Sunrise on November 10, 2012.
“Where are we going tomorrow Dad?” asked Ash.
“We are going backpacking in Grapevine Canyon!” I said.
“So we are going camping?” Ash replied. He wrapped his Angry Birds blanket tighter around himself.
“Yes, but not how we normally do.” I responded.
“Ya,” said Aaron from the top bunk. “It’s like camping, except we have to hike first.”
“Exactly,” I said. “Now get some sleep. We have a big day tomorrow.”
The wind picked up and rustled the blinds on the window as I shut off the light. Walking down the steps I heard one of them say “I can’t wait till the morning.” I smiled and went to finish packing.
The Next Day
Mumford & Sons blasted on the car stereo as we finished the last of the packing in the parking area by the trailhead. I filled a couple of Nalgenes, trimmed the dogs nails, locked up the truck and then we headed down into the wash. It was sandy and loose as are most washes out in the Mojave Desert. The boys were ripe with excitement however and didn’t miss a beat.
“How far are we going?” huffed Ash.
“Bout 2 or 3 miles,” I replied. “Depends on where we find water.”
“Oh ok,” he said as he rushed to catch up with his brother.
Grapevine Canyon was a spiritual gathering place for the Mohave People, who used it for ritual purposes including an event during the summer solstice. There are over 700 petroglyphs on the rocks near the entrance to canyon. A spring runs pretty much year around, which is why I choose this place. Having to carry water with kids after you are already loaded down more than usual is a burden I’d prefer to avoid.
“Whoa!” exclaimed Aaron. “They are everywhere.”
“Look at these ones,” Ash called out as he ran up to the rock walls.
We were now at the mouth of the canyon where the majority of the petroglyphs are found. The glyphs were created between 1100 and 1900 AD.
Fun Fact: In March 2010, David R. Smith, accompanied by two other individuals, defaced 30 areas of petroglyphs by shooting them with an automatic paintball gun. He was sentenced to serve time in federal prison and pay almost $10,000 in restitution. Ok, maybe not so fun
“Come on Dad,” scolded Ash. “That’s enough pictures.”
“Ok ok,” I said. “I’m coming.”
“Don’t get too far ahead,” I called out. “You guys need to keep an eye out for snakes.”
“Ok,” they yelled back. Their pace remaining the same.
“Wait up!” I said sternly this time.
“OK!” came the response.
After catching up, it began to close in even more around us and we were forced to climb up and over a section of rock. Once on the other side the canyon opened up a bit and the grapevines were thick and green.
“I feel like I’m in Jurassic Park,” said Aaron. Pushing his way through the thick foliage and acting out scenes from the movie.
“This is so cool,” remarked Ash. Following the lead of his older brother.
“I’m hungry,” Ash said with a face full of brush.
‘Me too,” came a call from Aaron up ahead.
“Alright,” I conceded. “Let’s stop at the next open area.”
The next open area happened to be just perfect. A large sloping slab of rock with a pretty good view.
“What do you guy’s think so far,” I asked. “Is it too hard?”
“Nah,” answered Aaron. “My feet hurt a little, but it’s fun.”
“Yea,” said Ash. “It’s so fun!”
“Cool,” I said with a grunt while putting the full weight of my backpack back on. “Let’s head up and see if we can find some water. If not we may have to turn around.”
“Ok.” they both said while moving to hoist their backpacks back on too.
We moved up the canyon, checking out every possible spot for water but none were found. After a mile or so of this we decided to turn back and camp near the last spot we saw water. Soon we were there and ready to find a spot for the tent.
The Camp Spot
“Alright little dudes,” I spoke out. “We need to find a flat spot for this tent.”
“How about over here,” spouted Ash
“Or what about this one,” suggested Aaron.
“We need a little bigger space than that I think,” I said. Motioning them to check up on the apex of a small hill. “Go check out that spot.”
They ran up the hill.
“Ya,” said Ash with enthusiasm. “This looks perfect!”
“Yup,” came Aaron’s response. “I think this one will work.”
“Great!” I said. “Then that’s the spot.”
Time to Explore
With the camp all setup, now comes the best part of the day. Good light, exploration and bourbon.
“You guys wanna go explore around,” I asked. I cracked the top of the flask and poured a nip into an aluminum cup from the 50’s.
“Sure!” was their response.
“So this water can make us sick if we don’t clean it?” asked Ash.
“Yup,” I said. “It can give you giardia. Which makes you throw up and have diarrhea.”
“Can you die?” asked Ash.
“Most likely not,” I responded. “But you will have to go to the hospital.”
“That sucks.” said Ash.
“Yup.” I laughed.
We headed back to the tent. The sun was dropping fast and we needed to get a fire ready.
“Why don’t you guys dig a fire pit,” I mentioned. Instructing them to dig a hole and pile the dirt up on the sides. That way when we are done, we just bury the fire under dirt and no one will know it was there.
Now that the fire pit is done we need to go gather wood.
“We need some bark, twigs, branches and a few bigger logs,” I said. The sound of wood cracking and snapping now filled the air as we went to work collecting fuel.
“I’m King Kong” said Aaron triumphantly while hoisting a branch up into the air.
Eat and Relax
With the wood gathered and the sun setting behind the mountains, we got ready to enjoy a hearty meal and a warm spell by the fire. I showed the boys how to start a fire with a magnesium fire starter, which ended up with me falling over as the shredded bark went up like a bomb. Then listened as an ornery owl sent his hoots over the canyon and watched as the full moon rose into the starry night.
“Dad,” Ash said seriously.
“Yes?” I responded.
“Can we eat?” he questioned.
“I love you too, son.” I said smiling as I stood up to get the cooking kit.
End Desert Begin City…
Info on the Grapevine Canyon hike here.
In the desert, on days such as yesterday, the dynamics of the landscape are explained by the movement of water. The gathering of rain into dribbles, then rivulets, then brooks and then finally, at least here, into creeks where the drama of a fall emphasizes the stories of water.
The short video below is just a taste of what the normally quiet and dry Red Rock Canyon NCA can become with a steady supply of rain. It takes place around Upper Lost Creek Falls on a bench of sandstone above the more popular Lower Lost Creek Falls. Here, on a Saturday, this place would normally be crawling with conditional wanderers. Today, however, I was alone. Oh how I love the rain!
Occasionally, rather than the hectic hustle of an all day hike, I prefer to spend most of my time in the hills still and quiet. Sometimes more can happen when less is done. So I sat up on Hogback Ridge overlooking the La Madre Range and the entirety of Red Rock Canyon NCA for hours reading and waiting for nothing to happen. Then, something did.
I heard it from behind. Having lived and explored in Montana for so long in the past, noises in the backcountry still quicken my heart. I suppose the fear of the Grizzly is just instinct, but having jumped up to see what was going, I quickly realized just how lucky I got!
To score days such as these, one could assume nothing triumphant or mystical. It is frankly a moment so limited in time, that on a calendar of the universe it would not even begin to mark the smallest of events. However, through the average human pupil diameter of 11mm, one can assume that what they have just witnessed is so unique and so fleeting that the mark on the calendar of a human lifetime spans across the entirety of years.
Enjoy this timelapse I made during my time sitting around Hogback Ridge, Red Rock Canyon Las Vegas, Nevada. Music: Winter Waltz by toru-spicy.
End Desert Begin City
On top of the rock as the clock went ticktock, was a walk without persons all the way to the top. 6 miles on trail, 6000 feet high, as our boots met the mountains, the mountains the sky. Nine miles on 160 from 9 plus 150, we set out for the summit all clipped up and nifty. On the ridges and dirt humps, through the sages and tree trunks, our boots were laced firmly making click clacks and clue clumps.
From limestone to sandstone like pepper to salt, beneath us was changing to the Keystone Thrust Fault. Rocky and sandy all in one place, the vista and sunshine and the smile on our face. Up here in a high place and the home of the clouds is a far place from people and the blah of the crowds.
All twisted and gnarly, all chiseled with spunk were the ghostly leftovers of the dead trees one trunk.
On the summit, the apex, the capstone or peak, the height of the mountain, the achievement of feet. All wrapped up in color from sundowns sunlight, not a breath was a blowing, not enough for a kite. To the signing and writing of names with delight, on the paper, the saver of times out of sight.
The pictures have ended, the battery done, the moon has now taken the place of the sun. On down to the auto, on down in the dark, on down to the comfort, the car out of park.
Windy Peak is located within the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Follow this link for detailed information about the hike.
Yesterday was spent rockin’ out to the tune of Mother Nature. Event location, Red Rock Canyon Theater just outside of Las Vegas, NV. The crowd was light and the entertainment top notch.
Alright, now that the cheesy line is out of the way, just enjoy a couple pictures and some video from the desert after the only storm so far this winter.
The Arnight Trail is a 1.7 mile segment of the longer Escarpment Trail that runs along the cliffs of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. It connects the Oak Creek Drainage with the Pine Creek Drainage and is an ideal hike to avoid the crowded weekends. Due to it starting at the last parking area on the Loop and down a dirt road, few visitors stop and begin hikes at this location. This hike is best done in fall, winter and spring.
End Desert Begin City