A snowshoe trail within the Stake Lake Trails system crosses an interesting geological feature, the basalt bluffs of McConnell Hill. On both the north and west side of the hill, steep bluffs rise from basalt talus slopes to the top of the mesa.
Basalt is formed when lava flows quickly close to the surface of the earth. During the cooling process fractures and joints appear and the vertical contractions are more stable than the horizontal ones and columns may form. The columns are often hexagonal, but anywhere from 4 to 12 sides can be found. As the columns erode, sections break off, piling up at the base of the columns. The rock pile at the western foot of the bluffs is about 100m wide.
Over the years, a few shrubs have grown up within the rocks, and most rocks are covered in crustose lichens. The "trail" here is really just some flagging tape across the rockpile, much harder to cross without a snow cover.
To see the basalt bluffs, take the Rustler Trail and cross onto the rock at the corner of the trail before it turns south (by a dilapidated bench). The way through to the Sidewinder-Ponderosa junction is a rough one, requiring slow, careful hiking. We hiked the Sidwinder Trail to the top (of McConnell Hill), then came down Ambush to the bluffs, but you can choose any loop from many within the trail system. Incidentally, there is a second spot for basalt bluffs between Cowpoke and Hold-up, on the west side of the Rattler Viewpoint. We enjoy walking the trails of Stake Lake, but we also try to observe the wildflowers, marshes, ponds, bluffs, ridges, and viewpoints within the 18 square kilometres of the Stake Lake area.