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Friday, June 16, 2017

It's the Keystone Thrust that Really Drives Them Insane

Day 5 - Sat May 20, 2017

I really like getting out of Las Vegas to see what there is to see. Some of the most memorable times have been spent hiking off to the middle of nowhere. I know that some Vegas degens will think that this means the balcony instead of the orchestra at the Celine Dion show at Caesars.

But no, I'm referring to the genuine, timeless, immortal scenery that they put up in the greater Las Vegas environs.

Three hikes were on the agenda, and it was now or never to start getting those in, because I wouldn't want to hike two days in a row.

Plan? Get up nice and early while its cool, hit Red Rock with a couple of liters of H2O, some beef jerky, and a home made compass fashioned from a sewing needle, a cork, and a glass of water.

Reality? Woke up at 8:45, hung over after a little over 6 hours sleep and wonder what the fuck I was doing. But no, I steeled myself and forged onward.

The new plan? Hit McDonalds, drive west, and see how it went.

I've got this really great pack that I bought just for this kind of thing. It's thin rip-stop nylon, and its lime green so that I can be spotted from the air when I'm lying up there with a boulder on my patella or some fucking thing. It folds into its own little pouch when not in use - the whole thing, straps and all, compresses down to a handy package the size of your fist.

I actually packed fairly carefully, not wanting to be a news item. I'd need calories (emergency cheese and turkey pepperettes I'd bought at WalMart, plus emergency nuts), sunscreen, more sunscreen, camera, monocular, cell phone, cell phone charger battery pack, Red Rock players card, cornmeal, gunpowder, hamhocks, and guitar strings... I made a list and made sure I had everything.

The OCD hallway echoed with a "WAHOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" as I set off. I even did a little prospecting on my way to soul-patching serene wilderness.


Would you believe I managed to find what is probably the only stretch of miles of city major thoroughfare in the world that has NO MCDONALDSES on it ??? (Hey, I like the Egga-muffin, its cheap, hot, greasy, fast and leaves you drooling - just like a next-morning hooker from Running Mascara, Manitoba.)

A CVS appeared in my windshield, so I pulled in and bought a 12 pack of water. The polyester-swathed staff didn't know of any McDonaldses nearby either. What did this part of town have against Scottish food????

Next a Denny's appeared, so I went for it. Not as cheap as I would have liked, but breakfast hit the spot, and my senorita Sheila was awfully cute. And she brought me extra jam. I think she really liked me.
Four triangles, two sticks, a round, and some hot shreds.
It's not too hard to find Red Rock and find it I did. My adventure in the wilds would soon begin!
Wilderness is very popular these days.
So would about 500 other people's adventure in the wilds. Because Saturday.

I paid at the gate and followed the long and winding road that lead to the parking lot. Before heading out, I'd studied Google maps. And they gave you a paper map at the gate, which was shitty and useless. Plus I'd brought a plastic weatherproof map that had tons of detail on it, but when it came to the crux of the biscuit, as also shit and useless. But still better than the shit, useless paper one.

My goal? The Keystone Thrust, which, to my surprise, was also the title of a rarely circulated silent adult from from around 1916, starring many of the Keystone Cops.

I pulled in to a wilderness parking lot and consulted my map.

"Map, you're shit and useless!"

Jimmy Poon: Consulted, not insulted!

But it looked like I was in the right place, because the map showed a dotted line leading from where I was onto the Keystone Thrust trail. And, when I looked around, there was the very faint outline of an ancient Paiute dotted line on the trail!

It was hotter than I would have liked, mid 80s, heading for 90s. But I was ready, I had my water, and phone, and anti-boulder-entrapment lime green backpack.

The goal of the hike was to view the Keystone Thrust, which is (apparently) the most important geological foundation in the Las Vegas valley. It's fairly easy to see - it's just a jump to the left, and then a step to the right. And those red outcroppings, ironically located in the Red Rock conversation area, are, I think it.

The point of the thrust is that it exposes where the colorful sandstone layer of rocks has gotten poked up and on top of the gray granite bedrock. Subsequent erosion created the engaging and delightful shapes, such as the fairly exact replica of beloved cartoon character Mr. Peabody, complete with glasses.

The first eight tenths of a mile was on a very broad trail. There were lots of other hikers, including people walking their dogs.  Hmmm.

And, to my surprise, they allowed vehicles on this hallowed Keystone Thrust trail.

That's because I was walking on a road.

This road was a steady, relentless, brutal incline that would wear down the hardiest Everest explorer. It didn't look like much but it just never let up. Up and up and up.

At the top, I found the real parking lot along with the real Keystone Thrust trailhead. It was all good, I was there for the exercise and life changing vision quest, so whatevs.

The further along I went up the trail, the fewer the people. Soon it was no more dogs, and after an hour of slogging, only two other people.

Not gonna lie, I had to stop to take a knee more than once. More like 18 or 20 times. The heat, the dryness, the relentless sun, and 400 pounds of beef jerky on my back were taking its toll. But the real toll-taker was the elevation change - noted at 500 feet or so from the second parking lot.

Didn't sound like much but by the time I got to where the trail turned east and down, I'd had one hell of a workout.

I remember one point in the trail where the climb up leveled off for a bit, and I thought, oh great, maybe this is it?! And then it went down thirty feet into a wash, and immediately back up the other side. So I'd have to climb this thirty feet fucking twice! WHY WHY WHY, NATURE, WHYYYY????

Finally, I gazed upon what I figured must be the Keystone thingy, and marveled at the view. It was simply spectacular.

I'd picked the most incredible day to go up, the sky that amazing blue, and the only clouds in it, the wisps of vapor kissing the tops of the western ridge as the currents made their way east.

There was one other couple up there, but other than that - nobody. There was no cell signal. No electronic dings, no motors, no music, no nothing except the noise God made when he told Adam "Pull my finger."

Actually, that was my noise. And that was the point, it was only nature, me, and two other mooks.

My plastic map showed that we were actually at a fork, and the trail continued up into the mountains.

So up I went, about another 500 meters to a place where I was truly, totally, and completely alone. And I made my peace with a few things up there.

It felt good.

And, I was rewarded with the true view of the Keystone Thrust. The point of it all is fairly clear.

See how that Keystone thrusts up through the gray granite? It's hella geological!
I stayed up there about half an hour, taking pictures, sitting down to have a snack and drink some water. It amazed me how far I could follow my discarded beef jerky wrappers as they floated and danced on the wind, down to wherever.

Oh for crying out loud - NO. No I did not litter. In fact, I picked up a couple of pieces and stuffed them in my pockets. I'd let the casinos deal with that mess later on.

You know, I wanted more than anything to keep going, to follow what was now a barely visible trail, up higher, to the crest of the ridge. This, I thought, is how people get in trouble.

I was feeling good, I had lots of water left, I'd made my goal - and that meant it was time to go down. Not like the next-morning hooker, but like the famous and absolutely unmistakable one-of-a-kind Sir Edwin Blarney, the first person ever to summit Mount Everetts, or something like that.

It would be good to have a nice easy walk down the mountain, I thought.

I thought wrong. It's fucking grueling walking downhill that far. My Merrills didn't have any stiffness in the shank, and the trail was mostly made of all kinds of sizes of stones, every step bruising my feet. My thighs were screaming like Suzanne Somers, and by the halfway point, I realized that coming down after going up was possibly even harder.

And then I saw it.

The boulder that would pin me to the terrain, crushing my coccyx or some damn body part.

It hung there in space, barely propped up. Watching. Waiting. Plotting it's downward plunge which would leave me screaming in agony and yelling, "I was prepared! I had beef jerky! I had a lime green pack.... LIME GREEN.... you FUCKER! Why meeee???? Get off my fucking coccyx!!!!!"

I gave that boulder a wide berth, I can tell you, and it wasn't soon enough that I was out of the line of fire. Talk about a close call!

Back at the car, I guzzled more water and got the A/C going in the Asshat.

I drove away, exhausted physically, and rested mentally. I'd had a couple of things I had to do up there, emotionally speaking, and, well, I took care of business. 'Nuff said.

This day, this was one of those days that goes into your heart and memories that you will re-experience a thousand times.

I knew I'd never forget it. My legs, feet and ankles wouldn't let me. Because my Fatbit said I'd done the equivalent of 74 flights of stairs, up and down. And that called for a beer!


    1. For some reason, it is extremely difficult to get to Red Rock Canyon without a car. So I will have to just settle for seeing photos of it. The good news is that you earned your next degenerate gambling session. I am not sure how the works, I just know it does.

      1. Not only do you need a car, you have to be able to drive, have a license etc. It might be easier to just take a limo hiking. I would love to see a stretch heading up that incline!

    2. wandering around in the desert seems peachy but some hot girls by the pool and a drink in your hand are the money shots. BUT Wow people line up and pay to drive a small paved road in the middle of no where. Yep -lots of donkeys but no waffles. "next please weve got all day."
      There used to be alot of burros at redrock but the people wouldnt stop feeding them so the government rounded them up and poof no more real donkeys in the desert. Miss those asses. P.S. Its 114 today, Ill bet that line is shorter.

    3. Those beef jerky finger-pullers are usually SBD's.

    4. Did you happen to find my stash of unwanted Penguin carcasses up on the top of that hill? Those little buggers get heavy after going up that same 30 feet twice.....

    5. It looks so beautiful. Gotta get up there one day. Hopefully, when the husband retires and we don't go in the hottest of the summer. Glad you had the experience.


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