Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Search For Cool

I’m not talking about smooth-talking, Jager-drinking, John Travolta cool… I’m talking about mountains, greenery, and bunny rabbits cool. Sitting outside and drinking lemonade cool. Not feeling faint when you leave air conditioning cool. This time of year, everyone is searching for a break from the heat. My favorite escape is the beach, but the mountains are nice, too. Finding any cooler temps around Las Vegas requires a long drive, but about an hour will take you to Mt. Charleston. (Keep in mind that about half of Las Vegas’ 2 million residents get the idea to head to Mt. Charleston on most summer weekend mornings, so you might want to try a weekday instead.)

Last year about this time, my son and I hiked the Cathedral Rock Trail in Kyle Canyon. The trail cuts across an avalanche field as it climbs to the top of Cathedral Rock, and last year the trail bore fresh evidence of an avalanche. Splintered trees had been flung down the mountain like pick-up sticks. A creative chain-sawer carved a bench from a downed log (picture above).

Mt. Charleston offers camping and picnic areas in both Kyle and Lee Canyons. Trails can be found throughout both canyons, and more intrepid hikers will want to make an assault on the Mt. Charleston summit, which is just under 12,000 feet. I’ve been there, and I’ll tell you two things: the view is stunning, and the trail’s rating of “strenuous” is putting it mildly. For those who would rather wear their hiking boots as a fashion statement instead of a necessity, Kyle Canyon is also home to two lodges: The Hotel on Mt. Charleston and the Mt. Charleston Lodge . Both facilities come complete with bars and restaurants—no hiking required.

If you don’t mind a longer drive (three to four hours), you can explore plenty of high altitudes in Utah, Arizona, and California. Check out Cedar Breaks and Brian Head in Utah, Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead in California, and the city of Flagstaff, Arizona. A six-hour drive will take you to Sequoia National Park in California, where the trees are so large they defy description. ____________________
Photo information: My pictures of Cathedral Rock Trail, August 2007

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