Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Bowl of Fire

Bowl of Fire is a misnomer, a name that misleads one into thinking of a caldera formed in a volcanic period. Actually, the Bowl of Fire is an area of Aztec sandstone formed from ancient red sand dunes. We chose the hike for its contrast to Gold Strike Canyon. Rather than tall sheer walls that block sun, wind and views we would marvel at open desert views on the way to the Bowl and watch the horizon in hopes of seeing a herd of horses.

Following one of the washes that lead to the Bowl. (Larger version)

There is no defined trail to the Bowl. The directions we had were somewhat vague. “Head due north to a wash, turn northeast in the wash, turn north into another wash, after one-half or three-quarters mile watch for a small canyon on the left . . . .” Between the sun in the sky and occasional views of red sandstone in the distance we had no trouble finding our way.

A strange formation. (Larger version)

Some may think the desert a barren and boring place but I find deserts to be living, fascinating places. There’s a wide variety of plants, abundant animals and rich textures that paint a kaleidoscope of shapes and subtle hues. The sound of a gentle breeze soothes and the horizon beckons.

We left the car and headed north weaving our way around plants, staying on gravel and avoiding cryptobiotic soil, the living crusty, knobby soil that is home to microorganisms. Millions of years of volcanic activity, erosion, uplifting, water and wind have created a rock hound’s paradise. This is no area of sameness but a rich field of attention seeking stones that cause one to stop, pick up a stone and examine it before discarding it to take another one. The only way to make time is to walk head erect without looking at the ground.

Looking down on the last wash and the place were we had lunch. (Larger version)

Hunger pleaded with us to stop and eat but the anticipation of eating on a high point caused us to put foot in front of foot. As we neared the first red hill we skirted it on the west side and found a way to climb to a saddle between it and a higher peak to the east. Lunch was good as it always is when eating in a remote place while hunger evaluates any food as excellent.

Moving toward the center of the Bowl. (Larger version)

A fun little game involves a cell phone. If we get high enough or in the right place, can we get signal and call someone and say “Guess where we are!” When we left the car we had no service. After lunch Julie powered on the phone and was surprised by a beep and a message announcing two missed calls. A foolish thing to do is to depend on cell service in case of trouble. It’s a game and only a game.

A mystifying area. Julie is sitting on one area of sandstone with uniform streaks of color. There were other large area colored similar to this one. (Larger version)

Hunger alleviated, we began to explore the area. The vast array of eroded shapes, holes, and formations cannot be appreciated in a casual glance. We climbed down to the drain that led us behind the hill and followed it upstream into the heart of the bowl. A slick rock tub held close to 100 gallons of water. Given time and patience it would be interesting to find an observation point and watch the wildlife that comes to drink.

Nearing the point where we would turn back while wondering what was ahead that we would not get to see on this trip. (Larger version)

We were in awe of many details. One unique detail was area of stone that contains a pattern of blue streaks. What cause the color? How did it infiltrate the stone in a regular pattern?

Returning to the car. We were parked near the hills in the distance. (Larger version)

One of the problems of hiking without a specific destination is to know when to turn back. Every rise and each turn may hide some marvel. Do we turn back now or go a little farther. We found a spot and decided no farther.

Gold Strike Canyon and Bowl of Fire – just two of what seems like an unlimited number of places to explore and be rejuvenated.


Blogger Alex Pendragon said...

Tell Julie to quit hiding her face. Tell her I said that.

1/24/2008 05:48:00 PM  
Blogger Linda Navroth said...

Hey Paul--

Cool area to hike! I love sandstone canyons. Can you tell me more about that nifty little day pack you're using? Haven't seen anything quite like that, but like the idea that the back is not completely covered for a hike in a warm area.


2/23/2008 05:48:00 PM  

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