, some repeat trips, especially to Liberty Bell Arch.

So, this year, I poked around Redstone a time or two, and, of course, Valley of Fire (still need to blog). Then I took three hikes in various parts of the Bowl of Fire, which was all new to me, and kind of exciting to "discover." I also hiked up to Northshore Peak, which was also a kick.

Pretty much adjacent to (and above) the Bowl of Fire is Anniversary Narrows and Peak. I had read of this hike in the Bird and Hike website, but had some question as to if it was still hikable. So one late September day, I hiked up to Anniversary Narrows, just a bit, somewhat expecting I would need to turn around. But I didn't have to turn around.
The actual hike: At about mile 16 of Northshore Road, there's a turnoff on the left for Anniversary Mine Road. It's paved immediately at the junction, then turns to dirt. I could drive my Prius about 200 yards up the dirt road, to where it first drops into Lovell Wash. It's a steep, sandy drop, which would require high clearance and four wheel drive to navigate. I parked on the south side of the wash, and crossed the wash on foot. I picked up the dirt, then paved road on the other side.
About 1 1/2 miles of walking on pavement (bearing left at a split) brought me to where the road would cross the mouth of the wash, except it was washed out. So this is apparently the "regular" Anniversary Narrows trailhead.

Had I gone right at the split, the road would have met up, but it would have brought me closer to signed and posted private property. According to Bird and Hike, even the trailhead my way is private, but it was not signed, and there was no fencing or other indicators that I could not proceed up the wash, here. Hopefully, this means the access dispute is settled.

From the initial narrows, you pass several mine entrances and tall, crumbly walls. After a bit of a weave, the wash turns right, and widens. after another 1/4 mile, you reach the narrows. My first photo in this post is from just after the narrows begins. Probably a half-mile of narrows, with only a few places that would require short class 3 scrambles. One required stepping on a well-placed pipe. Then the wash widens, again.
I'd estimate another 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile along this wider wash before I saw ducks (stacked rocks) indicating a trail branching off from the wash, on the right. This was before where Alltrails indicates, but, being crowd-sourced, I have no way of knowing which approach was better without walking both. And I've only been here, once.
I carefully watched for ducks at each split, and made my way up the various narrow washes. Eventually, I started to climb out. As I climbed along the ridge, the view to my north opened up. Very impressive.

The only place I veered from a ducked route was where there was a narrow gap in the ridge. The duck had you going up near the top, only to drop down, in the notch. I saw no advantage to doing that over just giving up the altitude earlier, then working up the less-steep route back to the ridge.

This route made it an ocassionally steep, ocassionally narrow walk up. No real scrambling, until after I made it to the ridge between upper Lovell Wash and the Bowl of Fire. Then, approaching the first of several peaks, some scrambling might be required. I decided to content myself with my view where I was, however. I was getting tired, and didn't want to risk a fall. So I kept things pretty easy.

By contrast, for much of my hike to the ridge, I heard voices, and eventually spotted a man, trying to coax his female friend to follow him up the scree of the very steep north face of this Anniversary Peak.

In the time it took me to leave the wash, climb the north-south ridge, make my way past the break in the north-south ridge, then reach the dividing ridge between the Bowl of Fire and upper Lovell Wash, then poke around near the first summit for about fifteen minutes, then get back down the north-south ridge, the guy going up the scree seemed to make very little progrss. Maybe 100 yards up? And his female friend appeared to have turned around, as I didn't see her as the guy plodded on.
He'd have been better off retreating diagonally to the ridge I took up, then heading up that way. But people (myself included) hate giving up hard-won altitude. His friend, meanwhile, made the right choice. It wasn't going to get easier, not the way they were trying to go. Most times, if it's a hike (as opposed to a climb), and you start having to do unprotected climbing, you're probably not on the right track, any more. Turn around and figure out where you lost the trail.

My Alltrails app says I walked 10.8 miles, and gained 1621 feet, that day. Five and a half hours on the trail, nearly five of them moving. Pretty slow going, because of the steepness, the poking through the narrows, and the walking on sand. But a great hike, that's for sure!

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Spring Mountains National Recreation Area ("Mount Charleston"), Nevada, October 1, 2021

Two posts back, I put up a shot from Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. After a short afternoon of hiking (still to be blogged), I set up at the Pine Creek trailhead parking area, and took some shots of the Milky Way above the escarpment. I had to take a Thursday off from work to get here in time for that shot. But that meant I was in Las Vegas all day Friday. Well, that means hiking during a workday, which means going to places that are otherwise going to be a mess on the weekend.
I decided the place that probably best fit the bill in early October would be "Mount Charleston," the name the locals use collectively to refer to the high altitude portions of what is officially the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.

Two principle roads head up into these mountains: Kyle Canyon Road (NV-157), and Lee Canyon Road (NV-156). NV-158 links the two roads in the mountains.

You may recall that I hiked up this area, last year. That was my first time up here in about seven years, long enough that, the previous time up, the freeway ended before Lee Canyon. This time up, I observed several traffic circles that must have been there last year, but which I didn't recall. One of the traffic circles was at a huge visitor center, which also wasn't there 7 years previously.
I took advantage of the huge visitor center to use the restroom (of course!), and ask the rangers there about good leaf viewing locations. She suggested the Bristlecone Loop as the one best trail to take, but also noted the area around the Echo Trailhead. So, I decided I'd start with the Bristlecone Loop, which I had hiked previously.

By the way, my photos are posted in reverse chronological order, so the first photos are from the end of the day, while the first shots are down at the bottom.

This trail is over at the top of the Lee Canyon Road, so I made my way over, and parked just above the resort entrance. Lots of parking, both before and after the resort entrance, though I'm sure it all fills up on busy summer and fall weekends.

Aspen leaves were nice, from around the ski area and on up. Probably one of the better immersions into aspen leaves was in that first mile or so.

The trail then climbs out of the aspen, runs by a mix of bristlecone pine, both living and dead. Bit more climbing, then the trail turns on to a broad decommissioned road for the return leg. Nice views back across the canyon, with ribbons of color along ravine bottoms.
Some aspen, again, near the end of the trail. Then I had to walk from the lower trailhead parking lot, back up the highway, to where my car was parked. Kind of funny, that I walked right by it, because I thought I had parked further up than I had. Thought my car had been stolen for a few minutes.
Once back at the car, I drove back over to Kyle Canyon, then up canyon, a bit, to the Echo Trail trailhead. The large yellow trees (aspen or cottonwood, not sure which) were at that trailhead.
This trail heads southeast, parallel but above NV-157. It passed several additional access points. It also passed a trail labeled as "Little Falls." Apparently, several ways of getting there, too, as I passed one or two more opportunities to get there.
Eventually wound up on the Cathedral Rock trail. I didn't expect to see any more aspen this way, but figured I'd keep walking to see where it went. Looks like it passed several seasonal falls along the way.
Patchy aspen, mixed with conifers. Several narrow walks among the smaller aspen.
The rocky crags are really impressive in these mountains.
Nice view from the top. It kind of sneaks up on you. BTW, not far from the top, there's a trail split. There was a sign post at the junction, but no sign. I checked my Alltrails app. The left would have taken me to Little Falls, again. I stayed right.
Probably only about ten minutes from there to the top. There was a picnic table, there. Several chipmunks, too. I broke down and fed a few of them a few unsalted nuts from my trailmix.
You could look down Kyle Canyon (towards the valley floor), across Kyle Canyon (to another one of those impressive crags, with homes, below), or up-canyon.
Easy walk back down to my car. So one moderate hike, and one short hike. Nice hikes. Nice leaves. Good fall day.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Bishop Canyon, October 2021

These are from October 10 and 11, Indidgenous Peoples Day weekend, 2021.

I had hiked up here in July (still need to blog!), and saw a few places that seemed like they might have some nice aspen color, come the fall. So I spent a few October days in Bishop, exploring Bishop Canyon, again.

This was a childhood stomping grounds of mine, with many fishing trips/camping trips along Bishop Creek. But those were all in the summer. First fall trip up here, I think.

The first few shots in this post were from around North Lake. Over the summer, I hiked from North Lake to Upper Lamarck Lake. Noticed the aspen-covered road leading to North Lake, and some aspen at the start of the trail. In mid-October, those leaves along the road were wonderful. Also, they were apparently well-known, as there were LOTS of cars and people walking the area when I arrived, late on a Sunday afternoon.

One interesting thing I observed was how different the coloration looks when I was viewing them backlit, as I hiked west, versus after the sun had set and I was seeing them in the twilight shade, hiking back. The other thing was that most of the leaf peepers were gone by the time I got back. That's why my car looks like it's just sitting in the middle of the road, rather than in a parking pocket, with about a half-dozen cars between it and where I took that second picture.

I hiked just a little bit up towards Lamarck Lake, saw bare branches rather than colorful foliage, then came back down and hiked maybe a mile towards Piute Pass, before turning back through the campground and back to my car. About 3.75 miles, total. Best coloration was on that original road segment, although I could see a wall of greenish leaves behind the tree tunnel that might continue coloring for another week or two. By contrast, the trees on the east and north side of North Lake were already barren, as were the ones just a little higher (and more exposed).
The next morning, I headed up to Lake Sabrina. Saw some coloration on the far shoreline, and intended to try to get there. Didn't make it, though.

I followed the trail on the south side of the lake, then, when I noted it climbing away from the lake, I left the trail, and cross-countried down to towards the shore. Thought I might be able to make it around that way. Not sure if I could have, as I got distracted by some color at the first inflow. That's the cascades, and the ice at the base of a pool below the cascades. While I was shooting a ridiculous number of shots here, the clouds suddenly dropped on me and graupel started falling. I was worried about the road icing up and maybe getting stuck up here, so turned around and headed back to the car.

Hadn't gone far before the clouds either rose or dropped, and the graupel slowed. By the time I got back near the dam, the sun poked out, on occasion, and many hikers were starting their hike out. Still, wasn't feeling like trying to repeat my trip, since I figured there was a good chance the clouds and icy precipitation would return.
Did get a nice, moderate-zoom shot across the lake, though.

After I got back to the car, I used the vault toilet (part of why I started the hike at a known destination!), then drove down, just a few hundred yards. I had passed a nice pond, with some good color on the banks. Unfortunately, stupid millennials also found the spot, and got there just ahead of me.

I don't begrude folks wanting to get a good shot (obviously), but I do dislike people who feel the need to insert themselves into the scene. Because that means, instead of just standing nearby, where we can both get our shots, one of them needs to walk out into the middle of the shot and sit down on a rock or a log, and strike a faux-thoughtful pose. Then they need to take picture after picture, to get just the correct fake moment and pose. Then they'll switch places, and repeat the process. Many minutes where no one else can get their shot without a poser in the way. Grumble.

Now, mind you, it's not even that I necessarily want a people-less photo of my own, if that's also going to be a misrepresentation of what's actually there. In fact, I sometimes like having people in my photos, since they give a scale to what you're seeing. It's just that I don't like it when their attempt at a fake moment completely dominates the scene, and now they're the "star," instead of the trees or the mountains. It's also the fakeness of the moment, like, instead of actually getting away and enjoying the wilderness and the seasons, it's more important to get the picture of them pretending to be doing that.

So I wasted about 10-15 minutes of my life, before I was finally able to snap my photos, and move on.

"On" was back down Bishop Canyon. On my drive up that morning (and the previous night, on the way to North Lake)I saw there was some good aspen color just before where the road to North Lake splits off. So I drove back down, parked, looked over the canyon, and tried to figure out how to get to where the trees were.

It looked like a broad and easy dirt road came up from down canyon, and that would be an easy walk for me. So I drove down to Cardinal Road, turned left, then headed up the paved road to where it ended, at Cardinal Resort. Parked outside of their lot, then walked past the resort, among the many cabins they have, and into the woods.

Many trails headed up stream, some crossing the creek, and some staying on the south side. After a brief chat with a couple and their dog, which were coming down canyon, I elected to cross over a log crossing, to the north side of the creek. Following various use trails, and eventually came across a large mining remains, which was where I saw what looked like a broad road when I was back on the highway. Unfortunately, passage further up canyon did not look easy, so I turned around, there. But before heading back to my car, I headed north and east, towards a large cascade I had seen, which ran down from North Lake, and towards the main canyon.

Made my way as far as safe, snapped some photos there, then returned to Cardinal Resort, and my car.

Took many leaf pictures from my various vantage points, between Cardinal Resort, the mining area, and the trail-less route to the cascade. Those are the photos after my pond shots, from below Lake Sabrina.

Not sure how far I walked on that day, but I hit my step target (16,000 steps) before I got back. I would estimate over 3 miles to go halfway around Sabrina and back, and a similar distance (more climbing) from Cardinal Resort and vicinity.

Crossed paths with very few hikers, once I got away from Cardinal Resort. Lots of footprints, so I know people hike here, though.

Took some more shots from near my car, on the narrow paved road near Cardinal Resort, then started driving back down, to Bishop. As I descended, the thermometer on my car showed about 30 degrees, plus some clouds, and the occasional graupel. Coming down, the temperature stayed pretty consistent for a few thousand feet. When I passed into the cloud deck, visibility shrunk, and it got borderline spooky. But then further descent brought me below the clouds. The closer I got to town, the brighter it got. In town, while it was overcast, it wasn't dark, and no precipitation was falling. If I were down there, I would have thought it was fine hiking weather.

And, in fact, it was fine hiking weather, although it was always threatening to get worse. I wore my thick down jacket, however, and was more than comfortable. The graupel was definitely preferable to sleet or freezing rain.

All in all, a good couple of days in the eastern Sierra, with a couple of short hikes and lots of aspen leaves. Didn't hike as much as normal, since my wife joined me on this trip and we spent some time socializing with one of her college friends. But enough hiking and enough aspen to feel like it was a fall foliage trip. May try for one or two more foliage hikes before we completely move to winter, but a nice end to "summer," nonetheless.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Red Rock Canyon NCA, NV -- Sept 30

Quick post, since I am so far behind and want to at least get one update done. This was the evening of Sept 30. Until the end of September, the scenic loop is open until 8pm, allowing one to shoot under a quasi-dark sky. This was through a light pollution filter, and some amount of Lightroom processing, to darken the sky. Otherwise, even at 15 seconds and ISO 1600, f/1.8, everything is completely overexposed. I like the way it came out, and it's not too unreasonable a depiction of what you can see (minus the color, of course). Hopefully, more posts, to follow.