Thursday, November 3, 2016

Nightmare Gulch Just Gave Us Sweet Dreams

Red Rock Canyon State Park is located where the southernmost tip of the Sierra Nevada Range converges with the El Paso Range in Kern County California. This area of colorful and dramatic rock formations was part of the Native American trade route for thousands of years, then in the 1800's prospecting and mining took over. Sheep herding, stage coaches, a railroad and a truck stop have all had their time in this passage. More recently movies, videos and commercials have been filmed here.

For us, Red Rock Canyon State Park was the perfect opportunity to get back into desert hiking...and we had the place entirely to ourselves! The entrance booth was unmanned and there were only a couple of small rigs in the dry campground so we grabbed a map and headed back across the highway to Red Cliffs Natural Preserve.

There's a single lane dirt road that winds back into the hills for a couple of miles and ends at a gate where we parked with nary a soul around. This was our starting point to walk up Nightmare Gulch. The Gulch is closed February through June to protect breeding raptors, the rest of the year it is open to foot and horse traffic; fortunately for us they no longer allow off road vehicles into this unique environment.

Come along for a two and a half mile walk up Nightmare Gulch...

Just off highway 14 the colorful cliffs welcomed us to Red Cliffs Natural Preserve.

More red striped cliffs along the road to our trail head.

Eroded white cliffs lined the far side of the wash as we walked north towards Nightmare Gulch.

Brilliant colors were underfoot in the wash.

As we entered the Gulch the colors and formations and variety of rock were amazing.

Hans added sky blue to the multitude of colors all around us in the Gulch.

A big old tarantula captured our attention.

Reds and whites in fascinating layers and drip formations lined the Gulch.





About two miles up the main canyon we diverted into a smaller tributary canyon and the walls closed in on us.

Reaching the end of the tributary we had risen enough that we had a view back towards the Gulch and the surrounding hills.

Heading back down canyon we got up close and personal with some fun formations.

Looking up a water carved channel.



Another view of the white cliffs near our trail head (note Hans at left).

Lovely desert colors along the road heading out.

Layers of color everywhere you look!

We spotted a roadrunner on the drive out and watched him catching bugs flying around the bushes in a wash
for a good long time. Sometimes his crest was up...

Sometimes he seemed to be in stealth mode!
It seems early November on a week day is the perfect time to visit Red Rock Canyon State Park. We had the trail to ourselves and only saw a couple of people at the main parking areas. The ranger station was open by the time we finished our hike and we enjoyed their exhibits describing in detail the areas history.

They also had a 118 year old desert tortoise, Mr. Bob, on display. Mr. Bob has lived at the park for 16 years. Though I was searching I never saw a tortoise in the wild. There is a Desert Tortoise Nature Preserve near by though where one might get lucky!

Mr. Bob has strawberry lips!

We spent two nights at Sierra Trails RV Park in order to visit the State Park. It's a small, rustic, no frills park just off highway 14. Nothing fancy but perfectly fine for a short stay. Good Verizon signal, non existent park wifi.

Onward to Twenty Nine Palms, CA!

18 comments:

  1. Wonderful pics, makes me miss my desert!! That carved channel is amazing. Love the Road Runner :-) Bob was hiding in the shade when we were there last year at this time - he's a handsome guy. Your park looks "less rough" than the one we found in Inyokern :-)))))

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    1. I sure would like to see a tortoise in the wild some day! But Bob was a good alternative!

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  2. Wow - wonderful rock formations! Reminds me of Zion or Bryce without all the people! Glad you've found some drier weather. I just heard we had the 2nd wettest October on record here in Portland. Ugh!

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    1. Maybe that means the drought is over for the PNW???? I am quite happy to be drying out!

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  3. Great pics! I love canyons! See you in SD in December.

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    1. We'll be at Santee first, then at Mission Bay in January...see you soon!

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  4. When we visited friends in Ridgecrest they told us about Red Rock Canyon SP but we didn't make it there. Definitely on the list for next time!

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    1. Yes, you guys would certainly enjoy this park!

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  5. Wow, I would love that. What an interesting landscape.

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    1. Terrific colors and interesting formations, the photographer in you would go nuts!

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  6. Thanks for posting this Lisa. I had heard of Red Rock Canyon SP but had never seen photos. Love all the colors and textures and that water-carved channel. Do you know why it is called Nightmare Gulch? Looks like this is definitely worth a visit.

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    1. I never could find out why they named it Nightmare Gulch. It's the stuff of good dreams for me though!

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  7. Thanks for posting another great stop Lisa. It's beautiful ! Love the water carved channel...

    Awesome pictures of the roadrunner.

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  8. The weathering of the rock is amazing.

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  9. Wow, what a gorgeous hike! Such amazing colors and rock formations. Definitely going onto our list. Mr. Bob looks good for his age. :-)

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  10. Oh, wow! What a fantastic hike! We are sooo missing the rocks and open space. This was just what I needed:) Gorgeous photos! Love that carved channel...super angle! Thanks!

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  11. Guess what we just rearranged our route so we can stop here and do your hike! Once again we liked where you are hiking, such a beautiful place especially that we are due to some beautiful rocks again.

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    1. :-) I'm sure you guys will like this hike! I think your Honda will be okay getting to the trail head. It's a decent dirt road, just a bit narrow.

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