Wednesday, January 20, 2021

South-East of Bowl of Fire, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, NV

Hiked Sunday, January 10, 2021. Took advantage of the MLK holiday to take a short vacation in the Las Vegas area.

This area lies north of Northshore Drive, the main road that runs well-back and above the (surprise) north end of Lake Mead. Among several potential access points are the Northshore Summit Trailhead, the Callville Wash jeep trail, and a pullout along Northshore Road, at about Mile Marker 18.2, on the north side of the road. This one is the second pullout west of the Northshore Summit trailhead, and the larger of the two pullouts.

The dirt road can be driven by jeeps or likely any four-wheel drive, reasonably-high clearance vehicle, for most of the distance. Being in a Prius, I'd have had to park near the bottom, and walk in the jeep trail.

I opted for the roadside pull-out, as it seemed to promise the shortest walk, did not share as much of the approach with the jeep trail, and would not need a significant climb to get back to the car, at the end.

There's room for 8-10 vehicles at the pullout. About six cars were there when I arrived, mid-morning.

My AllTrails "map" indicated just heading more or less northerly from the parking area. And there was a very distinct path leading straight north. It headed just east of a narrow butte. From there, the trail decended a bit towards a wash, then became indistinct, with several equally-plausible paths heading in various directions.
I tried using the map on my AllTrails app, but it wasn't working right. It kept showing me off the trail. When I walked in the direction where the app indicated I was pointed towards the trail, the little indicator kept showing me moving away from the trail. But reversing direction did not get me any closer to the trail, either. Much later, after having moved quite some distance from the road, the location indicator still showed me right next to the road.

Something wasn't working right. So I shut it off for a while, and just walked on my own, from there.

I went down (left) a broad wash for a bit, then went up (right) the other fork of the wash, which seemed to be heading in the direction I wanted to go. After about 1/2 mile, I saw what looked like a path leaving the main wash and heading north. But there were several vehicles parked near here, so I figured that's the way they went. Since I wasn't 100 percent sure where anything was, since I'm generally trying to maintain social distance from people, and since any direction would be new to me, I kept going up the wash, some more.
With each split, I took the broader wash, slowly weaving my way to the northeast. The sides of the wash were, in places, green, white, or red. One section of wall had the interesting formation on the pictures a few shots up, with what looked like shale intrustions into silt and conglomorate material.

Eventually, my weaving led me to a narrow gap, between high sandstone walls.

The sandstone is a brilliant red. It's "Aztec sandstone," the same formation as visible at Redstone (within Lake Mead NRA), Valley of Fire State Park, and parts of Red Rock Canyon NCA.

Like those other locations, the sandstone was pock-marked with holes. I saw some indication that some of the higher holes were used by ravens to nest.

Collapsing pieces of cliff, or boulders, washed down during storms, filled the bottom of the box canyon. But I had no difficulty making my way upstream, except for the occasional what-may-have-been catclaw mesquite or acacia. Shaped like catclaws, those plants had thornes that dug into my clothes when I was lucky, and into my fingers when I was unlucky. I had long pants and a sweater on. Hate to think what I'd look like if I were wearing shorts!
Came across a natural bridge or arch. Not sure if was formed by erosion through a solid piece of sandstone, or if the long, thinner piece just fell from above, leaving a narrow opening, near the base. Smaller, eroded windows were in the sandstone on the other side of the canyon.

As I gained altitude, the progress slowed, and I had to spend a bit more time picking the path of least resistence. At one point, I picked a path, then, reaching for a handhold to pull myself up, almost put my hand on a jawbone.

From that point, forward, I found many bones on rocks and on the ground, all of which were likely desert bighorn. I found one small skull, with nubby horns, so probably a young one. I found one leg bone, with hoof and fur still attached, which also looked like it was desert bighorn.

Most parts were just legs, and I assumed that was either road or other kill, brought back up by ravens to feed themselves or their young in the nests, above, then discarded into the canyon.

But the ribcage and spine section? That looked too big for ravens to move. So either the small sheep died in the canyon, or was moved by something bigger than a raven. Can't say what.

There was a fair amount of scat, which I assume to be desert bighorn scat, so they definitely do wander into this canyon. And, after rain, water would undoubtedly flow and pool within this canyon. So it's possible a mountain lion made a kill here, or the animals may have died of other causes here, then were scavenged.

Eventually, I reached a terminal wall: Too tall to climb. There was a deep plunge-pool at the base, so you could certainly imagine the force of water, flooding down the canyon after a storm.

It smelled in there, too. Don't know if that was the smell of rotting flesh or of accumulated urine and sheep poop. But there was both lots of visible poop and several visible bones in that plunge pool.

Turnaround time. From there, I decided to trigger the "record" function on AllTrails, so I could at least, after the fact, figure out where I was (assuming the GPS was functioning correctly). Based on the recording I got, I think it did right.

According to my recording, I walked four miles back, and "gained" about 60 feet. I also lost about 500 feet, which I obviously had to gain on the way in. So fair climb up the canyon, and a slower climb walking up the wash on the way in, and the reverse, going back.

Once out of the canyon, I retraced my steps, except without the uncertainty of which way to go. I walked down the wash, which widened as I descended and it was joined by tributaries. When I found myself parallel to the east end of the small butte, I left the wash and made a beeline for that, and was on the trail, in no time.

Good walk. Figured out precisely where I was from the recording. Between 8 and 9 miles of total walking, and close to 600 feet of gross altitude climbed. I will need to return again to visit the actual Bowl of Fire, rather than this "Bowl-adjacent" side canyon.

I've had a few other hikes that I have yet blogged. Will need to return to those later, too.

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