March 23, 2018
It's been a long time since I've done a single-day post. Our Friday is so full of wonderful surprises and exceptional beauty that I want to capture it by itself.
While sleeping in I dream that Bill wakes me to tell me to get up and make pancakes....he would never! But when I do wake up I'm compelled to fix pancakes with fresh blueberries and walnuts - thus a lovely start to the day.
With our trusty map in hand, we head out for Arizona (it's just over the river). Although we've made the drive to Temple Bar on the southeast side of Lake Mead, today we go straight when Highway 143 turns right to the water. A few miles of well-maintained dirt road takes us to NP 71 where the adventure begins.
I'm hoping the trails will take us into the mountains, but I'm completely unprepared for what awaits.
|Nice start :-)|
Not far up the fairly rough road we encounter a spot that almost makes me turn around. Bill, of course, isn't having it. On an otherwise safe trail is a washed out section with a deep tire-swallowing hole on one side - with a rocky wash below. The other side is a solid four foot "wall" that gives very little option to avoid said hole. At this point the road looks three feet wide while the Jeep feels ten feet wide. Probably not.... Bill gets out to spot me, where he provides hand signals that say "You have forty feet of space between the tire and the hole." Again, probably not.
Naturally I take the risk and with zero incident we cross the
treacherous hazard bump in the road. Hey! you weren't there!
At the entrance to Cohenour Loop (still NP 71) we have the option to go either way. I opt for clockwise, and after completing the drive, I'd probably recommend taking that way at least the first time. There are no bad views in any direction.
A quick stop above the water provides lots of simple exploration. And helicopters. Lots of helicopters. This turns out to the be the norm for the day - at least a dozen fly over every hour - and the only negative in an otherwise perfect trip.
|Split rock with fluffy shadow bomb.|
|Very few cactus in the area. This struggling Prickly Pear will have bright pink blooms in a few weeks.|
|No one else to see, with lots above to hear.|
|Once we approach the hills the trail is rock and sand the rest of the way. Cool :-)|
|When I stop to take a pic of a formation, Bill tells me to bring the camera over to his side where he's getting out with delighted enthusiasm in his voice. He's already looking like this when I get there - can you tell he's a little excited at his discovery?|
|The Gopher Snake "smells" it's temporary captors. Just as surprised by this encounter as we are I'm sure. |
|Easy to see how vulnerable they are to flying predators when crossing the open sands.|
|Then nearly impossible to see along the edge of the wash.|
Only our second snake sighting and Bill declares this already a most wonderful day. But it just keeps getting better.
|While the initials rocks don't compete with the glorious snake....just a few yards further we get our next surprise.|
|Petroglyphs! A small sign warns against vandalism, but provides no information on their origin.|
|Some are more hidden in the shade.|
|If we'd seen this first we'd been less surprised by the snake!|
|This is how I see math equations on a white board.|
|Soon the low hills become tall canyons, topped with these amazing columns.|
|When traveling a loop, I try to remember to stop and look behind us. |
|The reward of a different perspective.|
|All. Day. Long. |
|There is grass everywhere and in some spots along the canyon's bottom it's tall and thick.|
|The trail runs through numerous canyons, each one unique.|
|A delicate bouquet grows from solid rock.|
|Sometimes we're close up to the formations.|
|Then we're up on top with long views.|
|Occasional formations grab our eye - like this baby sphinx head.|
|In between canyons are volcanic "burps".|
|Another "up top" view, completely different.|
At the loop's exit we agree our day can only get better if we take the additional two mile trail to Gilbert Canyon (NP 73). And we're definitely right!!
|Ridge lines compete for best color and variety.|
One section takes us down a stairstep of rock where I hesitate again, but without the "we could tip over and die" factor, I figure the risk is much less than our earlier "spot". We
smack lightly touch the bottom of the Jeep in a couple places, but we're soon at the bottom and continuing on.
|Brittle Bush are making a late appearance this year.|
|Nature mimicking man-made walls along the wash.|
|Strawberry and chocolate walls.|
|Mint green Tribbles rush down the side.|
|The end of the road.|
|Where the road ends, this dry fall continues where I'm sure nimble folks will explore one day.|
|A dramatic cut in the rock wall.|
|So many colors!|
|A pin cushion Easter egg tucked in among the rocks.|
|Barrel Cactus climb the steep cliffs.|
On the way back the stairsteps have gotten steeper and the Jeep stops at the first one, tires spinning in four-wheel-high. No worries, we have four-wheel-low, and in first gear she climbs up and over like a mountain goat. Gotta love a Jeep! Again we make contact but no damage. A small risk for all we've seen today.
|This little guy warms in the sun.|
|Even on in-and-back routes, there's always something new to see on the return.|
|Just a peek....|
|We see "signs" of them all day, but only at the end do we finally see these wild burros.|
|And we only see the burros because we stop to look at a small herd of very healthy, very red cattle.|
Unfortunately the wash out has not been filled in, and I swear the passable section is even more narrow. Probably not. I know the Jeep obviously can make it because it already did. Still, when we slide a little toward the
|A single cinder cone stands out on the valley floor.|massive hole I hesitate before continuing through. A reminder of all we would have missed had I not taken this small risk in the beginning. The rewards were so worth it!
|Layers deposited and carved make for stunning views.|
Returning to the pavement we spend the 45 minute drive home talking about all we've seen, what a perfect day it was. The weather has been a comfortable 70 degrees with light breeze and clear skies. We agree it's in our top ten, maybe top five, of our best drives.