VEGAS PEAKS: Lone Mountain (3,342'), Turtlehead Peak (6,323'), Frenchman Mountain (4,054'), Table Mountain (5,152') and More

March 26-31, 2011

To escape the rain in Northern California and enjoy the hiking and dining in and about Las Vegas, NV, I had made an attempt to drive down there on March 22. I didn't get to sleep and started driving at 1:30 a.m. I soon started nodding out and decided to turn around. Frustrated that I had to endure the wind and bad weather in town, I soon detected another weather window and made more plans to do some easier peaks.

Leaving home again on the following Saturday, I had made a reservation to lodge in Mojave, CA. I'd take two days to get to Las Vegas. Motoring south on Interstate 5, I ran into terrible foul weather and had some doubts as to my plan. The rain shortly let up as I approached Bakersfield, and then I was glad that I had done this, this way. Tiring of the driving, I came into the desert over CA 58, and fairer skies. I had some dinner, and began to enjoy my second, 2011, Desert vacation.

Up early Sunday, I continued my drive, and came to Las Vegas by about 10:30 a.m. Taking I-215 to the northwest part of town, I navigated my way to the Lone Mountain Park and began my hike. This is an urban peak, good for a warm-up. Circling about the north side of the small peak, I soon came to the use trail to the top. Other hikers were climbing this little bump. I hiked up to the summit where I had nice urban vistas and the Strip highrises were in the far distance. I was to see this sight, many times this trip.

Hiking back down, I then opted to do the scenic loop road at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and do some light hiking at the Calico Hills. Finishing the loop drive, I headed for the Strip and gained my economy motel room. Relaxing a bit, I shortly headed out on foot to explore. Taking Las Vegas Boulevard north, I snapped my photos. My goal was to see the Cosmopolitan and do some fine dining there. I timed my walk for magic hour, and had some expensive items to eat, then shot the casinos at night. The Bellagio fountain show made for many movie clips on this trip.

I didn't sleep too much on this trip, and awoke to get drink and food, then drove back out to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. My hike today was Turtlehead Peak. This Monday, I easily got a parking spot at the Sandstone Quarry trailhead, and started my hike. A nice trail leads up, then goes into a gully. Route finding and scrambling made this a bit of a challenge. I ran into other hikers, and gained the ridge. It was easy from here.

Topping out, I shot my view photos, and rested for about two hours. Two peaks already! I'd take my time going down, and arrived back to the car by 2:30 p.m. Wishing to take it easy, I went back to my motel, showered and relaxed, then went for another walk to the Strip. Pretty fatigued, I shot some photos of the Bellagio Conservatory, where Spring was the theme. I had more fine dining, then walked about shooting more photos. I visited Paris, and Bally's, then went back to the Conservatory for night photos. With a time in City Center, I strolled back along the Strip and to my motel.

Tuesday, I had Frenchman Mountain to do. I had been interested in this peak for a long time. I had feared for crime, but I was alone the whole time, aside from power company maintenance workers. I left my car along the highway, and hiked up the dirt road to the top. Making good time on the first hill, I had to descend a bit and then climb back up to the antenna towers on top. I hiked to the southern bump first, and saw the bump that I had passed was the true highpoint. I shot photos from the lower bump, then hiked back north to the higher bump. The maintenance guys said that I couldn't go into the fenced compound, so I went as high as I could and snapped photos. They then left, so I checked out the fence which is built right up to a cliff. Easily stepping around it, I shortly gained the pole that marks the highest point, so I could truly claim this peak. I quickly returned to my pack and began to descend out of the cold wind. I had my photos, and hiked down the road. My car was O.K., and I headed back for the Strip.

It was still early in the day, so I got another lodging op at a big casino and rested, then walked out on the Strip again. It was mid-afternoon so the light was plain, but I had a good time taking plenty of more photos. Walking south, I kept to the west side of the boulevard, then had some fine food at the Bellagio. The fountain show made for more movie clips, and then it was back north on the east side of the street. Throngs of people, and then I was back to my casino.

Running low on cash, I had some free food by my coupons, and now spent little. I took photos of the window hotel view as the dusk happened. I had a really soft bed, and caught up on my sleep.

Wednesday, I had to head home. I had seen the best of the Strip, but wanted a fourth peak. Up by dawn, I motored to Goodsprings, NV. I sought to do an easy peak, Table Mountain, and found a road by my memory of the directions. This led to a series of mines, and no road headed further up for any peak. Puzzled, I went back to my car and drove a bit further west to look for another way. I had not read my maps right. I found the right road, and started the hike. This would be easy, now. I was so glad that I had not forced the terrain up the wrong way.

The road did as my map said, and I gained a ridge and followed the road to the top. You get a view to the west and north, from the highest point on the edge of an escarpment. I had time, so relaxed. This would be a good beginners peak for Vegans. Finally, I hiked back down the road, with tiny purple flowers about.

So, I was done with the peak hiking. I headed for Ridgecrest, CA, where I'd stay at a motel to prepare for a drive and shoot of the impressive snowpack along the Eastern Sierra. Having a burger at Peggy Sue's, I ventured to take the road from Red Mountain to the Trona Highway, CA 178, with a good flower show. I eventually came to the Trona Pinnacles, a sight that I had always wanted to see. The dirt road there went fine, and then I was hiking about the formations, used in many movies as a distant planet.

Motoring back west to Ridgecrest, I got my economy motel room and did some more dining. Dozing off by 2 a.m., I was up again after 5 a.m., to try to catch the sunrise on Mt. Whitney. I missed the orange glow on the peaks, but got some photos anyway.

Headed north on U.S. 395, I captured pictures of the snow chutes seen along from the Owens Valley, and remembered back when we used to ski these. Passing Independence, Big Pine, Bishop, and Mammoth, I stopped at the Mono Lake Committee visitor center. I purchased a few items to support this fine conservation organization, then shot views from the vista point up high. Clear and sunny, it would be a fine day for some ski mountaineering! The Sweetwaters made for a familiar sight. I came to Bridgeport, with views of the Sawtooth. Gas here was almost $5 a gallon.

Motoring north, I had more sights of the snowy Sierra, and then passed into Reno, NV. I had now only a short way to drive home. I had food and drink in a casino, then got some clothes at the enviro friendly shop on the west side of town. Then, I motored west over Donner Summit. Lots of snow. I shot my final photos at Yuba Gap, then came home to unload my gear.

Hiking then some 14 miles and 6,000 feet gain on the peaks, I walked a few miles more on the Strip. Driving about 1,500 miles, I spent about $300 cash, then running out of money, charged up some $100 more. Lodging ran about $176. Capturing then 2,605 images, I never needed to change memory cards. Using some 37 gallons of gas, I paid a total of $125 while on the road, with a three quarter full tank when I left, and a quarter tank full when I got back. The most that I shelled out for fuel was 4.059 per gallon.

Seeing no ticks or mosquitoes, I never used any repellant, sunscreen, or lip balm. Temperatures were in the mid-70's for highs, at most. Not too windy at all, I usually wore just two top layers on the peaks. Keeping hydrated, I drank only about five liters, total, of water while hiking. Wi-Fi access was not a problem, as I never had any great need to be connected, with no big news at the time. Never had to sleep in my car, with lodging every night.

My wilderness days may be behind me, with the peaks on this trip being with roads to the top, or with streams of hikers ascending the use trails. I thought that there are classic sights that every American should see, with Vegas being one of them. Yellowstone, Yosemite, New York City, all are must-do sights. The Strip is now a classic. Not wishing to be a problem by peak rescues, I seem to see civilization as a thing to behold, now. You can still enjoy life, with fine dining, and experiencing the marvels of modern construction.

It would be nice to be able to climb a rugged 13,000 foot peak again, with no trail, and only rock and snow. But, I have done so many of them. Without a good partner, I am stuck with doing solo travel on the civilized roads and byways. But after this trip, I am pleased to be able to still enjoy a summit and views, however urban they may be.