Within a Damp Desert Canyon

“Big Country” by Bela Fleck with Ian Case.

Setting Out

There are corners close to cities that still endeavor on with quiet enchantment. Locked away just past the well meaning short steppers, the happy sunshine families and the cyborg photographers slogging along just far enough. Such is the average experience at Red Rock. And there, in reason, lies the need to rush past the first miles and dive headfirst into the veiled side canyons that permeate this sandstone outcropping. It is here that the noises and distractions from a more hectic hustle begin to fall away as if cropped by the cliffs themselves.

+ 1.18 miles/4157' Elev/11:36am/3.30.12
Rounding the corner into Fern Canyon.

Visit the Key page for info about photo descriptions.

+ 1.21 miles/4289' Elev/11:39am/3.30.12
Around the bend Ponderosa Pine come into view.

Now Within Walls

Inside, the sun shall sit stubborn, fluttering at angles, halving the canyon in brilliance and mystery. The Ponderosa Pines that grow tall and healthy here have somewhat of a dilemma should they wish to end their lives lying flat. Fall wrong and they will spend years on display, leaning on the immovable stone, naked in death.

+ 1.30 miles/4305' Elev/11:45am/3.30.12
A brief climb up to avoid a choked creek.

+ 1.45 miles/4322' Elev/11:56am/3.30.12
Looking back at the entrance.

+ 1.47 miles/4312' Elev/12:02pm/3.30.12
Dropped down into the creek. Under an overhang with a dead leaning tree.

Spectral Stature

Rumors persist that dreams come strange when surrounded by cliff and that the spirits of the ancients push rock down on those who don’t respect these oracular stomping grounds.  I admit, I can’t help but to throw an occasionally gaze upward, searching the precipice for something shadowy passing judgement on me the intruder.

+ 1.53 miles/4483' Elev/12:12pm/3.30.12
A climber above on the cliff.

Watery Glen

Cramped and wet as it dodges and slides it way down the canyon. The drips, drops, flops and splashes of water fills the hollowed out spaces with resonant racket. A bouquet of aromas, sweet and swampy waft through the air. The beginnings of spring are detectable, wildlife is chipper and the sentiment of well being runs vigorously through the veins. To rejoice in spring, observing vibrant life aggrandizing its design, is intensely satisfying and deserving of an emotion all of its own. Fern Canyon is surprisingly adept at providing such pleasures to the senses.

+ 1.59 miles/4478' Elev/12:27pm/3.30.12
A shy fall.

+ 1.48 miles/4313' Elev/12:04pm/3.30.12
The creek hugs the canyon wall.

+ 1.64 miles/4501' Elev/12:45pm/3.30.12
One of the many pools that adorn this canyon.

Living Up to its Name

The fern is odd here in this stubborn thirsty district, but sure enough it exists and in more places than you would expect. To come across one in its damp state seems to add a touch of grace and is a drastic compliment to the surrounding vegetation. They often flourish in problematic digs where flowering plants may have a hard time taking root.  This makes it seem as if nature recognized that these nooks should not be left bare of beauty just because of a denied invitation.

+ 1.68 miles/4509' Elev/12:52pm/3.30.12
Common Chain Fern (Front) and the Maidenhair Fern (Back).

+ 1.69 miles/4510' Elev/12:57pm/3.30.12
Common Chain Fern.

+ 1.69 miles/4510' Elev/12:59pm/3.30.12
Common Chain Fern along bottom of cliff.

+ 1.70 miles/4514' Elev/1:07pm/3.30.12
Maidenhair Fern.

Apex at Nosh Boulder

Climb in and stumble out. This tends to be the pattern here in the canyons of Red Rock. Ducking under and through bush tunnels, pulling yourself up boulders wedged tight from tremendous plunges and hopping across the smaller ones to avoid a foot drenching. All of these lead to a point where you must declare “Ok, I’ve had enough.” Here in Fern Canyon there is a rather opportune rock that I have dubbed Nosh Boulder. It provides a high point amid the very heavy bush to grab a snack and enjoy the views.

+ 1.80 miles/4595' Elev/1:23pm/3.30.12
Looking East up the canyon wall.

+ 1.82 miles/4607' Elev/1:27pm/3.30.12
Nearing the apex of the hike.

+- 1.90 miles/4692' Elev/1:43pm/3.30.12
View towards rear of canyon from Nosh Boulder.

Heading Out

A whole new canyon awaits for the slackened unhasty pace back out. With breathing subdued I can now discern the more subtle sounds. A throaty frog lays hidden somewhere in the puddles, a Carpenter Bee gentle and giant swings through the cool still canyon air, the calling out of “on belay”  and “climbing” drift down from the lofty heights while soft muted sounds of the creek rebound and reflect off the canyon walls. In these quieted moments I struggle to not feel offended by my own pandemonium.

- 1.82 miles/4607' Elev/2:15pm/3.30.12
The limbs still lay bare here from winters chill.

- 1.68 miles/4516' Elev/2:28pm/3.30.12
Climber on his perch.

- 1.54 miles/4467' Elev/2:42pm/3.30.12
A most excellent looking swimming hole.

Red Dots

In places the white sandstone is freckled with red dots. The red color is cooked up by a union of iron and oxygen known as hematite, a mineral named from the Greek word for blood. The dots are conceived by the process of water precipitating through the sandstone while it is hundreds of feet underground. Water moves the surrounding hematite through the stone into concentrations, called iron concretions. It can form strips, dots, circles, marbles and many other random shapes. Why it forms circular shapes is not understood very well, but is assumed that some sort of nucleus starts the process.

- 1.54 miles/4467' Elev/2:44pm/3.30.12
Iron Concretions.

At An End

Moving out into the full warm sun, fleeing the chasm and its intriguing grasp, I can hear the restless zoo like nature of scurrying humans on the trail below. A couple sits 100′ below arguing about which way to turn. Another group is poking fun at an older man for wearing tie-die. But there is, in the distance, a fleeting sound of the creek. Reassuring me of its reality and pleading with me to return soon before the unsocial swelter decries its existence.  Soon these haunts will be blistering and undesirable.

End Desert Begin City…

- 1.34 miles/4325' Elev/2:59pm/3.30.12
Getting ready to exit Fern Canyon.

- 1.04 miles/4270' Elev/3:08pm/3.30.12
Out in the full sun brings flowers.

- 0.98 miles/4204' Elev/3:14pm/3.30.12
A final look out over Pine Creek before dropping down onto the main trail.

Fern Canyon info can be found here.

I’ve posted this hike just before leaving for a backpacking trip. I apologize in advance for not responding to comments promptly. 🙂


4 comments on “Within a Damp Desert Canyon

  1. Some pictures reminded me of Danny Boyls’s movie – 127 hours!

  2. Charissa says:

    Once more, your pictures awe me and make me homesick for the Vegas desert.

  3. zannyro says:

    Wow! So glad I found you..the images were wonderful and made me want to go west again..

  4. The desert hides its treaures well, so it is fun to get out and explore! Thanks for sharing:)

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