Thursday, November 16, 2023

Valley of Fire State Park, NV -- Fire Wave / Seven Wonders Loop, and Mouse's Tank

Hiked November 6, 2023. While still having many older hikes that need to be blogged, thought I'd go ahead and put this more recent one up. It's the good season for visiting Valley of Fire, with the summer heat having passed into more temperate circumstances.

I had visited Valley of Fire numerous times previously, most recently in February 2021. Never managed to blog that, though. So I think this is my first hiking blog entry for Valley of Fire State Park.

It's a little over an hour of driving time from the Las Vegas area. Depending on where in the Las Vegas Valley you're coming from, there may be little difference between heading north on I-15 and taking Exit 75, then heading east to Valley of Fire, or heading through Lake Mead NRA and Northshore Road, then heading west into Valley of Fire. It's faster via I-15 (assuming typical traffic), but the drive through Lake Mead NRA is more scenic, more leisurely, trivially fewer miles, and with vault toilets at several spots along the way. No food that way, however, unless you bring it with you, or possibly if you detour a not insignificant distance to Calville Bay. Also, you'll need to pay a Lake Mead NRA entry fee, unless you already have a pass.

By contrast, if coming from I-15, you've got the Love's travel center at U.S. 93, and the Indian casino/truck stop at Exit 75, for food, gas, and flush toilets.

Because I already have the park pass, I took the scenic route.

I was slightly surprised to find the entry kiosk to Valley of Fires Tate Park from the east actually staffed. I think on my last visit, you either had to pay at the visitor center or via a self-serve "iron ranger." Entry is $10 for Nevada residents and $15 for non-residents. I don't know if they check IDs or just go by car license plates, but $15 was fine by me, even if I was only going to be there about a half a day.

Figured I'd hit the "Fire Wave" place, again. This being a Monday, I figured it would be emptier than when I was last here, on a weekend. And it was somewhat emptier, but far from empty in the park. Parking was also still limited, as they now only allowed parking in designated lots; no roadside parking.

The "good" news is that makes it a mile or so walk from Parking Area 3, rather than just a few hundred yards from the road (still not very far, of course), and the longer walk from either side meant you'd spread out the arrivals, hopefully.

Last time, I was annoyed by a family who just planted themselves near the most scenic area, and let their kids run around the rocks. Made it impossible for anyone to get just regular pictures of the "Fire Wave." This time, there were no "permament" residents, but there was a foursome of hikers that moved with amazingly glacial speed. They spent literally 10-15 minutes walking the 150 or so yards to get out of my shot. By then, I only had a few moments before additional hikers appeared. Still, at least I did get a chance for a few photos of unpopulated sandstone.

It's not as otherworldly as the actual "Wave" in Arizona, but it is a beautiful spot, and the alternating colors of sandstone stripes make for a nifty shot.

Once at the Fire Wave, you can either retrace your steps back to Parking Area 3, or continue on a loop, cross over the highway, then head up the "Seven Wonders" loop, returning to Parking Area 3 from the other side of the south and west.

More scenic rocks along this hike, including some that are purple. No idea of the chemical composition it takes to make purple sandstone. The whole loop is about 2.5 miles. On the return, I observed what looked like an unofficial trail that would also take you to Parking Area 4, near the White Domes at the end of Mouse's Tank Road. So if Lot 3 were full, you'd have that as an option to still get to walk to the Fire Wave, though with a somewhat longer trek involved.

Meanwhile, the shot above was taken just southwest of Parking Area 3, looking into the Seven Wonders. Looks very Zion-esque.

Once back at my car, I next drove back down the "Mouse's Tank" road, which starts near the visitor center and deadends north, near the White Domes trailhead. I parked in the picnic area across from the Mouse's Tank parking area, and took the short, roughly 3/4 of a mile out and back trail to Mouse's Tank. The "tank" is a spot of relatively impervious stone that holds water late into the year, and was used by a Paiute renegade named "Mouse" (or "Little Mouse") when he was on the run. The tank, itself, is not a lot to see, by itself.

The main attraction on this trail is that there are a lot of petroglyphs visible on the walls (generally the walls on the north side of the canyon, or your left, on the way in, and right, on the way out). At least those are the ones I saw. There was one interesting thing on the south side wall, but I'm not sure if it was a petroglyph or just natural weathering. That's the first of the "petroglyph" shot in this post.

Petroglyphs can be tricky, and their visibility can vary widely depending on which way you're walking and where the sun is. I actually didn't see that many on the way in, but, on my return, as I walked slower and spent more time looking up, I saw a surprisingly large amount. And, as just noted, almost all seemed to be on the north side of the canyon.

I was especially intrigued by the one panel, with many antlered animals, presumably deer, though, potentially, elk. Obviously, they're pretty scarce within 100 miles of the place, now. But, long enough ago? Yeah, the area would have been wetter and forested, and deer or elk definitely around.

Alternatively, it's possibly more likely that these were made long after the last ice age, by an artist who traveled a bit and saw or knew of deer and elk from his or her own travels. No idea which version is more likely.

I returned to my via an alternate route, in a mostly-fruitless search for more petroglyphs. This took me up a short canyon that was immediately north of the one the official trail took. Only one possible petroglypth, though it was deeply etched, so I'm not sure if it was ancient or modern. I did see this pretty nifty rock, though.

All told, about three miles total walking, so just enough to qualify as a day of "hiking" in my blog. Nice way to spend a late fall day.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Sabrina Lake Past George Lake, Inyo National Forest -- Hiked August 11, 2023

One of two hikes I took around the Perseid Meteor shower, back in August. Friends booked the group campground in the White Mountains for meteor and general astronomical viewing. I was happy to join in on the astronomy, but wasn't feeling the need to camp, so I booked a room down in Bishop. Turned out to be a good choice, since there was clouds and rain pretty much every day (except, ironically, for the first night, but even that was only partially astronomically clear).

It was quite a contrast from recent years. Because 2023 was such a heavy snow year, the snow coverage in Auguest 2023 was still a good deal more than July 2021, for example. Not to say that it was all that snowy, but it was, at least, not completely dry. Of course, that meant more mosquitos!

Fourth picture from the top, by the way, if you click on the shot to enlarge it, you'll see a mosquito, top left-center. They were swarming, and you could hardly take a shot without them getting on your hands.

But that meant lots of greenery, lots of wildflowers, and lots of running water. It was gorgeous.

I gave some thought to continuing on down into the South Lake drainage, to Tyee Lakes, but the threatening weather deterred me. I didn't want to wind up getting soaked, and there was plenty of thunder and stormy weather around me during this hike. I only got showers on me, however.

So, at the pass, looking down, and a cross a small patch of snow, and knowing I'd be descending now and need to climb back up that to get home, decided better of it.

This still made a nice walk, far enough to get tired, not too far to get too tired. But it also meant I got back into Bishop as darkness fell, and I lacked the motivation to then head back into the White Mountains for some astronomy. Not that it would have been great seeting, but, in the benefit of hindsight, this was the least cloudy night up there of the three I had to choose from.

As noted previously, the return only meant sprinkles on me, not a major downpour that I feared. Plenty of time to snap flower photos. Lots of columbine, including some whitish columbine.

This hike was out of Lake Sabrina, at the western terminus of CA-168, 19.3 miles, and 23 minutes from the Travelodge in Bishop, where I was staying. From Lake Sabrina, there are a couple of backcountry options. The one I took looped over towards Tyee Lakes, over towards South Lake. The other trail heads past Blue Lake. I took that hike, to Dingleberry Lake, the previous year, to near Dingleberry Lake. Oddly enough, I don't think I ever blogged that hike, or at least I can't find my write-up.

Both trails take off from a bit below the Sabrina dam, on the south side of the creek and lake. About two-thirds of the way along the lake's south side, the trail splits, with the side to Tyee Lakes going up steeply to the left.

So it was a slow slog up a long climb, but with the blue waters of Lake Sabrina set off against the granite cliffs and patches of snow below. About 800 vertical feet later, you're in the George Lake basin. Relatively level, and often adjacent to running water, and lots of greenery, along with the aforementioned mosquitoes.

George Lake is the largest of the lakes in the basin, and the last you come across. At that point, the trail begins another steep climb, this time, to the northeast. Looking back the way you came, you seem more steep granite cliffs, now above George Lake, rather than Sabrina.

Another 800 foot vertical gain puts you at the pass into the Tyee Lakes Basin. Those lakes aren't visible from the pass, however, as they're tucked below the more granite cliffs that you can't see from the pass. At the pass was the pictured patch of ice. The trail would continue in that direction, first at a gentle slope, but then steeply down a creek canyon to Tyee Lakes. Because of the threatening clouds and the big climb it would take to get back if I continued, I turned around here, and made it back to the car with only drizzles catching me. The rain was light enough and intermittent enough that I stopped for plenty more wildflower pictures along the way back.

Don't have the Alltrails recording handy, but it says 6.3 miles roundtrip to George Lake, so probably 9-10 miles roundtrip from Tyee Pass. Plenty enough for me to get tired.