Saturday, May 2, 2015

Black Canyon for the first time, again

 The Black Canyon of the Colorado, 2015

One of our favorite winter trips from Kernville is to nearby Las Vegas, and it is not for the bright lights and gambling.  Not far from the bustle of Sin City, is its polar opposite. A place where time stands still and you are really in no hurry to do anything; probably because you are sitting in a hot spring with the relax-o-meter pegged at 10.

The crew at the put-in
 Thanks to the good folks at Desert Adventures, we were shuttled to the base of Hoover Dam, a sight in itself.  Along with the family, we were joined by Rose, Sarah and Emily, who were making their maiden voyage down the canyon.  Maggie had gone several times before her first birthday, but for some reason we were unable to find time to fit in a trip last year, so this was Peyton's first trip, at the ripe old age of 1.

Left to right, Rose, Sarah and Emily

 For those that don't know, you need a permit for this trip and you have to be escorted to the put-in by a licensed outfitter.  Once on the river, you can camp pretty much anywhere, and in the first 3 miles or so there are many side excursions that are worth checking out, most of which have hot springs of one form or another.  On this trip, there were two shuttle vans dropping off customers, but as usual, most folks headed off downstream rather quickly and we were left with the whole canyon to ourselves.

Innocence and, well, not so much...
The first stop after a long gaze at the impressive Hoover Dam, is the Sauna Cave.  A test bore into the walls of the canyon to determine the best location for the dam hit a hot spring; lousy spot for a dam, great spot to spend the morning.  A trip all the way to the back of the cave is pretty much required.  Hot and very dark...

Don't get anything in your nose Maggie
They say that the water from the hot springs is habitat for a brain eating amoeba, Naegleria Fowleri.  I have heard that there have been no reported cases in Black Canyon and that the signs are just a precaution.  Still, I am careful with the girls to make sure they don't get water up their nose.  I'm not so worried about myself since I'm pretty sure that, while the water might provide a suitable habitat for the bug, my head probably doesn't...

In the Sauna Cave

Looking out
After a nice long soak here, we made our way downs stream past Gold Strike Canyon (a nice little hike if you have plenty of time) and Palm Canyon, where we stopped at a warm waterfall.  There is a short climb up on the downstream side if you want to sit in the small pool at the lip.  We skipped this part on this trip, but another worthy side excursion.

For my money, Boyscout Canyon is the best spot for an adventure, so we stopped there for a hike and some lunch, and of course, another soak.  The canyon itself is amazing with a series of slots and climbs through warm water and the occasional pool to hang out in.

The side hikes are not the only fun to be had as the views are reminiscent of the Grand Canyon below Diamond Bar.  The water is also crystal clear and poking around the various coves and caves is fun for everyone. 

Another fun spot
 The marquis campsite on this trip is Arizona Beach, with access to Arizona Hot Springs, but if for any reason that beach is crowded, there are many other options, including Moonscape Canyon just upstream.  Maybe it is the way we time our trips, but I have never felt like Arizona Beach was too crowded to find a spot.  This time around, we ended up sharing the rather large area with one other couple.

Practicing for next year
Already better than Dad at this...
Arizona Hot Springs is the bets hot spring on the trip, with a short hike up a beautiful canyon that terminates in one of the best springs I have seen.  For the adventurous, you can hike up another mile or so to some pictographs (not shown) that are interesting, to say the least.

Starting up the canyon

Peyton enjoying going into the slot

Dad gives rides up the ladder

Dads have fun in here as well...

The girls had a blast playing in the canyons and springs as well as climbing around the rocks at camp "laying eggs".  The benefit to bringing a giant canoe is the endless supply of food, beer/wine, and, of course, firewood.  After a great night of a whole lot of nothing, we had to head out the next day to meet our shuttle.  As always, we waited till the last possible moment to leave the campsite and still make it to Willow beach by the prescribed time, so we didn't stop for many pictures.  This part of the trip is scenic as well, in particular there is a steep walled canyon near "emerald cave" with a very cool catwalk for the gauging station.  There always seems to be a bald eagle roaming this spot and bighorns scrambling along the cliffs.

As usual, we rolled into the takeout with only a couple of minutes to spare.  The friendly shuttle driver was waiting for us and we were quickly on our way back to "civilization" and the drive through Las Vegas and our way home.  Whenever you leave this place you always wish you were able to spend a little more time, but the good news is that it will always be there for you.

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