Thursday, June 6, 2024

Black Mountain, Sloan Canyon NCA, NV

Hiked May 26, 2024. I've hiked this mountain more than a few times, because it's quick and easy to get to, and it's a good enough length and steepness that it makes for a great workout. A link to what was probably my last time up Black Mountain is embedded, here.

The starting point for this hike is the Shadow Canyon trailhead. That's the name of the street; no idea if the canyon above the trailhead is actually Shadow Canyon. It should show up on your gps nativating software for turn-by-turn directions.

If not, the trailhead is reached off of Anthem Parkway, which splits from Eastern Avenue south of Sunridge Heights Parkway, in the hills of Henderson, NV. Sunridge Heights is the continuation of Green Valley Parkway, which runs north-south through much of lower Henderson, so if you're near Green Valley Parkway, just take that south, then left on Eastern. If you're near Eastern, just take Eastern south until the two left lanes split off to form Anthem Parkway.

From Anthem Parkway, you'd take the first left after Hampton Road, which is Atchley Drive.

If directly west, you'd likely take Volunteer Blvd east to Sun City Anthem Drive, make a right, then a quick left on to Hampton. Make a right at Anthem Parkway, then a quick left on to Atchley Drive.

If coming from further west, you'd likely take Raiders Way to Volunteer Blvd, then east, same as above.

From Atchley, the first actual road on your left (not the paved fire access road) is Shadow Canyon Drive. Make that left, and follow the road about 1/2 mile. The access point will be on your left. There is a small parking lot and shade structure at the access point, with room for about five cars. No restroom or running water here. Fairly good chance there will be cars parked on the Atchley on either side of that access point.

From the trailhead, walk the paved multiple user trail to the southeast. A large detention basin is behind a detention dam in front of you. Just before you get to the dam, a paved trail heads up and to the right. It'll take you to the top of the dam. Once at the top, your trail runs along the right edge and behind the detention basin. There's an area trail map on the structure near the top of the dam.

About halfway around the back of the basin is a sign for Black Mountain, BLM trail 404. It'll be on your right (obviously).

Trail 404 is a loop, but the south loop has "traditionally" (meaning, since I've been walking it) been a lot more clearly defined and easier to walk and follow than the north part of the loop. Also, the north loop, has traditionally been harder to pick up from the top of Black Mountain. On the other hand, the north loop was designated only as a "proposed" route when I first started hiking here, so it may be clearer, now.

If you were trying to follow the northern part of the loop, you'd likely walk further along the back of the basin, looking for a trail that will head up the wash/canyon to your right.

If you're following the south loop, however, it's trivially easy to follow. As noted, it is well-defined and with few significant rocks in the trail. But do keep an eye out for reptiles if it's in season, as there are undoubtedly lots of them, including rattlesnakes. If you're on the trail and they're on the trail, you should see them (or they will see you) long before you step on them. But that requires you to actually keep your eyes on the trail in front of you rather than admiring the scenery. So I guess my advice is to admire the scenery only when stopped. Otherwise, be looking where your feet are going, so you don't inadvertently step on or near a rattlesnake.

This was a little late for wildflowers, although this area doesn't usually get super dense blooms, due to the volcanic nature of the landscape. There were lots of spent globe or desert mallow, and still more buds coming, however. At lower altitudes, the creosote had all gone to seed, but at higher altitude, they were still blooming. I also saw a few mojave aster, a few of what might have been brittlebush. Looked different from what I see of them in southern California, so I'm not sure.

In terms of reptiles, I came across the small California king snake right near the summit. (Turns out the last time I saw a king snake would have been 10 1/2 years ago).

I think the horned lizard was on the way up, quite a bit lower, while the (presumably) Great Basin collared lizard was on the way back, well off the highest part of the mountain. Several large ones together.

Not great shots, because I was only carrying my cell phone, so not great zoom resolution.

My Alltrails recording says I walked 7.3 miles and gained 2,083 feet of elevation. That's pretty steep. Also, on the south loop, there's not a lot of down on the way up, so the net is pretty much the same as the gross, I would expect.

The northern loop, which I didn't take this time, used to have more ups and downs, because it runs along a ridge, so a bigger gross altitude gain. And, due to lighter use, there were more rocks protruding on the trail, so if you're walking in the dark (not uncommon on my return leg), there's a lot more things to trip on.

Because of the significant climb over a relatively short distance, there is a noticeable change in flora on the way up. As noted earlier, the creosote further up was still in bloom, while the bloom was long over at the trail's start. Also notable is that you start running by the occasional Joshua Tree, once you reach the upper parts of the trail that overlook a canyon, to the north. The combinaton of higher altitude and partial shade means cooler and wetter conditions, which put this area on the edge of Joshua Tree habitat. It's not great Joshua Tree habitat, as indicated by the thinness, and lack of really large specimens. But it's still different from the lower Las Vegas valley.

It seemed to me that the trail has been somewhat realigned since my last trip. The split for Black Mountain versus Park Peak seemed less distinct. I feel like it used to be more obviously straight ahead to Black Mountain, and a hard right to Park Peak. This time, it seemed on the way out that Park Peak was more straight on the trail, and Black Mountain was a hard left.

A bigger change was near the top. Where as before, the final bit to the top involved a bit more picking and choosing of routes, with brief class two or maybe low class three pullups and scrambles, this time it was no more than low class two (needing to use your hands for balance and leverage on rocks, but mostly not needing to actually pull yourself up). As a result, the trail is more clearly defined than before. On the other hand, there are less places for obvious rest and so a more continuous climb to the top.

Because of the peak is higher than everything around it, it's usually breezy near the summit. This time, the wind was kind of weird, though. While the Nevada state flag flapped smartly in the wind, the nearby summit was still. That meant small flies were thick enough to be annoying, so I didn't spend long at the summit.

I took a brisk pace down, though still stopped for the occasional photo. That's how I caught the shot of the collard lizard.

Alltrails gave my hike time at 3:14. I can't remember if that's total hike time or actual walking time. I think it's the latter. In any event, allow 3-4 hours for the hike.

I carried two 28 ounce Powerade bottles with me. Finished one. It wasn't super hot, hot, though. I'd have drunk a lot more if it was.

Nice to finally get some mileage under my belt. My hope is that this'll be a good start, in case I try to get some hiking in this upcoming weekend. On the other hand, the forecast high where I'm going is in the 110s, so it's also possibel I'll do very little hiking.

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