Another Mojave Summer in my Rear-view Mirror

One random companionless cloud drifts indifferently over my plastered box, igniting a debate within my head. Over the Sheep Range, another cloud, this one thick with moisture and building towards the upper levels of the atmosphere prompts further discussion. Should I consider it a sign? Will the day mutate into something worthy of a blistering battle with the sun?  I can’t help but be an optimist, so I grab my gear and melt into my 170° F car seat.  The whine of a Dog Day Cicada, playing favorites with the tree in my yard, is muted once I slam the door and start the engine. I’ve left my sunglasses on the dash again and am left squinting angrily at the sun filled roadway, holding them in the cool air that blows from the vents. An iPod and an iced coffee rest to my right in the center console cup holders. The temperature reads 108° F and it is hot!

Relying on the weatherman in Las Vegas is akin to receiving advice from a baker on a pop quiz for a chemistry class. Come to think of it, perhaps a baker would be better suited as a weatherman here, seeing as we live in an oven. I will say, the one thing the Las Vegas weather folk tend to predict correctly is the wind. Bad predictions aside, I do rely heavily on the off chance of a thunderstorm to motivate me. There are few more awesome events during summer in the Mojave than a drenching of rain to chill the troposphere. I have seen the temperature drop from 110° F to the mid 60’s in a matter of minutes. The redolence the moisture provides creates an explosion of awe within the olfactory senses. And for just a few precious moments, it seems as if you can hear the collective sigh of all things lively within this roasting rock filled range.

Over the last few months I have done what I can to enjoy the Mojave. I have taken a few trips further abroad, such as in the mountains of Montana. But seeing as this blog tends towards a desert theme, I thought better to leave those out. So below are some images I have selected that reflect the more interesting moments I encountered over this years Mojave summer and thought I would just wrap it up before the active fall and winter months to come.  I hope you enjoy them…

A rainbow frames Turtlehead Peak.

Last bit of light after a long, hot and stormy day over the La Madre Range, NV.

A storm cell passes over Las Vegas in August.

The remains of an intense storm cling to cliffs of Red Rock Canyon NCA. Click and enlarge for better view.

Low Clouds hang below the peaks of the La Madre Range after the clearing of a summer storm.

Frisky Bighorn enjoying the cool air after the storm in Lake Mead NRA.

The storm clouds break and leave me with an intense sunset over Red Rock Canyon NCA.

Blue Moon of August rises over Las Vegas.

100 degrees and sunny, 100 degrees and sunny, 100 degrees and sunny. This is the usual forecast a desert dweller faces when they check their weather app and it is the one I confirmed this morning. Sometimes it seems as if this trend will never end and follows deep into the months of September and October. My eye twitches as I hastily toss my phone on the dresser.  The hum of the air conditioner is a constant soundtrack to the slow hot moments of what should not be summer and that damn Dog Day Cicada is whining and clicking away. But alas, I can see the head of a cumulonimbus cloud peaking above the rooftop of the neighbors house. Maybe today won’t be such a bad day after all.  No thanks to the weatherman anyways.

End Summer Begin Fall…please

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Bad Deeds, Gritty Peaks, Sea Creatures and Rooftops

Listen to “Harm and Boom” by Balmorhea

Daydreaming is central to the explorer mindset. Here at the desk I often drift off  through the window, imagining myself perched up on the summit of some mountain sipping bourbon. Other times I put myself  in the unkempt transitions and erased spaces that lie at the end of cities so that they should not be forgotten or discredited. Then move past into the bellowing real estate that has, in the short term, avoided the clawing consumption of municipal monstrosities.

View out the window from the desk in my home. The summit of Cheyenne Mountain is through the trees.

In these forlorn lands we must tend to the views that sit in front of millions, days on end, with no preference to be seen, saved or damaged.  We should move up above the congested air and breathe deep in the knowledge that, for at least a moment, you alone sit above it all. All the tragedy and loss. All the jealousy and ignorance. All the greed and destruction. Then while up there glaring out over the city you should allow your thoughts to state “Let them swim in the foul muck. Let them pretend that purpose is preserved in the concrete, asphalt and stucco. Let them squint and amuse themselves with wonderment over your whatfor on this lofty abode”.

+ 0.14/2945' Elev/11:48pm/3.28.12
At the base of Cheyenne Mtn. It lies on BLM land and there is no designated trail. This is just wasted space at the edge of Las Vegas.

+ 0.30 miles/3066' Elev/12:01pm/3.28.12
Starting the ascent. Looking back at the city and Lone Mountain, Elev 3342'.

+ 0.47 miles/3297' Elev/12:16pm/3.28.12
A turn towards the east reveals the Vegas Strip.

+ 0.50 miles/3353' Elev/12:24pm/3.28.12
Looking North with Gass Peak in the distance. My house is down there.

Strolling along mountain ridges so close to the city is an amusing activity. The disparity between expectation and reality is bold and complete. Barking dogs, throaty engines and sirens drift up to become odd and off kilter to the ears as they interweave with wispy winds, gleeful birds and shuffling feet. Barrel Cactus, Yucca, Creosote and Limestone all play their role in the desert scene while the roads, homes, cars and buildings furnish a human element. Look to one side for an expanse of peaks, ridges and canyons stretching to the horizon. Then shift your gaze to the other and an urban landscape is dumped in front of you.

+ 0.62 miles/3529' Elev/12:38pm/3.28.12
On the ridge now looking North. Yucca Peak of the Sheep Mountains within the Desert National Wildlife Range sits far in the distance.

An opposing view taken Jan 2, 2011 from the summit of Yucca Peak looking towards Cheyenne Mtn.

+0.67 miles/3563' Elev/12:43pm/3.28.12
Looking South along the ridge towards the summit of Cheyenne Mtn. The 215 Beltway and a scar from a failed neighborhood are visible. Red Rock Canyon and the La Madre Range are out of view to the right.

+ 0.69 miles/3580' Elev/12:42pm/3.28.12
A view on the other side of Cheyenne Mtn. Potosi Mountain is visible on the horizon.

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My dog on the middle summit.

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Dropping down off of the middle summit.

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Walking along ridge looking at summit of Cheyenne Mtn. Las Vegas in the background.

The glassy sharp Limestone found around the Las Vegas Valley was formed horizontally at the bottom of ancient seas some 600-250 million years ago. It is made up mostly from the bits and pieces of plankton, precipitates, and suspended sediment. Also to a lesser degree, out of dead fish, seaweeds and shells. It is a common form of grey and gritty earth found stuck and stout in the desert panoramas and while primarily not, it can contain fossiliferous material. Surprisingly, here on Cheyenne Mountain, fossils are found in abundance consisting of corals and mollusks.

Rugose Coral

Rugose Coral

Mollusk Fossil near the summit of Cheyenne Mountain with Las Vegas in the background.

Mollusk Fossil in Limestone

Syringopora Coral

Rugose Corral

Rugose Coral

A strip of fossils

Is that a sharks tooth?

Rugose Coral

Rugose Coral

We humans must touch everything. We feel inclined in every aspect of our lives to meddle and tinker with our surroundings. To leave it as is must mean we have been defeated by nature, tortured by time and embarrassed by fate. Even here up on this insignificant summit someone was inclined to build a substantial rock wall to hide behind. Whoever was inspired to do this, I must say I am impressed with your fortitude.

+ 1.02 miles/3646' Elev/1:45pm/3.28.12
A camp spot surrounded by rock.

+ 1.02 miles/3646' Elev/1:48pm/3.28.12
Closer inspection of the wall.

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From above.

Today just had that feel to it, kind of drab and dull. The skies were flat and low, the air still and the sounds muted. It took a bit of internal debate to get going this morning and after the last cup of coffee I was finally inclined. All said, it was the perfect atmosphere for an urban themed adventure. Attached and infused with metropolitan presence. Tinged with ancient insignia and soured by the mustering of men.

+ 1.22 miles/3596' Elev/1:50pm/3.28.12
A last look at the summit before heading down.

+ 1.32 miles/3446' Elev/2:10pm/3.28.12
Heading down.

The deeds of men are entombed with sin, preset and determined by time. Evidence of which comes trampled and ripe with death. It’s as if clowns have roamed uncouth and haphazardly through the edges of towns laying their reeking breath upon the ground. So much are the edges of this city ruined by gold trimmed assholes born from ignorance that I come to expect the dissatisfaction of my fellow man as commonplace. More so, it is the acceptance of my own opinion that worries me the most.

This belongs here.

Oh ya, that looks nice right there.

Burnt and beautiful

Looks like they tried to crawl away. They didn't make it.

Where the city ends and the desert begins.

End Desert Begin City…

Albino Ram on Hogback Ridge

La Madre "The Mother" Mountain seems to watch over the Las Vegas Valley.

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.

A bit of Vegas beyond the Calico Rocks and Turtlehead Peak(left).

A view over the canyons.

A dignified bitch. She's getting old.

Utah Juniper allowing Turtlehead to Peak.

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!

What the hell is that, a Mountain Goat?

Nope, that's an Albino Bighorn Ram.

And of course he was in low light between the Sun and I. Still got a pretty good one I suppose.

Hogback Ridge facing the Las Vegas Valley.

Looks like a Barrel Cactus of fun.

Turtlehead Peak getting ready for the sunset.

Turtlehead peak sticking his head up to reach the days last light.

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

Desert Dweller and the Bluebirds

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.

Here is the first “Terra Bit Edition” video.  Soft moments spent intimately with one form of nature or another.  Think Sunrise Earth in an easily digestible format.


End Desert Begin City