Pine Creek Canyon Memories

The first few times my family and I hiked the Pine Creek Canyon trail, the only water we saw was in the cattail-lined,, deep, green pool near the metal picnic table off the Fire Ecology trail.

And then one February afternoon as the weather started to warm, I took the kids and dog out to Pine Creek after school. As we hiked along the trail heading toward the old homestead, I noticed an unidentifiable loud whooshing sound.

At first I thought it must be a strong wind approaching from our left,. Bbut the wind never arrived. Then I realized that the sound wasn’t getting louder or quieter, but seemed to follow us as we headed through the pines, toward the canyon.

We wondered if it could be water – it almost sounded like a waterfall. The kids and I decided to investigate and began to bushwhack  make our way through the scrub bushes and stick-branches of the trees toward the sound. And then suddenly there it was: a rushing torrent of water, racing over the rocks and weeds, through the bushes and trees .

The stream reminded me of the clear, rushing creeks up in the mountains of North Carolina. It was unlike anything else we’d seen in Red Rock – or anywhere nearby. I couldn’t believe this was here, in the desert. We started to hike up the creek, mesmerized by what we had found.

About a quarter of a mile upstream, the water flattened out, and became much wider, covering the roots of trees, so that many of them looked like they were growing up out of the water.

The kids played there for a while, stepping gingerly from rock to rock, and walking across the trunk of a fallen tree. When we left Pine Creek that day, I felt like we had discovered gold. I was so happy to find that one of the things I missed the most about the east coast was actually here after all… (albeit temporary).

The next February we returned: once with just my son and our dog, filming a “short” about a magic pebble in the creek; (and stayed for three hours while he filmed a “short” about a magic pebble in a creek), twice with neighbors to walk along the creek;, once after it snowed;, and then again in March, when it started to hail.

This summer while back east, I got a text from a friend that Pine Creek was burning. and I worried about the trees that lined our favorite creek., bBut then I remembered the Ecology Fire trail loop (where the Bureau of Land Management conducted a prescribed burn in 1992 to clear the flammable brush that could otherwise have enabled tree-destroying wildfires), and wondered if it might have been a good thing. Twenty acres burned and took two days to extinguish.

I’ve been out to the trail since the fire, and didn’t see any damage. Apparently the June 22 fire was closer to Dale’s trail, just north of Pine Creek. It’s good to know the pine trees are still there.

I can’t wait until February.

Canyon Clean Up – Teen Style

My daughter recently joined the National Junior Honor Society at Doral  Academy – Red Rock. This means that I have to help her find service projects that she is old enough to do (several places like hospitals and museums have a
minimum age for volunteers).

And since I have to drive her, I often end up volunteering with her.

In searching for options, I first thought of volunteering at Red Rock Canyon. I had already volunteered with the Graffiti Removal team, and at the time I remember thinking it would be a good activity for kids and teens. Knowing that someone has to remove it would be a good deterrent to defacing Red Rock.

That didn’t work out with our schedule,  but luckily there was a Canyon Cleanup scheduled for an upcoming Teacher Workday. I contacted the coordinator, Liz Carmer, to see if we could join. I discovered that the Canyon Cleanups are very popular and space is limited, so you have to register early.

Fortunately, there were still a few spots left. I signed up for three spots – my daughter, her friend and me.

When we arrived at the Visitor Center the day of the cleanup we were given bright yellow vests, bottles of water and best of all, the long metal trash.

My daughter and her friend loved the tongs and practiced picking up small
rocks in the parking lot.

After driving out to Calico Basin and parking along the main drive with the others, we ventured out into the desert. It wasn’t long before the girls raced off, spying a plastic bag on a bush in the distance. I followed more slowly, watching as they darted from one piece of trash to another.

It soon became competitive and I heard the cry, “No, that’s my piece of
trash!!” as they pretended to duel over the prized item.

But I could understand the excitement. Searching the landscape for a glimmer of metal, cardboard or plastic reminded me of the thrill of searching for plastic colored eggs in an Easter egg hunt.

When we returned to the meeting place, it was time to load up the truck. As we helped pile the bags of trash into the truck, we talked with some other
volunteers about how important it is to get young people involved.

One volunteer said people always complain that Las Vegans are shallow, but you just have to take the initiative and look for the other people who are interested in making a difference.

“They’re out there,” she said.

As we drove out of Calico Basin that day, I looked back in the mirror at two smiling faces. My 13-year old daughter shed her teenage persona for a moment to enthusiastically proclaim, “We have to do that again!”


Welcome new contributor to the Rock magazine – Dana S. Raborn.
Dana is a scientific editor with a background in urban planning. She and her family relocated to Las Vegas three years ago and live minutes from Red Rock Canyon. She enjoys volunteering at Red Rock as well as hiking, painting, music, sailing and kayaking.