Instead I am going to tell you about my harrowing, and frankly stupid, hike through Red Rock Canyon in 112 degree desert heat. You see, the plan was not to spend 5 days in Vegas, but when flights are over $100 cheaper to fly in Wednesday night rather than Thursday night or Friday, this budget traveler rethought her plans. I had the time to take off of work, and hotels are cheap mid-week on the strip, so I thought, Why not! But my friends would not be in until Thursday and Friday night, so what to do with my free day? Go hiking of course! When would I get another chance to hike the Mojave Desert? I researched a trail to Las Vegas Lookout in Red Rock Canyon, rented a car for the day and packed my hiking boots.
Everything went very smoothly, renting the car, getting directions to the trail head, and even though I got a little later start then intended on the morning of the hike, I was feeling pretty good about my impending adventure. The trail head was at a horse ranch, and the trail while open to hikers and bikers was mainly forged by horseback tours. I noticed right away that the trails were not really marked well, and all I had with me was a macro trail map that I printed from the Internet. I tried asking some people at the ranch what trail I should take, but they were not very helpful. Not sure if it was because I was not taking one of their tours, or they just didn’t know. So I took my best guess and headed down a trail. I was pleased immediately with the caverns and cacti I passed along the trail, and was having a great time taking in the sights and exploring. The ascent was a little tough, but nothing I couldn’t handle. That is, until I ran into a big red X painted on rock wall. It looked climbable, but I heeded the red X and turned around. That’s right, I hiked about a half-hour in the wrong direction. So I backtracked and got myself on the right trail. Again, the ascent was tough, and I was feeling the strain a bit more as the day really began to heat up. The high was 112 degrees and I felt every bit of it. I packed 3 liters of water and after going down another wrong path and having to backtrack yet again (like I said the trail was not well marked, but I found my way when I decided to follow the horse poo) I was more than half way through my supply. This is when I also began noticing that there was no one around. I seemed to be the only one dumb enough to be hiking the desert, mid-Aug on a Thursday. Very smart, Kristen! Running out of water was a definite possibility since since I was not even half way through the 6.3 mile loop, and if I fell and hurt myself, or came across some kind of animal (not likely since even they are smart enough to stay hunkered down in the shade in this weather) there would be no be for miles to help. But I kept on, following the horse poo to stay on the right trail, and hoping that the mid way point would be around the next corner. I took frequent breaks, continually searching for shade without any luck of course. Finally, just as I was about to hit my limit for self-punishment, I turned a corner and saw horses tethered at a ridge in the distance. It was still far off but it was a light at the end of the tunnel. That must be a horseback tour resting at Las Vegas Lookout, the half way of my loop.
When I got of the ridge I was greeted with surprised but friendly expressions, and was even offered an ice cold water from the rider’s cooler. My saviors! The view of the Vegas strip was stunning and well worth the trip. I relaxed and conversed with the riders, a rancher and a family of 4 on vacation, for a while before pressing on. It was getting towards noon and I still had at least 3 miles to go. The decent was long but pleasant. The painted canyon walls were a beautiful back drop and I even ran into some wildlife. I came within about 3 feet of a hare, and what a curious creature it was. It’s ears were huge, and it was tall, even on all fours. It was hunkered down in the shade of a cactus and not about to move unless directly threatened, so it let me get pretty close without running off. I sat for a while just watching it do it’s thing there in the shade, and it starred back at me, and then went back to its business.
By the time I got back the the ranch my legs were about ready to give out, and my water was nearly gone (I used a lot less on the way back but thank god for the friendly riders), but I still took time to visit with the horses corralled at the ranch before getting in my car and heading back to the strip.
So not the smartest decision to go on a 6 mile hike in the middle of the week, in the middle of the summer, in the middle of the desert, but totally worth it in my opinion for the experience and the sights. I definitely learned a lot that I think will come in handy during my travels next year!