Thursday, October 23, 2014

Christmas Pass and Grapevine Canyon Hike…

It was just a short 70 mile drive south from Las Vegas to our next destination, Cal-Nev-Ari RV Park in Cal-Nev-Ari, Nevada.  We discussed what an interesting name for a town it was and in reading about it we discovered that the town was created in the mid-1960s by a couple who acquired a section of land from the U.S. government (640 acres) and then began to develop an airport based community. Today, the Kidwell Airport and a bustling town of about 250 people along with a market and a casino call this area home. Why are we here? Well I wanted to visit here for three reasons… One I don’t like to travel far, two it is only $11.00 for full hook ups with Passport America and three, there is a cool hike I wanted to do nearby.


The park itself is a typical desert park with dirt/gravel sites but has mostly pull through sites which are quite spacious. There is also nice views afar of some desert mountains making this a quiet peaceful place to park on the cheap for a day or two. Once we set up and ate lunch we planned our route to our hike in the Grapevine Canyon near Laughlin Nevada.

The route we chose to take was the Christmas Tree Pass Road about 2.5 miles south of the park. True to its name there were several trees all along the road decorated with garlands and ornaments. This dirt road requires four wheel drive and high clearance according to the website but it sounded like it would be okay for our four wheel drive CRV with only average clearance. I once owned a nice 1974 Jeep CJ-5 and drove a lot in the back country so with my experience I hoped it would be a passable road.

Christmas Tree Pass Road is 16.5 miles long and loops over to highway 163 just out side of Laughlin. For the first 6 to 7 miles the road was in excellent condition. Then the next mile or two, while still in good shape,  required a slower speed to navigate through. Then we entered a very scenic stretch of the Lake Mead Recreation Area but the road became a little sketchy where we had to drive even slower while paying attention to the high rocks and ruts as well as some deeper sandy spots. We continued on knowing we could always turn back if needed.

The desert landscape along this part of the road was really cool as the rock outcroppings here were really scenic. We stopped several times to take photos and to take in the beauty of this desert landscape. About two miles short of 163 we turned off on a spur road to Grapevine Canyon. Less than a tenth of a mile down  the road we found the trailhead to the canyon.

This turned out to be a short hike for us but allowed us time to explore the mouth of the canyon to immerse in the petroglyphs reported to be in the area. About a 1/3 of a mile down the deep sandy creek bottom we found the canyon entrance. Wow… there were a lot of petroglyphs here. Mostly those of the type which are hard to discern what the artist had intended to draw. However, I was on a mission to find a stone with some petroglyphs of big horn sheep that I had read about prior to our visit. To see the petroglyphs on the photos below simply click on the image to enlarge it.

It took some rock scrambling but we did eventually find the large stone with the big horn sheep etched into them and it was really, really cool! I imagined myself in the time these petroglyphs were drawn trying to put myself into that slice of history and tried to visualize what the artist may have been thinking at the time. Yes I know that this may have been drawn by early native American graffiti artists or by those under the influence of hallucinogens such as Jimsonweed or Peyote but nonetheless I found it enjoyable to revert back in time and wonder...

Sharon, although also glad to see the petroglyphs spent more time amongst the various species of yucca and cacti. She asked me to identify what she found and most I could identify for her but some were ones we will have to research later. We found some extremely colorful insects and quite an interesting butterfly along the trail. I later identified the above butterfly as the Great Purple Hairstreak, quite a beauty…

Before we knew it, we had spent a couple of hours just enjoying such a short hike.  I am glad we decided to come here as we both had a great day in the desert…

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Having Fun in Sin City, Las Vegas, NV…

We have enjoyed our time here in Las Vegas. The last time we were here we spent most of our time on the strip since we were camped only a few miles away from the Mandalay Bay Casino. This time we are staying near the Main Street Station Casino in the older downtown area which has offered a completely different vibe.


20141017_215716The obvious draw to the older downtown area is a nighttime light show called the Fremont Experience. The hourly light show along with people watching always makes for a fun evening. There are many characters dressed up in everything from cupid, transformers, Disney icons and we even saw Mr. T. Of course since this is Vegas there are some more unsavory characters as well.This is one of the few remaining free shows in Las Vegas as the casinos have fallen on hard times with gambling now pretty much legal in most of the USA. The big news here in Las Vegas is that Caesers Entertainment may declare bankruptcy if it can’t work out a deal with its creditors as they are in deep debt.


We also found a fun walk called The History of Downtown Vegas which is a walk in the older part of Las Vegas. We had fun finding such gems as the bar in Golden Gate Casino where Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. drank during the Rat Pack days and even a bathroom in the Main Street Station which has urinals mounted to an actual section of the Berlin Wall! We really recommend this free walking tour as a fun way to get a feel of the history of old downtown Las Vegas.


We also spent one afternoon and evening on the strip since a friend of ours from our past let us know she and her husband were at the Mandalay Bay for a conference. We met them at Mandalay Bay over a few cold beverages and had a blast catching up with our friend Patty and finally getting to know her husband better. Hopefully we will be able to stop and visit them in Texas the next time we pass through the state.

I downloaded the free walking tour for the strip but since the strip is much newer and we have spent a considerable time on the strip before this, taking tour was of little interest to us. So we decided instead to revisit all the casinos that we enjoyed on our last visit such as New York-New York, Paris, Venetian, Mirage, Flamingo and the Excaliber. We did very little gambling and I think by the end of the day we had lost about $8.00. However, we were comp’ed several glasses of wine which more than made up for our losses in our opinion and it was nice sitting down at the bar to rest a bit since the walking the strip meant we walked several miles…

We extended one more day here since we still have some chores to do before moving on… Next up for us will be a short stay near Laughlin, Nevada near the California Nevada border…

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area…

We pulled into the Main Street Station Casino RV Park after driving around 140 miles, mostly on Interstate 15. I am not a fan of driving on Interstates and avoid them for the most part but sometimes it is the best way to get from point A to point B. We chose Main Street Station Casino RV Park because we wanted to spend more time in the older downtown part of Las Vegas and because we liked their rate of $19/night for full hookups. Yes, the sites are tight but doable.

The second day we visited Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Our last visit a couple of years ago we hiked near Red Rock Canyon but wanted to hike inside the park this time. After visiting the Visitor’s Center and hearing about good hikes we chose to hike on the Calico Hills Trail. We drove from the visitor’s center on the thirteen mile scenic loop to the first stop at Calico 1 Trailhead.


From there we started a small descent to the base of the Calico Hills where the trail then ran parallel to the Calico Hills as we hiked up and down some small hills and washes. There were some nice canyons and interestingly colored red sandstone boulders and purple striped ones as well. Walking among the brilliantly red Calico Hills made for a great hike. 

As we approached the Calico 2 parking area there were some short and steep scrambles through some rocky areas near the wash but nothing too daunting for either of us. There was a lot of beautiful rock formations along this hike and the colors of the rocks were enchanting. We did get off the trail some as we explored the nooks and crannies among the red and white sculpted sandstone formations. The coolest find of the day was a slab of sandstone with some desert varnish on it that had numerous petroglyphs carved into the rock face… pretty dang cool find!

The vegetation type there is typical of most deserts in this area with lots of different cacti and succulents. Occasional Joshua trees were interspersed with Mojave yuccas and creosote bushes. We spotted a lot of different cacti including Cholla, hedgehogs, barrel cacti and varied Opuntias. In the canyons where more water is present an occasional Pinon Pine stood tall among the Manzanita, the brome and grama grasses

We hiked from the Calico 1 Trailhead to just short of the entrance to the Sandstone Quarry. We had to take a side trail up and out of the canyon back over to the scenic loop road. There we simply hiked back downhill to where our CRV was parked. Our total hike was about 3.5 miles but surprisingly we had climbed nearly 1000 feet of elevation at our high point. Sharon uses Map my Walk on her cell phone for the stats of our hikes and once again we were surprised at the information it gathered….

Friday, October 17, 2014

Hiking in a Cool Slot Canyon near Kanarraville Utah…

Canyon SlitBefore we left Leeds, Utah I had found another hike that sounded real interesting. We had discussed wanting to hike the Narrows Trail in Zion National Park but the weather was never warm enough for me to want to hike a long time in cold water. Luckily, after researching on the web I found what was described as a mini Narrows Trail near Kanarraville, Utah.


We drove north about 30 minutes and pulled into the town of Kanarraville. The city charges $10.00 per car to park at the trailhead but allows free parking near the town hall on Main Street. We elected to park near the town hall and ride our bikes to the trailhead. Not only did we get a little more exercise we saved ten buck as well…


The Kanarra Creek Trail is just east of center of town in Kanarraville and the trail began on a old dirt road that was once used to get to the trailhead before the city erected the fee paid parking lot. The dirt road is on an uphill grade that .had us a bit winded. At the end of the dirt road we encountered our first creek crossing. Knowing that we going to have to cross the creek many times we elected to rock hop across the creek for as long as we could as we were in no hurry to get our feet wet in the very cold water of the creek.


We crossed many times and as we made our way further up the canyon  the trail began to narrow which meant we had to scramble over some rocks to try and keep our feet dry. We came prepared with water shoes to wear once we got to where we would be unable to avoid crossing the creek without getting wet and eventually we got to a spot where we decided it was time… Man that water was cold! Not much further down the trail we encountered the main feature of this trail… the slot canyon. The vertical walls constricted leaving only the creek as a trail. The walls weren’t further than 10 feet apart in places making for a very, very cool hike.


We hiked in the creek bed for a short time enjoying the slot canyon while looking skyward at the thin slit of blue sky above. We eventually came to the Lower Kanarraville Falls which was our goal for this day. Although we knew there was another Upper Waterfall to also hike to, we had no real plans of making it that far. We did however decide to take the ladder and rope element up and over the Lower Falls. Knowing this would be a challenge for Sharon because of her fear of heights I encouraged  her slowly all the way up the ladder. She made it over the top boulder and we continued to hike a bit further even though we were now out of the slot canyon…

walking in the canyon   conquering the slot canyon

Deciding we had gone far enough and not wanting to keep our feet cold we elected to turn back. As we came back to the Lower Falls I asked Sharon if she wanted to have me go first and then her follow or just her go it alone. After much consternation she decided to go it alone and when she reached the bottom she had a great sense of accomplishment of overcoming her fear and being able to manage the obstacle on her own.

We then walked in the creek through the magnificent slot canyon once again. We couldn’t feel our feet as they were very, very cold. After we emerged on the other side of the canyon we tried to stay out of the water so our feet would warm. It was a mile or so down the trail before they began to thaw but once the trail merged into the sun again we at least felt much warmer.

We hiked about 4.5 miles overall and met only a few groups of people along the way.  This was, we felt, our best hike of all ones we took while we were in this area. Next up for us after all this remote rural camping is some urban scenery as we are now in Las Vegas at the Main Street Station RV Park…