Saturday, January 30, 2016

Hike Report: Willow Springs/White Rock Hills Loop, Red Rock Canyon Park

In October, 2014, Donna and I visited Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area just west of Las Vegas (see "Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area"). Unfortunately, I left the camera in the hotel room that day and did not get any pictures of this beautiful place. We decided at that time that we wanted to return to the park some day, and we really wanted to do some hiking out there. Yesterday, we did return, and we took one great hike.

It was a beautiful day for a hike. We arrived at the park just before 10. We stopped at the Visitor Center near the entrance first to get some information about the trail we planned to hike. The Visitor Center is a great source of information, with displays both inside and out. Take time to tour this facility; learning about this area only makes your visit that much more enjoyable. For more information about this park, visit these links:
 On the second site above, be sure to visit the hiking page.

The Visitor Center near the park's entrance

Donna at the Calico Hills

Our hike today would be in these mountains. We would enter through a canyon in the left of this picture, hike on the backside, then come back around on a trail in the foreground of this picture at the foot of the mountains.
Our target for the day was the Willow Springs parking lot. We would start there and hike the Willow Springs/White Rock Hills Loop. We were advised to walk the loop trail in a clockwise direction. We started off heading northwest following the Rocky Gap Road shortly after 10:00 AM. Beginning elevation was 4,545 feet. About a quarter mile into our trip, we realized we had left our hiking poles in the truck. We would miss those poles on today's hike.

Trailhead, with trail heading up the canyon.
About a half mile or so into the hike, we came to our first trail junction on the backside of the mountain where we had started. We followed the trail north away from Rocky Gap Road. For me, this next 2 to 3 miles of the hike would be the most beautiful and dramatic. We would gradually climb in elevation, eventually reaching a height of about 5,460 feet, a gain of roughly 900 feet from our starting point. We would pass through full-sized trees on the slopes, and patchy snow would be visible at the higher elevations, especially on the north slopes.

This is where we turned off Rocky Gap Road. We were on the back side of the mountains now, heading north.

The summit is beyond the colored spires in the center of the picture.
Keep your eyes open. About a mile or so into the hike, there is a trail junction. Our trail turned off at a right angle and headed down into a canyon. The other trail continues up a slope towards La Madre Spring. The junction is an easy one to miss, especially if you are looking up at the beautiful scenery.

Lots of trees on this section of the hike. Donna is barely visible ahead.

This picture was taken from near the summit. It looks back along the trail we have hiked. The small knoll in the center of the picture is where we split off from Rocky Gap Road. If you click on the picture and enlarge it, you can see portions of the trail.
Our target was the summit on a saddle near the high point of the mountains. As we wound our way through the trees, our target slowly but steadily grew closer. All the time, we were slowly climbing in elevation, and our aging legs were growing tired. Donna began questioning why she married me, which she often does on these hikes.

Looking east from the summit. In the center, you can see the tops of the White Rocks.
Eventually we reached the summit and were rewarded by views in both directions. The hardest part of the hike was now behind us, and we began the long descent down to the White Rocks parking area. On the previous 3 or so miles of the hike, we had seen only 2 couples. One couple was ahead of us and continued on the La Madre Spring trail; the other was a Japanese couple we met near the summit. On the slope from the summit to White Rocks parking lot, though, we encountered almost a dozen people.

On the hike from the summit to the White Rocks parking lot, you break out of the mountains with great views to the east.
At the parking lot, we found the trailhead for Willow Springs. The sign said it was 2.2 miles. This section of the trail skirts the base of a line of mountains. For the most part, it is a gentle downhill slope. At just over a mile, the trail dips into a draw, and there is a long climb up from there to a hill. Once atop the hill, though, the first parking area at Willow Springs is visible, so you know the trip is almost done. There are some trail junctions along this section of trail, so be alert. We were told the final stretch of the trail was a good place to spot mountain sheep, but we saw none on our hike.

Looking south. Our starting point was one of the canyons in these mountains. So now we walk along the base of these mountains to return to the truck.
Close up of one of the mountains.

Easy to see how the park gets its name.

At the very end of the hike, you'll probably encounter numerous people exploring the rocky area along the base of the mountains. Most are only walking out a short distance, so you'll encounter most very close to the parking area.

Finally, the mouth of our canyon. A parking lot is visible at bottom left. Our truck was parked farther up the canyon.
This is a great hike, but it did tax our abilities. Total distance was 6.34 miles, with the first 3 miles climbing steadily for 900 feet. Most of the trail is rocky. This has several affects. First, you have to watch every step, and this slows you down. It also leaves your feet quite sore after 6 plus miles. And it is a bit dangerous, with quite a bit of slipping and sliding. If you don't plant your feet firmly, you can sustain injuries.

The trail itself is very clear. There are places where the trail has been rerouted, so watch carefully to be sure you are on the right trail. There are also a couple of false trails. If you look ahead, though, these should not be a problem. Signs are not plentiful, but they are where they need to be.

Typical of the signs you can expect to find along the trail. Most are in better shape than this one. But they do a good job of indicating direction and distance.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Riverside RV Park

We stayed at the Riverside RV park just over 3 years ago. I didn't like the place then and I like it even less now. The only thing I can say that recommends it is its location. It is within walking distance of the Aquarius, our favorite casino, as well as other local businesses such as the Laughlin Outlet Center and the In-and-Out Burger joint.

Having said that, I will say that the park can probably be quite nice if you get a nice spot. We've failed to do that on both of our stays. The park is extremely popular during the cooler months, and folks return year after year. Those that are "regulars" appear to be able to select where they stay. Those that are not so lucky get assigned to much less desirable areas.

The RV park is large. As the park moves west from Casino Boulevard, the land slopes up the mountains. To accommodate, the park is terraced with the section farthest west at a much higher elevation than the section nearest Casino Boulevard.

The interior roads of the park are all paved. Many of the sites have concrete pads, but many do not. The area where we were assigned was completely unpaved. It basically was a large gravel parking lot, and spaces were packed very close. In fact, we did not have enough room to extend our awning. I was even able to hear my neighbor's television at night from my trailer.

But there are nice areas in the park, especially those in the middle section. Restrooms and laundry rooms are plentiful, but probably about 20% or so of washers and dryers do not work. Cable worked fine with plenty of channels, but WiFi was costly. I did not purchase the WiFi option. I did get WiFi last time we were there, but the signal was so weak it was practically useless. Propane is available at the office. A shuttle bus ferries folks from bus tops around the park to the Riverside West Casino on a regular basis.

Below are some pictures of the park.

We saw some great sunsets from the park

Park office with Riverside Hotel rising in the background.

Another great sunset from the park.

The section where we were assigned.

This photo shows how the park is terraced up the slope.

One of the many laundry rooms in the park. The park is very large, so a shuttle runs through on a regular schedule to take residents to the casino.

A great view east from the park.

A street from one of the nicer areas of the park.

Another nice street in the park.

Another gravel parking lot in the park.

Section on the right is where we were assigned.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Horseshoe Trail: Davis Dam Overlook

Off of the road to Pyramid Canyon outside Laughlin (see “Davis Dam and Lake Mohave”), there is another trailhead. This one is for the Horseshoe Trail crushed granite trail, that switchbacks over the small mountain and connects with the paved Riverwalk Exploration Trail mentioned in some of my previous posts. On the day that Donna and I walked over Davis Dam, we also explored this trail. However, we only walked the portion to the Davis Dam Overlook.

This portion of the trail is not long, but it does require a bit of uphill travel. It climbs a long, slow grade to the crest of a hill, then there is a short downhill section before it climbs one more time. At the end is a short loop which provides views in various directions. The actual overlook is located a bit downhill from the high point. This trail is heavily used by horses, so watch your step and be sure to give horses the right of way, which is standard trail procedure.

The views are great all along the trail in all directions. I took a number of pictures, some of which I have posted below. We started up the trail a bit late in the day. We had previously been walking in full sun over the dam, so we were quite warm and had taken off our jackets. However, as we began coming down from the overlook, the sun began setting in the west and we found ourselves in the shadows quite a bit on the return trip, and it was a bit cool.

But this is a great trail and it provides numerous photo ops.

Trailhead to Horseshoe Trail. Note horses in pens lower right. Earthen Davis Dam is in left center of picture.

View of Arizona from the trail. The highway is the one that connects Laughlin to Kingman.

Mountains to the west. I suspect Grapevine Canyon and Spirit Mountain are in there somewhere (see "Christmas Tree Pass and Grapevine Canyon")

Davis Dam, power plant, and Lake Mohave from the trail.

Donna near the top of the trail.

Donna in same place as in picture above. I climbed to the top of the small hill to snap this picture. View is towards the west.

The casinos of Laughlin.

I love the way shadows play on the mountains. Depending on the time of day and the light, the mountains look different.

King of the mountain.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Davis Dam and Lake Mohave

I recently wrote about the Riverwalk Exploration Trail in Laughlin (see "Riverwalk Exploration Trail"). The north end of the trail is the Davis Dam. A few days ago, Donna and I drove out there and walked across the Davis Dam.

From the Laughlin Bridge, take Highway 163 west for 3 or 4 miles. You’ll see a sign for Pyramid Canyon and the Davis Dam. Turn right onto this road. It heads northeast down a long slope. As soon as you get on the road, you might want to pull off to the side as this is a wonderful place to snap photos of the dam, Laughlin, and the mountains in the area.

Residential section of Bullhead City across the Colorado River in Arizona.
The road basically ends at the park which marks the north end of the paved Riverwalk Exploration Trail. We parked the truck in the parking lot, then continued up the road towards the dam. About a quarter mile up the road, barricades block entrance to the dam except for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Once on the dam, the clear blue waters of Lake Mohave snake their way northward along the course of the Colorado River. The contrast between the blue waters of the lake and the brown tones of the surrounding mountains is beautiful. The views looking south along the Colorado River and the casinos of Laughlin are also quite good. 

The blue waters of Lake Mohave contrast beautifully with the brown earth tones of the surrounding country. Notice how clear the water is at the bottom of the picture.

Looking downriver to Laughlin. That is the Riverside Casino visible. The boat in the center of the picture is a tour boat that takes visitors up and down the river.

Donna and I love the rugged country around Laughlin. We never tire of the views.
 Davis Dam, completed in 1951, today performs various tasks. It controls the flow of the unpredictable Colorado River, provides water to the desert region, and generates hydroelectric power. Lake Mohave, which is formed by Davis Dam, contains a surface area of nearly 30,000 acres. It stretches from Davis Dam all the way north to Hoover Dam. The Davis Power Plant produces 1.25 billion kilowatt hours of electricity each year, enough to power over a million homes.

Kiosks are located on top of the power plant, providing information about the dam, the lake, and the power plant.

The power plant, as seen from the top of the dam.

This is the forebay, which stores water from the river. This is essentially level with the top of the power plant. From here, water passes through 5 intakes down through the power plant, turning the turbines and thereby creating electricity.

After flowing through the intakes, through the penstock, and turning the turbines, water returns to the river via the outflow, which is the area in the center of the above picture.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Vegas, Baby

We're in Las Vegas now. We'll be here at the Las Vegas KOA RV Park at Sam's Town for the next 2 weeks. But I still have several entries to post from our stay in Laughlin, and I'll be doing that over the next few days. I have a pretty good WiFi connection now, and that will certainly make posting entries much, much easier.

So hang in there, and I'll get some new entries posted soon.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Christmas Tree Pass and Grapevine Canyon

Donna and I have been hearing about Grapevine Canyon since we started visiting Laughlin several years ago. On this trip, we finally got around to visiting it. In fact, we decided to kill two birds with one stone and take in Christmas Tree Pass as well.

We left Laughlin and headed all the way to the west end of Christmas Tree Pass Road, which is near the small community of Cal-Nev-Ari on Highway 95, the highway from Needles to Las Vegas. Christmas Tree Pass Road is a dirt-surface road. From Highway 95 to Highway 163 near Laughlin, total distance of this road is just over 16 miles.

Start of the dirt road towards Christmas Tree pass, which is in the notch in the mountains on the horizon. We've just turned off Highway 95 and are heading east.

Nearing the pass, which is more visible now. Road is still in very good condition.

There is a little information kiosk as you turn off the highway just south of Cal-Nev-Ari. Then the dirt road rises due east, heading for a gap in the distant mountains. For the first several miles, the road surface was pretty good, though there were several washboard sections. Near the pass, the road began to narrow and some rutted areas appeared.

The tallest mountain along the route is Spirit Mountain, a sacred mountain to area Native American tribes. Spirit Mountain reaches a height of 5,643 feet and is located north of Christmas Tree Pass Road. We approached the pass after 6 or 7 miles. At the top, numerous juniper trees are decorated with various items. I do not know if the pass is named for the decorated trees or if people began decorating the trees because of the name. We saw a similar thing as we approached Oatman, Arizona, from Fort Mohave.

I believe this is Spirit Mountain, but I'm not absolutely certain.

Juniper tree in the pass with some unusual decorations.

There is some rugged but beautiful country up here.

Looking back west from the pass.

Up to this point, the road was in pretty good shape, but in the pass, it began to deteriorate. For about 2 miles on the east side of the pass, the road deteriorated, with several areas washed out to some degree  by recent rains. I would not recommend low-clearance vehicles travel this road. I have to admit that there were a couple of places when I considered turning around, but I’m glad I did not.

We continued on our route. At just over 14 miles and almost 1 hour of travel, we arrived at Grapevine Canyon. There is a turnoff into a parking area, complete with restrooms of some sort – I can’t tell exactly what type as we did not use them.

We parked at the trailhead. By the way, this is not a maintained trail, so there is no marked trail. Just point towards the mouth of the canyon and head there. You should see lots of tracks of previous visitors. You really need to be down in the wash itself rather than up on the higher shelf.

Mouth of Grapevine Canyon. Petroglyphs are on boulders on both sides of the mouth of the canyon.

There are numerous petroglyphs located on the boulders on both sides of the mouth of the canyon. As I understand, you can follow the canyon farther up to a spring. However, this requires some boulder climbing and, to be quite honest, we just simply were not interested in doing that. So, we turned around, headed to the truck, and made our way back to Laughlin. It was an interesting trip.

Click this picture to enlarge it to more clearly see the petroglyphs.

Click this picture to enlarge it and more clearly see the petroglyphs.

Looking east from the canyon.