After what seemed bitter cold both in New England and when we returned to Las Vegas, the temps here have finally begun to warm a little and it’s a refreshing change. Our colds have lingered, but we’re back to our morning walks once again and we’re on the mend. We’d previously talked of returning to Red Rock Canyon to do the Grand Circle Adventure Loop Walk and chose a sunny morning a couple of days ago for this 11.3 mile trek.
Due to the government shutdown, we were concerned that Red Rock would be closed, but unlike our national parks, Red Rock is operated by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and the Southern Nevada Conservancy and remains open and operational. Hooray!
The Grand Circle Adventure Loop is rated as ‘difficult’, but only because of its 10+ mile length. The walk begins at the Visitor’s Center where we parked Blue and walked across the Scenic Loop Drive to join a well-marked trail. The terrain is hilly and the path mostly gravel and dirt. It was chilly to begin, but within an hour, we were shedding layers, warmed by a brilliant sun in a crisp blue sky.
There was a surprising number of people at the park for a mid-day, mid-week morning in early January. Some folks were on the trail; some at the scenic turnouts and a handful were scaling the sheer faces of the Calico Hills.
As I’ve mentioned before, walking for us is such a sensual experience. Our senses were alive with the smells and sounds and sights of our surroundings and the feel of the trail beneath our feet. Sometimes we felt the prick of a thorn or spine when we ventured a little too close to a mesquite bush or a cactus. We chatted sporadically, but mostly we tramped single file on the narrow path, lost in our own thoughts.
We spotted a black-tailed desert jack near the trailhead, a few antelope ground squirrels further on and a silky flycatcher looking for its favorite food, mistletoe. Otherwise, wildlife and bird life were scarce. I’d hoped to see a wild burro or horses or a tortoise which purportedly inhabit the area, but saw nary a sign of any of them. Even Jackson, the park’s resident burro, was absent from his corral.
The Calico Hills once again commanded attention … natural eye candy at its finest. Sharp, distinctive color contrasts in the rock combined with sunlight and shadows teased our imaginations, challenging us to identify animals and shapes in the rock formations. Nooks and crannies, ripples and swirls in the rocks showed the effects of time on the sandstone and limestone.
We stopped every few miles or so for a quick rest or a snack and at lunchtime, found a large warm rock upon which to relax, eat lunch and stretch out a bit. The trail never climbs very high, instead it hugs the base of the hills. Exposed to the sun, it’d be a killer in the heat of summer, but was perfect for us in a desert winter.
We maintained a walking speed of just under 3 mph, completing the loop in about 4 hours. A credible day’s walk ended up just shy of 12 miles and left us physically tired, but high in spirits. We’re back on the trails again.