Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Barber Peak, Mojave National Preserve, CA, Hiked April 22, 2023

Hiked back on Earth Day, but hadn't been able to get my DSLR shots resized and uploaded.

I've hiked *around* Barber Peak on a number of occasions, from as early as 2010. But I'd never hiked *up* the mountain. On this last trip, I figured I'd give it a shot.

I started from near the visitor center, then hiked west of Hole in the Wall campground. I bypassed the turn that would have taken me into "The Rings," and continued north. Ahead of me, I saw what looked like a nice ravine to head up, towards the top of the butte. It looked like desert concrete most of the way, with no large barriers to passage.

Turns out that was an illusion. There were many points where the ravine had vertical drops far too tall for me to climb, so I stayed to the right of the ravine for most of my trip up. This route was steep, and the ground was crumbly in points. But there were no steep dropoffs, so I figured the worst that could happen is I'd slide, and maybe get myself a bit scraped up. But it would be mostly over dirt, not sharp volcanic rocks, so I wasn't too worried.

There were a fair amount of desert mallow and other flowers in bloom. I did my best to minimize my impact, walking on solid rock where available, and trying not to cause any slides that would bury the growth. I did see several smallish slids and some boot prints, but not a lot. I mean, it's so close to the big campground, that of course other people must make an attempt to scramble up towards the butte top, but apparently not many, which is probably a good thing.

Once on the flattish top, the view was great. I found this climb a lot longer and tougher than topping Table Top Mountain. The distance to the top is less, but the crumbly crosscountry part is longer.

Also, the top is less flat. Whereas Table Top is mostly flat, Barber Peak slopes quite a bit. The obviously higher part of the butte is to the west, so I walked that way, but with a less-than-direct route: I wanted to be able to enjoy the view.

It was mostly a grassland at the top, with the occasional pinyon pine and juniper. More of those trees surivived somewhat recent wildfires here than had survived on Table Top, or near Mid Hills.

I stepped carefully, looking just 4-8 feet in front of me, so as not to accidentally step near a snake. As a result, the snakes I did see were usually already moving off by the time I saw them. All three I saw were of the species photographed, so clearly not rattlesnakes. Two were about that size (less than two feet long), while the third (the first one I saw) was over three feet long. My best guess is "Mojave Patch-nosed snake."

I got to the point where I figured I was as high as possible. As if to confirm that, I discovered the peak benchmark markers almost immediately upon reaching "the top." There were two of them, separated by maybe ten yards.

I took more pictures. With a clear view to the north, I could see what I assumed were the Castle Mountains. I assume the Providence Moutains were to my south, well beyond Wild Horse Canyon. Later, as I looped around the butte, I could overlook the broad valley that Black Canyon Road traversed.

From near the top, back near where I first got to the top of the butte, my way back down was not obvious. I checked my Alltrails recording a few times, to try to go back more or less the way I came. I mean, this way, I was sure could be done, whereas another way might lead to a ledge that would require backtracking.

Finally, I was off the slope, and back on the Barber Peak Loop Trail. I followed my way back to the visitor center, ate a bit of dinner, then set up for the Star Party that we helped put on for Earth Day Volunteers, at the Black Canyon Grup Campground, which we've also done many times.

My Alltrails recording shows total distance I walked on this hike was 3.9 miles roundtrip from the visitor center, with an elevation gaine of 1240. It's mostly cross-country, so pretty slow going. The recording also shows me with just over three hours of time "moving," which means not a lot over one mile an hour. It's pretty slow going both up and down the butte. Definitely a nice view, though.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Liberty Bell Arch trail, Lake Mead NRA, AZ

Hiked Sunday, May 7. Been out this way numerous times, but possibly not since 2019. It's become a little tricky in recent years, as Lake Mead NRA has instituted a summertime closure of this trail, from mid-May through mid-October, because stupid or unprepared (or both) people used to hike hear in full mid-day heat, and either die or need rescuing. I don't like the idea of a full seasonal closure, because there will almost always be days during the closure period when the temperatures abate, or you could go early or late to avoid the worst heat, and certainly complete this hike safely.

Unfortunately, that's not how they do things.

I would like to have taken this hike about a month ago, because I thought there was a chance of some decent blooms this way. And, sure enough, I saw a lot of spent brittlebush along the way. Not nearly as dense as what I saw down by Palm Springs, but it would have been nice.

As it was, there were only a few blooms, including a few showy (but nearing the end of the bloom) white flowers on a bush, which I think might be sand blazing star. Also, later in this post, you'll see some of what I think are yellow tackstem, which sprouted in cracks amongst the volcanic rocks.

I got a pretty late start, as I spent the morning with my wife, wandering around Boulder City's Spring Jamboree. I figured it would mostly be "crap," meaning old stuff, antiques if you collect them, dust magnets if you don't. But they also promised an "outdoor expo" as part of the event.

Well, it turned out the outdoor expo was about five vendors, including REI. They had a national park trivia contest, and I obviously national parks and trivia, so I came back for that and won a small bag of goodies.

I only mentioned that because I was debating a trip to "Spooky Canyon" after I got back, but found myself a little too tired to want to extend my trip. As it is, this was about 5.5 miles roundtrip. And, although only about 80 degrees, it must be the dryness that makes it seem hotter and more draining.

The trailhead is for the White Rock Canyon trailhead, which is about four miles south of the O'Callaghan-Tillman Bridge, off U.S. 93. The parking lot is on the east (left) side of the highway, so you'll have to be in the fast lane as you approach it, and pull into the leftturn lane, before yielding to oncoming traffic and crossing into the parking lot.

The trail heads under the highway, then west, down a broad wash, which eventually narrows, in White Rock Canyon. The trail to the Arizona Hot Springs peels off to the left before you enter the narrow part of the canyon. After the second narrow point in the main canyon, the trail to Liberty Bell Arch climbs a hill, to your right. There is usually a sign on the rise, indicating the trail.

Had you continued forward another two miles or so, you'd reach the Colorado River. But the Liberty Bell Arch trail heads up some side washes and gains altitude. Evidence of mining is plentiful, and many of the side trails do lead to additional evidences.

After reaching a rather impressive viewpoint, the trail then descends steeply for a bit, before making a run towards a butte. Liberty Bell Arch proturdes towards you, and only becomes apparent when you have a bit of an angle between you and the butte.

The trail passes within a hundred yards or so of the base of the arch, which is very large. NPS photos often show brittlebush blooming below the arch, but I think so many people have trampled their way to the arch opening that I saw very few dead brittlebush on the way up. Mostly, just creosote bushes.

By contrast, there were a lot of spent brittlebush on the other side of the trail, away from the arch.

Continuing past the arch gives takes you to a spectacular overview of the Colorado River. You'll see part of the O'Callaghan-Tillman Bridge upstream, as well. Some thousand feet below, you may see kayakers on the river, and people camping on the shoreline. Meanwhile, looking to the east, you'll see U.S. 93, where you came from. Because of the line of sight and proximity to a major highway, you'll likely have cell phone reception for much of your hike.

Retrace your steps to return to your car. It's largely uphill on the return, and the sandy wash the last mile or so is much slower going on the return than it was on the way out. You may decided to stick to the high ground on the right. Firmer ground makes the going faster, even though it's a bit out of the way.

On this particular trip, I noticed three sets of shattered glass in the lot, which means auto burglaries can be an issue, here. I was actually happy when I got there that the lot was pretty full, with some people sitting in a pickup bed, and others coming and going, incluidng an NPS truck. For all I know, he was there to take a report on a break in. All of which is to remind you to take care, and make sure no potentially valuable objects are in view of your car. Obviously, if you can have someone drop you off, or stick with the car, that would be even better, but that's not a really great solution.