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Hiking Red Rock in November

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  • Hiking Red Rock in November

    This place is my new addiction

    I managed to get out of downtown and to the Red Rock canyon by noon. I had prepaid at Budget to rent the cheapest car out of the Golden Nugget. With the LDW it was $350 for the week. I tried to use the free upgrade coupon Elizabeth got by signing up for the fast track, but the clerk explained that prepaying means no negotiation on time or on size.
    I had neglected to turn back my clock, so I arrived over an hour early, and I could not get a car early.
    Again the clerk explained that prepaid folks were assigned a car at the booking time and mine had not even left to come down to the Nugget yet.
    Perhaps part of the issue was that so many people were going to the races?? and renting cars to get there. It was crowded.
    While I waited, I went for a free Sunday brunch at the Golden Nugget buffet using the poker comps. It was nice to be able to cover that $20 breakfast. The Sunday brunch price escalation of all the buffets in Vegas is a rip off, but this time it was perfect timing for convenience, and I liked finding the smoked salmon and making my favorite of salmon, capers, onions, tomato and creamy horseraddish sauce.

    It was also good to get a nice carafe of coffee in me and enough food that I was fully prepared to take the Calico hike in Red Rock Canyon and actually held me satisfied all day, with just a couple bananas and some nuts around supper time.
    I arrived back at the car desk at a quarter to nine, but I had a half hour wait in line.
    The clerk was apologetic that I had been there early and then had to wait when I came back. Perhaps that is why she freely upgraded me to a Kia Soul in spite of what she had explained about prepaid cars.
    This car was was $120 a day if booked last minute.
    The value of good preplanning was clear in the car rental. I prepaid for a good rate.
    For peace of mind I paid an extra $150 for the week by getting the Loss Damage Waiver. For many this seems silly, but I caused a huge amount of damage recently just by driving my own van up on a curbing. My deductable was $500. Another claim this soon would certainly raise my insurance rates.
    Also, I hate the scratch and damage game some of the rental places play where they find damage not caused by the renter, sometimes as much as a month later (after insurance claims are hard.)
    Also, I am put off by the rare but possible Loss of Value charge and annoyed by the credit card insurers who demand an inventory of cars from the rental company before paying the daily charge on the car while it is being fixed, an inventory the rental company does not want to give.
    For some, getting the better deal is just another bit of gambling. But I like the peace of mind in knowing at least the car I am renting won't generate any claims against me.
    Even for a frugal guy like me, comfort is often well worth the price.
    I like this Kia Soul. Plenty of easy room for my luggage and it feels comfortable on the road and safer than the smallest Kia would feel.
    Entrance to the park was free with my DD214 to show proof of my military service. I asked if they had a Veteran's deal and he checked my form and gave me a receipt for a military vehicle. That saved me seven dollars.
    The next day I presented the DD214 and the fellow said they did not have a deal for Veteran's. But he was a Veteran, and he let me in asking me to petition the BLM to have some Veteran's discount. I hear that there is going to be a card for Veterans. Good thing. This 35 year old document is pretty worn out.
    My friend Chuck tells me to pay $10 at a National Park while I am in Florida and I can get a permanent park pass good forever. I just have to be over 65.


    Red Rock includes 14 miles of driving in a circle through the canyon with many pulloffs and possible hikes.
    The very first is Calico I. I think this first pull off at the beginning of the circle is the most amazing, and that hike between Calico I and Calico II really is in the center of what is the reddest red rocks.
    It is very easy and short. This time I hiked it from Calico 1 to the last ascent near Calico 2. At the top of that very slight incline I could see the end of the trail, and I had seen all the rocks I'd see, even if I completed the hike, but by turning back I could avoid a rather steep descent and then an arduous ascent.
    I then walked back to Calico 1 for my van on the trail rather than exiting and using the road. I saved a tough end climb. It was plenty. I was tired when I climbed the last bit up to Calico I.
    I found that two bottles of water is plenty for this trip. I carried three and that was more than I would ever need. Perhaps in August I would need three.
    The park itself on this first day was full of visitors. It was a Sunday and the parking pull offs were full with cars and the overflow stretched back along the sides of the road.
    Still, once down the trail a bit, it was peaceful enough. There was some loud calls from up in the rocks, even one rock climber, but there were moments of that amazing quiet we seek in hiking.
    I saw plenty of rabbits with their cute little white tails flickering and plenty of fast darting small lizards. The Florida lizards around us there are a good bit slower and they pause to enable us to get a good look. There dart across the trail so quickly they are hard to really see, and then they are hidden in green.
    I brought along my flowering desert plant book, but there is nothing flowering here at Red Rock in November.
    After the hike, I drove up to Willow Springs and walked out to see where the trail to Madre Springs?? was located. The good road ends and there is a rocky road that is not maintained. I went up just a bit of that to get a sense of it for another day.
    I liked the area and decided to try that hike the next day. That was a good decision because there were no huge crowds on Monday and no offroad vehicles traveling up the hiking pathway.
    I liked getting a good start on the hiking by going before I check in to the hotel, but another year I might just leave my bags with the bellman to get them out of the car. I don't suppose there is that much theft at Red Rock, but there are signs about security, and it would be easy to empty my car while I was on the trail and leave with everything.


    I was up and rested and ready. This is rare for me these days. I had a fine $8 buffet breakfast at the buffet and went directly to the Willow Springs picnic area. The hike was supposed to be 1.5 miles one way, but actually it was closer to 2 miles because it took a while to hike to the trailhead from the Willow Springs area. The trail is an unmaintained roadway and I could have driven in farther, but it was pretty rough stone.
    I was happy to have picked a quiet morning to hike up. There was some traffic on the roadway, but generally just a few other hikers.
    One group was an annoying group of five young folks with radios blasting. Strange really. But they were lovers of noise as I found out when they left Willow Springs in loud muffled cars. The radios could only be heard, however, when they passed me on the trail. The noise did not echo throughout the canyon.
    These folks perhaps were also the ones who left two empty water bottles along the trail. Very annoying. I carried that trash out.
    The rest of the folks I passed or spoke too, maybe 8 total, were quietly walking dogs or hiking the trail.
    No one was anywhere near my age. Most were college age. Some had backpacks and a few had good walking sticks. But this trail easily accommodated me with just a few water bottles in my cargo pant pockets.
    One was a very pretty, perky and healthy looking blond with a bright orange backpack. She walked with a determined step and I liked hearing her pass with a friendly comment on the fine weather and then watching her go off down the trail with her hair flapping behind her.
    Meeting other hikers was a fine way to reassure myself that I was on the correct pathway and estimate the distance yet to travel. The first split sends another trail off to the left into a Wilderness area. It is marked with a sign. The second fork sends the Madre Springs folks off to the left and the White Rock folks to the right and that might circle back down to the car parking area, but it is much longer.
    I did the Madre Springs and back the same route.
    Most of the other hikers passed me going up and coming down. I took about twice as long as they did. The four mile hike took me a bit less than four hours.
    I rested when I wanted. In one spot just about a third of the way was a fine large rock set just off the trail. A good place to sit with a fine view of the mountains.
    The Springs themselves are tiny and no great site, but I was pleased to be there and know I'd made the walk, and I was happy to sit there for a long while, resting and watching the water. In one small pool were water spiders making interesting bubble looking shadows on the rocks. And I saw there one pollywog.
    Just before I arrived at the springs, I was greeted by some interesting black birds, much like crows but unlike any crows we have at home. It was almost like they had come down the trail to greet me and show me the way to the water.
    One did an unusual folding of wings and dropping sharply down while uttering a raucus cry.
    There were other birds there too.
    There was a great contrast between this and the Calico terrain. This was full of green trees and bushes, and grasses. Everywhere the paddle cactus flourished.
    The rocky mountains held only small sections of the reddish chiule. The rest were buff colored Aztec sandstone.
    There was more wind here than in other places and that would make this a fine hike on a very hot day. The sound of the wind took over the sound of silence that I sometimes could experience on the other trail.
    I saw just one flowering plant. I also saw a berried bush. And there was scat with the berries mixed in and undigested. Birds replant this way, carrying the seeds and making the fertilizer.
    At the visitors center I was interested to read about Agave roasting pits that were used to cook food. The pits were about a yard deep and 5-10 feet across. Using limestone to hold the heat economized on wood for fuel. In the pit wet grass was placed and then the food to be cooked (perhaps hearts of agave) and then more wet grass, and finally a thick layer of dirt.
    Because the limestone lost its value as a holder of heat after one fire, the rocks would be taken out and stacked in a circle around the pit. There is one site just a short distance up the Madre Springs trail.

    My last two trips to Vegas have included blisters. Last time I took what I thought was a great pair of New balance sneakers, but they had a worn section on the inner lining, and it wore a blister on the back of my foot.
    Most of my other blisters form on my toes.
    I carry some open toed shower shoes and walk in these in Vegas if the blisters have come, but this trip I spent some time working on keeping the blisters from forming.
    First, instead of vaseline (which only lubricates but does not hydrate the skin,) I used Calendula Cream. It is made from marigolds. Aloe is also recommended, but this seemed to work very well for the entire trip.
    I am very excited to have found it, because it changes my walking life.
    I also went to a hiking store and bought $80 worth of socks, Some were Smartwool padded for hiking. Some were light white shells, used first on the foot to reduce friction.
    These socks worked in Vegas and worked on the trail.
    I rarely used my other cotton socks, even in just walking around Downtown.
    After walking for weeks, my feet toughened a bit and I hiked since in Denver without the fancy socks or cream and no blisters.
    However, I'd be safer to always use the expensive socks and the good hydrating cream.
    These Smartwool socks take a bit of time to dry in Vegas after being washed out, not just one day as do the cotton. But I had four pair, two ankle length which worked well for my sneaker and two longer for the hiking boots.
    I'll get more next trip as well. These were really wonderful and worth the expense. I expect I can find them more cheaply on line.
    I love the hiking boots I've had a few years now. I don't hike as much as I once did, so they are still getting broken in. I took a good ankle twist on one rock along this trail and the boots supported my ankle so there was no pain or injury.
    I also paid a good bit of money at my skin doctor's for some sunblock that is free of risky chemicals. I've been reading that some of the sunblocks may block skin cancer from the sun, but cause cancer with chemicals. This product is sold right in my skin doctor's office. It is called Elta with SPF and chemical free. It is mostly zinc oxide.
    I took my little old camera on the hike with me and did not use my phone. I did not bring a car charger for my Galaxy 5 phone and wanted it to hold a charge to use as a GPS. That was a good thing because my old fashioned GPS could not find a satellite signal in Vegas whereas the phone gave me good directions with just an “okay Google” question.
    I get lost easily, so I have to have good help.
    I also hate driving the major super highways.
    Coming out of downtown on a Sunday morning I thought would be light traffic. It was. But those expressways forming the spaghetti bowl always twist me up, and even with the GPS I got on the wrong highway because the voice direction was a bit too late for me to lane change.
    I got off the superhighway and picked “no highways” option on the phone GPS. It added 15 minutes to my trip, but the driving was without any traffic and easy.
    While staying at Red Rock Casino, I only needed to drive down the road to Red Rock Casino. That was easy. I even stopped at an Albertson and stocked up on water and food for the rest of the trip. Having the car I can easily get some of this to Laughlin and then to the Four Queens. I like having water, fruit, bananas, nuts and cheese in the room and often make a meal of that rather than buy another meal out.
    I forgot to pack a cap this trip. On the way I saw a Goodwill and figured I could get one there. Well, in dollar stores at home I could have got one for a dollar, but here they were $2 and $3, which seems a bit strange in a thrift store where 50 cents might be more reasonable.
    I'm spoiled by Florida thrift stores in winter.
    Still, I found a like-new, wonderful cap for $3 that was well worth that price. It had a fine wolf face stitched in and a bill of faux suede with tiny wolf foot prints. It came from a Wolf Sanctuary.
    On the second day I forgot to bring this fine cap and missed it too. It was not needed on the way up with the sun to my back, but on the way down the brim would have shielded a good bit of the glare. Instead I did what the ancients must have done and used my hand as a shield to better see the mountains.
    I was happy I'd taken the time to pick one up as it helped with the sun when driving and hiking and in the afternoon pool swimming.
    Somehow I also took a rather poor pair of sunglasses which are great for driving, but generally not as great for the colors of Red Rock.
    My packing for this Vegas trip was well under par. Some of that was having to think through going from Vegas to Denver and then to Chicago, all destinations with very different kinds of weather.
    Part of it is just all the sleep issues I've been having lately and my inability in general to think straight much of the time.
    My water I bought at the Walgreen's in downtown and chilled in the refrigerator at the El Cortez tower room. I should have turned that refrigerator up to the coldest because I had water actually freeze a bit, and that would be great for the hike. But it was fine and even perhaps a bit chilled.
    As I mentioned, I was a bit worried about theft at Red Rock Canyon because it seems as if things in the car are vulnerable there. Signs say to lock up and take keys. I carried my wallet with me, but I left my phone in the car glove compartment.
    One of the young hikers on the second day had set his phone on top of his car before a three hour hike and forgotten it. It was there when he came back from the hike. He was amazed. Perhaps it is less a problem than I fear.
    I was fascinated by the term “red rock marbles.”
    Last edited by dewey089; 01-02-2016, 11:15 AM.