Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2008 | 3:56 p.m.
For Sun City Summerlin resident Chris Dempsey, there is no better way to enjoy his retirement years than to go on five and 10-mile hikes into the wilderness of Red Rock Canyon and share the experience with others.
Dempsey, a hike leader with the Friends of Red Rock Canyon, was one of eight volunteers honored by the Bureau of Land Management for donating more than 1,000 hours of volunteer service from Oct. 1, 2007, to Sept. 30, 2008.
"We offer hikes for every type of hiker, whether you're just getting into it or you're an old veteran like me," Dempsey said. "Mine tend to be more moderate or strenuous with some rock scrambling involved."
The Bureau of Land Management, or BLM, recognized seven other volunteers with the Friends of Red Rock Canyon in addition to Dempsey — Thomas Hughes, Mark Beauchamp, Clara Hatz, Donald Powers, Lois and Mort Utah and Lorrie Vavak.
Hughes and his wife Nancy, both Summerlin residents, have been members of the Friends of Red Rock since 2000. They have been involved in everything from fixing fence posts on the Lost Creek trail to leading hikes to find Indian petroglyphs and petrographs.
"We came from Michigan and we were always into hiking and biking," Hughes said. "But when we got here and discovered Red Rock, it just took off."
The BLM's Southern Nevada District Office distributed awards to the eight volunteers on Nov. 1.
The Friends of Red Rock Canyon, which has about 400 members, was founded in 1984. From Oct. 1, 2007, to Sept. 30, 2008, the organization has donated approximately 18,100 volunteer hours, said Pat Williams, president of the Friends of Red Rock Canyon.
"These volunteers have taken ownership of Red Rock and have committed a large portion of their lives to the enhancement of the area, whether it involves cleanup efforts or leading trail hikes," Williams said.
Dempsey, 63, said his hikes are interpretive outings that focus on the geography and geology of the area — teaching visitors about the different rock formations and canyons in the region.
He typically leads four to five hikes each week throughout the 200,000-acre conservation area, most of which are on the weekdays.
"It's always nice to be able to show people from out of town that there is much more to Las Vegas than just the Strip and the casinos," Dempsey said. "They get to experience the finer aspects of our natural area."
In addition to leading hikes and cleanup efforts, Williams said volunteers also participate in trail maintenance, community outreach events and staffing the information desk at the Red Rock Visitor Center.
"These people have really devoted an incredible amount of their time so that future generations can also enjoy the area," Williams said.
The Friends of Red Rock Canyon offers seven annual membership options beginning from $25 for individuals.
For more information on upcoming events or how to become a member, visit www.friendsofredrockcanyon.org.
Jeff O’Brien can be reached at 990-8957 or [email protected].