Spirit Mountain in Nevada
The temperature was pushing 90 degrees as we climbed out of our air-conditioned car. The hot sand radiated heat as we dropped down to the sandy wash. Our destination was about 1/4 of a mile up the wash to a place known as Grapevine Canyon near Spirit Mountain. To many first time visitors, the Mojave Desert seems barren and desolate, but a walk through Grapevine Canyon offers another perspective. As we walked up the wash, I wondered what it must have been like some 800 years ago when the Indians were the sole inhabitants of the area.
A slow stream of water trickled from the rocks at the base of Grapevine Canyon, ran a few feet and disappeared into the sand. Many of the Indians gathered here for water and meetings. The signs on the rocks tell many stories of the past and give instructions on the local conditions. The Petroglyphs go 40 to 50 feet below the current sand level in the wash. These were some of the first petroglyphs and have been buried for hundreds of years. Most of the petroglyphs are not translated, and only a few of the more common ones have been understood. There are many books on the interpretation of rock art writing. Hopefully, someday we may be able to learn more about the Indians of the past and their rock art.
Note: The Lake Mead National Recreation Area website warns do not deface or touch the petroglyphs. They also instruct hikers not to climb on the rocks with petroglyph art panels. Climbing or touching the petroglyphs can damage the art.
To get to to Grapevine Canyon use the starting point of Davis Dam or Laughlin, Nevada; drive up Nevada Highway 163 about 6 miles to the Christmas Tree Pass turnoff. Follow this unpaved road for about 3 miles to where you will find a dirt road to the left. Drive to the end of the road (about a 1/4 mile) and park. Follow the trail sign to the canyon.
For those of you who like to hike, two and half miles further up Christmas Tree Pass road is a turnoff to the right. Park your car here to begin the hike up Spirit Mountain.
Spirit Mountain Hike
Length: 5 miles roundtrip
Estimated Time: 6 hours
Elevation Gain: 2,400 feet
Seasons: Fall, Winter & Spring
The hike up Spirit Mountain involves more scrabbling than upright walking. THIS IS A RIGOROUS HIKE WHICH SHOULD ONLY BE ATTEMPTED BY THOSE IN GOOD PHYSICAL CONDITION. During the warmer spring and fall months, keep an eye open for rattlesnakes. Always carry plenty of water and wear long pants to protect your legs from brush and cactus. The hike is well worth the effort, providing views of high desert country and Lake Mojave. Some days you can see up to 100 miles.
There is no trail up Spirit Mountain. Following these directions, however, will lead you up one of the easier routes. Go straight north from your vehicle following the relatively flat area west of Spirit Mountain. Once you are past the large granite rocks on your left, begin your ascent up the slope toward the ridge. From that point, the ascent is relatively simple, following the ridge the rest of the way.
You will cross three small plateaus during your hike, the upper ones containing a small forest of junipers and pinyon pines. Notice the rapid change in vegetation, and watch for hawks soaring below you. Of course, don't forget to watch where you put your hands; rattlesnakes don't care to share their rocks with even a finger.
On your descent, be sure to return by the same route you came up. The more southerly and westerly routes could lead you into ravines that are difficult, sometimes impossible, to get out of.
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