Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dale, Oprah, and Me or...

Does that tree look familiar?

WHN and I joined an organized hike through of Dale's Trail in Red Rock Canyon. We actually had the choice of 2 hikes. The first, depicted a nice beginning hike alongside an idyllic creek to an abandoned homestead, while the latter, Dale's Trail, described a challenge through an overgrown cacti strewn path with deer ticks and an unused trail. WHN's ego made the decision, so we do not meander up along a babbling brook. Our hike leader hauls ass through this supposed trail (ironically, it is maintained by the NV Optimists), and at least I get to enjoy seeing signs of fatigue on WHNs exhaustive looking face while hearing his labored breathing. The area is not desert monochrome; green plants dot the red ground and multi-colored rocks like plum and yellow are sprinkled throughout. I wouldn't recommend charging through it like we did-- especially with the condition of the path.
Pulled this little silver dollar sized jerk out of my leg-- and the site is still itching me mad!

For the first time I wish that I had hiking poles as we also traverse some steep hills with loose rocks. The trail does not loop, so we plan to hike to the end and turn around. I quickly realize that despite our speed, we would be coming down a super steep slippery path in the dark.

A couple of weeks ago, Oprah had on the author of The Gift of Fear. One of his main premises is that humans are the only animals that talk themselves out of danger. All other animals when they sense a perilous situation peace out of it. I see the steep and long hill, and I refuse to go up it. Despite WHNs best efforts to dissuade my fear, I could not see myself coming down that steep slick long path in the dark. I told the others that I would be quite happy staying behind. WHN's cajoling does not work. The others are fine with leaving me on the trail to meet up with on their return.
Thank you Oprah.

Alone for the first time in my short hiking career, I am content and thrilled with the surroundings having a Snow White or Cinderella moment greeting animals. I confess, until this moment, I hiked just for the challenge. I enjoyed the scenery more as yeah ok whatever tree blah blah, but this area is truly striking. I take pictures of so many things that later I would look back and wonder what was going on in my head. Between the Oprah's fear gift moment and this, I am having a fairly momentous hike- but the excitement hasn’t even started.
Skull Rock, Dale's Trail, Red Rock Cyn NV

Rocks and plants look like candy here!

About 20 minutes go by and I hear WHN shouting. He had stayed with the group until he saw the end of the trail and decided to turn around meet up with me so that I wouldn't be quaking with fear alone in the desert. I will admit that I have a certain amount of satisfaction watching him slip and slide down the hill. He almost fell on his ass, but I guess I couldn’t have too perfect of a hike.

Where did the trail go?

We continue back towards the trailhead, but unfortunately, the hike in was so fast over rough terrain, we spent the hiking in focused on the ground. Dale really didn't spend much time marking his trail, and it is very difficult to tell if we were on a canyon trail or not. We could see the parking lot off in the distance- maybe a mile-- it's hard to tell. But we have a general direction to aim for, until the canyon lights went out. Instead of a gradual dimming, it appeared that a switched was flicked from day to night.

We have one headlamp between us. WHN wants it because assumes the lead--Something about being in the Irish equivalent to the Boy Scouts or some such. Fine. Knock yourself out. Thanks to car headlights, to the left I could make out the Red Rock Loop (a 13 mile road that circles through the inside of the canyon) and in front of us I see Charleston Road (the main drag that cuts through the canyon) We struggle staying on a path-- one moment we think we are on a path yet 2 steps later, surrounded by cacti, we are trying to figure out if we should have gone down into a wash or up over a ridge. WHN keeps a few steps ahead of me because with a head lamp can keep a faster pace while I fumble in darkness. He offers to hold my hand, but I envision instead of tripping through the darkness as I attempt to keep up, being dragged, so I decide to stick with Helen Kellering it. I periodically look in the direction I think we came from to see lights of the other group. No such luck. Does that mean that we are THAT FAR OFF that we cannot see the lights? I did, however, keep seeing the Big Dipper mocking me. Stupid nature. Even though it is dark and in the middle of a desert canyon, off a path, surprisingly to me, I don't feel scared. I'm alert, but not nervous. Maybe because the biggest animal I could think of that calls this area home is the burro. Who knows, fearless or not, I was getting over my original thrill being one with the desert.

Maybe another 20 minutes into the dark hike of finding and leaving various trails, I talk WHN into walking up to the Loop about 50 yards away even if it means scrambling in the dark (it didn't- we walk straight up the grade.)

A couple of pre-hike mistakes include me leaving my cellphone containing hike leader's phone number in it in favor of Emily's phone. What can I say, I didn't have any pockets. At least I had my headlamp (always on me because of Thursday bar knitting) which is more than WHN or later I found out, my hike leader had! Bar Knitting: 1 - Non knitters: 0.

We hike up to the road and it feels WONDERFUL being on the smooth black top, Civilization 1- Nature 0. Unfortunately, we make a right instead of a left on the road. I have a feeling we should be going the other way, but we decide to stay in the current direction until we could confirm it with a mile marker. Our theory is if we parked at mile 10.something, and we end up on Charleston, we only have to back track 2 miles on that wonderful black top road. Before we could get to a mile a marker, a truck pulls up and asks if we are OK. Evidently, the rest of our group, chickened out of returning on the path because of cacti and darkness. They were pulled out of the canyon by this truck. Experienced hikers: 0 - Oprah Watching Me: 1.

Unfortunately for us the Red Rock Loop is a one-way loop and we are going against traffic, so we couldn't get a ride and had to keep going up for another 3/4 mile uphill, but at least on a paved road. We get within site of the parking lot and could actually hear people. Another truck barrels up to us, driven by one of our hiking group people. Panicked, she asks ARE YOU OK?? I'm so glad I found you guys. blah blah blah. A minute earlier they just reported us lost to the ranger. She ushers us in to the truck and reverses to the parking lot, any potential search party is called off.

They are happy to see us, yet I sense a disappointment that we are nonplussed. I don’t think they wanted something bad to happen to us, but we could have appreciated the magnitude of the situation by appearing sufficiently panicked. But I guess we never felt lost per se, just off track. How desolate could we feel not only seeing the 2 roads, but the light of the Luxor too?

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

stars and bonnets

Meteor Shower
Shooting star left

Last week was the Perseid meteor shower. We drove out to meet up with others wacky enough to get to the spot, some wilderness area between here and Pahrump, at 3:30am. I am not sure if WHN has ever been to a meteor shower. He kept asking me if there was going to be one big moment with a bunch of shooting stars at once. Yes, that would be marvelous, but this isn't a fireworks show. I think being so used to TIVO didn't help much either. One minute a shooting star didn't seem long in theory, but in actuality, I think WHN walked away thinking TV-1, Nature-0. My nature loving Toonsters, jumped out of the car, poo'd and then try to jump back into the car.
I love finding out about sub-cultures. If I can see a fervor as someone describes their passion, I can listen to them for hours. I ask about the community group and the subtle rules etc or I can just listen to them chatter incessantly about whatever it is. One of the leaders of the Springs Preserves knitting group, Sarah, is an expert sewer. Her specialty? Period pieces! She spends her vacation time going to re-enactments. BTW, re-enactors and costumers consider themselves completely different animals. Anyway, with my desire to develop my sewing, and listening to her and her costumer friends enthusiastically discuss their world, is infectious. Somewhere between hearing about the upcoming Civil War Re-enactment, (Sarah: "I'm from Virginia, so I could never be a Yankee, however, I am willing to be a civilian attached to brigade") and the Jane Austen Tea & Dance... I found myself agreeing to go to the Old Mormon Fort for bonnet making. Maybe it was a combo of weak from hunger or the heat or a little cajoling or a weird desire to want to see it all first hand, but at the Old Mormon Fort for my first bonnet making class I was on Saturday put on by the Southern Nevada Living History Association.

Before the group met, I ran into these fellas who spend their Saturday playing an Old West version of D&D. Character sheets, play books-- all of it was present, however, when I made the comparison, I just got a dumb girl look from them. But trust me, it looked like a duck, it quack like a duck, and this duck was rolling those weird dice.

All together there were 5 of us. Sarah and Catherine were the pros having made multiple bonnets. I went in thinking I was going to get a frame, slap on some fabric, and VOILA a 1860 bonnet to wear to The Station for BJ or craps. I was SO WRONG. First, I had to trace and cut out the 3 flat pattern pieces out of buckram, a very stiff cotton/glue combo. Sewing these pieces together- back, middle, front took a bulk of the time.
1860 Buckram bonnet with my 2007 cellphone.

After, another long tedious process was bending millenary wire to the bonnet brim and sewing it on with a blanket stitch completing the bonnet skeleton for the layering of flannel and satin. I got as far as the flannel, so no amazing pictures of my fabulous bonnet that I am sure will make you all jealous and want one, thereby starting a new trend. However, I do have some pictures from the day and other finished bonnets made by the talented Sarah and Catherine.

Sarah bonnet
The bonnet Sarah was working on. She says she works fast because she used to work at Colonial Williamsburg, evidently in a bonnet making sweatshop.

Bonnets by Catherine.

Catherine modeling bonnet. Maybe it does work with her shorts and t.

Not a bonnet, but she pulls this out and says she is almost done. She knocked this out in less than a week.

So, the good news, I can learn to sew all sorts of garments from these ladies, but they will all be pre-Victorian.

Last week, I got an email from LaFujiMama who said GO TO THIS. As evidence by my bonnet making class, I am clearly subsceptable to suggestion.
So there. Proof I went.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

Ash Grove trail at Spring Mountain Ranch

Out past the scenic loop drive in Red Rock Canyon, is Spring Mountain (Ranch), originating with the Paiutes through the Spanish Trail, Mormon Fort, Howard Hughes and now a state park. I wish I could say that I knew about this place, a mere 15 minutes from my home, before this week, however, my Vegas knowledge can be quite limited.
Drive to Spring Mountain Ranch

Ranch at dusk


A park ranger led the moonlight hike along Ash Grove Trail. We could hear the burros settling in (eventually we saw them), bats flying around, and critters like this guy ribbiting away:

After years of Spring Mountain use as a way station for people traveling west, the area was formally settled and a ranch was built. The most famous owner of it is Howard Hughes, but much to WHNs disappointment, Howard didn't spend any time there. Before WHN found out the truth, he kept talking about Hughes and Katherine Hepburn and other starlets frolicking around the ranch.
Main area of house. The brick is brick from Olvera St. The wood beams are re-purposed from the railroad.

Though WHN was quite fascinated with the Hughes connection, I found the most intriguing owner to be Vera Krupp, a German actress that married into money via a well-to-do Nazi that she eventually divorced after he was convicted of war crimes. The look of the ranch today most reflects her occupancy.

Vera appeals to me because was she was a crafter! She was into lapidary work-- oh believe me, if I would have found out she was a knitter, I would have probably peed with delight.
Her "public" master bedroom. This will soon make sense.

The only thing that can make a posh vanity even posher is a chandelier. Closet space is to the right and left. Behind the slatted doors on either side of the vanity is the shower (right) and the bidet (left).

One of Vera's closet with her clothes.

Another thing she did that was after my own heart, was build a secret bedroom past the regular bedroom where she could be left alone to sleep and craft!

Beyond this hidden door is a left turn down a narrow hallway leading to a master bath and her secret bedroom.


Secret bedroom

Vera said this was her favorite place in the world. When she died her ashes were scattered in the back canyon where she often camped out. The next owner, Hughes Corp used it as a corporate retreat; Robert Maheu spent a lot of time there. Fletcher Jones in the early 70s bought it with plans to develop the area into houses and businesses. Luckily he did not get the re-zoning approval, and the state bought the grounds for around 3 mil.

Today, visitors can hike the trails, tour the house along with other historic buildings on site, picnic on the grounds, or say hello to the horses.

Also adjacent to the ranch and part of the park is an outdoor theater. Again, I am so clueless-- I had no idea. While we were walking around we could hear the rehearsals for Aida which begins in a couple of weeks. I definitely want to go. Picnicking and knitting under the stars while watching a musical, sounds WONDERFUL!

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Zion Narrows

Saturday I went on my first hike at Zion National Park, Utah, about 3 hours outside of Las Vegas. Though the park has several hikes, its most famous is the Narrows.

After a 30-minute shuttle to the Narrows and a 10-minute hike to the trailhead, hikers enter the glacier water, which actually in the middle of the summer, feels quite comfortable. The Narrows are about 16 miles long, and if a hiker wanted to do the whole thing, a permit is required, but for this section, the lowers, no permit is required.

The water depth on Saturday varied between ankles and waist deep, though mostly it was just above my knees. A few sections are deep enough to swim in-- those were fun to accidentally discover. The depth wasn't an issue as much as the slippery rocks! Combine those with some parts having strong currents, and people definitely struggled at parts. A few sections had no rocks, but lots of sand-- I LOVE THOSE AREAS. I spent so much time jamming my toes in between rocks that I feared when I finally pulled off my shoes that that my baby toes would jump off my feet and run away. You can rent canyoneering shoes in town, but sneakers seemed to work as well on inexperienced hikers. I didn't use hiking poles, but if I did it again, I would, though I did pretty well without. I didn't fall at all going in, but coming out, I don't know if it was because I was tired, or ready to leave the Narrows after being in there for several hours, but I fell a few times, Thankfully, I had a set of clothes vacuum packed in my backpack as well as my camera double ziplocked. I thought that falling would release my fear of falling, but I admit that it had the opposite affect. But again, I think it was fatigue setting in to my body and mind.

Sand bars on either side are intermittent on the route. I remembering being in a heavy current with the water up past my waist, and I noticed I was alone. I looked to the opposite side of the Narrows and saw people on a walking on sandbar. CRAP!




We took a break inside the Narrows for lunch. My hiking buddy Kiwi, brought sushi. I had a wonderful packed lunch, but all I could focus on was eating the butter beans. I my body and brain was so scrambled at this point, I de-evolved, and I couldn't even fathom using a fork.

Several yellow caterpillars joined us,

but other than them, I didn't see any other animals until outside the Narrows. The ubiquitous squirrel, deer, a bighorn sheep, and this fellow I found next to the walking path.

I definitely want to not only try the Narrows again, but other trails including Angel's Landing that is 3.5 feet way with sheer drops measuring 900 feet on one side and 1200 on the other. However, I want to be a more experienced hiker before I attempt something like that.



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