I’ve hiked my entire life. When I was in junior high school in San Jose, California, some friends took me up to what we then called “the rock.” Today that rock is known as Summit Rock, which is only a small part of the Castle Rock State Park. Summit Rock was my favorite place to climb and play on rocks. I thought it was great, but it was about an hour drive from where I lived.
As I grew older, my friends and I explored some of the other rocks in Castle Rock, such as Goat Rock, Indian Rock, and Castle Rock. None of the other rocks had the view that Summit Rock had. From the top of Summit Rock, I could see the entire South Bay Area. My friends and I loved it there.
In 1999 I moved to Las Vegas. I had already heard of a place called Red Rock and I visited it about 15 days after moving. I was in awe of the Calico Hills at Red Rock. The Calico Hills make Summit Rock look like a pebble. Learning and exploring the Calico Hills, I thought, would never be possible.
On that first day, a very good friend of mine, Mark and I climbed to what we thought was the top of the rocks. In reality we only made it up to what we now refer to as Calico I Peak (which is NOT the top, by a long shot). We descended back down the same way we went up. That was the first route I ever created at Red Rock.
For what seemed like years, my only interaction with the rocks was driving out to the parking area at Calico I and taking my same route up and down. Sometimes I took binoculars and other times I took pictures.
One day I had the realization that on the other side of Calico I was a place called Red Springs. I began visiting Red Springs on my visits. At that time there was a dirt road that went all the way up to the springs. There was no boardwalk at that time. Further down was a dirt parking area. People played in the meadow regularly. It was like a secret place that few people knew about.
On my visits there I would bring a lunch and sit on the rocks and feed the occasional antelope chipmunk that would come around. It was then that I started climbing the rocks from Red Springs. Slowly, I began to explore all of the area and linking places together. Much of my explorations included my brother, Keo.
Keo and I explored a lot of the rocks at Red Rock. We even went to Turtlehead Peak, in July, wearing slippers (flip-flops), with one bottle of water each. My knowledge of the area grew regularly. To this day, I still feel as though Keo was with me for about half of all of my explorations of Red Rock.
It was Keo who introduced me to Meetup. I had always had a difficult time getting other people to go with me to Red Rock. Meetup seemed to have lots of people who wanted to hike. But because I was working a graveyard shift at the Gold Coast Hotel Casino, and I didn’t get off of work until 9am, I could rarely go on the hikes. They all started too early for me to make it on time.
After trying unsuccessfully to convince some organizers to change their starting times, I realized that I was going to have to hike alone. After work, I would take a book and climb to various locations and just sit back and read. My favorite place to read was at the top of what we now call Foundation Hill, on what I call the balcony. Some of the books I read up there were Phantom of the Opera, The Scarlet Letter, and Gulliver’s Travels.
Occasionally, I was able to join a Meetup hike, including Red Springs Peak with Gary W. and Guardian Angel with Bill and Sue. However, because I didn’t start work until after midnight, I was able to go on hikes with Gary M., a.k.a., DamnitGary.
Gary was such a fun organizer and the group that hiked with him was so much fun to hang out with. It was not uncommon for him to have 30, 40, 50 people on the hikes. This was before Red Rock began their group size limits, which seemed only to apply to Meetup. During the time that I hiked regularly with Gary, I learned a lot from him. Thanks to Gary, my knowledge of the rocks increased and I was able to link more and more places together with places that I had already explored.
I still wanted to do the morning hikes, so I had the idea to start organizing my own hikes. With the approval of Alan (VegasHikers Organizer), I posted some simple scrambles that all started after I got off of work. I was surprised at how many people wanted to go. It was at that time I began to think that VegasHikers should take some responsibility for our home park and I began to encourage people to help collect trash. It’s a never-ending job and nobody ever says thanks, but I still think it’s a worthy cause.
In the winter of 2010, with the help of Ken and Irene, I created a new route to the main Calico Tank from Calico Basin. Also with the help of Ken, I began to create alternative sections to existing hikes. Since I was tending bar at the time, I used the term “with a twist” to signify that the route had a change from the normal. Routes became “Kaft Mountain Loop with a Twist” and “Guardian Angel with a Twist” and “Calico Hills Loop with a Twist.”
In August of 2011, I left Las Vegas to attend law school in Michigan. I returned only twice a year and hiked with David Salcido and Gaby, who both started out on my hikes. After finishing law school in 2013, I returned to Las Vegas and began studying for the bar exam, which was the most difficult test of my life. But once the exam was over, I went back to organizing hikes and continued exploring.
Since then I have created more than 70 of my own routes in the Calico Hills. I developed a rating system for people to understand the difficulty of each route. I created the Pin Program to encourage people to continue to hike with the group and I have continued to help people hone their scrambling skills and continued to explore the rocks. I still encourage people to collect trash along our hikes and I instituted the “dirty underwear hikes,” where we collect people’s discarded underwear (I don’t know why they do it). In addition, many of the people who started out hiking with me have become organizers.
I have not quit exploring the rocks, but it’s harder for me to find places that I have never been. I have always wanted to share the rocks with others and I love those moments when somebody looks at me and says “wow, this is totally cool.” I just smile and say “I know, that’s why I brought you here.”