5695 ft (1736 m) – 1050 gain
Thankfully, my time in Vegas was about over. Leaving the conference hotel in the early evening, I worked my way south toward Jean, Nevada, eventually turning west toward Goodsprings. I hit the flaggy cobble-strewn track cut into the carbonate fans at the western slopes of the Bird Spring Range; the track parallels a dendritic dry wash draining the southern end of the Spring Mountains, of which the Bird Springs are a southeastern extension. The road, incised by consistent travel, cuts through a rocky plan of Joshua Trees and creosote. A smoother, less-used track heads into a broad swale in the northeastern portion of the range. I do not want to drive too far, as it looks like tracks head toward the summit ridge, so I find a turn out and settle into an evening walk.
The light feels harsh until the sun is on the brink of the horizon, golden hour rushes past in mere minutes. I am, however, excited by the walk into nightfall, making way steadily up a useless vehicle trail. A few outcrops of gritty limestone punctuate the trail, where a bright waning moon is diligently chasing the sun. The upper steps of flaggy limestone are steep, and it seems the vehicles have forced their way to a rounded summit plateau. It is a dead-end drive, but I guess the lights of Las Vegas are the draw – and a cheap way to climb a mountain. Happy I am alone this evening.
I find the summit cairn of Peak 5695, high point of the Bird Spring Range. Earth’s shadow has rocketed past, and the Vegas glitter shows its fleeting beauty – it does look fancy and promising from this height and distance. I am glad to have followed my previous morning outings with an evening one.
The descent is slow in the cone of the headlamp light, ball-bearing gravel rolling on limestone steps. A Joshua Tree, with a reaching arm, startles me as it pops into the peripheral light, anthropomorphic brush at my shoulder. I laugh out loud, only to shiver at the sudden creepiness. But as things flatten in the canyon bottom, I enjoy the last of the moonlight.
It has been a good week of walks in the hills of southern Nevada’s Mojave Desert. I will admit, however, that the peak-bagging spree has begun to lose its magic. I needed the escape from the urbanity of Vegas, but the series of small peaks – though high points of named ranges – has felt hurried. I look forward to slowing down and moving further east on my future visits this far south.