Creating new thru-hiking routes & guides, hiking videos, outdoor documentaries, backpacking trip reports, trail journals, photos and more!

Posts tagged “nevada hiking

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Thru Hike 2021 – Section 5: Searchlight to Bullhead City

hikers view of spirit mountain from desert valley nevada

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Thru Hike 2021 – Section 5: Searchlight to Bullhead City

hikers view of spirit mountain from desert valley nevada

Spirit Mountain, high point of the Mojave-Sonoran Trail

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Section 5 Map

mojave sonoran trail thru hike map of section 5

Mojave Sonoran Trail Thru-Hike Section 5 – Searchlight to Bullhead City, 58 Miles

The above map only represents represents section 5 of 9 on the MST. For a more detailed map and general route info, see the Mojave-Sonoran Trail Guide page.

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Section 5 Journal

Day 18 – November 20th

Miles: 22.9
No animals seen

Ate breakfast at McDonald’s, along with some fresh fruit… Blackberries and banana. Took care of a few more chores and left Searchlight at 7:30. It felt good to be walking out of this town. If I never come back here that would be great.

hiking eldorado valley south of searchlight nevada hiking eldorado valley south of searchlight nevada

I walked the paved road east, leading to cottonwood cove, for about 2 miles before taking a dirt road South. The scenery here was rather bland. Low rolling hills, and just not that much to see. Easy to cover miles, though.

The first few hours were spent going up and over a small set of hills, and following a wash that leads out to the Nellis wash Wilderness. I won’t quite enter the Nellis wash wilderness though. Instead, my route parallels its western boundary.

hiking through nellis wash wilderness to newberry mountains nevada

View across Nellis Wash Wilderness to Spirit Mountain, Newberry Mountain Range

view of lake mojave and colorado river from nellis wash

View east to the Colorado River and Lake Mojave

When I reached the lower end of the wash, I went up over a hilla nd got my first distant view over the Nellis Wash Wilderness, towards the Newberry Mountain Range and Spirit Mountain. There was a distant view of Lake Mojave too. But in between all that, where I found myself, it was cross country travel perpendicular to the direction of all of the washes leading to the Colorado River. Just open desert hiking.

Open desert trek across Nellis Wash

I find the best way to deal with boring sections like this one is to put on some good tunes and jam out. I’m a metal head, liking stuff that’s heavy and high energy. Instead of trudging through the desert, I felt like I was flying across it with ease. With metal, anything is possible 🙂 Ha. But seriously, it’s true.

hikers view of spirit mountain from desert valley nevada hikers view of spirit mountain from desert valley nevada

I made short work of this open desert walk, and once again I found myself in some washes me entering through some small and unremarkable hills. It was incredible how and brown and boring this area looked. It was now noon and time for lunch. I was quite happy with my progress, having covered 13 miles so far.

hiking through nellis wash wilderness to newberry mountains nevada

Not much to see here

hiking through nellis wash wilderness to newberry mountains nevada

Spirit Mountain in the distance

hiking through nellis wash wilderness to newberry mountains nevada

After lunch, more boring walking. Every now and then I would get a good view of spirit mountain though, as well as some distant landmarks. Spirit Mountain is a massive granite mountain; jagged and imposing. At some point tomorrow I will attempt to summit it. But for now, I find myself walking off trail again across a huge, empty valley. I mean really, really huge! Not the prettiest place, but wow, what a place to find yourself.

hikers view of spirit mountain from desert valley nevada

hikers view of spirit mountain from desert valley nevada

Spirit Mountain

I eventually hit a dirt road that I would follow east towards spirit mountain. It’s getting closer now, bigger and badder looking. The road bends to the south and now walks parallel to the northern Foothills of Spirit Mountain, through the Newberry mountain range. I passed a few guzzlers, but didn’t want to stop and take the time to collect water from them, with my experience from two days ago fresh in my mind. I anticipated this, and tried to hydrate as much as possible before leaving town this morning, in addition to carrying five liters with me.

hikers view of spirit mountain from desert valley nevada hikers view of spirit mountain from desert valley nevada

It was late afternoon when I reached camp Thurman, as it’s marked on the map. The map also says “potential mine”, which I have never seen before. There was nothing here resembling a camp, but there are some old mine shafts and plenty of tailings. It was 4pm now and I had covered Nearly 23 miles, and had only drank two of my five liters of water. I thought maybe I could make this last until I get to a spring tomorrow, and avoid filtering from the small game guzzlers. Have one more guzzler to walk by tomorrow before I summit spirit mountain, So I will make that call then. Still, I felt pretty damn good covering 23 miles on two liters of water.

View of the Newberry Mountains from camp

tarptent notch li campsite on nevada thru hike

Camp at “Camp Thurman: A Potential Mine”

I set up my tent and used the remaining 20 minutes of daylight to poke through the tailings of the old mine. My notes say this was a lead and silver mine, but I also found some green colors, meaning malachite. This indicates the presence of copper, which is a common companion mineral to lead, or galena. This was the most interesting thing I found.

Today was my biggest mile day so far hiking this route, beating my previous highest mile day by about five miles. My progress today almost ensures in early arrival in bullhead city the day after tomorrow. I’m really looking forward to a zero day here for some R&R. My ankles have been a little sore and the top of my left foot is sore as well, from smacking it on a rock a few days ago. Time for 11+ hours of sleep, thanks to the long nights this time of year.

Day 19 – November 21st

Miles: 22.8
Animals Seen: 3 Jack rabbits

The wind picked up around 9pm, then subsided. It picked up again, then was still as can be till morning. It was cold this morning, and with the rising sun came increased winds, making it feel even colder.

I had about two and a quarter liters of water at my disposal this morning, and drank about a quarter liter with breakfast. I’m shooting for a small game guzzler about two miles away, but if that doesn’t work out I have a solid 15 miles to my next water source, and a mountain to climb on the way.

hiking the newberry mountains nevada to spirit mountain summit

Spirit Mountain from Roman Mine

a small game guzzler in the newberry mountain range nevada

Small game guzzler near Roman Mine. This one looks much more difficult to collect water from

Not long after leaving camp I passed another mine, the Roman mine. This is where I would have camped last night if I didn’t stop at Camp Thurman. There is a small game guzzler just up the hill, but I was disappointed to see that the roof of the guzzler was only 15 inches or so above the ground. This would make it very hard to crawl under there and draw water from it. I passed, not feeling that desperate. The mine was rather boring as well, with little rocks of interest to my untrained eye.

dilapidated cabin in nevada mountains

Old mining cabin in the Newberry Mountains

dilapidated cabin in nevada mountains

There was an old cabin farther up the road, pretty dilapidated and not much to see or do here. These cabins generally do not offer much to explore. There is no backstory to learn about what went on here, and nothing of value or interest is left.

hiking the newberry mountains nevada to spirit mountain summit

I kept walking up hill until it was time to leave the road and begin the climb up spirit mountain. The mountain looks imposing from afar, and up close. It looks like a steep climb on the map. To be honest, I’m dreading this climb. I’m already thirsty, and I know it will be a lot of hard work. But this is what I came here for. I’m not skipping Spirit Mountain.

hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada

A look at the climb ahead…

hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada

Good views so far

hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada

I began the climb up the gully, acutely aware of the wide array of cactus that littered the landscape here. It wasn’t on before I stumbled on the climber’s trail, complete with frequently placed cairns. Awesome, this will really help.

hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada

hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada

Pillars of awesomeness

The climb up was less dreadful than I made it out to be, even with the water rationing. Still, it was physically demanding and often slow. It was class 2 all the way though, with only an occasional class 3 move, mostly near the top. Still, the terrain was steep and loose, often loose scree over hard packed dirt or rock. Perfect for slipping.

hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada

Jagged ridgeline

hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada

The landscape was extremely impressive. Not just in one or two spots either, pretty much the whole way up. The entire mountain consisted of tall, jagged rock spires, and the entire climb was beautiful.

hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada

hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada

Nothing but jagged rock and spires

hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada

An incredible hike the entire route up Spirit Mountain!

Eventually I gained the Ridgeline, and was only 200ft below the summit. Here, on top of the ridge line, on the east side was a bit of a depression that was mostly flat and somewhat protected. There is an excellent campsite here, So I guess I wasn’t the only one that has summited this mountain with a full pack. Not tonight though, and definitely not with these winds.

hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada

Numerous routes exist between the various pillars and rock formations

hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada

Looking ahead to the final ridgeline leading to the summit of Spirit Mountain

hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada

What I thought was the summit…

The true summit is not initially obvious. There are several outcrops of rocks close together that are nearly the same height. After reaching what I thought was the high point, I noticed another spot along the ridgeline that looked slightly higher. So I headed down and worked my way over to that.

hikers view form the summit of spirit mountain, newberry range, nevada

Summit view over Lake Mojave

hikers view form the summit of spirit mountain, newberry range, nevada

Spirit Mountain summit view

hikers view form the summit of spirit mountain, newberry range, nevada

Spirit Mountain summit view northwest

hikers view form the summit of spirit mountain, newberry range, nevada

Spirit Mountain summit view southwest

Of course, the true summit had and ammo box used as a summit register. Spirit Mountain, at 5639′, is the highest point along the Mojave-Sonoran Trail. The views are excellent, overlooking many miles of the Colorado River, lake Mojave, vast expanses of desert, countless distant mountains, and Bullhead City, my next town stop.

spirit mountain nevada summit hike views of jagged rock spires and pillars

A damn fine lunch spot

I snapped a few pictures, signed the register, and headed down. It was very windy and quite cold. I stopped for lunch just below the summit, in a spot protected from the wind. I am now on my last liter of water.

spirit mountain nevada summit hike views of jagged rock spires and pillars

Picking my route down Spirit Mountain

The route down was a little tricky just below the ridge line. I missed the cairns a few times and head to backtrack to find them. I also slipped and fell a couple of times, due to the steep and loose terrain Coupled with the lack of tread on my shoes. At this point I’m just being stubborn, Since I have a new pair in my backpack. But with only about 250 miles on these shoes, I’d really like to make it into bullhead city. I just hope it doesn’t cost me an injury, or worse.

hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada

Looking back up at Spirit Mountain

The rest of the climb down was tedious and slow, but still faster than the route up. I made pretty good time going down, and before I knew it I was looking back at Summit Mountain from the valley below.

Next I crested a small pass that dropped me down to Grapevine Valley. There was a road here, and I was looking forward to the easy walk. I saw 2 vehicles go by on my way down to the road, which was a bit surprising. So far, I’ve barely seen any humans outside of a few spots like Valley of Fire and gold strike hot springs, let alone vehicle traffic.

hiking the bridge canyon wilderness lake mead national rec area nevada

Scenic road walk. That’s the back side of Spirit Mountain ahead

hiking the bridge canyon wilderness lake mead national rec area nevada

Bridge Canyon Wilderness

After walking the road a short ways, I was presented with a choice. I could take grapevine canyon, which is home to Moss Spring (a maybe), and would be all off trail. My other option is to follow the road I am on, with no spring. Both are the same distance, and both take me to Sacatone spring, which I am pretty sure has water. I chose the road, to make sure I get there as fast as possible.

hiking the bridge canyon wilderness lake mead national rec area nevada

View into the Bridge Canyon Wilderness

hiking the bridge canyon wilderness lake mead national rec area nevada

Bridge Canyon Wilderness

The road ended up being a pretty solid choice. That only was it fast and free of thick vegetation, unlike the off-trail option, but the scenery was excellent along the first half of the walk. Here, I overlooked The Bridge Canyon Wilderness, as well as the back side of Spirit Mountain. Although the Colorado River is out of sight, it’s pretty clear that the landscape here is dropping down to it.

sacatone wash along the mojave sonoran trail nevada

Sacatone Wash. I thought this spring would have water, but its dry

When I reached Sacatone wash, I could see a ton of really thick vegetation here, and it looked like this wash get some larger flash flood action. All of the signs looked good, but in the back of my mind I had a bad feeling about this one. I continued to walk the wash, which had copious amounts of vegetation ranging from Cottonwood trees to thorn bushes, but never saw a drop of water. Damn!!

hiking sacatone wash spirit mountain wilderness nevada

Hiking Sacatone Wash

hiking sacatone wash spirit mountain wilderness nevada

One of many such pour offs to clime in Sacatone Wash

So now I found myself in a bit of tough spot. I have about 5 ounces of water now. My options were to backtrack to the road and try to flag a motorist down for water, or continue down the wash towards Lake Mead, which would likely be seven or eight miles of unknown canyoneering work. The map shows a very deep and narrow canyon ahead for several miles. It was 3:30 PM now, so I had just over an hour of daylight.

hiking sacatone wash spirit mountain wilderness nevada

A look down Sacatone Wash

hiking sacatone wash spirit mountain wilderness nevada

 

I decided to take my chances and continue walking this wash down towards Lake Mead. I knew I wouldn’t reach the lake tonight, but thought there was a good possibility of finding potholes of water along the way. There were also quite a few risks to this plan. I’ve already walked several Canyons just like this one, and I’m fully aware of the challenges that likely lie ahead. Namely, pour offs. Still, I figure I’m feeling pretty good despite my lack of water intake over the last two days. I’m out on one of the biggest adventures of my life, so I might as well make a good story out of it. No water? No problem!

hiking sacatone wash spirit mountain wilderness nevada

Sacatone Wash widens out and becomes flat, for now…

hiking sacatone wash spirit mountain wilderness nevada

Upper Sacatone wash was very thick with vegetation, not quickly thinned out downstream. There were a couple of small pour offs to climb down, and some pretty cool scenery. Then, the canyon really widened out. I was walking as fast as I could without running, trying to cover as much ground as possible.

hiking grapevine canyon spirit mountain wilderness nevada

Somewhere near here, Sacatone Wash merges with Grapevine Canyon, which I continue to follow down towards Lake Mojave

hiking grapevine canyon spirit mountain wilderness nevada

Great scenery in Grapevine Canyon

hiking grapevine canyon spirit mountain wilderness nevada

Eventually, grapevine canyon dumps into Sacatone wash, and the Canyon is now marked on the map as grapevine. This is where the canyon narrows and becomes deeper and steeper. There are some pretty impressive rock formations here. It was a shame to be moving so quickly through such a cool Canyon, but necessity beckons.

hiking grapevine canyon spirit mountain wilderness nevada

An awkward downclimb climb

With about a half hour of daylight left, I came across a challenging pour off. It looked to be about 20 feet down, but no easy way to down climb. With little time to Think about it, I lowered my pack down with a string and carabiner and began to down climb this tricky section myself. It was too wide to use my legs to span the distance of the choke point, instead I had to hug a part of the rock that stuck out farther than everything else. This required some movements on faith, and with very little to work with for handhold. Eventually I made it work and made it down safely. Whew! This one was sketchy.

I turned the corner in the canyon and found two potholes of water. Although I was expecting to find them somewhere, I was extremely lucky to find them here, moments before sundown. I dropped my pack and quickly loaded up with three liters of water; two liters in platypus bag and one leader in my dirty water bottle. Water had an extremely strong yellow tint to it.

With only a few minutes of daylight left now, I found myself in a wash that was just wide enough to set up my tent. Fortunately, the ground in this wash was fairly solid, because the high winds are still a problem and They seem to be blowing straight down this canyon, like a funnel.

thru hiker's platypus water bladder with dirty yellow water

Dirty water I collected from a pothole in Grapevine Canyon

After setting up my tent, I began to filter water. I have filtered water that was a very strong green color before, and that made it out clear using my Sawyer filter. However, I was disappointed to see that the water I had just filtered was only a shade of yellow lighter than the dirty stuff. Really Sawyer? Really? I did a very quick taste test and it seemed okay, but clearly something in this water is not being filtered out. I keep some chlorine tablets in my kit, and this is the perfect time to use them. I dropped two tablets into one liter and let that sit for a while. I still haven’t drank it, debating whether or not it’s worth risking it. The water in those pot holes is some pretty nasty stuff. I’m sure I could mask the taste with some drink mix, but I really don’t know what’s causing that yellow tint. It’s not light either, it’s a fairly strong tint.

Day 20 – November 22nd

Miles: 12.2 (half day)
No animals seen

mojave sonran trail thru hike tarptent notch li campsite in canyon

Camp in Grapevine Canyon, just below Sacatone Wash

There were strong gusts of wind every five or 10 minutes throughout the night, with dead silence in between. I ate a flat, smooshed bagel for breakfast, and washed it down with my last two ounces of water. Of course, I had the water that I took from the potholes last night, but since I’m only a few miles from Lake Mohave now, I think I’ll just wait until I get there and avoid dealing with this yellow water. I’m thirsty, but honestly not doing that bad.

hiking grapevine canyon spirit mountain wilderness nevada

The hike continues down Grapevine Canyon

The walk through the middle section of Grapevine Canyon this morning was excellent. There were surprisingly few pour offs to deal with, apparently having tackled the Crux of the entire Canyon just before I reached Camp last night. I can’t say it enough; these Canyon walls were impressive. It’s a deep Canyon, narrow and at times, very interesting rock formations. For example, veins of Darker colored Rock several feet thick could be seen in the host Rock, typically angled up at a 30 or 45 degree angle.

hiking grapevine canyon spirit mountain wilderness nevada

Excellent hike through Grapevine Canyon

hiking grapevine canyon spirit mountain wilderness nevada hiking grapevine canyon spirit mountain wilderness nevada

As the middle part of the canyon gave way to the lower part, which was much wider now, there was one final pour off to climb. I was surprised to see a rope in place here, and so I knew pretty much everything below this would be fairly easy going. The Climb I did last night, right before camp, was much more difficult and there was no rope in place there.

hiking grapevine canyon spirit mountain wilderness nevada

Climbing obstacles

hiking grapevine canyon spirit mountain wilderness nevada

hiking grapevine canyon spirit mountain wilderness nevada

Lower Grapevine Canyon

The lower part of the had a completely different feel to it. It was obvious it got a lot more traffic, as people had etched their name into the banks of dirt that were cut away by flash floods. Lake Mohave could be seen in the distance now, just a few miles away.

hiking grapevine canyon spirit mountain wilderness nevada

Final stretch to Lake Mojave. Water!!

hiking grapevine canyon spirit mountain wilderness nevada

Looking back at Grapevine Canyon

As I left the canyon there was a short one-mile section of open desert to cover before reaching the lake. As I approached it, I could see several Camper vans parked along the shore. Apparently, it’s some sort of Campground. I hadn’t planned on coming down here and actually, so this area was a bit of a surprise to me.

hiking the beaches of lake mojave colorado river

Beautiful beach along Lake Mojave

hiking the beaches of lake mojave colorado river

Lake Mojave shoreline. It STINKS!!!

When I reached the lake, I saw several pit toilet bathrooms along the shoreline. I searched for a water spigot, but couldn’t find one. I went down to the lake, where the wind was absolutely whipping, ready to filter some water. I was surprised at how disgusting the shoreline and the water actually was. It smelled like a sewer. There was tons of seaweed and algae that had washed up on the shore, and had decomposed. The water itself was turbid, from the high winds stirring everything up. I decided to walk down the shoreline a little bit before filtering my water, holding out hope for a water spigot or something.

I walked by one camper van and startled their dogs. This also prompted a brief conversation, where I asked if there was a water spigot in the campground. The woman said no, but asked if I needed water. Why yes, I could use some. She was surprised to hear that I had just walked from Searchlight, through the mountains no less. She directed me to their freshwater holding tank where I was able to fill up with 4L of water. Of course, I immediately chugged one. It’s amazing how you can just feel the energy flowing back through your body. A truly incredible feeling. I had walked 52 miles on just 5L of water over 2.5 days.

lake mojave roadwalk

After leaving the campground behind, I followed a road a short ways before heading into a side Canyon, out of the Wind, to take a break. Now that I had water to drink, I could also eat food. I had been trying to eat light in order to avoid using too much water in order to digest food, but now, it’s a free-for-all.

lake mojave area hiking ruins at old mine

Ruins at an old mine

lake mojave wash hiking

This wash will lead me to the Davis Dam

With a belly full of food and a bladder partially full of water, I set out to walk the final two to three hours into town. I followed a series of dirt roads and 4×4 trails, walking past a few old mines. Nothing incredibly interesting, and so I walked quickly, ready to reach civilization. Rest is not far away.

hiking across the davis dam on foot, crossing into arizona from nevada

Approaching the Davis Dam along the Colorado River

hiking across the davis dam on foot, crossing into arizona from nevada

Don’t step over there.

I could see Davis Dam in the distance as I walked my final wash of the day. This Dam holds back the Colorado River and forms Lake Mohave. It’s closed to vehicle traffic, but apparently, pedestrians are allowed to cross it.

hiking across the davis dam on foot, crossing into arizona from nevada

Crossing the Davis Dam on foot

hiking across the davis dam on foot, crossing into arizona from nevada

View of Lake Mojave from the Davis Dam

hiking across the davis dam on foot, crossing into arizona from nevada

View downstream along the Colorado River from the Davis Dam

Still, I was apprehensive approaching it, feeling like I was breaching some sort of National Security measures by walking across the dam. I knew I was being watched, with security cameras hanging from the street lights. But of course, I was doing nothing wrong. Still, I didn’t stop for more than a few seconds to take photos and film Lake Mohave, or the Colorado River downstream.

davis dam sign colorado river nevada arizona border

Davis Dam, the Nevada-Arizona Border

Having crossed the Davis Dam, I left Nevada behind and entered Arizona. Although the boundaries are not definite by any means, for all intents and purposes, the Mojave section is done with, and I’m now entering the Sonoran Desert environment. Indeed, a new chapter this hike has begun.

davis dam sign colorado river nevada arizona border

Lake Mojave, the impoundment formed by Davis Dam

After crossing the dam, I tried hitchhiking into Bullhead City, but there wasn’t much traffic. What few cars that did pass wanted nothing to do with me. I was fortunate that Bullhead City has Uber, and so I utilized that option for a ride into town.

I got a hotel, shower and got started on town chores. I know I will be be staying for at least one zero day, I could really use the rest.

Day 21 – November 23rd

Zero day

Didn’t do much today except go through photos, catch up on my journal entries, etc. I also took the time to go over my map and plans for the next section. This is an essential part of hiking a new route, especially in parts of the country I am not familiar with. Oftentimes the route I plan at home is far too ambitious for reality, and needs adjustments based on my experiences on the ground in previous sections.

Day 22 – November 24th

Zero day

Did my grocery shopping today at Safeway. Bullhead City is very spread out, not a very good hiker town. All of the good places to eat are in one area, hotels are in another area, grocery stores are in another part of town. There is a bus system, but the bus only comes by once an hour, so the timing pretty much never works out how you like it too. Thankfully, there is Uber in this town, and I have been utilizing that for most of my stay. After two full zero days here, I’m feeling quite rested and ready to go tomorrow.

Like what you see?

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Thru Hike 2021 – Section 4: Boulder City to Searchlight

backpacking the eldorado mountains nevada

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Thru Hike 2021 – Section 4: Boulder City to Searchlight

backpacking the eldorado mountains nevada

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Section 4 Map

mojave sonoran trail thru hike map of section 4

Mojave Sonoran Trail Thru-Hike Section 4 – Boulder City to Searchlight, 80 Miles

The above map only represents represents section 4 of 9 on the MST. For a more detailed map and general route info, see the Mojave-Sonoran Trail Guide page.

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Section 4 Journal

Day 13 – November 15th

Miles: 12.5 (half day)
No animals seen

Left the hotel around 7:30 am. First I went to the post office and got there around 8 am, when I thought it opened. However, it opened at 9 am. So now, I walk to the UPS Store to return a MicroSD card I ordered on eBay that was faulty. Then I got breakfast at Jack in the Box. Well, actually lunch, since they serve burgers during breakfast time, and I had already eaten a breakfast at 6:30 a.m.

Then I walked back to the post office and mailed out my bounce box to a hotel in Lake Havasu City. I also mailed home some extra gear that I didn’t need and some rocks that I found from the previous sections. This freed up some room in my backpack, now I can make a run to the grocery store and buy food for the next section, as well as some staple items to send to Searchlight, my next stop. All they have there is a gas station, so they don’t sell things like tortillas cheese and pepperoni.

After doing my grocery shopping, I went back to the post office and mailed out some of the food that I bought to Searchlight. On the way to the post office, I passed an older couple sitting on the patio of a restaurant along the main strip in Boulder City. They saw me walk back and forth a couple of times across town and was curious what I was up to. I told them about the hike, and we had a really nice chat for about 20 minutes. Bob and candy were their names. Bob said, I want to give you something, and reached into his wallet and pulled out some cash. Immediately, I tried to decline, as I really don’t need it. However, he insisted, saying that he would really like to help out and that he is lucky to be in a position to do so. Reluctantly, I accepted the $20 dollar bill. I always feel awkward receiving gifts from people. I’m so incredibly thankful that someone would bestow a gift upon me of any kind. This really made my morning. And yet another reminder of the kind and generous folks I always seem to meet along the way on these long-distance hikes.

I walked out of town, taking my last steps off pavement at the end of a subdivision and on to dirt, back into the desert. Within a few hundred yards, I was down in a really cool little red slot canyon, but this faded out pretty quickly.

hiking near hoover dam nevada

My next destination is Gold Strike Hot Springs, and the route there basically follows a bunch of power lines. Not just one set of them though, various networks of large power lines and substations. After all, the Hoover Dam is right around the corner. The entire area is just littered with infrastructure related to the power grid.

abandoned mine tunnel entrance near hoover dam nevada

First mine tunnel of the hike

I walked under Interstate 11 and continued through the power line the District of Southern Nevada. About the only interesting thing I saw here, besides the great view of Lake Mead in the distance, was an old mine. A horizontal mine shaft tunneled into a hillside, pretty easy to access. So of course I went in. At the entrance was a pile of clothes and a little bit of garbage. It appeared that a homeless person might call this home, at least at some point.

I spent about 15 minutes exploring the mine. Probably a gold mine, as the host Rock had thin quartz veins, and was very crumbly. One didn’t even need a rock hammer here, you could just grab the Rock and pull it off the wall. Alas, I found no gold, and no quartz worth keeping.

hiking near hoover dam nevada

Say goodbye to Lake Mead

hiking near hoover dam nevada

Interstate 11. And, an incredible hot spring down this canyon…

hiking gold strike hot springs trail las nevada lake mead nevada

Those crazy kids.

Eventually I reached the Gold Strike Hot Springs trailhead, right along the interstate. There were probably 15 or so Vehicles parked here. There really isn’t a trial here to follow per se, but it’s the obvious wash leading down the canyon. Does it count as a “trail”?

hiking gold strike hot springs trail las nevada lake mead nevada

Hiking to Gold Strike Hot Spring

hiking gold strike hot springs trail las nevada lake mead

hiking gold strike hot springs trail las nevada lake mead

Awesome hiking

One interesting thing about this area is all at the helicopter traffic. At first I thought it was something to do with Hoover Dam, maybe some sort of national security thing. But then I remembered, helicopter tours. It was usually one helicopter every 10 minutes or so, along the same route. But at times, it seems like there was 10 helicopters per minute, almost as if they were in some sort of helicopter traffic jam. Pretty annoying after a while!

 

hiking gold strike hot springs trail las nevada lake mead

hiking gold strike hot springs trail las nevada lake mead

Don’t forget to look up every now and then

hiking gold strike hot springs trail las nevada lake mead

I saw about 25 people coming in and out of the Canyon today. For some reason I was expecting more. They were spaced apart quite a bit as well. One couple who is carrying a crying baby! That was surprising, since there were many areas where you needed your hands and feet to climbing scramble.

hiking gold strike hot springs trail las nevada lake mead

hiking gold strike hot springs trail las nevada lake mead

Pretty stunning hike, really…

hiking gold strike hot springs trail las nevada lake mead

The middle part of the canyon began to really impress. Not unlike the Canyons I’ve already hiked on this route, and so it was a great walk. But of course, each canyon has it’s own “feel”, and for that reason, these kind of walks never get old.

hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada

Water! And it’s warm. Follow this…

hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada

Towards the lower portion of the canyon, there was some trickling water now coming out of the ground. It was warm, as expected. Then the Steep walls of the canyon became Lush with green vegetation and dripping water. There were small waterfalls pouring off the canyon wall and a babbling Creek at times with small Cascades. It was here that I realized how incredible this place was. A true Oasis, a special place. I would say a Hidden Gem, but it’s no longer hidden. Very well known to the public. A once-hidden gem, we’ll say. But still, quite an incredible place.

hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada

Mini waterfall

hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada

hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada

Crazy mineral deposits accumulating from the warm water dripping along the cliff walls

I gave up on trying to keep my feet dry at this point. I had already slipped down a Rock and gotten them wet, so now I just walked through the creek. The water was warm though, and quite Pleasant to walk through. There were all sorts of colorful mineral deposits accumulating on the cliff walls here as result of the water continuously dripping.

hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada

A small waterfall coming from the side of the cliff

hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada

Farther down, there was a small waterfall pouring out of the canyon wall, about 20ft up. Not much more than a trickle, but for a desert as dry as this, it’s not hard to appreciate this water for what it is… an oasis.

hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada

The Colorado River

hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada

Hwy 93. Hoover Dam is 1 mile upstream from here

campsite on colorado river at goldstrike hot springs

Campsite along the Colorado River at Gold Strike Hot Spring

hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada

View up Gold Strike Canyon from Colorado River

There were three people in the mean soaking pool of Gold Strike Hot Springs when I reached it around 4 pm. I walked right by and just a few 100 ft later, I reached the Colorado River. It was pretty shallow at this point, but just being here along the river in this deep Canyon was awe-inspiring. There were some flat Sandy spots right where the creek meets the Colorado River, and found a spot to set up my tent. What a campsite!

hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada

Gold Strike Hot Spring. Time for a soak!

After setting up my tent I went back to the main soaking pool of the hot spring. I had it all to myself now, and it was time to get in and have a soak. The main part of the pool was pretty shallow, but there was a very small, Maybe 5 ft in diameter, circular pool below a cascading waterfall. It doesn’t look like much, but it was dug out to be about 4 ft deep, with some sitting rocks inside. Perfect, absolutely perfect! I couldn’t help but laugh out loud, song things like “yeah right” and “no way”. A place this amazing along a desert hike like I’m doing is not to be taken for granted.

For all the work and effort it takes to get to a place like this, I only spent about 15 minutes here. Daylight was swindling, and I wanted to get back to my campsite and get dry before Darkness fell. With no one around, I didn’t think twice about just getting naked and drying off with my shirt, which I hoped would dry overnight, while I slept in my base layer top. Of course, as I was finishing drying up, I looked back above the waterfall and saw a person approaching. I can’t be sure if they saw me or not, but after they rounded a boulder I was dressed again.

The couple that walked by with down to the Colorado River, as I was walking back to my tent. It was now moments before darkness, and they began to walk back uphill. I said hello, and the woman asked if it was possible to have a boat pick them up. I couldn’t help but chuckle a little, saying that this was probably not going to happen unless it’s a true emergency. I asked if they had headlamps, and they did not. I was beginning to worry a little bit about their safety now. They have cell phones with a light oh, so they won’t be completely in the dark, but it’s certainly going to be a challenging walk, with 1000 feet of elevation gain, in the dark, following a specific path uphill that requires climbing and sometimes with the aid of ropes that are in place, left by previous hikers. They said they would be fine, and I hope they are. I told them if they get into any trouble, I am down here camping for the night and while I don’t have an extra tent or sleeping bag or anything, maybe there’s some way I could help, in an emergency.

Before going to bed, I noticed that the water level of the Colorado River had risen since I arrived, only two and a half hours earlier. This is a bit disconcerning considering my tent is only 50 ft away from it. I’m only about one mile below the Hoover Dam, so if anything, the water level should be lower at night. This is because electricity usage is higher during the day, thus more water must be sent through in order to meet the electricity demands. I highly doubt it will end up being an issue, but still, I don’t have as many things strewn about tonight, pretty much everything is packed away in my backpack and ready to go in case I wake up floating in my tent.

Day 14 – November 16th

Miles: 17.1
Animals Seen: Tarantula, Desert tortoise

hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada

Sunrise over the Colorado River

hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada

One last look at Gold Strike Hot Spring

Everything worked out the water level with Colorado River last night, I didn’t float away. I began filtering water while I broke down camp. This was going to be one of the longest water carries of the route, about 30 miles. This wouldn’t be a big deal on a normal thru-hike, but since this all off trail and through some rugged canyons with a lot of climbing, this is two days of hiking. I took 8L with me, after chugging 2.

hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada

From here, I need to go back up the canyon. There is no way to follow the shoreline of the Colorado River here. I knew this going into it, I just wanted to hit Gold Strike Hot Spring even if it meant an out-and-back. Going up the canyon this morning seemed to be quicker than going down.

tarantula at gold strike hot springs hiking trail nevada

I threw a saddle on this guy and rode him out of the canyon

I didn’t see anyone else on my way out of the canyon this morning until I reached beside Canyon I was about to take to exit Gold Strike Hot Springs area and make my way over to Boy Scout Canyon. A guy here waved me over to show me a tarantula. Pretty cool, first one on this trip!

hiking leake mead national recreation area cross country through canyons

hiking leake mead national recreation area cross country through canyons

Hiking north of Gold Strike Hot Springs now

hiking leake mead national recreation area cross country through canyons

Small canyons to follow

The next several hours were a challenge. A lot of the same terrain I’ve already traversed, deep Canyons with a lot of pour offs, boulders to climb, etc. Very slow. Beautiful Canyon though and very impressive.

lake emad national recreation area water source in narrow canyon

Water. Was not expecting this here

lake emad national recreation area pothole water source in narrow canyon

I wouldn’t want to fall into that one

I saw several potholes of water as I walked my way up the washes. One was fairly large, depth unknown. Because of the Steep and slick rock around it, there were almost certainly dead animals in it. This is not the kind you’d want to fall into. As much as I wanted to feel hopeful about the water situation moving forward, I knew this Canyon was nothing more than an anomaly. Much of the time, I will be high up on a Ridgeline, with almost zero chance of water.

hiking south of the hoover dam lake mead las vegas nevada

hiking south of the hoover dam lake mead las vegas nevada

Stuff to climb

There have been many dry waterfalls to climb over along this route. Far too many to count. I reach one this morning, about a 15 or 20 ft climb, that got my heart rate going. The hand and foot holds were decent, but the rock was slick. Additionally, my camera that hangs off my chest was getting in the way, I needed to hug the rock a little bit closer and couldn’t. I was barely holding on, and felt like I was slipping. With one final push, somewhat a leap of faith, I crested the top of the pour off. I let out a cry of victory at the top of this one.

hiking south of the hoover dam lake mead las vegas nevada

Hoover Dam to the north

hiking south of the hoover dam lake mead las vegas nevada

hiking south of the hoover dam lake mead las vegas nevada

Hoover Dam close up

After a couple hours of working my way up hill, I looked back and could see the Hoover Dam. Pretty cool! What a unique vantage point over this iconic landmark, and without any crowds.

Next I worked my way around Gold Strike Mountain. This is where I enter the Black Canyon Wilderness. Home to the picturesque and rugged Eldorado Mountains, this wilderness unit is a maze of peaks and side canyons with vertical cliffs extending to the edge of the Colorado River. Much of the terrain was formed by volcanism.

hiking black canyon wilderness lake mead national recreation area

Small cave above an unnamed canyon in the Black Canyon Wilderness

hiking black canyon wilderness lake mead national recreation area

Next up: unnamed canyon

After skirting Gold Strike Mountain, I found myself overlooking a deep and rugged canyon filled with black (basalt) boulders. Imposing, for sure. But after a moment, I see my line down and get to work.

hiking black canyon wilderness lake mead national recreation area slot canyons

Scenic climbing obstacles

hiking black canyon wilderness lake mead national recreation area slot canyons

Hey look, a slide!

hiking black canyon wilderness lake mead national recreation area slot canyons

A dark canyon hidden in the desert

Like all of the other washes, there were countless dry waterfalls to work around, in between steep sections of boulders and some Thorn bushes. I saw a couple of bighorn sheep skeletons down here, as well as earlier in the morning. I slipped and fell a couple of times, but no major damage done.

hiking black canyon wilderness lake mead national recreation area

hiking black canyon wilderness lake mead national recreation area

Colorful

hiking black canyon wilderness lake mead national recreation area

Another scenic wash to walk

hiking black canyon wilderness lake mead national recreation area

Next I entered the main wash that leads into Boy Scout Canyon. I would have loved to check this one out, but there was a 350 ft rappel needed to progress down the canyon. There was a class three option to avoidant the rappel, but honestly, I just didn’t have the time to go down this Canyon considering it would be an out-and-back. So I headed up the wash instead. This was an easy walk for about a mile before it was time to leave it for more off Trail hiking.

hiking black canyon wilderness lake mead national recreation area

hiking black canyon wilderness lake mead national recreation area

Climbing up to the ridgeline of the Eldorado Mountains

After leaving the wash, it’s an 800ft climb to the ridge. The route was straightforward and not too difficult.

hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada

hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada

A lovely desert scene

hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada

On the ridgeline now of the Eldorado Mountains

The climb up to the Ridgeline the Black Canyon Wilderness was not all that difficult. I made good time, and found myself on top with an excellent View by around 1 pm. It was great to be out of the Canyons and up high again with a distant view.

hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada

Easy hiking for a while on top of the Eldorado Mountains

hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada

Looking south over the Colorado River

hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada

View north along the Colorado River

The walking here was a lot easier than down in the washes. Eventually, I hit a four-by-four road that I followed for about a mile. This led me to an excellent Overlook off the Colorado River and the Beautiful Canyons that surround it. However, this is where the road ends. I needed to backtrack now to a spot where I could continue along my Southern trajectory.

hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada

desert toirtoise in lake mead national recreation area, eldorado mountains, black canyon wilderness envada

Desert Tortoise

I left the trail again and stayed high on a small Ridgeline above a wash. At some point, I needed to cross the wash though. When I dropped down into the wash, I heard a hissing sound. I was startled, and immediately thought it was a snake. But when I looked down, I was surprised to see a desert tortoise. I have seen a few shells, but This was the first live one I had ever seen. These guys are pretty rare, actually.

hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada

A short walk on this dirt road

hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada

After crossing the wash, I met up with another dirt road. I’ll follow this one for another mile or so before I leave it. There were remnants of an old 4×4 road here too, though, from a time before this land was designated as wilderness. In time, nature will take this road back and it will be gone forever. For now, it gives me a path to follow, and I am not complaining about that right now.

hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada

A super enjoyable hike along the crest of the Eldorado Mountains

hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada

Black Canyon Wilderness high point along that ridge. Should I go for it?

Of course, the dirt road eventually ended and I was off Trail Again. By this time, I had about one hour of daylight left. I was approaching the high point of the Black Canyon Wilderness, and debated whether or not I should go for it. In the distance I could see power lines running across the landscape. This would likely be my best chance of finding a campsite for the evening, as I have not seen many other options recently. I figured it would take me about 1 hour to bag the Summit and then get down to the power lines.

hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada

Summit view from Black Canyon Wilderness high point

hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada

Sunset from the summit

It took me about 30 minutes to get to the High Point. I made it in one solid push, with no break. I was very hungry and thirsty at this point, and felt like I was running on fumes. I didn’t spend more than 2 minutes on the summit, snapping a few pictures and then began walking the Ridgeline down.

hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada

Coming down the ridgeline, north side of Black Canyon High Point

The Ridgeline leading downhill looked a little bit more challenging than the route I took up, however, it was pretty easy. It was also much shorter. It only took me 15 minutes to descend from the summit down to the saddle where the power lines were.

tarptent notch li campsite at sunset in nevada

I found a flat spot to camp pretty close to the dirt road that runs along the power lines. With 15 minutes of light left, I didn’t waste any time setting up my tent. I was feeling slightly dizzy from the lack of food and water, and all of the exertion from this afternoon. It had been several hours since I had eaten, but I really needed to cover some miles. After all, my next water source is quite a distance away.

There’s almost no chance of reaching my water cache by tomorrow evening, but I should get within Striking Distance for the following morning. Of course, the terrain ahead is going to be tough, and there’s no way of telling how long it will actually take. There are two Springs ahead along my route, but both are likely to be dry.

Around 7pm, a vehicle pulled up where I was camped. His headlights eliminated my tent, and he should have had no problem seeing a human being here. The Jeep pulled out enough to parking area where I was camped and continued down the road. Shortly thereafter, I heard a bunch of gunshots. This continued for about two hours. I figured this guy would be camping down there, but he left around 9pm. Now driving back out on the road he came in on, he passed me again. Only this time, he slammed on the brakes about a hundred feet past my tent, put it in reverse and proceeded to drive (rapidly) right up to within 20 feet of my tent, headlights on me. What the hell? I know the guy has a gun, but there’s not much I can do other than shine him with my head lamp. So that’s what I did, and thankfully he turned around and left. But seriously, what was that all about? Shit.

It’s now 9pm and I haven’t gotten any sleep yet. I dozed off for a little while, but then around midnight, another vehicle pulled in to the area I was camping. I immediately shined him with my head lamp, and he drove away, down the road to the same place as the first guy. It sounded like he fired off a couple rounds as well, but it was only a few, not an all night event like the other guy. There is a gun range only a few miles away, I’m guessing these guys like to have a few beers and shoot at rocks or whatever in the middle of the night after the gun range closes. How annoying. Anyhow, I didn’t hear anything from this guy anymore and I was able to get some sleep for the rest of the night.

Day 15 – November 17th

Mile: 17.5
Animals Seen: Tarantula

When I woke up this morning I noticed a Gatorade bottle, half full, sitting on the ground nearby. Considering I was short on water, and being the dirty piece of hiker trash I am, I inspected the bottle and ultimately drank it. Electrolytes, it’s what I crave.

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

Looking back north, I see this awesome banded rock face

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

Eldorado Mountains

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

View east. The farthest ridgeline in the distance is in Arizona

The road I camped along last night was the dividing line between the black Canyon Wilderness and the Eldorado Wilderness. Now, I continued south into the Eldorado Wilderness. I briefly walked a wash before beginning to climb up to the ridge line. Lots of scattered basalt and volcanic rock here.

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

Eldorado Wilderness views

To the east, 2500ft below, lies the Colorado River. There is usually no view of it from the crest of the Eldorado Mountains though, unfortunately.

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

I found this part of the Eldorado Mountains to be pretty plain and barren looking. Despite this, it was rugged and impressive. Usually it’s one of the other. The terrain below the crest to the east, leading to the Colorado River,  commands respect, but little about it usually stands out and immediately grabs your attention.

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

Awesome desert views

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

Nice hike this morning along the crest of the Eldorado Mountains

It was around here that I noticed the helicopter traffic that plagued the Hoover Dam area has pretty much stopped. Cool. It was much more quiet now, less plane traffic too. Just silence, solitude and big views now.

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

View south along the ridge

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

View north along the crest of the Eldorado Mountainshiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

Eldorado Wilderness

I walked this ridgeline for a couple hours. The best views were towards the south, shortly before I jumped down off the ridge. Here, there was a bit of a knife edge to walk along the ridge. This was perhaps one of the more scenic spots I’d seen this morning, and so I figured it was a good place for a break.

mojave yucca plants in the eldorado wilderness nevada

First Mojave Yuccas

mojave yucca plants in the eldorado wilderness nevada

a snake in the rocks in the eldorado mountains, nevada

The only snake I saw on my entire hike

I skirted west of peak 3125 and began working my way down the ridge. To do that, there was a somewhat flat stretch on a shelf to walk before the final drop into a wash a few hundred feet down. It was here that I saw my first Mojave Yucca plant. I was surprised I hadn’t already seen many more, but I really don’t remember seeing any north of Lake Mead. I also saw the only snake of my entire hike here. Non poisonous, just basking in the sun. Cool.

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

Time to drop down into this canyon

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

Down off the high ridges and into the low desert

As I descended the ridge, I began to notice more interesting rocks… Clusters of druzy quartz and a few pieces of chalcedony. Now I found myself at the bottom of a canyon, walking a very easy wash. What a nice relief. However, the scenery was pretty bland.

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

I weaved in and out of the wilderness boundary, walking an occasional 4×4 road. Then, it was cross country hiking again.

a dry spring in the nevada desert

Forlorn Hope Spring. A great name for a dry spring

I debated whether or not to climb up hill and see if there was water at forlorn hop hope spring ultimately, I did check it out, and it was dry, as expected. The name kinds gives it away.

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

Awesome views of the Mojave Desert

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

Continuing south towards Oak Creek Canyon

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

Eldorado Wilderness

Next I went over a small pass, and the views improved. I was begging to real like the was some sort of transition in Landscapes now, which I was expecting as the hike progresses from the Mojave Desert Environment to the Sonoran Desert.

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

Unnamed wash that will lead me to Oak Creek Canyon

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

After cresting another small Hill, I dropped down into an unnamed canyon that will lead me to the larger Oak Creek Canyon. The views improved massively as I entered this canyon. Wow!

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness

Hiking a cool unnamed wash in the Eldorado Wilderness

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness

Down in this wash, the shadows began to creep over the canyon walls. My water cache near Nelson ghost town is a few miles away now, but I am beginning to doubt I’ll reach it tonight. I filled up with 8L yesterday morning, and my supply of water is now running low.

teddy bear cholla forest in eldorado wilderness nevada

teddy bear cholla forest in eldorado wilderness nevada

Teddy bear cholla forest

 

The canyon dumps me out into upper Lonesome Wash. Here, I encountered a sea of teddy bear cholla cactus. Careful… this stuff is brutal! Now, I’ll follow Lonesome Wash uphill to Oak Creek Canyon.

hiking oak creek canyon eldorado wilderness nevada

Oak Creek Canyon

hiking oak creek canyon eldorado wilderness nevada

Hiking Oak Creek Canyon

 

Next, I entered Oak Creek Canyon. It looks impressive on the map, with some deep and narrow sections. And that’s just what it was… big cliffs walls, and just a cool place to walk.

hiking oak creek canyon eldorado wilderness nevada

It was clear I wasn’t going to reach the water cache tonight, but I will make it fairly close. I was feeling really tired now. Probably from the lack of sleep last night.

The upper reaches of the canyon became more difficult, just as the sun was going down. With 30 minutes of daylight left, I was climbing boulders and small pour offs again. I found a pretty nice spot though protected by rock walls on three sides, on a nice bed of gravel. This will do!

Update on the water situation, I drank 4L today, plus the half liter of Gatorade. No regrets on that Gatorade. That leaves me with a liter in the morning, and that will get me about 2 miles, over some tough terrain, to my water cache.

Day 16 – November 18th

Miles: 18
Animals Seen: Jack rabbit

backpacker's campsite in oak creek canyon nevada

Camp in Oak Creek Canyon

hiking oak creek canyon eldorado wilderness nevada hiking oak creek canyon eldorado wilderness nevada

Slept great last night. Barely woke up at all, and even with a solid 10 hours of sleep, didn’t want to get out of my tent this morning. But that’s fairly typical of me, I’ve never been a morning person.

mojave yucca and cliff walls of oak creek canyon nevada

Upper Oak Creek Canyon

I reached the top of the Canyon I had been walking Shortly after breaking camp. I found some cool druzy quartz specimens on a hillside.

hiking oak creek canyon eldorado wilderness nevada

View from pass down over Nelson ghost town

hiking oak creek canyon eldorado wilderness nevada

Last look down into Oak Creek Canyon

hiking oak creek canyon eldorado wilderness nevada

The route down

Next it was time to Crest the top of the pass. On the other side is Nelson ghost town, and my water cache. However, the descent looked steep and loose. This also marks the southern end of the Eldorado Wilderness, and now I enter BLM land.

hiking oak creek canyon eldorado wilderness nevada

hiking oak creek canyon eldorado wilderness nevada

Little canyon, big views

hiking oak creek canyon eldorado wilderness nevada

Pretty cool nodules with quartz

The descent was not as bad as it looked from the top, but was still slow going. There were some really interesting rocks in some of these washes. I found chalcedony, quartz, and some really cool nodules that I’m not sure about. Farther downhill, I saw a couple of these nodules that were broken open and filled with quartz crystals, basically geodes. Great stuff, I hope to return here someday to do a dedicated rock hounding trip.

hiking oak creek canyon eldorado wilderness nevada

Down in the wash, time to find my water cache

mojave sonoran trail thru hike water cache at nelson ghost town

Water cache near Nelson Ghost Town

mojave sonoran trail thru hike water cache at nelson ghost town

Looking out of “water cache cave”

Finally down in the wash, I found my water cache. It was still there, and so I got to work distributing the one gallon jug amongst my four one liter bottles. I was a bit disappointed though when I took my first swig, as the water had a pretty awful after taste of chemicals and plastic. Yuk.

nelson ghost town nevada

Nelson Ghost Town

nelson ghost town nevada

Entering Nelson

nelson ghost town nevada

Next I approached The Nelson Ghost Town. There are several old wooden buildings here decorated with old cars, equipment and route 66 style decor. It’s owned by a family that runs it as a tourist attraction, giving tours of the nearby mines and the ghost town itself.

I walked in the main building which operates as a check-in point for visitors. Inside was a woman sitting down on a chair and reading. I asked if they had any Cold drinks, and she pointed me to a refrigerator with Gatorade and sodas. She quoted me a price and I dropped my backpack to retrieve my wallet, which is typically buried pretty deep in the pack considering it doesn’t get much use on trail. She asked where I had come from, and I told her about my hike as I rummaged through my backpack looking for my wallet. She said don’t worry about it, the drinks are on us. How kind! Almost immediately, a couple walked in and paid a small entry fee to roam the town. They handed the woman a $20 bill and said keep the change. Essentially, they bought my drinks. Funny how these things work.

They have a bar set up in the main room of the old storefront and I sat down on one of the bar stools, charging with the woman for a while. Then the owner and his sons walked in and sat down. We conversed for a while, and it turns out the old man did a bit of hiking back in his heyday. In 1976, he walked from bad water in Death Valley to Mount Whitney, the route today we refer to as the lowest to highest route. He recalls temperatures of 119, with overnight lows of 94. He had ambitions for other long walks, but then started his family.

hiking south of nelson ghost town blm land nevada

Leaving Nelson behind

hiking south of nelson ghost town blm land nevada

Before I got too comfortable, I got up and left Nelson to keep walking. After a short paved roadwalk, I left this for a dirt road that would cut across the mountains and take me to Eldorado Valley. There were some elevated views above the Colorado River, with Arizona as a backdrop. Lovely.

abandoned mining cabin near nelson ghost town nevada

Old mining cabin

abandoned mining cabin near nelson ghost town nevada abandoned mining cabin near nelson ghost town nevada

I came across an old cabin that had been used by miners, basically living next to their claim. It said “gladiator Corp” on the outside, which was full of bullet holes at this point. The roof had caved in and the inside was in shambles. There were a couple of bunk beds set up, and interestingly enough, they were covered with cholla balls. A bed of nightmares. There were a couple of cholla balls on the ground as well inside the cabin, and I accidentally kicked one with a footstep that embedded it into the ankle of my other foot. The pain was sharp, and any movement caused further anguish. Outside of the cabin, I dropped my pack and pulled out my Gerber dime multi-tool, and utilized my pliers. You cannot simply use your hands for removing these. There were so many needles of this one ball stuck in my ankle that pulling on the needles on the other side of the ball with my pliers just meant that the needles broke off. I eventually dislodged it, and walked away with a reminder that I didn’t really need, to respect the cholla.

exploring the abandoned belmont phoenix mine in southern nevada

This one isn’t all that old. It had drywall and electricity

exploring the abandoned belmont phoenix mine in southern nevada

The Belmont-Phoenix mine

Farther up the dirt road, I came across the Belmont Phoenix mine. Wide variety of minerals were mined here, including gold, silver, copper, zinc, pyrite, chalcopyrite, etc. There were a couple of cabins here as well, One of them newer and in decent condition. The hardwood floors inside were intact and the walls had drywall.

exploring the abandoned belmont phoenix mine in southern nevada

View from the upper hills of the mine

exploring the abandoned belmont phoenix mine in southern nevada

Bummer!!

The mine itself was blocked off, both the vertical shaft and the horizontal tunnels into the mountain. It’s always a bummer to see these tunnels gated off like this, preventing people like me from getting inside and exploring them.

First small game guzzler along my hike

Small game guzzler. Notice the small opening to the underground tank where water is stored

The road eventually dumped me out into Eldorado Valley. Here, I had a water source marked, a small game guzzler. I found the guzzler, and now it was a matter of how to get the water out of it. This particular kind features a tank that is mostly buried in the dirt with an opening about 18 inches high, and a ramp that leads down to the water inside the tank. Their appeared to be six inches of water or less. The ramp itself was about 6 feet from the top down to the water level, and so there is no way to just scoop it out.

thru hikers system for getting water from small game guzzler in nevada desert

My setup for retrieving water from small game guzzlers

thru hikers system for getting water from small game guzzler in nevada desert

Chuck it in, hope the bottle’s lid sinks under the water level

I anticipated a scenario like this, and brought a length of string for just such an occasion. I tied the string around the mouth of my wide-mouth Gatorade bottle, and put a few small rocks inside the bottle to give it some weight. Without the rocks, the bottle would simply float on the water and water would not enter the mouth. Even still, it took several tries to perfect my technique, to chuck the bottle into the water in such a way where the rocks would not be at the bottom of the bottle, causing the mouth to tilt up out of the water.

I was able to pull up a few Gatorade bottles worth of water before crappy knot I tied came loose, I lost my Gatorade bottle inside the depths of the guzzler. I found the longest branch I could from a nearby shrub and use that to fish out my Gatorade bottle. I was lucky to get it back. I tied a better knot and continue to draw enough water to fill my two liter platypus bag. Quite a bit of effort to filter two liters of water, but sometimes this is the reality of the desert.

hikers view of the ireteba peak wilderness in nevada

View south to the Ireteba Peaks Wilderness

hiking eldorado valley mojave desert nevada

Entering Eldorado Valley

hiking eldorado valley mojave desert nevada

Hiking Eldorado Valley

It was now decision time once again on how best to proceed along this route. My planned route has me doing a continuous ridge walk of the Ireteba Peaks, this off trail Traverse will be very slow. I need to reach the post office by 3:45 PM tomorrow in Searchlight, before it closes. If I do the ridge walk, I won’t reach Searchlight at all tomorrow, let alone before 3:45. Additionally, that would mean I would probably have to camp up on top of the ridge tonight. With all of these things combined, I decided a lower route would be best. I’ll take a route through Eldorado Valley, consisting of dirt roads and cross country hiking.

sunset in eldorado valley nevada

Sunset in the Mojave

tarptent notch li sunset in eldorado valley nevada

Camp in Eldorado Valley

I walked a sandy wash til sunset, which was quite nice here in this huge and empty valley. I found a great spot for my tent, flat and clear. One big reason I’ve been setting up my tent before the last several nights, as opposed to cowboy camping, is that the nights have been cooler. The tent really cuts down on the wind and makes very much warmer sleeping experience. I only have a 40-degree bag for this hike, So the little extra things to stay warm really make a difference.

 

Day 17 – November 19th

Miles: 14.6 (half day)
Animals Seen: No animals

Woke up this morning to large birds squawking and buzzing my tent. They must have been large, the sound of their wings flapping was quite loud. It was a cold night. I put on my pant legs for the first time along this route as I got going. The clouds obscured the sun for a while, making it feel colder.

lone joshua tree in eldorado valley nevada mojave desert

First Joshua Tree!

lone joshua tree in eldorado valley nevada mojave desert

Big and burly

thick stands of joshua trees in the nevada mojave desert

A Joshua Tree forest

I continued walking dirt roads, making good time. One road followed power lines for several miles. It was here that I saw my first Joshua Tree of the entire hike. Then, a few more. Eventually, the entire landscape was a Joshua Tree “forest”. These are generally confined to the Mojave Desert. After searchlight, I’ve only got another 60 miles or so of Nevada left, and then I cross into Arizona. While the boundaries of the Mojave and Sonoran deserts are not exact, a rough dividing line is the California/Arizona border, just south of the southern tip of Nevada, which I am fast approaching.

hiking eldorado valley mojave desert nevada hiking eldorado valley mojave desert nevada

hiking eldorado valley mojave desert nevada

Looking back at the Ireteba Peaks from Eldorado Valley

Today’s walk was rather dull, otherwise. I saw a few mining prospects and mines that had been filled in, but nothing interesting.

road through eldorado valley to searchlight nevada

Road to Searchlight

Spirit Mountain in the distance. I’ll climb this on the next section. It’s the highest point along the Mojave Sonoran Trail

I hit some areas of private peppery along my route into Searchlight, which requires a small detour. I followed an underground gas pipeline for the last few miles into town.

The town of searchlight is extremely depressing. There are few homes, most are trailers patched up with garbage. There is garbage everywhere in the street, much like the last few miles of desert walking into town.

My first stop in town was the El Rey motel, which had no vacancy. Damn. This was the place I had planned on staying at. I tried calling them last with my limited cell phone signal, but there was no answer.

So, I headed over to the other motel in town, the By Motel. This place was interesting. Some shady looking characters outside the motel asked “can I help you” in a tone that made me wonder who they thought I was. They did have availability, but it was cash only. Seems legit. With no other hotels in town, I went to the ATM and pulled out $60, and did the deal. No extra fees either, and I’m not complaining. So I handed my money over this crackhead looking guy working there, like an older, dirtier and more inbred version of Charlie Sheen in the movie “ferris buellers day off”.

mismatched mattress and box frame size in motel

This one is a first for me. The rest of the room was for of the same kind of oddities

The room looked surprisingly decent at first glance, but it had many issues, oddities and quirks. First, there was no door knob on the door, just a little handle to pull it shut and an old school key lock. The need sheets looked dirty(and definitely loose debris on the sheets), the floor was tile and made crunchy noises from all the dirt as I walked across it, and all the furniture looked worn and filthy. The shower had no curtain. The shower was tile, and had a large sunken area where water collected. The water barely trickled out of the shower head, not even enough pressure to wash away dirt that was washed off my dirty hiker trash body. The shower tile was dirty. There was no light above the sink, outside the bathroom. The bed Das a full mattress on a twin frame, overlapping or and hanging off. Under the bed I found another dead bolt lock from the last time they changed the locks. There is no wifi. The TV turns on but the cable box does nothing, and its missing buttons. There is no garbage can in the room. There was no soap, I had to ask for it. The heater /ac unit wouldn’t turn on. I could go on, but you get the picture. Funny thing is, as a hiker who just spent 4 days out in the desert without a shower, my standards are so low that none of this upsets me, it’s simply comical.

Outside the motel, there are a couple of abandoned vehicles, and a few more that are missing bumpers and generally looking like a junkyard puked it out. There were trailers full of garbage bags in the parking lot. But perhaps best of all, I could almost constantly hear someone screaming, in an extremely frantic and shrill voice, “I’m going to kill you!! I swear to God I’m going to f’ing kill you!” Not in a joking manner, either. I was waiting for gunshots or screaming at any moment.

The funny thing is, this hotel has a 4.4 out of 5 rating on Google reviews. It’s clear all of the reviews are fake when reading them. They all praised management, and one even said “they serve great food”.

I had been considering taking a zero day in searchlight, but this motel was my motivation to get my chores done and leave in the morning. At the post office, I mailed home rocks from this section and picked up two packages from general delivery; a new pair of shoes and foods I mailed from Boulder city. Searchlight only had gas station convenience stores, so I mailed my staple items here; Tortillas, cheese sticks, pepperoni and pure cooked bacon. I ate lunch at McDonald’s, bought some food from the convenience store, and took care of the rest of my chores.

Looking ahead at the next section, I made some adjustments to the route, bypassing a suicidal ridgewalk I had apparently planned, for something more realistic. I figure 3 days to bullhead city, my first town stop in Arizona. I’ll be looking forward to taking a zero here at a real motel, hopefully.

 

 

Like what you see?

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Thru Hike 2021 – Section 3: Callville Bay to Boulder City

view of spring mountains and rainbow mountains wilderness with snow from lake mead

 Mojave-Sonoran Trail Thru Hike 2021 – Section 3: Callville Bay to Boulder City

view of spring mountains and rainbow mountains wilderness with snow from lake mead

Spring Mountains

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Section 3 Map

mojave sonoran trail thru hike map of section 3

Mojave Sonoran Trail Thru-Hike Section 3 – Callville Bay to Boulder City, 40 Miles

The above map only represents represents section 3 of 9 on the MST. For a more detailed map and general route info, see the Mojave-Sonoran Trail Guide page.

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Section 3 Journal

NOTE: When I hiked the Mojave-Sonoran Trail in 2021, the only section of the route I skipped was a 30 mile segment at the send of section 3. I went back to re-hike section 3 in it’s entirety in March 2022 and took a better route than my first attempt. Here, I’ll provide my journal entries and photos for BOTH my first attempt (Nov 21) and second attempt (Mar 22). Section 4 of the journal entries will continue the chronological presentation of this route as it was hiked in 2021.

Section 3, First Attempt – Nov 2021

Day 10 – November 12th

Miles: 11 (half day)
Animals Seen: 3 bighorn sheep

The wind picked up shortly after I laid my head down to rest last night. It was only 10 or 15 mile an hour wind gusts, but this was enough to blow the tent over in the soft soil. It would be foolish of me to have not anticipated this possibility, and I had already put a few rocks on top of my tent Stakes. I just didn’t use heavy enough rocks. I had to get up and search for larger ones, and build cairns on top of each stake. This did the trick.

I got going at the usual time, around 6:30. I climbed back up to the Ridgeline I dipped down from the night before. The landscape ahead of me was daunting; a series of washes that must be crossed, not followed. Repetitive and rather dull. Lake Mead is clearly in sight now, no longer hidden by tall Peaks or great distances.

hiking callville bay area lake mead

Entering a pretty neat little canyon

hiking callville bay area lake mead

hiking callville bay area lake mead

Pillars at the entrance of this side canyon

Most of this area consists of soft soil littered with volcanic rock, mostly basalt. As I progressed Westward, the basalt lessened, and it was mostly just softer sand. I dropped down into one wash that was pretty cool, and made me wish I was walking more of these. But again, I am just crossing them, not following them. I saw one bighorn sheep run out of one of these washes as I made my way into it.

hiking callville bay area lake mead

Narrow, sandy wash to walk

hiking callville bay area lake mead

Sandy…

hiking callville bay area lake mead

Deep sand everywhere

I probably should have stayed closer to the route I planned, but in the moment I decided to just walk Westward, wherever I felt like at the moment. For some reason, I thought I might be better off taking a route that stays closer to the Shoreline. When the terrain wasn’t cliffs, this worked well enough in the Jimbilnan wilderness. Unfortunately, on this side of Lake Mead it was much sand year, with a lot more vegetation. In other words, it was a nightmare.

hiking callville bay area lake mead

My favorite spot from today’s hike

hiking callville bay area lake mead

Lake Mead draws closer…

hiking callville bay area lake mead

A cool ridgeline to walk

In between the deep sand and some subpar miles, there were a couple of ridges and overlooks which were pretty cool. There were some interesting rocks up here too on one of these ridges.

hiking callville bay area lake mead

Crappy hiking…

I trudged through a few more miles of crappy terrain, both bad to walk and less than scenic. I reached boxcar Cove, and now there were a series of dirt roads leading in random directions, along with a plethora of car campers. Even the roads were crappy, deep and loose gravel. Today’s walk was really becoming a sufferfest.

Ultimately, I made the decision to just walk one of the dirt roads up to North Shore Drive. This is the main paved road that runs through Lake Mead National Recreation Area. I was really not happy with this section at all, and didn’t feel like I needed to prove to myself that I could walk through it. Perhaps with a little bit more time and research, I could have come up with a better route. But for now, there’s no reason to walk through this section, other than pure stubbornness.

As soon as I hit North Shore Drive, a vehicle was pulling out, in the direction I wanted to go. I put my thumb out to Hitch, and hopped in their pickup truck bed. I didn’t really have a plan yet, this all happened so fast. Really, I should have just gotten a ride to the point where Northshore Drive Meats Lakeshore Drive at Las Vegas wash, but on a whim, I said Boulder City. So that’s where they took me, to the Road leading to the marina, about 3 miles out of town.

I started walking the three miles into Boulder City, and walked about a mile before getting a hitch into town. Hungry and thirsty, I made my way to Jack In The Box for lunch. Then, I walked over to the El Rancho Motel, where my bounce box was waiting for me. Unfortunately, they were booked up when I got there. I grabbed my bounce box can hit the street.

I walked into a few more motels, but none of them had any vacancy. So then it was time to Google motels in Boulder City, and I started making calls. The quality in about 2 miles out of town, right where I came from, was the only one that had any availability this evening. I made my reservation and walked the two miles to the hotel.

I spent most of the afternoon and evening battling a wicked food coma from lunch, and pretty much just zoned out. This is somewhat typical of me, after spending few days exerting yourself out in the heat, once you reach the comfort the indoors, and air conditioning, the body just seems to have a way of saying “I’m done”. Prior to this, I was feeling great, not weak, worn-down or hindered in any way.

Day 11 – November 13th

Zero day

Now it’s time to figure out my next move. Besides the fact that I skipped about 30 Mi of this 40 Mi section, I had a lot of other logistical things to work out. Firstly, Boulder City is fairly isolated from the rest of Las Vegas, and without a car, I pretty much need to rely on Uber. There weren’t any Uber cars available yesterday, but this morning it seemed they were. So, I ubered in to Henderson to Walmart and bought a new Sawyer filter. Then I grabbed lunch, since there’s nothing nearby my hotel. This means I won’t have to walk 4 miles round trip into Boulder City later, or order delivery.

I had my bounce box sent to Boulder City, so now it’s time to back up all of my photos and video footage since the beginning of the hike. That way I can clear my memory cards for the next couple of sections.

One major downside of using a bounce box is that the post office needs to be open in order to mail it back out. Thus, arriving in town on the weekend means that I will need to stay until Monday so I can mail it out again. In this case, that means three nights in a hotel, and for some reason it’s really busy this weekend in Boulder City. After taxes, $175 a night at a hotel really adds up. This is definitely not the cheapest way to do a thru-hike, but there are few good options when one is committed to documenting the journey. The other is to just have a shitload of memory cards, which is starting to look like my next investment to avoid relying on a bounce box.

Day 12 – November 14th

Zero day

I did very little today outside of the hotel room. I backed up all of my photos and videos, sewed up a pocket I have on the shoulder strap of my backpack that holds my GoPro, ordered a new set of gloves for climbing and bushwhacking, and a slew of other logistical chores to make sure this hike run smoothly. Very uneventful, but also, very productive and very necessary.

Tomorrow I will head out for the next section, 65 ish miles to Searchlight. I will say that I never seem to sleep that well the night before I leave for another section. My mind races, worrying about all of the things I might have forgotten, and second-guessing my route. Tonight was no different.

 

Section 3, Second Attempt – Mar 2022

March 9th 2022

Miles: 22.7
Animal Seen: None

I was camping in my camper Van about 20 minutes South of Boulder City this morning. I had a couple of miles of driving down a rough dirt road before reaching the highway. I stopped at McDonald’s for breakfast, and then drove over to the Quality Inn. I stayed Here last November when I finished my 1st attempt at section 3. Today though, I will just park in the parking lot somewhere and hope it’s fine to leave overnight. Better than leaving it at a trailhead, I’ve heard some horror stories about break-ins in the Vegas area. From here, the Uber ride I scheduled Yesterday for 7 AM Today arrived on time. My plan is coming together. Not bad, considering I threw this plan together the day before.

My Uber ride dropped me off at Callville Bay campground, where section 3 of the Mojave Sonoran trail begins.  I began hiking at 7:30 and headed up a familiar looking Mundane Hillside along the road.

lake mead national rec area callville bay hiking

First view of Lake Mead

lake mead national rec area callville bay hiking

A nice ridge to walk

Before long, I was overlooking my campsite from my 1st attempt at section 3 Down in a colorful wash. There’s a network of small ridges, seemingly running every which way. Every ridge has a game trail along its crest, making for relatively easy walking. Lake Mead glimmers in the sun light, spot a mile away.

lake mead national rec area callville bay hiking

Ups ‘n downs

lake mead national rec area callville bay hiking

This is starting to look familiar. I camped down there in November on my first walk through here

I follow a series of ridgelines as long as I can, until I need to Change course and Cross a few of them. Small undulations, but Frequent. Fortunately, the terrain is not too steep here.

lake mead national rec area callville bay hiking

I was here in Nov. And this is where I take a new route…

lake mead national rec area callville bay hiking

lake mead national rec area callville bay hiking

Awesome hiking in this colorful red rock wash

Soon I dropped down into a deep and colorful wash. It’s not that deep really, but the deepest in this general area. I was here in November on my first attempt, but I’ll be taking a different route this time, up the canyon instead of down. I remember this canyon being really impressive on my last visit, and so exploring farther up is good with me.

lake mead national rec area callville bay hiking

lake mead national rec area callville bay hiking

lake mead national rec area callville bay hiking

Upper part of the wash, nearing Black Mesa

So now follow this wash uphill to the base of black Mesa, which I’ll climb later this morning. For now, around every turn the scenery confined to impress. Red and orange sedimentary rocks along the wash carved by the flow of water. Really cool.

lake mead national rec area callville bay hiking

First view of Black Mesa up close

lake mead national rec area callville bay hiking

The route up to Black Mesa

Near the top of the Wash, I got my 1st view of black Mesa up close. It was a sea of boulders along the slopes, With no path to follow. Up we go.

lake mead national rec area callville bay hiking

lake mead national rec area callville bay hiking

Climbing Black Mesa

The climb up was 700′ total. However, it really didn’t seem that bad. The slopes are steep but quite manageable, especially considering the very stable rocks and boulders that line the hillsides.

volcanic rocks on the summit of black mesa, lake mead, nevada

Black Mesa Summit view north/northeast to Muddy Mountains

view to spring mountains from summit of black mesa, lake mead, nevada

Black Mesa summit view west

snow capped spring mountains in las vegas nevada

View west to the Spring Mountains from summit of Black Mesa

I made quick work of the climb and gained the summit. Because it’s a Mesa, the summit was barely distinguishable, but marked with a small pile of rocks. There was no summit register here.  Good views though, especially West towards the Spring Mountains. It had recently snowed at higher elevations, and at 11900′, and its peaks were snowcapped. A beautiful sight in the desert, and from a comfortable 70゚down here at 2200′ elevation. This is the desert rat’s preferred way to enjoy snow, from a distance.

lake mead national rec area black mesa summit hike

Where I’m headed next…

lake mead national rec area black mesa summit hike

The route down Black Mesa

lake mead national rec area black mesa summit hike

I came down that ridgeline from Black Mesa

Walked the top of the Mesa for a short ways before finding a different route down. The descent was steeper than the ascent, but at least here there the rocks and boulders were very stable. Soon enough I was down and walking the wash below.

hiking government wash area lake mead

Ups ‘n downs

a clear crystal of selenite

Gypsum, var Selenite. Lots of this in the area

I only followed the wash briefly, then it was time to head up-and-over a series of parallel ridges to make my way to NorthShore road. The ridges were very small, but there was like 10 of them. I could see vehicles on the road in the distance, growing closer.

paved road walk in lake mead national rec area

Not a bad road walk, at least it’s only a mile

Next, I had a roadwalk of about a mile on Northshore road.  In doing so, I will bypass a lot of the soft sand and crappy hiking that had me frustrated on my first attempt at section 3. This, along with the good scenery, made the road walk much more palatable.

hiking government wash area lake mead

Looking back at Black Mesa. I was on top of that less than an hour ago

hiking government wash area lake mead

Next I walked a long dirt road that led to government wash Campground on lake Mead. Few of the roads here go in the direction that I would like them to go, but this one took the perfect trajectory. I made quick work of this walk and appreciated the ability to start covering some ground.

hiking government wash area lake mead

Approaching Government Wash

hiking government wash area lake mead

Government Wash meets Lake Mead

hiking government wash area lake mead

Lake Mead

Closer to lake Mead, a sea of RV campers lies ahead at an area called Government Wash. All of this would have been under water in the past, but now the “camping are” just keeps moving with the shoreline. So, there’s plenty of spots here to camp, if that’s your thing.

hiking government wash area lake mead

Western end of Lake Mead

las vegas wash hiking

Las Vegas Wash meanders it’s way to the western end of Lake Mead

hiking government wash area lake mead

Black Mesa from Lake Mead at Government Wash

This is the extreme Western end of lake Mead, and currently where Las Vegas wash dumps into lake Mead proper. The spot where Las Vegas wash meets lake Mead is constantly changing based on the water levels of lake Mead. It would have been several miles upstream when the lake was deeper. I enjoyed the views of the lake and especially looking back East towards black Mesa, which I had walked I had walked just an hour and a half earlier.

hiking las vegas wash lake mead

hiking las vegas wash lake mead

hiking las vegas wash lake mead

After leaving the last of the campers behind at Government Wash, it was time to head cross country again. Here, a series of a series of ridges and washes run perpendicular to Las Vegas wash. I want to hike parallel Las Vegas wash, meaning I need to go up-and-over every single one of them. And here, they were larger ups and downs.

hiking las vegas wash lake mead

Hiking along Las Vegas Wash

hiking las vegas wash lake mead

A little “lagoon”

hiking las vegas wash lake mead

Deeply cracked mud

Alongside my route, there were occasional pond and pools of water that appeared to be separated from the main body of Las Vegas Wash. Protected little “beaches”. Nearby, large areas of cracked mud, evidence of a once higher water level. Some of the cracks in between the mud were 18″ deep!

hiking las vegas wash lake mead

That’s some dense brush down there

hiking las vegas wash lake mead

Las Vegas Wash

hiking las vegas wash lake mead

After a couple of big ridges, things flattened out a bit. I’m now running parallel to Las Vegas wash and separated from it by dense brush. Fortunately, there is a route that stays high above the thicket, and provides an elevated view above the river. I could see upstream, and it looked like this route continues along a very narrow shelf at the base of some sedimentary cliffs. I Can tell it’s going to be very scenic, too. I instantly took a liking to this section.

hiking las vegas wash lake mead

hiking las vegas wash lake mead

hiking las vegas wash lake mead

hiking las vegas wash lake mead

I walked along the edges of steep drop offs, maybe 50′ above the river. The sound of the roaring water was really nice. Certainly, unique along the Mojave Sonoran trail route. Indeed, it’s wet and lush here, and it’s beautiful with the desert back drop.

hiking las vegas wash lake mead

Up and over ’em

hiking las vegas wash lake mead

Eventually, I need to leave the River to avoid a deep Canyon that intersects it. This means I need to hike up stream along a wash, this one was named gypsum wash, in order to bypass it. I hiked up and over a series of small ridges and washes to start on my westerly course.

hiking las vegas wash lake mead

hiking las vegas wash lake mead

A fun little ridge to walk

It was a steep climb Out of the wash, but when I got to the top of the ridgeline, I was surprised to see it drop off much steeper on the other side. Fortunately, I had the option to walk the ridge line for a while until I reached a spot where only needed to descend a few feet from the ridge to reach the wash below. And, I got a scenic ridge walk out of the deal.

hiking las vegas wash lake mead

Easy walking

It was a bit of an open desert walk here to the next Canyon. This one, I’ll need to drop down into from above. It was pretty steep, but fortunately the soil was very soft, and allowed me to really dig my heels in on the way down. This makes extremely steep terrain very manageable.

hiking las vegas wash lake mead

hiking las vegas wash lake mead

hiking las vegas wash lake mead

Next, I dropped down into a wash with some cool red and orange rock. These type of washes, as colorful as they are, always seem to peak my interest. Even the smaller ones such as this.

hiking las vegas wash lake mead

hiking las vegas wash lake mead

Las Vegas Wash

 

hiking las vegas wash lake mead

Not out of the woods yet…

Now down in a new Canyon, I found this one to be very impressive as well. I followed this down to the river again, where the trail continues to skirt Alongside the river, and elevated above it. Eventually, I reached a newly cut road into the hillside, witch which continues on the other side of the river. It appears this will be the site of a new bridge that that extends the wetlands trail to both sides of the wash. Cool. Only I’m above the road and it’s a very steep hillside. The soil looked pretty loose, so I went for it. It was a bit harder than I thought, and I ended up sliding all the way down. Thankfully it was only about 20′. However, I ended up with some road rash on my hand as it slid across the dirt.

hiking las vegas wash lake mead

Finally, I reached a spot where I could easily access the water in Las Vegas wash. This is the 1st time I could say this since government wash. I took the opportunity to wash off my hands, giving the dirt out of My open wounds. I also washed up my face and hair a little bit.  Refreshing.

hiking las vegas wash lake mead

Las Vegas Wash from Northshore Rd

Next I reached the parking lot for the wetlands trail head. There was a fence around it and it said that it was closed. It looked like they were building a parking lot here, and a paved (perhaps?) pathway that leads down to the river and to the bridge that will eventually span it. This is right along Northshore rd, Which I now have the pleasure of walking for about 3.5 miles.

hiking northshore rd las vegas

View from road walk along Northshore Rd

hiking northshore rd las vegas

The Muddy Mountains are starting to look pretty distant now

The roadwalk wasn’t too bad. Looking back to the East, some dark clouds were sitting above the muddy mountains. They looked Quite impressive from here.

river mountains loop trail las vegas nevada at sunset

This paved pathway is the River Mountains Loop, which encircles the River Mountain Range. Tomorrow, I’ll hike through the range, not around it!

After about an hour along the road, I reached The spot where I had stashed a gallon of water in the bushes yesterday. It was still there. Sweet. It was Getting dark though, so I didn’t have time to distribute it amongst my water bottles. for now, I threw it in my backpack and continued hiking.

graffiti at the abandoned three kids mine outside of las vegas nevada

graffiti at the abandoned three kids mine outside of las vegas nevada

Entering the Three Kids Mine

Next I entered the Three kids mine, and abandoned manganese mine from the World War I era. Clearly this place gets a lot of traffic, being so close to Vegas. Some pretty interesting graffiti though! I didn’t really have time to explore any of this though, the daylight was fading fast and I needed to look for a place to camp.

open pit mine las vegas nevada

I’ll camp somewhere near the open pit

I continued uphill across the mine complex and reached one of the 2 open pit mines. I found a spot to camp That had a little cover from the wind. It was dark enough that I needed my head lamp to help me as I set up my tent. In the distance, I could see it’s pretty much the entire Las Vegas Valley, including the strip. I’m glad to be far away from it though. It’s an expensive and hectic place.

I got about almost 23 miles in today. I haven’t hiked more than 7 or 8 miles in a day since I completed the Mojave Sonoran trail route 2.5 months ago. Since then, I’ve been hiking about 4 days a week, often with a decent amount of elevation gain. I’ve mostly been exploring abandoned mines this Winter as I tour the Southwest in my camper Van.  These roads are usually Too rough to drive, which leaves me with a couple of miles of hiking in order to reach them. So I feel like that’s kept me in decent shape since then. However, that’s nothing like hiking 20 miles a day. I’m feeling pretty tired, and it sure does feel good to lie down.

 

March 10th, 2022

Miles: 17.25
Animals Seen: 3+ Big Horn Sheep

tarptent notch li

Throughout the night there were various sounds in the distance… dirt bikes, loud cars, planes flying directly overhead. I didn’t sleep well at all. Sometime around 5 AM, sprinkles started hitting my tent.

I woke up at 6 and quickly packed up my things. This morning, I’ll meet up with one of my youtube subscribers named Kai, who had recently watched my Basin and Range Trail series and was interested in joining for some hiking. I welcomed the opportunity to have a partner here, even if it’s only half a day as he must work later in the afternoon.

Kai has done some thru hiking on the Appalachian Trail and is going to be setting out on the Pacific Northwest Trail this summer. He also has a custom route he’s working on that will form a big loop around Clark County (Las Vegas), and I think that’s pretty awesome!

hiking with a buddy

Just met up with Kai

I walked back down to the lower part of the mine complex that I hiked by last night, and Kai was just coming up the hill. Perfect timing. After some quick introductions, we started exploring the Three Kids Mine.

circular concrete structure at abandoned mine painted to represent the wheel of fortune, but every spin is a loser

The Wheel of Misfortune. Every spin is a loser… or you win a home

Now with some daylight, we got a better look at the part of this complex they call the “Wheel of Misfortune”. There are several round cement structures that have been spray painted to resemble the wheel from wheel of fortune. Only instead of listing dollar amounts, most say $0. Pretty weird, but kinda cool.

 

graffiti at the abandoned three kids mine outside of las vegas nevada

graffiti at the abandoned three kids mine outside of las vegas nevada

There was a lot of abandoned concrete structures here, all painted with strange and entertaining graffiti. We could have easily spent more time here, but after 15 minutes we left the mine for a dirt road.

hiking the river mountains las vegas nevada

Leaving the mine behind

hiking the river mountains las vegas nevada

Entering the River Mountains

hiking the river mountains las vegas nevada

Rain threatening all morning

After leaving the mine, the terrain quickly becomes more rugged and the vibe turns surprisingly remote and isolated. Of course, roads are not that far away, but the lack of public access to this area likely keeps it fairly lightly trafficked compared to other public lands in that hug the metropolitan Las Vegas area.

hiking the river mountains las vegas nevada

Nice pointy peaks

hiking the river mountains las vegas nevada

hiking the river mountains las vegas nevada

The River Mountains are pretty nice so far

The weather this morning was very overcast, and the threat of rain remained. Distant dumps of rain could be seen as the clouds clip the tops of nearby peaks and ridges. The dark clouds created a different mood that was less common along the rest of my MST hike, since every day was usually just blue bird skies.

Kai hiked with me for about 3 hours before turning around and heading back to his car so he could get to work later. It was great to hike with someone new, it really changes the dynamic of these hikes when you have someone to talk to and share the experience with.

hiking the river mountains las vegas nevada

hiking the river mountains las vegas nevada

Shortly after Kai and I parted ways, I saw a bighorn sheep. This was my first in the River Mountains. Cool.

heart shaped rock in the nevada wilderness

heart shaped rock in the nevada wilderness

Heart of stone

Soon enough, it was time to leave the dirt road and start my cross country trek across the River Mountains. My goal is to bag the high point and walk the ridge for a bit, before dropping down on the west side of the crest, just north of Boulder City. Hiking here was pretty manageable, for now.

 

Good scenery thus far throughout the River Mountains. I have been surprised with this range, and wasn’t expecting much because it was so close to Vegas, I suppose. There are no signs of trash, ammo casings, or footprints back here. Rally cool.

hiking the river mountains las vegas nevada

Most of the landforms here are unnamed. I walked up a large valley north of peak 3465’, which provided easy walking and pretty good views.

hiking the river mountains las vegas nevada

Getting thicker…

Soon enough, the canyon narrows a bit and the brush becomes thicker. I’m now climbing up the canyon east of peak 3465’, and it’s a little more rugged. Great views, though.

hiking the river mountains las vegas nevada

hiking the river mountains las vegas nevada

hiking the river mountains las vegas nevada

The clouds are clearing up now, but the winds are whipping today. 40 MPH gusts at times. Still, the sun lifts the mood, and the climb continues regardless. I reach a small pass, where I need to go around a large hill in front of me. Left or right, but which way loses the least amount of elevation? The steepest route, of course. And that’s what I chose.

hiking the river mountains las vegas nevada

Now drop down to this wash, and follow it up hill…

hiking the river mountains las vegas nevada

hiking the river mountains las vegas nevada

The route to the ridgeline seems to take forever. There are many ridges and drainages to traverse, many side canyons to choose from. And when they are smaller, they can make navigation a little trickier, since none of the landforms are very distinct.

hiking the river mountains las vegas nevada

Some power poles mark the canyon leading to the crest of the River Mountains. The final 300ft up to the ridgeline is a little steep, but no biggie.

hiking the river mountains las vegas nevada

Crest of the River Mountains

hiking the river mountains las vegas nevada

View west to Henderson and the metro Las Vegas area

hiking the river mountains las vegas nevada with lake mead view

View east over Lake Mead from River Mountains crest

Once on the crest of the River Mountains, there’s a view west to metro Vegas, although somewhat obscured by hills, and the unobscured view east over Lake Mead. Wow! To me, this section is all about rounding the western side of Lake Mead, where the route begins its southerly trajectory. This is the section that ties it all together, the north Lake Mead region to the southern Colorado River corridor. This view was very meaningful to me in that way, to see where I’ve come from, and all of the work involved to trek all the way around this massive Lake, to string this route together.

hiking the river mountains las vegas nevada

Hiking the crest of the River Mountains

river mountains high point summit view over lake mead nevada

Peak 3502′ view

I continued up the ridgeline to peak 3502’. The views from each of the small peaks along the ridgeline all offer the same basic view. It’s a good one, though. The wind is blowing me off my feet now, especially when a rogue gust comes out of nowhere.

river mountains high point summit view over lake mead nevada

Lake Mead from River Mountains High Point

river mountains high point summit view over lake mead nevada

River Mountains High Point summit view

river mountains high point summit view over lake mead nevada

Lake Mead and the distant “Sentinel”

At the top of River Mountain’s high point, 3789’, there’s a summit register and it’s full of entries. This peak gets a lot more traffic than I would have assumed from the route up, but then again, I took an unconventional approach. The wind was so strong that I didn’t spend a whole lot of time up here. It also killed my camera battery, and it was only cell phone photos after this today.

river mountains high point summit view over lake mead nevada

Coming down the ridgeline to the saddle

Continuing north along the ridge, I quickly came to a ridgeline that leads down to a saddle with a 4×4 road leading up to the top, and some power lines. This must be where most people approach the River Mountains high point from.

river mountains high point summit view over lake mead nevada

Short walk through this valley

I walked the rough road down the canyon and out into an open valley west of the Black Mountain. It’s about 2 miles across it to the base of my next climb, a road leading out of the valley and back up to the crest.

river mountains high point summit view over lake mead nevada

river mountains high point summit view over lake mead nevada

Overlooking the valley I just walked across

river mountains high point summit view over lake mead nevada

Road up to the trailhead at the top

I followed a winding dirt road up a mountain with a radio facility at the top. Only a few miles from Boulder City now.

river mountains high point summit view over lake mead nevada

Looking down on an actual hiking trail! Boulder City lies at the entrance to this canyon at the bottom

Once I reach the top of the crest again, I see a vehicle parked at the top. This is a trailhead that leads to several different trails, one of which I will have the luxury of following downhill for a couple of miles. One of the few times I will encounter a marked hiking trail on this entire route.

river mountains high point summit view over lake mead nevada

Some excellent scenery here in this canyon

I drop down into the unnamed canyon leading southwest towards Bounder City. The views are outstanding! I was not expecting this, although when I look at the maps, it’s not hard to believe. The map shows gratuitous amounts of steep terrain, which is a sure recipe for a beautiful landscape in any environment.

river mountains high point summit view over lake mead nevada

A couple of big horns

As I hiked down the switchbacks, I encountered a couple more bighorn sheep. These guys weren’t afraid at all, they just sort of walked a few feet away and turned their backs on me. Must be slightly used to seeing humans here, only a couple miles from Boulder City now.

river mountains high point summit view over lake mead nevada

Last look up the canyon…

After exiting the canyon, it opens up to Boulder City. I walk the outskirts, and enter a residential area of high end homes, and weave in and out of the power line corridors to make my way back to the Quality Inn hotel where I parked my van yesterday morning.

chevy astro van parked in hotel parking lot

My stealth camper van

I was relieved to see my van still there in the parking lot, and not towed. I took a chance that nobody would notice it for a night, rather than leaving it at a trailhead where it’s an easy target. Not today, thieves.

It was really nice coming back to my van after the hike, and knowing I wouldn’t need to spend any money on a hotel. I drove to Railroad Pass a few miles away, got a shower at the truck stop, a burger from the fast food place, and parked in the casino lot to spend the night.

I was really glad I went back and re-hiked section 3. My initial impression of this section was that it was merely a connector, and being so close to Vegas, that it wouldn’t be all that interesting. While it was definitely not one of the highlights of the route, it certainly exceeded my expectations for scenery, remoteness, and overall enjoyment.

 

 

Like what you see?

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Thru Hike 2021 – Section 2: Echo Bay to Callville Bay

large bighorn sheep skull in desert canyon at sunset

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Thru Hike 2021 – Section 2: Echo Bay to Callville Bay

large bighorn sheep skull in desert canyon at sunset

Unnamed Canyon in the Jimbilnan Wilderness, Black Mountains, Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Section 2 Map

mojave sonoran trail thru hike map of section 2

Mojave Sonoran Trail Thru-Hike Section 2 – Echo Bay to Callville Bay, 50 Miles

The above map only represents represents section 2 of 9 on the MST. For a more detailed map and general route info, see the Mojave-Sonoran Trail Guide page.

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Section 2 Journal

Day 6 – November 8th

8.31 Miles (half day)
Animals Seen: About 15 big horn sheep

Woke up at 6:45 today and forgot about “daylights losing time”, and the sun had been up for an hour already. Whoops. Left the hotel at 7:30 am and started walking out of town So I could get a hitch. Unfortunately Overton is very spread out and I had to walk a solid 3 miles to get past the bulk of town. There wasn’t a ton of traffic, but there was enough to start getting frustrated that none of them would stop for me, a human standing out in the desert. Hmm.

I got my first hitch from a guy who is camping in an RV a couple miles out of town, but driving is pickup back to his RV camp spot. So now I was sitting in front of an area with about 40 RVs parked, and a few of them pulled out and drove past me. No luck.

Eventually, a really nice older couple driving a small camper van, not a big rv, stopped for me. Although they are American citizens, they live in Switzerland most of the year and just spend the winter and driving around the southwest in their camper van. They were here to hike Valley of Fire, and being fellow hikers, we hit it off. They followed several thru-hikers on YouTube and asked if I had ambitions to hike the continental divide trail. So needless to say, I enjoyed the company and they ended up driving me a little out of their way to go to the entrance to Echo Bay Campground.

Once I got dropped off at the road leading to Echo Bay Campground from North Shore Drive, I only had to wait two or three minutes before a couple of guys in a pickup pulled in and stopped for me. I rode in the back of the bed and made it to the campground around 10am. It only took me two and a half hours to go 20 miles! But, After a frustrating start to the hitching experience this morning, it was nice to end it on a good note.

lake mead view from echo bay

Looking south/southeast across Lake Mead into Arizona at Echo Bay

I spent some time filling up water, eating leftover pizza and getting my gear situated. I didn’t start walking until about 10:30.

old engine along shore of lake mead

Lots of this junk near the shores of Lake Mead, and up all of the “fingers” of water that used to extend up the washes when water was higher

I dropped down into Echo wash and crossed over into the black mountains /Jimbilnan wilderness. The lower reaches of the wash and the base of the foot hills here used to be underwater when Lake Mead was higher. So, there was a lot of debris here like old anchors, chains and even a few engines.

lake mead view from highpoint with cairns in black mountains nevada

Looking east across Lake Mead

view of the cathedral peaks ridgeline in the black mountains, nevada

The Cathedral Peaks ridgeline

Lake Mead and the Cathedral Peaks

The first couple hundred feet of ascent were tough. It felt hot, even though today was in the 70s, and there were a ton of rocks and boulders to step on and over. On the way up, I saw a herd of six or seven big horn sheep. After climbing a couple hundred feet, I got my rhythm back and made quick work of the 1,000 foot ascent. I was surprised to see a stack of cairns at the top of the hill, but there they were. The views of Lake Mead were great, and the cathedral peaks Ridgeline on the horizon was very impressive. That’s where I’m headed as I enter the Jimbilnan Wilderness. Yeah, that name just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

lake mead view from black mountains

Looking south across Lake Mead into Arizona

black range, jimbilnan wilderness, nevada

Now, there was a series of game trails to follow. Nice. They followed the path that I had charted out at home After studying the maps. To me, that’s a great feeling, to have your route plan verified by animals, who hike here daily.

black range, jimbilnan wilderness, nevada

black range, jimbilnan wilderness, nevada

I wasn’t sure what to expect here, in the cathedral peaks area. The name sounds cool, but there is practically no information online about this area. I was instantly attracted to this ridge line and the greater area. I could tell today was going to be tough, but beautiful.

herd of big horn sheep in the balck range, jimbilnan wilderness, nevada

Big Horn Sheep are everywhere around Lake Mead

herd of big horn sheep in the balck range, jimbilnan wilderness, nevada

distant bighorn sheep sighting lake mead, nevada

See the sheep on the ridge to the right of the notch?

The ridgeline meanders up and down, and lead me to a canyon that I must climb to gain the crest again. I saw another seven or so big horn sheep, and got some cool photos of them on a ridge with my zoom lens. As I walked up the canyon, I encountered the only shade around. This makes for an obvious break spot. And lunch today is trash bag pizza! I ordered a pizza while in town and realized the box containing leftovers would not fit in the mini fridge in the hotel room, So I asked the front desk if they had anything like a gallon size ziplock bag to store the pizza in. They said no, but offered a thin trash bag. Hey, that’ll do.

hiking the balck range above lake mead, nevada

Climbing up the canyon, looking back on Lake Mead

black range envada cathedral peaks hiking

Cathedral Peaks ridgeline view east

After lunch I continued climbing the canyon. At the top, I climbed up a small ridge line and as soon as I did so, I startled two big horn sheep only about six feet below where I was standing. They scurried off, startling me in the process.

 

black range envada cathedral peaks hiking

Cathedral Peaks ridgeline

natural arch black mountains lake mead nevada

A nice little arch around a treacherous rockface traverse

From here I could see West Cathedral Peak, my next destination. Some pretty cool vertical rock spires could be seen just below the summit. The views now we’re so good I was starting to get chills. But standing in my way was a steep rock face that I had to contend with. This was probably the crux of the day. It took me a good half-hour to work my way around it, down climbing a few ledges.

black range nevada cathedral peaks west cathedral summit

West Cathedral Peak summit view north to Muddy Mountains

black range nevada cathedral peaks west cathedral summit

West Cathedral Peak summit view

black range nevada cathedral peaks west cathedral summit

West Cathedral Peak summit view west across Lake Mead

West Cathedral Peak offered excellent views of the entire area. The contrast of colors between the blue waters of Lake Mead and the white rocks sticking out of it was striking. Everywhere else I looked, There were jagged pillars and rocks spires, illuminated by the sun and glowing hues of Orange and Red.

black range nevada cathedral peaks backpacking

Coming down West Cathedral Peak

In the distance, I could now see My next destination, the Cathedral Peaks High Point. It looked imposing and far away, and now close to 3pm, I began to question whether or not I would reach my intended camp spot tonight on the shores of Lake Mead. I made my way towards the peak anyway, leaving the decision to summit it for later.

black range nevada cathedral peaks backpacking

Ridge connecting West Cathedral Peak to Cathedral Peaks high point

black range nevada cathedral peaks backpacking

Ridge connecting West Cathedral Peak to Cathedral Peaks high point

The Ridge connecting West Cathedral peak to the high point was rather easy and I made good time here. Most of the rock in this area is volcanic, sharp and not all that interesting. But here, I began to notice chunks of chalcedony, and druzy quartz.

I wasn’t exactly sure about the route up to the high point, but just started walking and following my instincts. Class two all the way up, with some steep stuff. At the top, a class 3 move to get to the summit block. Tons of exposure on the other side of the rock face, which is evident the moment I crested it.

lake mead shadows from mountains

Shadows creeping over Lake Mead

view of lake mead from summit in black range nevada

Lake Mead from Cathedral Peaks High Point, Black Range

view of muddy mountains from summit in black range nevada

Panorama view East from summit of Cathedral Peaks High Point

View west from Cathedral Peaks high point

The summit view from the cathedral peaks high point was excellent. More or less the same as West Cathedral peak, but with a better view of Lake Mead. There was a summit register with one entry from 2008 I believe, one from 2017, and a couple from 2019 and 2020. I was the first to sign in in 2021. There were a ton of small gnats here, and their buzzing sounds made me think there was a drone nearby for a minute. The sun was getting low in the sky though, and with an hour and a half of daylight left, it was time to head down.

jimbilnan wilderness backpacking unnamed canyon

Descent into an unnamed canyon

Jimbilnan Wilderness hiking

backpacking the jimbilnan wilderness

Next up is a series of canyons and washes. They looked extremely rugged from the top, and although the map didn’t make them look that difficult, I had my doubts. But it’s ruggedness also made it extremely beautiful. The lower I dropped into the canyon, the more I liked what I saw.

I was really trying to hurry down, since I saw nothing resembling a campsite so far. I was really doubting that I would make it to Lake Mead, so my new plan was to head far enough down where the washes became bigger, more free of vegetation and more Sandy… somewhere to camp for the night. I ended up rolling my ankle coming down the canyon, but fortunately, I was able to walk it off.

large bighorn sheep skull in desert canyon at sunset

Big Horn country

Every time I looked back, the imposing Canyon walls, Now illuminated by the setting sun, seemed to impress me more. I saw absolutely no signs of human use here. No footsteps, cairns, garbage, ammo casings, etc. I did find a big horn sheep skull, with the horns intact. These are always cool to find. They are surprisingly heavy though!

jimbilnan wilderness hiking in canyon, black range, lake mead nevada

jimbilnan wilderness hiking in canyon, black range, lake mead nevada

Canyon hiking south of Cathedral Peaks

Now approaching the lower reaches of the canyon, the views were downright stunning. With 30 minutes of daylight left, I reached a side canyon leading to Cathedral Cove on Lake Mead. This was not the Cove that I was shooting for, I was hoping to reach S Cove, still another mile or two away. But I found a nice flat spot in a sandy wash, surrounded by huge cliffs and rock faces. With the stunning views and a good place to camp, I stopped for the day at 4:30 Pm. Man, the lack of daylight at this time of year is tough to get used to, stopping so early. Kind of wish I could live in the southern hemisphere during the winter. Hmmm….

camping in unnamed wash and canyon in the jimbilnan wilderness black range, nevada

Cowboy camping in the Jimbilnan Wilderness

I decided to cowboy camp this evening under the stars. There’s a fair amount of bugs out though, hoping I don’t regret it. I’m also happy to report that my appetite has been somewhat restored. Good thing because I paid a pretty penny to get into Overton and stay there two nights. Still, I think this was the best move for me in the long run, for the good of the hike. I was feeling fairly good on the first section, but it would have been a solid eight or nine days to Boulder City, where I was originally planning to take my first zero day. Personally, unless I am already in excellent trail shape (which I wasn’t), I don’t think it’s a good idea to try and push yourself that hard in the beginning.

 

Day 7 – November 9th

13.66 Miles
Animals Seen: 1 big horn sheep

jimbilnan wildneress canyon sunrise colors

Sunrise in the Black Range

Woke up at 5:45 am, Now that the sun comes up ridiculously early due to daylights losers time. It doesn’t make any sense to me to set time back an hour at this time of year when darkness comes at 5pm. Now it comes at 4pm? That’s worse! Anyhow, Clouds moved in overnight, overtook the stars, and right around the time I was ready to leave camp sprinkles began to fall. This was not reflected in the weather forecast, which I believe said 0% chance of rain and was not calling for clouds. The sprinkles were light and short-lived, though.

Canyon leading to Cathedral Cove

big horn sheep skeleton and horns

Having rolled my ankle yesterday, it was feeling a little tender as I began my hike this morning. I found another big horn sheep skull and skeleton shortly after leaving camp. I suppose it’s not surprising considering how many live sheep I’ve seen in the area. Progress was fairly slow, and about to get slower.

backpacking the black range, lake mead, nevada

Hiking in between Cathedral Cove and S Cove

backpacking the black range, lake mead, nevada

Hiking in between Cathedral Cove and S Cove

backpacking the black range, lake mead, nevada

Canyon views in between Cathedral Cove and S Cove

I left the wash I was in for a wash leading to S Cove on Lake Mead. I hiked up the drainage over a small pass, and down into the wash on the other side. The scenery was excellent now, colorful and stunning rock formations towering high above the canyon. Lots of jagged peaks, pillars and spites. Truly stunning. Another place that boggles my mind… there are places like this, of this magnitude, that remain so obscure? Only an hour from Vegas, at most, and yet, I feel truly immersed in this remote wilderness environment, seemingly untouched.

backpacking the black range, lake mead, nevada in jimbilnan wilderness canyon

Stunning canyon scenery in the Jimbilnan Wilderness

backpacking the black range, lake mead, nevada in jimbilnan wilderness canyon

Majestic AF

backpacking the black range, lake mead, nevada in jimbilnan wilderness canyon

The entrance to S Cove. Canyon route on the right/below, game trail up and over the hump in the center

After a 1.5 miles or so, I reached the canyon that will take me to S Cove on Lake Mead. From the moment I entered the Canyon I knew it was going to be difficult. There was a large narrow Canyon with a pour off that I needed to traverse around, and thankfully there was a high route around it. The landscape here continued to impress. There would be many more pour-offs below as I worked my way down.

backpacking the black range, lake mead, nevada in jimbilnan wilderness canyon

Route through the canyon to S Cove

backpacking the black range, lake mead, nevada in jimbilnan wilderness canyon

Arches like this everywhere here in the Black Range

I encountered one pour off that was not very tall, but awkward enough that I used my paracord and carabiner to lower my pack. This makes a huge difference, to be able to down climb freely without the bulk of the pack getting in the way and hindering the climb.

backpacking the black range, lake mead, nevada in jimbilnan wilderness canyon

backpacking the black range, lake mead, nevada in jimbilnan wilderness canyon

The walk down the canyon to S Cove was very scenic. None of the obstacles were too difficult to climb. More big horn sheep carcasses and bones.

canyons leading to lead mead low water level hiking

Nearing the water level at Lake Mead. You can see the water once extended here, and beyond

dryw ater fall in black mountains nevada

One last pour off to climb. There’s always one more.

Eventually, I made my way to the lower reaches of the Canyon and Now could see the high water mark on the rocks. It seemed like the route to s cove took forever. In this case, forever means a two and a half hour walk from camp this morning. Yeah, I wasn’t close last night.

lake mead low weter levels s cove canyon black range

Lake Mead at S Cove. With water levels rapidly changing (dwindling), the point at which the water extended up into the canyon is constantly changing

When I finally reached the water, the first thing I noticed was how the gravel from the wash dropped steeply to the water level. I immediately began to filter water, knowing how slow my Sawyer filter is functioning. I used a gravity feed setup to let the water filter while I ate a snack and took a break. Then it was on to filtering by hand, squeezing and squeezing until I collected two liters. This would be enough to get me Cleopatra wash. And it would have been quite easy to camp here last night, had I made it. However, I feel like there would have been some animal activity here as it’s clear they used the spot to get a drink themselves.

lake mead hiking shoreline

Hiking in-between S Cove and Cleopatra Cove along Lake Mead. No easy path along the shoreline

Now it was time to follow the shoreline of Lake Mead to Cleopatra Cove. From s Cove, the shoreline was not really visible or accessible. In the way lies several ridge lines that equate to lots of ups and downs. Nothing to do but start tackling this obstacle.

 

hiking along the rugged canyon shorelines of lake mead

Shoreline of Lake Mead

hiking along the rugged canyon shorelines of lake mead

New islands forming in Lake Mead as water levels drop

hiking along the rugged canyon shorelines of lake mead

Kendal Cove

At the top of first ridge, I had my first big view of Lake Mead. The wind was whipping now, about 25 miles per hour. No boats were on the water today, and wisely so. My view was a depressing one, since I could see several more large ridge lines to go up and over.

hiking the shoreline of lake mead national recreation area

Shoreline is easier to walk here

hiking the shoreline of lake mead national recreation area

South of Kendal Cove

hiking the shoreline of lake mead national recreation area

After making it past Kendall Cove, the shoreline became much easier to walk. It was flatter and there were less ridges to contend with. Now, I was actually walking on the beach just a few feet from the water, instead of a few hundred feet above it. Progress was much faster now.

lake mead Cleopatra wash hike

Entrance to Cleopatra Canyon

lake mead Cleopatra wash hike

Entrance to Cleopatra Wash from Lake Mead. I’ll need a way around this one

entrance to cleopatra wash from lake mead

I’ll bypass this somehow…

When I reached Cleopatra Cove, I was surprised to see just how far the waters of Lake Mead encroached on the Canyon. I was on a ridge line, looking down on it. I needed to head uphill to get a better view of the wash and how I could enter it. I noticed the entrance of the canyon was quite narrow and tall, and appeared to contain several pour offs. I saw a trail of big horn sheep scat leading uphill, so I followed that for a bit. I realized I would not be able to continue on this high route paralleling the canyon much longer, but there was no way down into it from here either. It was at this point when I realized I had made a dumb mistake… I forgot to Fill up water from Lake Mead down at Cleopatra Cove. I had been side tracked by the entrance to Cleopatra Canyon and my need to find a way down into it.

Looking down Cleopatra Wash as it dumps into Lake Mead. Ah, my water…

One of the pour offs

So, I backtracked down to the water. It was the same deal as S Cove, the wash ending with a steep gravely descent top three water level. It was imperative to fill up on a good amount of water here since it would be a solid day before my next opportunity.

shoreline of lake mead at Cleopatra cove in 2021

Lake Mead at Cleopatra Cove

It took me an hour and 15 minutes to filter 5 liters. The speed at which this Sawyer filter operates was really frustrating me now. I am squeezing as hard as a I can without popping the dam bag, and that’s as fast as it will go. I’ve already backflushed repeatedly. I will definitely be taking an Uber into Vegas or Henderson to a Walmart so I can purchase a new one when I get to Boulder City. These things don’t seem to last more than a season for me.

hiking cleopatra wash at lake mead

Canyon entrance (right), with pour offs. Game trail (left) around…

cleopatra wash exit point at lake mead

The little pass leading down into the canyon proper, avoiding the climbing obstacles at the canyon entrance

hiking cleopatra wash lake mead nevada

View down into Cleopatra Canyon

With 5.5 liters now, I headed back to the entrance to Cleopatra Canyon. There were several large pour offs in the lower reaches of the canyon that prevented me from progressing further. Fortunately, there were some game trails leading up a side canyon that parallel the entrance to Cleopatra Canyon. These proved to be quite useful, leading me to a path that ultimately dropped down into the canyon and avoided all of the unclimbable pour offs. I even saw a couple of cairns, which surprised me. Someone had been through here.

hiking cleopatra wash lake mead nevada

Cleopatra Wash

hiking cleopatra wash lake mead nevada

hiking cleopatra wash lake mead nevada

The lower part of Cleopatra Wash is fantastic. The canyon opens up and becomes very hikeable. I really enjoyed these next few miles up this spectacular canyon.

hiking cleopatra wash lake mead nevada

hiking cleopatra wash lake mead nevada

hiking cleopatra wash lake mead nevada

Around the middle section of Cleopatra Wash, I began to notice how green it was. And the additional animal tracks/scat. I began to think there’s a chance there is water in this canyon, despite not seeing any in my research. I did see my first water here, and it was guarded by a cloud of bees. Perhaps a few gallons in a small pool.

hiking cleopatra wash lake mead nevada

hiking cleopatra wash lake mead nevada

Climbing up out of the middle section into the upper, the traces of water continue. An occasional puddle or pool, the subject of high competition amongst the local wildlife population.

hiking cleopatra wash lake mead nevada

Upper Cleopatra Wash

hiking cleopatra wash lake mead nevada

hiking cleopatra wash

Water in Cleopatra Wash

There were many more small pour offs to climb up and over, but really no big deal. I encountered multiple puddles of water in the canyon, some small and some as large as maybe 10 gallons. The water was typically in gravel, and therefore could be dug deeper if needed. It was clear animals did this in some spots. Tracks and scat could be found that every water source here, but that is to be expected. I passed on all of the water sources since I had just topped off my supply.

lake mead national rec area sunset

Prefect time to get a few more miles in

I exited the canyon at around 4 Pm. Now I was in a much larger valley and there was a 4×4 road running through it. With under an hour of daylight left now, I made the decision to skip Redstone Peak and follow the road for 2 miles instead. The main reason for this was that I am about a day behind schedule now, and I don’t want to run out of food. Plus, with Sentinel peak and Hamblin peak ahead, I wouldn’t be sacrificing much.

black range nevada sunset

Sunset over the Black Range

Along the road, I left the Jimbilnan Wilderness and entered the Pinto Valley Wilderness. I walked until the sunset and grabbed the first possible campsite I could find. A hundred feet off the road, on top of a small little ridge, I found a fairly flat spot with some small rocks that were easy to move out of the way and provide a place to Cowboy camp. Not the best spot, but really, not bad either.

Today was a tough day, but I was rewarded for my hard work, that’s for sure. The Jimbilnan Wilderness is an incredible place, and I will always remember my time hiking it.

Day 8 – November 10th

15.81 Miles
No animals seen

backcountry camping in the pinto valley wilderness nevada

Cowboy camp in the Pinto Valley Wilderness

The quilt I am using, the hammock gear burrow 40, was designed with horizontal baffles that hold in the insulation as opposed to vertical baffling. And before going to bed each night I must shake the bag out in such a way that the insulation moves towards the “top” of the bag, as opposed to underneath my body. I didn’t do a great job of that before going to bed last night, and as a result, I was a bit cold by the time the sun came up. I really don’t like the design of this particular quilt, and have thought about either replacing it or somehow having it sewed in a way where the insulation doesn’t move anymore.

backpacking the pinto valley wilderness, lake mead, nevada

backpacking the pinto valley wilderness, lake mead, nevada

A huge plate of faulted sedimentary rock

Started hiking by 630. It was nice to begin the day with a walk along a 4×4 road Instead of off trail. This was short lived though, and after 30 minutes or so it was time to head off trail.

backpacking the pinto valley wilderness, lake mead, nevada

Off-trail now in the washes

backpacking the pinto valley wilderness, lake mead, nevada

Narrow, at times. Bad place for thorn bushes…

The morning began with a series of washes, taking me up and over a small pass around a lone high point, and down some washes the other side. For the first time, I encountered some thorn bushes in the washes that were problematic to move around. Additionally, it’s easy to lose your direction in the washes, especially when they Me and her back and forth and different directions. Needless to say, I took a different approach and just went up and over each ridge and wash, which thankfully was possible due to the fact that the banks of the washes weren’t too high or steep.

backpacking the pinto valley wilderness, lake mead, nevada

Time to drop down into this valley, then cut right up that valley towards The Sentinel

backpacking the pinto valley wilderness, lake mead, nevada

backpacking the pinto valley wilderness, lake mead, nevada

Next, I entered a valley flanked by pyramid peak and booths pinnacle, which was an easy walk. This would lead me to the base of Sentinel Peak, which was out of sight nearly the entire time.

backpacking the pinto valley wilderness, lake mead, nevada

Climbing out of the wash to ridges leading to Sentinel

backpacking the pinto valley wilderness, lake mead, nevada

A ridgeline that could be followed to the Sentinel

view of the sentinel peak in lake mead nevada

The Sentinel, aka Rainbow Peak

There really wasn’t all that much elevation gain to reach the ridges leading to Sentinel Peak. Or rather, “the Sentinel” as it’s marked on the map. Nobody that climbs this peak comes from the direction I’m coming from though, and so I was on my own with a route. I followed a series of Game Trails along ridge lines leading towards Sentinel. At times, the game trails traversed some pretty steep slopes.

hiking the pinto valley wilderness of lake mead to sentinel peak

The only easy section of walking along the ridgeline

hiking the pinto valley wilderness of lake mead to sentinel peak

View west to the Sentinel, and Pinto Valley

hiking the pinto valley wilderness of lake mead to sentinel peak

The ridge lines leading to Sentinel where quite stunning. The first bit was steep, traversing around one slope in the shadows for a while before popping back out to a proper ridgeline again. Sentinel itself is stunning, and you can’t ignore it’s presence. You don’t have to know a lot about geology to recognize that something interesting has happened here, causing the landform you see before you. I had only done basic research on this peak and really, was just winging it here, connecting where I was this morning to the saddle below the Sentinel. So far, it’s working.

hiking the pinto valley wilderness of lake mead to sentinel peak

hiking the pinto valley wilderness of lake mead to sentinel peak

Saddle below the Sentinel

hiking the pinto valley wilderness of lake mead to sentinel peak

As I made it to the final ridge line that takes you to the summit of Sentinel, I could now see the sheer cliff face that was hidden from view earlier. Even the more gently sloping side of Sentinel appeared nearly vertical. Wow, just wow! You can see the various bands and layers of rock that make up the faulted/tilted landmass that is The Sentinel. Truly incredible.

hiking the pinto valley wilderness of lake mead to sentinel peak

View northeast to Redstone Area

hiking the pinto valley wilderness of lake mead to sentinel peak

Looking northeast from the saddle below The Sentinel, the Redstone area immediately catches the eye… the outcrop of red rocks glowing amongst the dullness of the rest of Pinto Valley. Here too, one can’t help but think of the geological explanation for this scene. Faultlines and volcanic activity are the main forces that shaped this land.

This area is referred to as the Hamblin-Cleopatra paleovolcano. Basically, a volcano was torn in half by a fault line, and the two halves are moving farther apart from each other. So that’s pretty interesting!

hiking the pinto valley wilderness of lake mead to sentinel peak

Approaching the knife edge

hiking the pinto valley wilderness of lake mead to sentinel peak

Knife edge section to the Sentinel summit

I began working my way along the ridge line approach. It wasn’t long before I reached a section with quite a bit of exposure, that required sliding on your butt two gain as much friction as possible, in order not to tumble off a several hundred-foot cliff. I paused for a moment here and began to think about a multitude of things. I’m alone with no partner, no climbing gear, little grip left on my shoes. I am behind schedule by about a day and a half just on this section alone, which was only supposed to be 40 miles! That means my food supply will be running low Soon. I know it would take a lot of extra time to reach the summit, time I just don’t have. Adding all these things up, it was a fairly easy decision to just head down and enjoy the awesome views that came with the ridge lines near Sentinel, and save this peak for another time.

hiking the pinto valley wilderness of lake mead to sentinel peak

hiking the pinto valley wilderness of lake mead to sentinel peak

I’ve said it many times, but my philosophy as of late when it comes to these long distance hiking routes is to plan big, but accept the fact that you won’t do everything you set out to do. The alternative is to plan a really easy route, one where everything is a pretty much safe and guaranteed passage without any surprises. I like the idea of planning big, because I know I will accomplish at least a good portion of what I set out to do. If I plan an easy route, it’s very unlikely that I will deviate from this route to bag an extra peak along the way or go for any additional challenges. In the end I believe this leads to a much greater adventure, one worth far greater rewards.

hiking pinto valley wilderness to sentinel summit

Wash paralleling a big drop off

hiking pinto valley wilderness to sentinel summit

hiking pinto valley wilderness to sentinel summit

It was an enjoyable ridge walk leading down from Sentinel. Then, I dropped down into a wash that seemed like it didn’t belong amongst these ridges and peaks, but instead on the valley floor. It wasn’t long before I encountered several pour offs, seemingly one every hundred yards or so.

hiking red rocks in canyon at lake mead national rec area

Red rocks now. Pretty cool!

hiking red rocks in canyon at lake mead national rec area

Many obstacles here to climb

hiking red rocks in canyon at lake mead national rec area

hiking red rocks in canyon at lake mead national rec area

There was a route around this one, thankfully

As I dropped in elevation, the color of the rocks changed from a lighter color to a red sandstone. This descent route was one that I had seen talked about online from the handful of people that have climbed it, and several people mentioned a challenging choke point near the bottom. However, I did not find the choke point to be all that difficult.

hiking pinto valley wilderness lake mead nevada

Looking up the canyon I just came down

hiking pinto valley wilderness lake mead nevada

Entering Pinto Valley, time to hike the base of The Sentinel and search for Sandstone Spring

Out of Canyon now, I entered Pinto Valley. I had not planned to come this way, it was only since bailing from Sentinel Peak that I made this decision. I suppose bailing came with a major advantage in that I was now going to walk by sandstone spring. I could only find one reference to it online, which said it had a couple gallons of water in 2013, but also a lot of animal scat.

animal feces along the edges of a desert spring in nevada

Sandstone Spring. More like Feces Spring. Yuk

animal feces along the edges of a desert spring in nevada

And yet, it’s water…

I was surprised to see a pipe and a trough near this spring, but no water in the trough. At the source though, there was indeed several gallons of water. However, this spring was extremely fouled with animal feces and the entire area was littered with more bones and skeletons that I could count. The smell was horrendous. There were many bees here too.

My first plan was to dig a small hole in the sand near the spring to see if I could get water to pool up through this hole. Nothing though, just more sand. I need the water though, because if I don’t collect here, I have to go many miles out of my way to Lake Mead and draw water there. So what I did was, take a small piece of women’s pantyhose to put over my wide mouth gatorade bottle and use that as a pre filter. There were a ton of squiggly little bugs swimming around, they don’t need to clog my sawyer filter any more than it already is. The pantyhose are extremely slow to filter through, unless you make an effort to spread out the material, making for larger holes for water to deep through. This worked quite well.

The water had a moderate green tint to it, which meant I would probably have to back flush a couple of times. Filtering was slow though, due to my Sawyer filter being old and compromised, So I filtered two liters and then collected three more to filter later at camp.

hiking pinto valley, lake mead national recreation area nevada

View west into Pinto Valley

hiking pinto valley, lake mead national recreation area nevada

View north across Pinto Valley

hiking pinto valley, lake mead national recreation area nevada

View east in Pinto Valley

hiking pinto valley, lake mead national recreation area nevada

Small spring in the middle of the wash

I had less than two hours of daylight to work with now and feeling like I hadn’t made all that much progress today. Fortunately, I was down in Pinto Valley now and could just walk the main wash running through the valley. Indeed, this made for fast progress. I was surprised to see another small spring (not on the map) in the middle of Pinto Wash, about a mile west of Sandstone Spring. The water actually looked better than Sandstone Spring, but I have a feeling this one is much less reliable.

hiking pinto valley, lake mead national recreation area nevada

The Sentinel

hiking pinto valley, lake mead national recreation area nevada

The Sentinel at sunset

Behind me, Sentinel peak and the outcrops of red rock where illuminated by the setting sun. I couldn’t help but turn around and look at this majestic landscape over and over.

mojave sonoran trail thru hike cowboy camping in pinto valley nevada

Cowboy camping in Pinto Valley

As daylight dwindled, My pace quickened. I wanted to cover as many miles as I could, and finish most of this valley today. I could have easily camped anywhere in the wash, but then the wash narrowed and became rocker. This forced me up and out of the wash and onto the surrounding ridge lines. With only a few minutes of daylight left, I found myself on a slanted slope with a lot of a medium-sized rocks. Not good. I chose to keep heading uphill, ultimately climbing the tallest one around. I was drenched in sweat by the time I reached the top, but I found a spot that would work for me. It was clear that it had been used by big horn sheep, as it was littered with pellets. I cleared out the scat and leveled the ground enough to make room for my tyvek ground sheet and air mattress. Cowboy camping again.

In the darkness, I rigged up my trekking pole against my backpack so that I could hang my gravity feed water treatment system and let this work While I did other stuff. It’s slow, put not that much slower than squeezing by hand. I really feel like the gravity feed systems are worth their weight in gold sometimes. In my case, I only needed to add a two-foot length of string to my platypus bag in order to achieve a gravity feed system. Basically, it weighs nothing extra.

Day 9 – November 11th

13.9 Miles (Half Day)
No animals

It was a bit windy last night, and the fine poof dirt that surrounded my campsite occasionally blew all over me. There was also the occasional mosquito. Cowboy camping is convenient, but sometimes it has its drawbacks.

I’ve been on a pretty consistent schedule now of waking up at 5:45 and hiking by 6:30. I descended the hill that I was on last night and back down into the wash.

hiking the washes of pinot valley lake mead nevada

hiking the washes of pinot valley lake mead nevada

hiking the washes of pinot valley lake mead nevada

The washes in this area are a good hike. They are colorful and feature interesting geology. I could have summited Hamblin mountain, as I did on my last visit four years ago, but since the main view over Pinto Valley to the east would be obscured by the rising Sun, I decided it wasn’t worth it. It’s an excellent view over Pinto Valley, but best in the afternoon with the sun behind your back. A photo to the east in the morning here wouldn’t even be worth snapping.

hiking the washes of pinot valley lake mead nevada

Bad photos weren’t my reason for not climbing Hamblin though. Mainly, I am behind schedule and don’t need to take any unnecessary side trips. I decided it would be best to just take the quickest route to Callville bay. This would ensure I get there at a decent time, enough time to get a hot meal from the restaurant, buy a few things from the store, utilize 4G service, and walk out the same day. However, the views from Hamblin Mountain are truly spectacular, and I highly recommend climbing it if you have the time!

 

hiking the washes of pinot valley lake mead nevada

My route this morning took me by places I had walked four years ago on my previous Pinto Valley Wilderness hike. This area is extremely colorful and features interesting geology. It looks even better when one has the time to explore areas off the main route. Still, it was a pretty nice walk.

hiking the washes of pinto valley lake mead nevada

Muddy Mountains and the Bowl of Fire in the distance

bowl of fire view lake mead nevada

View north to Bowl of Fire, Muddy Mountains

To be honest, I was feeling a little bit down this morning. I’ve always said it’s better to go alone than not at all, but sometimes being alone gets to me. For all the wonderful things I’ve experienced out here, it’s just unfathomable that I don’t have anyone to share it with sometimes. Such is life, and you have all the time in the world to think about it out here.

hiking pinto valley lake mead nevada

Valley north of Hamblin Mountain

I left the main wash that heads towards North Shore Road and struck a path West. There was a pretty good game Trail here, and I was surprised to see a couple of cairns. There really wasn’t much here, and with all the other interesting places nearby, it just seemed odd to me. Nevertheless, I followed the path and it took me to a large Valley west of Basalt Peak.

hiking the washes of pinot valley lake mead nevada

Lots of colorful washes to walk

hiking the washes of pinot valley lake mead nevada

hiking the washes of pinot valley lake mead nevada

Shade!

hiking the washes of pinot valley lake mead nevada

Balancing rock

The hike through this Valley was rather unremarkable, until I made it to the lower reaches of the valley. Here, the vibrant colors returned. The wash also became a little deeper and offered some shade.

hiking callville wash lake mead nevada

Callville Wash

hiking callville wash lake mead nevada

I followed this wash until I reached Callville wash. This one was rather large, basically the main wash speeding to Callville bay. It was easy walking here.

hiking at callville bay lake mead nevada

A sea of old tires to cross

hiking at callville bay lake mead nevada

Walking on these beats the tall grass/weeds

hiking at callville bay lake mead nevada

For Sale: fixer upper boat, just needs motor

I went around to turn in the wash and in the distance I could see Callville bay marina. As I got closer, I realize the wash was filled with a lot more vegetation, and it became apparent that it wouldn’t be fun to walk through. Then there were the tires. A large open area separating the wash I was walking from the Hills leading from the water level up to the road were littered with hundreds, if not thousands of Massive Tires. These tires would have been used for construction equipment, the kind that are as tall as I am. So, instead of walking through the vegetation, I hopped my way across a sea of tires and avoided the brush. Never thought I would do that today, or ever.

view of callville bay marina, november 2021

Callville Bay Marina

I walked into the store / restaurant, and got a cold drink out of the cooler. I waited a few minutes for the restaurant to open for lunch, and ordered a double bacon cheeseburger with fries. In retrospect, I should have made it a triple. But it was a hot meal, and really satisfied my craving.

After lunch, I bought a couple of snack items from the store to get me by until I reach Boulder City, my next stop. I had stopped here at the store a few weeks earlier when I drove along the route to scout the resupply options. I knew there was very little here in terms of resupply, so I carried extra food during the last section, the food that I wouldn’t be able to obtain here at the store… things like tortillas, cheese and pepperoni, as well as breakfast items like bagels, protein bars and dried fruit.

Callville Bay

There is a shaded area to sit outside well I ate lunch and did my mini resupply. Here, I met a couple of guys who worked at Callville bay, and hung out costing with them for a couple of hours. Sure, this set me back in time, but it was nice to have some human interaction. This really lifted my spirits and made pressing on quite a bit easier late this afternoon when it became time to leave.

Campsite outside of Callville Bay

It was 4 pm when I left Callville Bay Marina to start Section 3, a 40ish mile walk to Boulder City. It was a short road walk before heading up a random Hill on a Westward trajectory. Once I crested the hill, I could see some colorful ridges and washes, as well as Lake Mead. With daylight fading, I drop down off the Upper Ridge lines to get out of the wind and found camp. I decided to set up my tent tonight, since I had the daylight to do so, as well as the space. No bugs for me tonight! After several nights of cowboy camping, having a tent felt like a real luxury tonight. In the distance, the city lights of Boulder City glimmer in the distance.

Like what you see?

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Thru Hike 2021 – Section 1: Valley of Fire to Echo Bay

valley of fire seven wonders loop hike views

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Thru Hike 2021 – Section 1: Valley of Fire to Echo Bay

panorama view of valley of fire state park nevada

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Section 1 Map

mojave sonoran trail thru hike map of section 1

Mojave Sonoran Trail Thru-Hike Section 1 – Valley of Fire to Echo Bay, 66 Miles

The above map only represents represents section 1 of 9 on the MST. For a more detailed map and general route info, see the Mojave-Sonoran Trail Guide page.

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Thru Hike Video

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Section 1 Journal

Day 0 – November 2nd: Getting to the Northern Terminus

I’m currently doing the van life thing, living in my van in between hikes. My buddy just moved to Phoenix and has a garage where I was able to store my van for the duration of my hike. I did all of my food shopping in Phoenix, packed my gear and took a one way flight to Vegas. I took an uber from the airport to a hotel on the far northeast side of town near the Nellis Air Force Base. This would be the shortest drive for me tomorrow morning to my start point.

Day 1 – November 3rd: North Muddy Mountains, Weiser Ridge, Valley of Fire

18.15 Miles
Animals Seen: 9 big horn sheep

After a long sleepless night, it was time to rise and shine at 6:30am. By 7:15 my Uber ride was there to pick me up from my hotel. The drive took about 45 minutes, and by 8 am I was at the Hidden Valley exit on I-15 just West of Moapa Valley. My uber driver didn’t say a word about dropping me off at some random desolate exit with nothing there. “See you later”, he said.

This random spot along I-15 is where I’ll start my Mojave-Sonoran Trail thru hike

My starting point is pretty arbitrary and meaningless. It only serves convince. As much as I wanted to just walk out of some small town to start my hike, this was the easiest thing to do.

Now it’s time to take my first steps on the Mojave-Sonoran Trail(MST). It’s an overwhelming feeling, a barrage of emotions. Mostly, it’s the feeling of calm before the storm; the intense physical exertion ahead weighs heavy on my mind. Even with two previous such journeys under my belt, I still wonder how such a feat is possible… especially when you are standing at the starting line. 675 miles of off-trail hiking is no joke. My pre-hike jitters are justified, but it’s go time.

First few miles on this easy road

The first three or four miles are on an easy dirt road leading up into the North Muddy Mountains. Soon enough, some elevation is gained, canyon walls grow taller and the expansive desert views improve. Also, the sound of the interstate dwindles. I find myself at a locked gate that says no trespassing. Beyond the gate is a large antenna and satellite dish, with a generator running. However, nobody around, so I push on past the gate and on my way. A series of small dirt roads leads me around a Hillside, where they fade into game trails.

Views from the first pass

mojave sonoran trail thru hike views north muddy mountains

Glen Peak and the North Muddy Mountains

Looking down on Weiser Valley and and Weiser Ridge, where I am headed next

Now, the views are quite good. Great mountain scenery with desert valleys below. Colorful rocks, caves on the mountainside, and distant views.

colorful wash hiking in nevada

Descending the wash

colorful wash hiking in nevada

I drop down into a wash, and start downhill. The mountains behind me are an impressive backdrop, and I look back frequently. Towards the bottom, I Fell down a couple of times. Catching myself on a rock, I received a small cut. Enough blood to drip, so I took my first break. I used to wear a pair of gloves when doing hikes where I expected bushwhacking, but fell out of the habit of it in recent years. Lately I have rediscovered their merits, and brought a pair with me this trip. I’m using the Fish Monkey Fingerless fishing gloves; soft flexible leather on the palm and a thin, breathable neoprene type material on the other side. Time to put these on.

hiking weiser valley nevada

North Muddy Mountains from Weiser Valley

hiking weiser valley nevada

Weiser Ridge from Weiser Valley

Out of the wash, I cross Weiser valley. Most of the walk here is on a dirt road. Cool, a little break from the off-trail stuff, even if only for a moment.

colorful hills in nevada desert while hiking

Such a colorful landscape

hiking up to weiser ridge nevada

The route up to Weiser Ridge

colorful hills in nevada desert while hiking

Intense colors

Soon, it’s time to find a way up to the top of Weiser Ridge. It looks tall and steep from the bottom, but my route on the map doesn’t look too bad. Time to climb. Mining claims scatter the wash, but their age is unknown. Over my first ridge, a heard of about eight big horn sheep are seen running away. Day one and already a good animal sighting!

hikers view over moapa valley nevada

View north across Moapa Valley to Mormon Mountains

hikers view of weiser valley from weiser ridge nevada

Weiser Valley from Weiser Ridge. Not bad for day 1 views!

Before long I am on the final ascent to the crest of Weiser Ridge, and the views really begin to wow me. At the top, excellent vantage point of Weiser valley and now, valley of fire state park. The red rocks really stand out. I begin my walk south on the ridgeline, and wow!! Hard to believe views of this magnitude can be had on day one. Better than the CDT and BRT. Time for a snack and soak this all in.

big views from weiser ridge

moapa valley view from weiser ridge

What a view!

The view north from Weiser ridge provides a sweeping view over Moapa Valley and to several distant mountain ranges. Namely, the Mormon Mountains directly north.

mojave sonoran trail hiking north muddy mountains

Weiser Ridge is a fairly easy walk with excellent views

wesier ridge views

View east from Weiser Ridge

mojave sonoran trail hiking views wesier ridge

View south over Weiser Valley and the Muddy Mountains

The ridge line itself is fairly easy to walk. The rocks are extremely sharp, which makes for great shoe grip but horrible for longevity of the tread. My shoes were getting pretty torn up already. The west side of the ridge is mostly sheer cliffs and an occasional knife edge to walk. Truly excellent.

hikin weiser ridge in nevada

View east from Weiser Ridge. Looking for a way down

wesier ridge cave nevada

Small cave

When it was time to make my way down off the ridge and into the valley to the east, I found myself at a 40ft pour off. At first I thought it was not possible to climb. But then, I began to see a route down. However, it was extremely awkward to begin down climbing. I made it down the first ledge before turning back, deciding out was too dicey to risk it.

View up to the ridge as I try and work down one of the side canyons

Looking back north along Weiser Ridge

South along Weiser Ridge

Now I had to climb back uphill again and follow the ridge itself until I found another Canyon leading downhill. Unfortunately the next Canyon also featured a pour off, this one even less manageable than the last. A third canyon was even worse, a dry waterfall of perhaps 150-200ft. Not going to happen. Back up to the ridge, and keep walking south.

wesier ridge view valley of fire

View southwest. Next I’ll be hiking south though long outcrop of red rocks

hikers view up to weiser ridge nevada

Looking back up at Weiser Ridge

Finally, I found a way down to a lower ridge line by descending the hillside instead of a canyon. From below, the cliff band running across the mountain side was obvious, and quite impressive. By now, I was losing daylight, and had less than 2 hours before sun down.

nevada geology upheaval

I believe this is called “upheaval” in geological terms

nevada geology

You can imagine the forces at that caused these rocks to be tilted vertically

pink banding in rocks of canyon in nevada

Cool pink banding

The descent of the wash down to the valley floor was an interesting one. The geology here was tough to ignore, with large parallel dikes running vertically, flanking both sides of the wash.

Looking down the canyon to the beautiful red rocks of “tomorrow”

hiking a steep and narrow canyon in nevada

Rugged canyon

Interesting colors here along the walls of this canyon

Several pour offs to climb now, slow but manageable. The map doesn’t indicate anything too serious ahead, but these canyon walls are steep and narrow. Pretty nice walk though here.

Looking back up at Weiser Ridge. I came down that

Hike across Anderson Wash through narrow strip of Valley of Fire State Park land. BLM land at the base of the red rocks

sunset at red rocks along nevada thru hike

Time to look for camp

The red rock became predominant near the bottom of the wash and the valley floor. Daylight was fading fast now, and I made my way across the valley as fast as possible. The valley is part of Valley of Fire State Park, where there is no backcountry camping allowed. . I just need to cross the valley to enter BLM land, where anything is fair game.

I found my campsite just a half mile from my first water cache. A Sandy spot suitable for cowboy camping. With 18 miles on the day, I was ready to stop. Still, I felt pretty good for day 1, mainly just hungry. I drank the rest of my Gatorade with dinner, leaving myself a half liter for tomorrow morning. Stars were shining bright by 6:30pm.

Day 2 – November 4th: Valley of Fire State Park

19.8 Miles
Animals Seen: 3 big horn sheep

cowboy camping mojave sonoran trail thru hike

Camped under the stars last night

thru hike cowboy cmaping

Nice spot to wake up to

Beautiful night cowboy camping under the stars. Plenty of sleep, woke up feeling pretty good. 45 degrees this morning.

At the top of a small “pass” in the middle of this narrow canyon, overlooking my campsite from last night

Nice views in the canyon

Skipped breakfast and started hiking to the water cache, another half mile, over a small pass in a narrow canyon. Thankfully, my gallon jug of water was right where I left it two weeks ago. Here, I ate breakfast and distributed the water among my 1 liter smart water bottles.

hiking red rocks nevada

Towering red rock formations

What a cool landscape to hike

hiking sand and red rocks nevada

Colorful sand and red rock landscapes

From here, it’s another 5-6 miles to the Valley of Fire state park boundary. Most of this was through deep sand, apparently a popular spot for the ORV crowd. There were tire tracks everywhere, and occasional garbage strewn across the sand. Despite these eyesores, this area was really cool. I didn’t see any 4 wheelers either, so that was nice.

red rock arches in nevada

One of many small arches

petroglyphs on red rocks in nevada

Petroglyphs

colorful outcrops of red rocks in nevada valley

View down the “valley” I hiked

Red rocks, arches, small caves and alcoves, and even petroglyphs. Hiking here felt more like Utah than Nevada.

Nearing the top of the little pass

mst thru hike north fork overton wash

North Fork Overton Wash

After cresting the pass at the southern end of the canyon, I saw 3 big horn sheep. These guys are all over here. Nearing the end of the BLM land, the bulk of valley of fire state park was visible on the horizon.

hiker takes break in arch cave nevada

Break time in this arch/cave formation

hiker looking out over nevada desert landscape

View south form my break spot. I’ll be hiking this next

I told myself I wouldn’t stop to empty all the sand out of my shoes until I reached the state park, and as soon as I found a shaded spot (under a cool arch /cave), I took a break. Always a satisfying feeling, to be sand-free again.

hiking off-trail in valley of fire red rocks nevada

Hiking this crazy red rock landscape

colorful desert scenery nevada

Impressive.

In distance I could see cars glimmering in the sun. This is the parking lot for the Fire Wave and white domes, some of the most popular attractions in the park. This made for an easy landmark to shoot for. It was a mix of cross county hiking and a couple of dirt roads, and quite scenic.

cool rock formations valley of fire state park

cool rock formations valley of fire state park

Hiking the trail to Fire Wave

Once at the fire wave trailhead, I began the 7 wonders loop, which hits fire wave and apparently, 6 other wonders. The trail was loaded with amazing scenery, but I don’t know how official the wonder count is. It sure seemed like more than 7.

mojave sonoran trail thru hiker at fire wave

Wow!

mojave sonoran trail thru hiker at fire wave

Tons of crazy colorful rock formations near Fire Wave

mojave sonoran trail thru hiker at fire wave

Fire Wave

Fire wave wasn’t as packed as my first visit a few years ago. No problem there. This area is very photogenic, and not just fire wave. If one had the time, he could easily spend all day on little side trips exploring this area.

mojave sonoran trail thru hiker in kaolin wash

Entering Kaolin Wash

mojave sonoran trail thru hiker in kaolin wash

mojave sonoran trail thru hiker in kaolin wash

Hiking the colorful Kaolin Wash

The “trail” follows a wash leaving fire wave, and this too was cool… A slot canyon of sorts, although not very deep. It makes up for that with outstanding colors to please the eyes. I found a shaded spot and took lunch. I really wasn’t too hungry, which is pretty typical for me in the beginning of a long hike, or any multi day backpacking trip actually.

mojave sonoran trail thru route in kaolin wash

mojave sonoran trail thru route in kaolin wash

After forcing myself to eat, I continued on the 7 wonders trail up Kaolin Wash. More excellent scenery. In fact, so excellent that my pace was really slowing down, stopping around every turn to capture the landscape from a new angle. So colorful, so beautiful. Occasional sections of short slot canyons really made this hike great.

valley of fire seven wonders loop hike views

Leaving Kaolin Wash for this canyon

valley of fire seven wonders loop hike views

Short slot section

valley of fire seven wonders loop hike views

What a wicked landscape

The trail climbs out of Kaolin Wash and follows a canyon north. Kaolin Wash was awesome, but it was a small scale landscape. Here in this canyon, the views are much bigger.

valley of fire seven wonders loop hike views

A geological wonderland

valley of fire seven wonders loop hike views

Stunning landscapes are everywhere in Valley of Fire State Park

valley of fire seven wonders loop hike views

Red to white

The trail leads back to the fire wave parking lot, where I began the loop. Not the most direct route for a thru hike, but it would be a shame to walk by the highlights of this amazing place for the sake of making good time. And this was some spectacular scenery. Few places I’ve been compare with this kind of color.

panorama view of valley of fire state park nevada

Valley of Fire State Park

valley of fire state park landscape view

valley of fire hike views

Hiking near White Domes

Back at the fire wave parking lot, I easily yogi’d some extra water from the first person I asked. Then, I continued hiking towards the white domes parking lot. The ridge route in between fire wave and white domes provides an excellent, sweeping view of the bulk of the park.

mojava sonoran trail thru hiker in kaolin wash

Another slot canyon section of Kaolin Wash

mojava sonoran trail thru hiker in kaolin wash

Looking back at the slot canyon section

mojava sonoran trail thru hiker in kaolin wash

Those colors are unreal

It’s a short hike on the white domes trail to an old movie set, for the 1965 film “The Professionals”. Then the trail intersects Kaolin wash again, which leads to the Prospect Trail. This isn’t a trail at all, it’s a route that’s occasionally cairned. More cool slot canyons, more colorful and jagged rocks. It’s very rugged for what a state park is claiming is a trail. Good views.

mojave sonoran trail thru hiker on the prospect trail vof nevada

Views from the Prospect Trail

mojave sonoran trail thru hiker on the prospect trail vof nevada

Mostly good walking in the wash

mojave sonoran trail thru hiker on the prospect trail vof nevada

Sometimes the wash narrows and there’s climbing obstacles

The Prospect Trail ultimately leaves Kaolin Wash for another unnamed wash that continues due south. It’s late afternoon now, and very clear that I won’t be able to hike out of the park boundary today like I had planned. There is no backcountry camping allowed in the state park (lame), so I began to think about alternate plans. At the end of the prospect trail, there is a dirt road that leads to a paved road, which leads to a drive in campground. Looks like a 3 mile or so detour, but what other options do I have, other than illegally stealth camping? The bonus of this plan is the running water at the campground. Water… Sold.

mojave sonoran trail thru hiker on the prospect trail vof nevada

Cool rock formations along the wash

mojave sonoran trail thru hiker on the prospect trail vof nevada

Hiking the Prospect Trail

mojave sonoran trail thru hiker on the prospect trail vof nevada

Leaving the wash, there is now a trail. This is one of the few trails along the entire MST route that is marked on a map!

Most of the prospect trail follows a fairly easy wash, despite occasional deep sand. There were a couple of climbing obstacles, especially if you wander off course. The hike was a good one, but I was getting tired now. I hadn’t eaten anywhere near the calories I’ve been expending, and had barely peed all day. I needed to keep pushing on though, and make it to the campground before dark.

valley of fire sunset nevada

Sunset over Valley of Fire

small arch in valley of fire at sunset

After cresting a hill, I got my first view of the actual Valley of Fire, for which the park was named. I could see the campground in the distance, and with 45 minutes to dark, it was going to be close. Great desert views, enhanced by the colors of the setting sun. I left the road and took a wash that ran directly to the campground, and made my final push. I was really hitting the wall now.

I walked into the campground with the last bit of light fading fast. It was pretty full, but a couple of open spots. I used my last reserves of energy to set up my tent by headlamp, feeling weak and a little light headed. It was nice to have ruining water and be able to do a quick rinse and wash up. I tried eating, but couldn’t stomach much. It’s a weird feeling to be hungry, and not be able to eat. Nothing tastes good, and my stomach just doesn’t want anything in it.

Tonight was a perfect example of why I despise drive in campgrounds… Barking dogs, whining children, and some inconsiderate people playing some crappy music loudly, for hours. Thankfully, I bring ear plugs, for just this occasion.

I felt surprisingly good at the end of day 1, but day 2 has taken its toll. I’m feeling achy and cold, but it feels great to be able to lay down for the night. On my summer hikes, I might hike 14 hours, utilizing every bit of sunlight. But with shorter days this time of year, daily mileage is shorter, and nights are longer. This means more time to rest. And right now, I’m not complaining.

Day 3 – November 5th: Valley of Fire, Rogers Spring, Muddy Mountains

17.49 Miles
Animals Seen: Jack Rabbit

I didn’t sleep that great last night. Not because of noise, as I had my earplugs in all night. But this morning, a screaming toddler had me packing up at fast as I could. I went over my maps for a while trying to figure out my next move. The mileage I’ve hiked to get to this point was much greater than my estimates. I could backtrack to the prospect Trail and continue on my route as planned, but instead I chose a different route. The plan Now is to walk the base of the muddy mountains through valley of fire, which would all be off trail. Cool.

hiking valley of fire state park

Hiking in-between Arch Rock Campground and Atlatl Rock Campground

hiking valley of fire state park

Awesome scenery in between two popular campgrounds

I started today’s hike by going up and over the red rocks separating the Arch Rock campground from the Atlatl Rock Campground. This was a cool shortcut, scenic and direct. But after that, it was cross country hiking for much of the day. People in the campground gave me some strange looks as I walked through with a full backpack and set out into the open desert. With no backcountry camping allowed here, it’s just day hikers, and I stick out like a sore thumb with my full pack.

peaks of the muddy mountains sticking up over wash

Hiking a wash Valley of Fire

cholla cactus in front of the muddy mountains nevada

Muddy Mountains

The muddy mountains provided a Scenic and somewhat imposing backdrop as I wandered my way through a series of washes. At first I was quite happy with my decision to walk the base of the muddies, but that was for the first bit where I was just following a wash in the direction I wanted to go.

hikers view of the muddy mountains while walking across valley of fire nevada

The Muddy Mountains

hikers view of the muddy mountains while walking across valley of fire nevada

Up and down through all these washes…

Eventually, in order to continue on my trajectory, I had to leave the wash and go over a series of ridges that separate the washes. This became old and tedious rather fast. On top of all the PUDs (pointless ups and downs), the weather has been heating up. Today will be in the mid to upper 80s, and 90 tomorrow. At this time of year I was hoping for the 70s. It’s hard to complain though, it snowed back home in Michigan. Anything but snow. I’m a desert rat and won’t shy away from that.

hikers view walking the valley of fire nevada

Hiking through Valley of Fire

hikers view walking the valley of fire nevada

Valley of Fire views

hikers view of the muddy mountains while walking the valley of fire nevada

Muddy Mountains

Some of these washes had a lot of what I believe to be gypsum deposits. As an amateur rockhound, I enjoy seeing anything out of the ordinary. I also saw a couple of larger pieces of semi-petrified wood. It was still brittle in spots, not quite as well formed as other specimens. Of course, there is no collecting allowed in the state park, but I didn’t want any of this stuff anyways. I’ve seen better!

hiking valley of fire wash

Entering Valley of Fire Wash

I was feeling pretty tired this morning, but after I began waking again, felt fine. However, I drank 1.75 liters this morning before leaving camp and still haven’t had to pee. That means I’m dehydrated more than I think. I made an effort to drink more water, while also trying to stretch out my supply so I don’t run out before I reach my next water source.

hiking valley of fire state park

Valley of Fire Wash. I would have followed it further, if it didn’t take me out of the way

hiking valley of fire state park

View of Valley of Fire Wash

hiking valley of fire state park

Valley of Fire Wash

Most of the washes I hiked today were pretty small scale. However, there was one that was pretty impressive… Valley of Fire Wash. This is the main wash running through Valley of Fire.  Deep cut red rock, very alluring. I walked above it though as I needed to go over a pass. There were many small arches in this area, and a plethora of small caves and alcoves. A very interesting landscape, much like the bulk of yesterday.

red and orange landscape of valley of fire nevada

View across Valley of Fire

hiker view walking muddy mountains nevada

Hiking around the Muddy Mountains

hiking through valley of fire

After cresting a small pass, the landscape opened up and I was only a mile and a half from my water source, Blue Point spring. I’ve walked out of the state park boundary now and entered the lake mead national recreation area. Now there was a series of game trails all leading to the same spot… The place I am going. Along the way I saw lots of horse and burro scat. Over another small hill, I could see a couple of palm trees. There’s my spring.

Once at the spring I was surprised to see how much water was flowing. I made my way to the source, where there was a USGS monitoring station and a small dam holding back half a bath tubs worth of water. The water temperature was in the eighties, not cold by any means. Good for bathing, less enticing for drinking at that temperature. But hey, beggars can’t be choosers. I began filtering water for the first time since I began this hike. It was now that I realized how slow my sawyer filter was filtering. I had used it this summer and it was working fine. Lately, I get the feeling that Sawyer filters are not good anymore after sitting a few months. This filter had definitely not seen freezing Temps, and it had been back flushed regularly. It took a solid 45 minutes to filter 4 liters. Not acceptable. I will need to replace this filter ASAP.

row of four wooly mammoth pal trees at spring in nevada

Wooly mammoth palms at Blue Splint Spring

I also took the time to rinse out my clothes and wash up a bit myself. I never use soap anymore out in the wild, I feel that rinsing is good enough. And man, did this feel good.

reflection on rogers spring hot spring pool lake mead national recreation area nevada

Rogers Spring. Paradise? Oh, brain eating amoebas in the water. There’s always a catch!

It was 4pm now and I have three or four miles of road walking on Northshore Drive to get to my next destination. Along the way I passed Roger’s spring. There’s a reason why I didn’t get my water from this one… The brain eating amoebas that thrive in this water source. There are signs here that advise you not to dunk your head underwater, or risk infection. Infection often causes death. While I’ve read that the amoeba can be filtered out with a one micron filter (Sawyer is .1 microns), there really is no reason to mess around with this water when there is another non-amoeba bearing water source nearby.

hiking along the base of the muddy mountains at sunset

Hiking the base of the Muddy Mountains

The thing I despise most about walking paved roads is that a solid 50% of the traffic won’t move over in inch for a human being walking on the shoulder. These are the lowest form of people. I only wish I could buzz by them in my car while they walk somewhere, but I get the feeling these folks don’t do much walking.

hiking a canyon in the muddy mountains nevada

Canyon entrance into the Muddy Mountains

hiking a canyon in the muddy mountains nevada

Looking back out of the canyon at the base of the Muddy Mountains

As the sun went down over the muddy mountains, I left the road for a wash that paralleled it. Access into the wash is easier here than further up the road where it gets much steeper. With 30 minutes of daylight I began to work by way into the lower reaches of this deep and narrow canyon. Very impressive!

hiking a canyon in the muddy mountains nevada

Working my way up the canyon

I found my campsite, hemmed in at the base of a pour off, at a junction where the canyon splits. I finished setting up my tent utilizing some of the last daylight. I was happy to have reached camp with at least a few minutes of daylight left, unlike the previous two nights.

While this canyon is deep and narrow, where I am in the lower reaches, there is still enough open sky where I was hopeful that my Garmin inreach mini would be able to send my nightly “I’m OK” message. But after an hour and moving the thing around in every direction in position, I gave up. This thing definitely has its limitations.

Day 4 – November 6th: Muddy Mountains, Lake Mead National Rec Area

11.28 Miles (Half Day)
Animals Seen: None

Had a pack of coyotes moving in on my position around 3 AM. They were very close but when I got out of my tent and chucked a few rocks down the canyon, they went away. I heard them again at 6 am.

muddy mountains canyon pour off climbing

I tried climbing up the 40 foot vertical pour off that was just beyond by campsite, but I found the rock to be very slick and the lack of proper handholds would have made a descent very sketchy, if I needed to back out. And since this was an untested route, there’s a good chance I would have had to turn around. This was basically the only way to get up into the muddy mountains and continue along the route that I had planned, so I had no choice but to back out of the muddy mountains and head directly to Echo Bay Campground. Bummer, but I knew not everything I had planned along this route would work out.

hiking a canyon in the muddy mountains nevada

Nice canyon views

hiking a canyon in the muddy mountains nevada

hiking a canyon in the muddy mountains nevada

Views up the canyon

After trying a few scrambling routes to progress sup the canyon, I gave up and turned around. I would say that it certainly IS possible, but with a full pack on and no climbing gear, it’s much riskier. It’s too bad because this canyon would provide a critical route for a route that cuts off the walk all the way around the Muddy Mountains. There’s a pass above Fire Alcove into the Muddies from Valley of Fire, and this canyon would be the ideal route to connect to Echo Bay. But damn would it be a hairy descent down some slick rock at the spot I turned around at. It’s a shame too because it looks more open on the map above this point. I still think it’s an option for the right person.

entrance to a deep and narrow canyon in the muddy mountains nevada

Looking back at the canyon I came out of

view of the mudyd mountains from northshore dr

The Muddy Mountains

After a brief road walk on Northshore Road, I began hiking cross-country SE towards Echo Bay. At first I stayed out of the washes, they were small and somewhat choked with vegetation. After while, several washes converged into Calico Wash, and it became large enough to walk. This area really wasn’t all that interesting, but it was necessary to reach Echo Bay campground in the most direct fashion. The other option was to walk further to a road, then road walk into the campground. I’ll take the cross-country hiking instead.

hikers view walking calico wash lake emad national rec area nevada

Hiking Calico Wash

hiker find desert tortoise shell in nevada desert

Desert tortoise Shell

The most interesting thing I saw this morning was a desert tortoise shell. This is only the second time I have found one. Believe it or not, it’s actually illegal to collect the shell of a dead tortoise on any type of land. So, I snapped a picture and was on my way.

view of echo bay campground lake mead nevada

Echo Bay

When I reached Echo Bay Campground, I went into the pathetic little store and bought a couple of cold drinks. The inventory here is so small, I could almost fit all of it in my backpack. This is no joke. The only thing they sold that was a step up from the food I had in my backpack already was an egg salad sandwich, and that it was probably left over from eons ago, back when the water level of Lake Mead was higher and people actually came to Echo Bay. Now, it’s kind of like a ghost town.

abandoned hotel at echo bay lake mead

The abandoned hotel/restaurant at Echo Bay

abandoned hotel at echo bay lake mead

A relic from a time when Lake Mead’s water level was higher

abandoned hotel at echo bay lake mead

Looks inviting

I’m also not kidding when I say Ghost town… There is an abandoned motel and restaurant across from the store. With tons of urban exploration experience under my belt, having lived in Detroit, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go inside this one. Access was easy, all of the windows were broken and boarded up, but some of the boards were just leaning against the windows.

graffiti in abandoned hotel at echo bay lake mead

The Room of PI Customs

graffiti in abandoned hotel at echo bay lake mead graffiti in abandoned hotel at echo bay lake mead

Inside, pretty much your standard abandoned building… Broken glass, mattresses laying everywhere, and of course, lots of graffiti. The graffiti is always interesting, and this place was no exception. This was a pretty neat little side adventure.

mst thru hiker in echo wash retrieving food cache

Echo Wash

Next, I went down into Echo Wash and dug up the food that I buried two weeks ago. Everything was still there, so that was good. Whew. Before the hike, I couldn’t find any information online that said caching wasn’t allowed in the Lake Mead NRA, but I have a feeling if one were to ask, the answer would be no. It’s unlikely that a few hikers doing this here and there would cause any impact, now would it likely attract much attention. However, alternate options for food caching at Echo Bay would be to leave it inside the abandoned motel somewhere in odor proof bags (kinda risky), or asking the little store if they will hold it for you. You can’t mail anything here, so you’d have to come in person before the hike to set this up. There are also campground hosts at Echo Bay, I bet they wouldn’t mind holding food for hikers for $10 or something.

I could have just taken my food and continued on Section 2 now, but my appetite still wasn’t there. I was having a hard time eating the food I have in my backpack already, so I wasn’t that eager to eat the stuff I just dug up. I’ve been in this situation many times before. The best way to get past it is to get a day or rest in town, and pig out on town food to kick start my appetite again.

I ended up getting a taxi, for an exorbitant price, that drove me into Overton well after dark. I got a hotel, and plan on taking a zero tomorrow for some R&R.

Day 5 – November 7th: Zero Day in Overton, NV

I wasn’t planning on coming to Overton at the end of section 1, but a day of rest and town food will do wonders for me. I didn’t have to do any food shopping since I dug up my food cache in Echo Wash, so that was a nice time saver. I washed my clothes and made small repairs/adjustments to my gear. I tried backflushing my sawyer filter a bunch of times, but it’s still slow. I’m a long ways from anywhere that sells a new Sawyer, so I’ll have to wait at least until the end of Section 3 when I get to Boulder City. I should be able to get an uber to Henderson and hit the local Walmart for that. In the mean time, slow water filtering.

 

Like what you see?

Ruby Mountains, NV: High Route Hike Lamoille Canyon to Seitz Canyon

hikers view of echo lake from mountains

Ruby Mountains, NV – High Route Hike Lamoille Canyon to Seitz Canyon

echo lake nevada

  • Hike Location – Ruby Mountains, Nevada – Ruby Mountains Wilderness
  • Land Administration – Humboldt National Forest
  • Hike Type – Point to Point
  • Fees & Permits – No fees or permits needed
  • Start Trailhead – Roads End
  • End Trailhead – Powerhouse
  • Length Of Time Hiked – 14.5 hours
  • Miles Hiked – 19.28
  • Route Difficulty – 8
  • Scenic Beauty – 9
  • Solitude – 9

Video: Ruby Mountains, NV – High Route Hike Lamoille Canyon to Seitz Canyon

 

Ruby Mountains Hike Maps

Here’s the caltopo map of the Lamoille to Seitz Canyon High Route Hike: 

eelvation chart for the lamoille to seitz canyon high route hike in the ruby mountains, nevada - basin and range trail alternate route

Download GPX file for the Lamoille to Seitz Canyon High Route Hike

Pre-Hike Planning Notes

There are no fees or permits required to hike in the Ruby Mountains. Thomas Canyon and Terraces Campgrounds are available in Lamoille Canyon to camp the night before/after your hike, or simply pull off the road and camp in the National Forest land. You should also be able to camp in a van/camper at the trailhead for one night, there was nobody there to check or bother us. Spring Creek is the nearest anything, and 30 minutes away is Elko which is a big town for Nevada. 

This hike is a route that I wanted to do on my 2020 Basin and Range Trail thru hike, but wasn’t able to fit in, logistically. My route along section 6 of the BRT ended at Roads End Trailhead in upper Lamoille Canyon. The route we will hike here is a route that connects upper Lamoille Canyon with Seitz Canyon, leading to the Powerhouse Trailhead in lower Lamoille Canyon. This route should be very scenic, and will offer a spectacular finish to an already great section of the BRT. The Ruby Crest Trail was nice, but I have a feeling this will be nicer. 

This route is almost entirely off-trail. There were only a few sections of this route, like in Seitz Canyon, where a trail is marked on the map. On the ground though, it barely existed. Just a fading trail that hasn’t seen maintenance in decades. In other words, most of this route is off-trail, and there is some bushwhacking involved… mostly in Seitz Canyon. With that said, it’s an awesome route that is challenging, rewarding and gets you off the beaten path in the Rubies. The Ruby Crest Trail gets most of the traffic in the Rubies, but there are many other great spots here, such as Echo Lake. 

This hike can be done a long day hike, but it would be best to split this hike up into two days, camping at Echo Lake. There are multiple excellent campsites along Echo Lake. 

Three final things:

  • Beware of the private land at the entrance to Seitz Canyon. That’s why the route goes along the hillside at the end to reach Powerhouse Trailhead. There is an active ranch here with a few homes.
  • This hike can be done as a day hike, but it may take all day, as it did for us. Make sure to bring a headlamp, just in case. We wish we did…
  • Water is abundant, you won’t hike more than a few miles without it. 

 

July 17th, 2021 – Ruby Mountains, NV High Route Hike Lamoille Canyon to Seitz Canyon 

Miles Hiked – 19.28
Elevation Gain – 5,592′

three hiking buddies in the ruby mountains nevada

Sam, Ken and I above Echo Lake

My friends Sam and Ken (2020 CDT thru hikers) will join me for this hike. Last night, we slept off the road in National Forest Land near Camp Lamoille at the entrance to Right Fork Lamoille Creek Canyon. Descent spot, good views of Lamoille Canyon especially at sunset.

In the morning, We drove Ken’s Explorer down to the Powerhouse Trailhead in lower Lamoille Canyon, then drove my van up to Roads End Trailhead in upper Lamoille Canyon. We’ll walk back to Ken’s Explorer today, and then he’ll drive me back up to Roads End to get my van. 

wildflowers in lamoille canyon nevada

Wildflowers in Lamoille Canyon

We left the trailhead around 8am following a trail up Lamoille Canyon. Soon enough, we realized this one was taking us up to Dollar Lake instead of Lamoille Lake. We began hiking off-trail sooner than anticipated, and headed for a horse trail that runs higher up the hillside in the canyon. I know this, because that’s the route I hiked down from Liberty Pass last year on my BRT thru hike.

The off-trail stuff here was mostly our fault for not taking the horse trail in the first place. I should have known better. Now, we spent some time walking through tall bushes and grasses, thankfully not crazy thick.

lamoille canyon hikers un summer day

Hiking the horse trail up Lamoille Canyon

We hit the horse trail and followed that a ways uphill. We stopped for a quick break at the spot where we leave the horse trail and begin out hike uphill to our off-trail pass below Snow Lake Peak, leading over to Thomas Canyon.

Sam had just flown to the US from England a few weeks ago, and had bought some cheapo Walmart shirt to hike in for the summer. It was a long sleeved, collared shirt, the kind your cheap dad might wear when he’s forced to dress up. Ok, me too. I joked with Sam about this, and the need for a tie to complete the ensemble. After all, it looked like he was here for a business interview. Well, from the waist up, anyways. 

hikers in boulder field along slopes of mountainside in ruby range nevada

Thankfully not like this the whole way

upper lamoille canyon view

View over upper Lamoille Canyon

rocky ridgeline at mountain pass in ruby mountains nevada

Nearing the top of the pass

The route up to the pass was steep and had us winded, but it was an easy walk. No bushwhacking, no huge extended boulder fields, it was mostly just a steep incline. 

hikers view of snow lake peak from unnamed pass in ruby mountains

View of Snow Lake Peak from unnamed pass

At the top of the pass, we enjoyed great views down into Lamoille Canyon and Thomas Canyon. To the south was Snow Lake Peak. The Snow Lake Peak was eroding was very obvious, and we joked that the Forest Service needed to come out here and “repair” these crumbling mountains. “A few more years and we won’t even have a Snow Lake Mountain”. Ha!

hikers view of full house peak and thomas canyon from ridge in ruby mountains nevada

Full House Peak and Thomas Canyon

We stopped for a break on the pass, soaked in the excellent views and scouted our next move. The plan was to stay high up on the ridgeline and contour around the mountainside towards Mt Fitzgerald. It looked kinda steep though, and we contemplated taking a route a bit lower, meaning more elevation gain and climbing. 

green grassy terrain in upper thomas canyon ruby mountains

Water flowing in upper Thomas Canyon

hikers view of snow lake peak

Snow Lake Peak

view of thomsa peak from thomas canyon ruby mountains nevada

View down Thomas Canyon to Thomas Peak

The descent form the pass into Thomas Canyon was steep, but short. Below the pass, a green and grassy patch of land with water flowing through it. A nice hike here.

hikers climbing around mountainside in ruby range nevada

Finding our way around the mountainside

hikers climbing steep grassy slope in mountains

Ken above on our route uphill

Next we climbed back up in elevation some to reach our desired contouring line. This was intermittently hard/easy. We’d be climbing up steep, loose rock and boulders one minute, then walking short sections of flat, easy going terrain. All with great views of Thomas Canyon, though.

hiker in boulderfield in ruby mountains nevada

Boulders.

When we rounded the northwest-facing ridge before Mt Fitzgerald, we were met with an entire mountainside filled with boulders. Not what I like to see, but Sam loves the stuff. It was a big view though over Thomas Canyon. It was very green down below, but we were well above that, in the boulders. 

hiking the rubies nevada

A fine gulch

hiking upper thomas canyon ruby mountains nevada

Upper Thomas Canyon views

mountain photogrpahy in the ruby mountains nevada

Outstanding scenery in upper Thomas Canyon

The mountain scenery here was very impressive. The hiking here is more akin to a Sierra High Route or Wind River Range High Route. We are surrounded by towering mountain peaks and rock faces, in a sea of boulders. Slow going, but worth it.

hikers view of mt fitzgerald from boulder field below in ruby mountains nevada

Hiking below Mt Fitzgerald

water in ruby mountains hking the ruby mountains nevada

Directly below Mt Fitzgerald was an imposing place to be. The peak towered above us, as we worked our line around the base of it. Even through the boulder fields along the slopes, we routinely cross trickles of water and small streams. There is no shortage of water here.

hiker walking boulder field with storm clouds above in ruby mountains

Ken hiking the boulder field

ruby mountains hiking views

View across Right Fork Lamoille Creek Canyon to Mt Gilbert

hikers in upper right fork lamoille creek canyon nevada

Sam and Ken hiking into upper Right Fork Lamoille Creek Canyon

After Mt Fitzgerald, we went up and over a ridgeline separating Thomas Canyon with Right Fork Lamoille Canyon. The same excellent scenery extends into this canyon as well. Superb views here.  

I came across a pile of a few boulders that had some minerals that caught my eye. I’ve been seeing a lot of large books of mica around, but that was it until now. Here though, in upper Thomas Canyon below Mt Fitzgerald, I found garnets. They were embedded in the host rock though, and I couldn’t do much with them without tools to extract them. Still, a cool find. Fun fact, the early explorers who first passed through the Rubies named them the Ruby Mountains because they thought these garnets were actually rubies. And now, I can see why.

boulders below mountain ridgeline in ruby mountains

The route we’ve traversed so far

view into upper right fork lamoille creek canyon

Right Fork Lamoille Creek Canyon

hiking in the ruby range nevada

Right Fork Lamoille Canyon continued to impress us the entire route around its upper slopes. We have been walking mostly on boulders for quite some time now, though, and it’s tiring. 

hikers view from mountain pass on trail in ruby range nevada

View from the pass

hikers view from mountain pass

View west to No Echo Knob and the ridgeline we’re about to walk

Eventually, we reached a saddle in between peaks 10,528′ and 10,882′, at the top of Right Fork Lamoille Canyon. The wind was really picking up now. We followed the ridgeline towards No Echo Knob.

hiker standing on cliffs above mountainscape

Sam and Right Fork Lamoille Creek Canyon

hikers view of ruby range and lamoille valley from ruby mountains

View west, Ruby Mountains and Lamoille Valley

hikers walking a ridgeline in the ruby mountains

Cool ridgeline

Along the way up to the ridgeline, we enjoyed excellent views of the Ruby Mountains. There were some sheer cliffs to stand at the edge of overlooking Right Fork Lamoille Canyon. It looked like the potential for rain now, although nothing directly nearby threatening us at the moment. 

hiker on top of rockwall

Sam on top of the ridge

hikers view from ridgeline in ruby mountains

View of the ridgewalk ahead of us

hikers distant view over mountain valleys and ridges

Looking back at what we’ve traversed so far

At the top of the ridge leading to No Echo Knob was perhaps some of the best distant views of the day. It was our most proper ridgewalk of the day, as well. The views were just stunning in every direction. A truly magical place. 

two hiking buddies walking ridgeline on top of mountain in nevada

Sam and Ken hiking the ridge to No Echo Knob

right fork lamoille canyon view from ridgeline

View over Right Fork Lamoille Canyon

two hikers on the summit of no echo knob in ruby mountains nevada

Sam and Ken on No Echo Knob

We summited No Echo Knob, high point of the ridge. It was here that Sam, hiking for the first time in Nevada, realized the hidden gem that he’d stumbled upon. “Why is it that so few people visit this place”, he wondered. Nevermind why, we have it to ourselves today. 

hikers views of echo lake from trail elevated above

First views of Echo Lake. Wow!

hiking around echo lake

hikers stadning on rocks above alpine lake in nevada

Sam and Ken above Echo Lake

The descent form No Echo Knob to Echo Lake was outstanding. Echo Lake is hard to ignore; it’s surrounded by a tall, steep cirque of mountains, and the lake itself is a deep blue color. It’s large and looks to be deep. It certainly commands your attention, and respect. 

hikers traversing around alpine lake in the ruby mountains nevada

A pretty good route can be seen ahead

Our original plan was to drop down to the lake to traverse around it’s east shore, but from our elevated position, we saw a better route. We’ll stay higher above the shoreline, and contour around the lake. This way, we minimize our total elevation gain traversing around it. There looks to be a route we can follow, but who knows. Let’s try it!

hiking above echo lake in the rubies

Hiking around Echo lake

The entire hike around Echo Lake was stunning. The views were constantly changing, with seemingly better and better angles and lighting. The hike itself wasn’t too hard. There was no real path to follow, but it was easy to pick from numerous lines that traverse the east side of the lake. 

echo lake nevada

Looking down Echo Canyon above Echo Lake

hikers view of echo lake from mountains

Echo Lake

The views from the extreme east side of Echo Lake were probably the most impressive to me. Here, the lake looks the biggest, and one has a great view down Echo Canyon. Lining Echo Canyon is Mt Silliman, peak 11,330, and Echo Box Peak. These peaks, and the ridgelines leading up to them, form huge, towering walls above Echo Lake, making this the beautiful place that it is. 

Climbing up to the pass

Echo Canyon

We stopped along a small creek for a break. There was a great camp spot here, overlooking Echo Lake. If only we were camping!

Echo Lake and Echo Box Peak

After the break, we continued traversing around Echo Lake. Of course, we had to stop and test the echo properties of Echo Canyon at some point. The echo is indeed impressive! We also took the time to test out our skiing skills on some of the snow slopes. I made a successful run down a hundred feet or so, which is always fun to do in shoes. 

hikers climbing mountain pass in ruby range nevada

Ken and Sam ascending the pass below Mt Silliman

After contouring around Echo Lake, it was time to head up to a pass below Mt Silliman. From here, it was a climb of about 350′ to the top. It was a very manageable climb up boulders, and we made quick work of this one.

seitz canyon view from top of mountain pass

View into Seitz Canyon

view of mt silliman from mountain pass in ruby mountains nevada

Mt Silliman

view of echo box peak from pass

Echo Box Peak from pass

At the top of the pass, we had our first view into Seitz Canyon. Nice, but the north face of Echo Box Peak on the Echo Canyon side was more impressive.

Now for the route down into Seitz Canyon. Our plan was to contour around the north face of Mt Silliman and work our way down a diagonal line Seitz Lake below, avoiding the steep and narrow Seitz Canyon route which is more direct. I thought it would be best to avoid Seitz Canyon when planning this route from home, based on the slope angle shading/steepness of the grade, but now that we’re here, it does indeed look doable. Sam, Ken and I discussed our options, and we settled on the direct route down Seitz Canyon.

hiking seitz canyon ruby mountains nevada

First we need to work down to the snowfield

So from the top of the pass, it’s 1400ft down this steep, narrow chute filled with snow, ice and boulders. We traversed a sketchy section of loose boulders just to get down to the snow field in the center of the canyon. Past the boulders, we take our first footsteps in the snow. The slope angle is steep, seemingly close to 45 at times. Sam went first, kicking steps on his way down. I went next, and Ken at the top. 

seitz canyon hike down snow field

Ken making his way down

hiker view from seitz canyon descent

View down Seitz Canyon

The snow was mostly soft enough to kick steps in. Ken and I had the advantage of using Sam’s steps to walk down into, without expending as much energy as Sam. However, it was still slow and tedious. I took out a trekking pole for the first time today, almost never using them anymore, except to support my tent. But here, a trekking pole was great to have. I used my upper hand to balance myself in the snow as I hiked down, which makes your hand quite cold soon enough. So then, I’d switch sides, putting my opposite leg first as the leading leg, giving my other hand a chance to warm up again. Yeah, didn’t think of bringing gloves for this hike. Nor micro spikes or ice axe, but having them here would have been nice. 

hiker descending steep snow chute in ruby mountains nevada

Ken descending Seitz Canyon

No way around it, it was slow going down Seitz Canyon. Descending the snow field was enough to get your heart rate up a bit, but also not feel overly worried about the dangers of falling. Maybe that’s just my confidence in the snow. Either way, this slope was not glissade-able… safely. 

hikers view down seitz canyon

hiker descending steep snow chute in ruby mountains nevada

Nearing the bottom of the second snow field

There were two sets of snow fields in the chute. The upper one was the steepest. There was a short section of boulders separating the two snow fields, and then it was on to descend the lower one. Sam was below and hollered up that it was icier than above. Ken, having hiked with Sam on the CDT in 2020, joked that Sam doesn’t kick great steps anyways. It was fun to see the dynamic between these two, it was the first time I hiked with them together. 

seitz canyon is full of boulders

View back up the boulder chute we’ve been climbing down

hiking down boulders in seetp canyon in nevada mountains

Sam near the bottom of Seitz Canyon. The end is in sight!

Past the second snow field, we were roughly halfway down the chute. It’s all steep boulders here now, and I wondered which I would rather have; the boulders, or the snow. I say, the snow. 

view up seitz canyon nevada

Bottom of Seitz Canyon. Glad to be out of this one!

hikers walking nevada mountains

Flat ,open ground!

hikers view of seitz canyon and upper seitz cirque

View back at the chute we came down

We took a break near the bottom of Seitz Canyon, and I ate a snack. I hadn’t eaten in several hours, and really needed the boost. I was indeed feeling better now. We exited Seitz Canyon on a bit of a high, looking back at the increasingly crazier looking chute we had descended. I let out a loud scream into the canyon, which had an incredible echo to it with a delay of a few seconds. 

hiker in mountain cirque

Can’t stop looking back at that view!

 As we covered distance downhill now and entered a flat, open valley above Seitz Lake, we entered a new phase of the hike… bushwhacking. There will be a lot of it in Seitz Canyon, unfortunately. The upper section of the canyon is thick and wet. The views looking back were outstanding, though!

refection on seitz lake with qirque of mountains behind

Seitz Lake

upper seitz canyon views

Seitz Canyon and Ruby Dome

The bushwhacking continued to Seitz Lake. There really wasn’t any good access to Seitz Lake, surprisingly. The shoreline was thick with vegetation. The view sure was nice looking across the lake and up the canyon, though. We assumed the trail would become more obvious downhill from here, but that was wishful thinking. 

sunset in seitz canyon

The most perfect sunset

Below the lake, we continued to be fooled into thinking we had stumbled on the trail every time we came across the slightest hint of a beaten path. However, the setting sun created an extremely pleasant sunset this evening. We had a few sprinkles briefly, but the cloud cover provided the backdrop for those oranges and reds. 

We came across a good sized waterfall around the 8200′ mark as we continued to hunt for the trail. We’re right on it according to the map, but we see nothing 95% of the time. It’s a steep descent down the hillside in thick brush. We reach the creek below and stumble upon a ribbon on a tree. You can tell the forest has been cleared out a litter wider in places, but that it’s overgrown for decades without maintenance. 

hikers bushwhacking at sunset

Bushes, as far as the eye can see, just begging to be whacked

The trail fades in and out and we continue to doubt our ability to stay on whatever the trail is supposed to be. We continue to surprise ourselves though, and routinely see signs that we are on the right path, even if the path is now gone. We saw more ribbons on the trees, scattered randomly along the way, but it’s still a bushwhack. 

hiker bushwhacking in creek bed

Ken fighting the brush in the creek bed

We hit a creek bed that we followed for a while, which was dry. However, it was full of tress, plants and debris that made this an obstacle course. 

Losing light now, Ken stumbles in the thick brush and falls. He’s alright, but a symbol of how were are all feeling… tired. After a helping hand, he’s up and at it again. 

Day turns into night as we continue hiking down the canyon. Sam and I have our phones for light, and Ken also has a headlamp. So, one headlamp for the 3 of us. We hit a slightly better path lower down in the canyon, then some type of 4×4 road. 

Now we reach the lower reaches of Seitz Canyon, or Rabbit Canyon as the map now marks it here. This is where the private property begins. Following the road out into the valley means walking through private property. There is a ranch here too, and the road goes right behind a couple of homes. So, to avoid them you must contour around the hills above the private property. Fortunately, in the lower reaches of the canyon here, it’s not thick and green, it’s drier and more barren. Open and easier to walk. Still, it’s dark now.

Pick your poison here… walk the hillsides in the dark or drop down to the private property after passing by the homes and walk a nice road out to Lamoille Canyon. I won’t tell you what to do. Just be aware of the property lines, is all. Use the caltopo app and turn on the public lands layer.

We reached Lamoille Canyon sometime around 10:30pm, having hiked a solid two hours in the dark. That’s a 14.5 hour day of hiking for us. It was a very dark night, too. We could barely see Ken’s Explorer until we where right up on it at the Powerhouse Trailhead.

Ken drove us up to the Roads End Trailhead, and we slept in our vehicles for the night. What a killer hike!!

Lamoille to Seitz Canyon Route Verified As New Leg of the Basin and Range Trail

The route we hiked today was challenging, but repeatable. It was not technical nor was there any real exposure. There is plenty of water, excellent camping and outstanding views. Plan to bushwhack Seitz Canyon, though. 

So, I am happy to report that the hike we did today will become the new “standard route” for the Basin and Range Trail to end Section 6. The alternate route would be to hike down Lamoille Canyon, or simply hitch down. The route we hiked today was easily equal to the scenery along the Ruby Crest Trail, if not greater. And not only greater scenery, but far more rewarding. Anyone can hike the well-manicured Ruby Crest Trail, but the off-trail stuff we did today provides a greater adventure in my book. The standard BRT route will still hit the Ruby Crest Trail in it’s entirety (except the final mile or two to Roads end trailhead in upper Lamoille Canyon), and so this new route will only enhance the Basin and Range Trail hiking experience. 

 

Like what you see?

Basin and Range Trail Thru Hike 2020 – Section 10: Ely to Baker

ledge on ridgeline overlooking baker lake, nevada

Basin and Range Trail Thru Hike Section 10 Map

map of basin and range trail section 10 through the snake range

Video: Basin and Range Trail Thru Hike Section 10


In addition to this trail journal, I also filmed my Basin and Range Trail thru hike. I’ve produced a detailed series (11+ hours runtime) documenting this thru hike adventure, the product of over 1,000 hours of video editing. I highly recommending watching the Basin and Range Trail vlog series for an in-depth look at thru-hiking the Great Basin and central Nevada. 

Basin and Range Trail Thru Hike Section 10 Journal

Day 63 – August 2nd: Deerhead Canyon, Mt Moriah Wilderness, The Table, Snake Range

Terri called me at 7:30am and asked if I was ready. I said no, I was sleeping because you said you wouldn’t be here till 9. I said give me a half hour and I’m ready.

Terri and her boyfriend Ronnie picked me up from the Motel 6 parking lot, right outside my door. She was driving a really shitty Ford Escort from the 90s. I guess Raj had bought her the car, I guess you got to do what you got to do to get people to work for you at the motel in a small town. The trunk was held down with bungee cords, there was a big gash in one of the side doors that prevented the window from operating properly, no AC, shocks were completely gone and it leaked oil. But hey, it only needs to get me an hour away!

We stopped at McDonald’s for breakfast, then the Love’s station for gas and oil, as well as drinks. I filled up her gas tank, which was only 15 bucks. We agreed on a hundred bucks for the ride, not bad for 2 hours of work on her end.

The drive was pretty slow, Terri is a slow driver, have to nurse that car I guess so it doesn’t blow up. Decent drive, got to see some different country and a view of Spring Valley, Mount Moriah and Wheeler Peak.

Once we turned on to White Pine County Road 36, the dirt road going into Spring Valley, the going was pretty slow. The dirt road itself was in great shape, but Terri’s car was not. With no struts, she was going like 7 miles an hour the whole way. Still the dirt road section was pretty slow. Lots of windmills in Spring Valley. This is somewhat unusual for Nevada, I have not seen this yet.

car ride for thru hiker on basin and range trail

Shuttle ride to Snake Range

It was even slower when we turned onto the next dirt road that let us to Deerhead Canyon. Eventually, we reached a cattle guard along and open fence line. There was a spot to turn around here, so I said this is good enough. They were a bit apprehensive to drop me off in the middle of nowhere, in this kind of heat, but I assured them I’ll be alright. I paid her the $100, they checked their oil, and they were on their way. Alone again, for the final section.

There was indeed a ranch, or at least some type of home, down in the ditch along the road. I was glad to see that the road was not blocked by no trespassing signs, this public Road went through private land and allowed me to access the public land on the other side. This is not always possible in Nevada, so this was a big win for me.

spring valley nevada

View across Spring Valley to Schell Creek Range

hikers view of deerhead canyon mt moriah snake range nevada

View up Deerhead Canyon

I began the hike up Deerhead Canyon. Before long, I found a spot that had flowing water. Good flow to it actually. This was good, I didn’t have to worry about water today. However, there were signs of cows, and this became more of an issue as I progressed up the canyon.

deerhead canyon hiking nevada

The canyon is becoming more impressive as I gain elevation

The canyon itself became more green and Lush the higher I went. At first, it was just a Thicket along the creek, but the road was so good that it was no problem. I saw one Sagebrush Bush that was 8 to 9 feet tall, perhaps the largest I have seen on the Basin and Range Trail.

deerhead canyon game trails

Game trail remains where the road ends

There are several side Canyons that intersect Negro Creek in Deerhead Canyon. Eventually, after a junction with another Canyon, the road pretty much died out. All of the sudden, it was a thick bush whack through thorn bushes long the creek. Then I found a way around it, and the trail was a little better. But it was a trail now, not a road.

hiking deerhead canyon my moriah wilderness nevada

Jungle-like hike in Deerhead Canyon

hiking thick forest cover in deerhead canyon

A hidden jungle in the Nevada wilderness

hiker bushwhacking through thick thorn bushes

Buskwhacking through thorn bushes

A little further Upstream was where things got really bad. I’m wondering if I missed the main Trail, because the bushwhacking was so bad that I thought the trail was going to fade out completely. Along the creek it was like a jungle. Green, Lush, Vines hanging from the trees. Several Creek Crossings, lots of mud and muddy fields, and at times the trail itself was a flowing Creek. My backpack would catch on everything, all of the branches. This was a major pain, but eventually I emerged into a small field where things cleared out a bit and a better Trail existed.

Interesting rock formations now

looking up at pine trees and rock spires in deerhead canyon, snake range nevada

Those vertical towers, behind the trees!

hiking deerhead canyon in the snake range nevada

Really cool rock formations in Deerhead Canyon

Now, the canyon was lined with interesting rock formations. A lot of Flat Rock stacked on each other. These would tower over the Canyon in interesting ways. Fingers, crags, spires. Even saw a small cave, but I could not reach it without doing some climbing. This was a cool area.

The trail itself did have some maintenance done to it in a few random sections. There were cut logs here and there. There is also a lot of cow shit. It was clear to me that the Rancher at the head of the canyon had done the maintenance himself, so that his cows could reach the high country and Graze there.

thru hiker crosses creek in nevada wilderness

One of several creek crossings

small waterfall in deerhead canyon

Very small waterfall

hiker crossing creek on logs with stick for balance

Difficult route up Deerhead Canyon, but a beautiful hike

The route up Deerhead Canyon continues to intermittently have some path to follow, while crossing the creek and a few small waterfalls, casacdes.

Today was supposed to be 101 degrees in Baker. It was certainly hot, but I felt hotter a few days ago on a climb in the Shell Creek range. I was pleased at how well I was handling the heat today. I took the opportunity to dunk my head in the water every chance I could. Didn’t drink as much water as I thought, though. Typical for me.

view of the snake range from upper deerhead canyon envada

Upper Deerhead Canyon

great basin thru hiker filtering water

Last water before the climb up to Mt Moriah

Last time the trail crosses the creek, I stopped in the shade to filter two liters of water. One to chug, one to take with me. This gives me 5L to carry. This is enough to get up to the table, Summit Mount Moriah, and come down into Henry’s Creek where I know there’s water.

hiking up deerhead canyon

The route up Deerhead Canyon

hikers view from deerhead canyon, snake range nevada

Awesome cliffs and rock formations now in upper Deerhead Canyon

The trail almost completely disappeared now as I was in the upper reaches of the canyon. All That Remains is a faint cow Trail through the Sagebrush, and eventually, Aspen. The grade of the trail got a bit steeper here as well, which got me breathing hard for the first time today. The rest of the trail Downstream from here was pretty well graded.

view of snake range from top of deerhead canyon

Once at the top of Deerhead Canyon, there is a 4×4 road