Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Gold Strike

Maslow had it almost right. He left out one basic need. In the hierarchy of needs, at the level of love and belonging, above safety and on a par with friendship, family and sexual intimacy is hiking. It a basic human need that can be ignored for short periods only.

Work on the solar addition took almost every weekend from mid-July through Christmas. Other than short walks near home we haven’t explored a remote area for six months. Last weekend we fulfilled that need.

We backpacked into Gold Strike Canyon in April, 2003 and spent one night. This time we planned a day-trip to the hot springs. Construction on a bridge to bypass Hoover Dam closed the trail head for over a year. To make sure access to the canyon was open we stopped at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area visitor center and encountered a mildly irritating surprise.

“We discourage hiking into the canyon?”

We questioned why and received some vague responses about danger, rescues during the last year and the “official position” of discouraging use of the canyon. I find this interesting! People are rescued daily in the Grand Canyon and there are deaths each year. Why isn’t use of the Grand Canyon discouraged? A reasonable level of danger and a need for self-reliance are part of the experience and add to the beauty and reward of a hike. In June of 2003 two men died in the canyon from heatstroke. The only danger we would face would be a fall.

Small slanted steps have been cut into the stone. (Larger version)

A woman behind the counter offered a suggestion which entailed crossing the dam, driving several miles south, renting a boat to get up river and completing the shorter and easier hike into the canyon from the river. It’s sad that in today’s world we spend more time commuting to and from an outdoor experience than we spend in the outdoors.

I didn’t disagree, argue or express my opinion. I thanked him and turned to leave but he could read my reaction and knew weren't being discouraged but were going into the canyon. As we neared the door he said “You know where to park, don’t you? We don’t make the rules. We’re told to state the official position.” I replied with a light joking comment, laughed to communicate I wasn’t angry with him and wished him a good day. He was just doing the job expected of him even though he didn’t agree with part of it. I respect that.

A large diameter knotted rope made this descent and ascent easy. (Larger version)

Since our trip in 2003 a flood rolled through the canyon with a wall level of 25 feet. Enough time has passed so there was no obvious sign of alteration with one exception. Some years back a late model car had left the road about 200 feet above the floor and the debris was on one side of the canyon floor. On this trip the wreckage was missing. Perhaps the flood moved and covered it. Given it’s location and the length of time it had been there on our first trip, I doubt some group or organization removed it.

Julie in the large pool in 2003. This pool was filled in by the flood and only a small portion has been cleared by volunteers. (Larger version)

We chose Gold Strike for Saturday because of predicted winds and figured the canyon would provide some protection. High temperatures in the low 50s were predicted so the air was cool when we started. As we moved around bends and past side canyons we went into and out of the sun so we took off jackets and put them back on.

Julie leads the way out of the canyon. (Larger version)

Signs of the flood weren’t obvious until we arrived at the hot springs. There is a series of pools and sources of hot water varying from almost 120 degrees to about 80. The largest pool was chest deep in 2003 but now slopes from 12 to 36 inches deep.

We moved father down canyon to a small pool about 30 inches deep that is located behind three large boulders against a vertical wall of over 100 feet. The water was clear, about 103 degrees and looked refreshing. After a lunch of sardines, crackers, fruit and nuts we settled into a peaceful world of birds, sunshine and small talk.

Five of the bighorn are easily visible. Only an ear of the sixth one can be seen. (Larger version)

As we hiked out we rounded a bend in the canyon and came upon six bighorn sheep descending the right side of the canyon. Julie and I froze as did the sheep for a moment. Then, in single file, they finished their descent, angled across the canyon and disappeared. We watched for them to appear above some boulders on canyon left and were thrilled as they came back in sight. They stopped at an overlook about 200 feet above us. One in particular seemed curious and watched us for about five minutes.

The curious one that watched us for about 5 minutes. (Larger version)

Julie, the sheep, the small bird that flitted around our packs while we were in the pool, the flowers, the warm sun, the occasional breeze, the warm water, the sheer walls – these and other features met a basic need. I ended the day happy, content and in anticipation of Sunday's trip to the Bowl of Fire.


Blogger Alex Pendragon said...

Our road was graded.

1/22/2008 09:17:00 PM  
Blogger Buffalo said...

I hope you know how much posts such as this one uplifts and brightens. Thank you.

1/22/2008 10:29:00 PM  

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