Sunday, December 13, 2009

Viva Las Vegas!

On Friday, we left Squamish for our holiday trip down south. We drove to Bellingham, Washington without any problems to catch a flight to Las Vegas. We hadn't flown out of Bellingham before, but it's a nice little airport and our departure was problem-free. We arrived in Las Vegas around 8:30 pm, picked up our rental car and promptly got mired in Friday night gridlock traffic on the strip, trying to find our hotel. After some wrong turns and more heinous traffic, we finally got back on track and found the building and got checked in to our very comfortable 2-bedroom apartment. Phew.

The next morning looked marginally acceptable from our window in Vegas, but as we drove west toward Red Rocks for a day of climbing, conditions quickly deteriorated. First, the road showed sings of overnight precipitation, next we saw snow on the low-lying hills and finally we ran into a snow squall on the way to the park entrance. When we pulled up to the booth, we were informed the road to the cliffs was closed for snow plowing! Our sunny winter desert climbing experience was not getting off to a good start. We killed some time in the new visitors center and the road opened at 11:00 am. We headed onto the 12-mile loop road and saw miles and miles of wet cliffs. Elise was thrilled, though. She's loved the way the Joshua Trees looked with snow on them and kept telling us so. After some exploration and discussion with a few dedicated local climbers, we managed to find a few dry routes and actually carved a day out of the situation, but it was a cold one and took it's toll. The giant bathtub in the condo was a welcome relief upon our return!

Sunday dawned sunny and bright. It was like we were on another planet after the hideous weather of day one. After a slow morning, we went on a desert hiking adventure that was recommended by our friend Casey Green from Penticton. The target hike was about 4 miles south of the Hoover dam, and we allocated one hour for the drive thinking Sunday would be smooth sailing (no construction). How wrong we were! When we were about 4 miles from the dam, we hit stop-and-go traffic that didn't let up until the far side. We spent about 40 minutes in this log jam, which threw off our time estimates for the remainder of the day. Regardless, we persevered and found the trail head.

The hike was called White Rock Canyon to Arizona Hot Springs. We hiked down a wash and entered a slot canyon that twisted and turned for 2 miles to the Colorado River. The canyon walls were hundreds of feet high in places and the slot often narrowed to 20 feet. Once at the river, we hiked south along the scenic shoreline to a second, narrower slot canyon and headed back uphill to find the hot spring. Unfortunately, a critical ladder necessary to bypass a 20 foot insurmountable cliff had been removed and we had to turn back before reaching the upper pools. Luckily, there was a small pool below this impasse and Elise was still able to enjoy herself - she was very much looking forward to going in the hot pools! After a quick dip, we turned around and retraced our steps back to the car. The hike back up the canyon was exhausting with Elise on our backs, especially since the ground was loose gravel and sand the entire way - not ideal for traction. Regardless, we were treated to a beautiful desert sunset and only managed to get lost once on the drive back to Vegas.

The forecast for the rest of our stay looks much nicer. Grandma Bourdon arrives tomorrow for a few days (as does our friend Jeff from Vancouver) and then we are off to L.A. for a second week to visit the entire Plumb family.

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