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Traverse rings to access canyon created by volcano

The Rings Trail in the Mojave National Preserve in California offers an exciting descent down a narrow and steep slot canyon, using metal rings bolted into the rock along two sections.

The descent is a bit tricky.

The easiest and safest way to get down is to face the wall. Grab the first ring of four, then drop one foot down to rest atop one of the bolts holding lower rings. Then grab hold of a lower ring, step on a lower bolt, and so on. Once off the first set of rings, walk around the corner and you’ll find another set. This time there are six rings and a longer drop. With an adult up top and another below to help, children can maneuver the rings and usually find it a thrilling adventure.

Once down the slot, the terrain opens up and the walking is fairly easy. You will find hundreds of fascinating formations full of holes, windows and odd shapes. The place is called Banshee Canyon because when it’s windy you might hear peculiar sounds from the rock, like the mourning call of the banshee of Irish legends.

This area was formed about 18 million years ago when volcanic eruptions occurred. Where gas was trapped in the ash it formed the odd-shaped holes that enlarged over time from wind and rain. It is said that the Hole In The Wall area was so named to annoy a large, highhanded cattle outfit that liked to label smaller competitors as “rustlers.” Because Hole In The Wall was the name of a famous Wyoming refuge for rustlers, one of the smaller ranchers attached the same name to a place in the big outfit’s backyard.

You should be able to visit the area in a day.

Bring water and food for the day. Wear hiking boots, long sturdy fabric pants and warm jacket that won’t tear on the rock. At an elevation of about 4,288 feet, be prepared for temperatures about 10 degrees lower than in Boulder City.

While in the area, there are some other sights that should not be overlooked. Some portions of Cedar Canyon Road and all of Black Canyon Road are gravel, but usually well-maintained and suitable for high-clearance vehicles with good off-road tires, except after or during heavy rain or snowfall when you might need four-wheel drive.

The Hole-in-the-Wall Visitor Center is temporarily closed for repairs.

For more information, call 760-252-6100 or visit http://www.nps.gov/moja.

Many of Deborah Wall’s columns have been compiled into books about hiking in the Southwest. She is also the author of “Great Hikes, a Cerca Country Guide” and a co-author of the book “Access For All, Seeing the Southwest With Limited Mobility.” Wall can be reached at Deborabus@aol.com.

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