Around The Bend Friends Hiking Club Of Las Vegas is a group of young-at-heart people age 50 and over who participate in outdoor activities in the areas and states surrounding Las Vegas. They welcome adult guests from anywhere in the world.
Cockscomb Peak and South Loop Ridge from Trail Canyon Trail
Climbing Trail Canyon
At an early hour this morning, two club members headed into the wilderness from the Trail Canyon Trailhead where we were the only car in a big parking lot. It was chilly so we layered our fleeces, scarves and coats. Knit hats and gloves finished our couture du froit. The first hike up Trail Canyon of the year is always a big deal. So, we started at a very slow and comfortable pace. Yesterday and the day before, more snow was added to the mountainside. How far could we go? It wasn't long before we noticed that there was at least one hiker and at least one really big dog that had placed their footprints in the snow before us. We started celebrating each landmark!
Trail Canyon Trail
The water tank, the wilderness sign, the wash crossing .... It didn't take long before the large snow patches became a solid hillside of snow.
Rita on Trail Canyon
As we hiked, we watched the hiker's footsteps and those huge paw prints. The wilderness engulfed us with shadows.
Small Bush and its Shadow
Trail to Right
The low morning sun created long tree shadows that decorated the snowy trail like a GOBO lens covering for stage lights. When we arrived at the "Halfway" point where the trail veers to the right and big rocks are spread on the left of the corner, the snow was a consistent covering of around one inch. This is also where the previous hiker's tracks stopped abruptly and turned around. Ahead of us was a clean trackless trail. By now, after so many years of hiking in this area, both of us could probably do Trail Canyon with our eyes closed! So following the snow-covered trail was no problem as we imagined every footstep on bare ground.
The camera kept jumping into my hands for the incredibly beautiful winter wonderland landscape. The snow beneath our feet was on the crunchy side and very easy to navigate.
Trail Canyon Trail
Although the beginning of the hike was laboring in the higher altitude ... higher than Red Rock Canyon and Lake Mead areas ... once we got up past 8500' or so, the thinner air was not noticed.
Morning Sun on Trail Canyon Trail
Kay in Trail Canyon
Due to our slow pace, we were actually having fun, on Trail Canyon! Lots of photos. Investigating a lot of bunny tracks, bird tracks, ground squirrel tracks, and possibly a deer. Taking each other's pics, being silly ... and other girl stuff. Even though this was the longest it ever took either one of us to get up to the saddle, the hike up seemed very short. Next thing we knew, we were hiking into the saddle area. Still, there were no human tracks around. We laid our packs on the saddle resting log and hiked up to the overlook to the right for a few photos. (See the first two photos of this entry.) This was our target for today's hike and we were quite satisfied!
Charleston Peak and Griffith Peak were both snow capped; resting under their blanket before the onslaught of summer hikers make their assaults.
Fallen Tree just below Saddle
The sign on the saddle asking hikers to beware of undetonated snow bombs is still there.
Mummy's Toe from Saddle
Kay at Overlook pointing at Rainbow Canyon Saddle
We sat for just a couple of minutes before we lightened our couture a little and started down. Right away, we noticed that the snow had started to melt. We were so glad we had started up early and experienced the pristine white blanket on the trail. By the time we got down to the "Halfway" point, the trail was almost clear. We passed only two pairs of hikers on the way down. Great way to start your day!
Waterfall behind Obstacle Rock to Right of Rabbit Hole
Fletcher Peak Ridge above Fletcher Canyon
Water Flowing at first Trail Crossing
Fletcher Canyon, one of the official hikes in the Spring Mountains NRA begins about 1.7 miles past the Kyle Canyon traffic circle in front of the Spring Mountain Gateway Visitor Center. May is a good time to go up in the lower elevations of the Spring Mountains and view the snow melt gushing down the washes that are usually dry during the summer months. Fletcher Canyon is one of these washes but depending on the previous winter snowfall and the spring rainfall, the amount of water in the canyon differs greatly. Anxious to see what the crazy winter and spring Las Vegas weather has served up within these walls, two club members headed up into the mountains on a beautiful day.
Water Flowing along Trail Up
We got to the trailhead around 7:45am and had our choice of parking spaces. This was my first endeavor into the mountains this spring so, as soon as I began hiking up the trail, I felt the altitude!
Nice little Waterfall
The two of us are nursing foot injuries so our pace was slow and comfortable - good for altitude acclimating, we told each other!
Water flows alongside Trail
Water at Canyon Bend (Trail/Wash Junction)
Walking and talking, we hiked up the very familiar trail in anticipation of what we might find further up the canyon. However, at the first wash crossing ... maybe second ... there was water flowing. Hmm. This is special! Already, I started warming up the camera. We found rocks lying just below the surface of the water to use for crossing. Now, as we hiked, we heard the water flowing with small waterfalls not far from the trail. There was one more crossing before we reached the "trail hills." Then, it helped to know the trail well because the water was hindering a clear path in a couple of places. Staying to the left is a good mantra here.
The Trail inside the Narrows
At the canyon bend where the trail and wash become one and the side trails run out, the water covered our path. The first real obstacle was the log/rock jam. Yes, there is an up and around trail that is steep and slippery. But, we managed to go straight up the usual scramble ... in the running water.
Approach to Log/Rock Jam
I knew that the water was going to be in our way for the remaining of the hike up to Obstacle Rock so, why not use the waterproofness of our hiking shoes and step in the shallows. (It'll be kind of like the Zion Narrows! ... Sort of.)
Canyon, Water and Evergreens
Another Nice little Waterfall
During the whole hike, I think some water dripped over the rim of my shoes once or twice. We had to be creative in our choice of routes around the little waterfalls and deeper pools. However, TBH, avoiding the water was only secondary to the absolute beauty that said water was creating in this usually dry environment. The camera was well-warmed up by this time. I hope that these photos help you imagine the canyon as we saw it today. If not, go take a hike before the water runs out! When we entered the Lower Narrows (where the canyon walls are not far apart), the water was unavoidable. Shoes got wet.
Water flows along Canyon Wall
Then, we turned that last corner and saw the water was gushing down the chute into a big splash at the bottom! Above the chute is Obstacle Rock.
Chute at Obstacle Rock
We stood in awe at the sight then clambered up the slippery log on the right side of the chute. Quickly, we looked toward Obstacle Rock and saw the waterfall pouring down on its right side.
Down from top of Chute
This was an amazing scene. We took each other's photos, took a small break, then headed back. Definitely a scene that we will tell stories about for many more years. On the way back, we saw more hikers. Some were not wearing proper shoes and clothing for the hike. Probably didn't stop them from having fun!
4 miles; 850' gain; 2.25 hours
NOTE: The South Loop/Cathedral Rock Trailhead gate is open. But, word is that there has been a recent avalanche on the Cathedral Rock Trail.
Picking our way back through Narrows
A little wet, but it beats climbing up and around!
Down in the valley, today, seven hikers spent Mother's Day morning in the beautiful desert loaded with flowers, nuts, bees and butterflies. The indigo blooms are out right now! The Joshua trees and other various yuccas are filled with nut clusters where the blooms used to be. There are still several hedgehog blooms around and the skies were blue! The rain we had last week is still flowing strongly down the washes and our quest was to take a look at the First Creek Grotto Waterfall. To add a little distance to our stroll, we started at the Oak Creek Trailhead on SR 159 and used the Valley Trail to connect over to the First Creek Trail.
Joshua Tree Nut Cluster
The official Oak Creek Trailhead is found approximately 1.4 miles south of the Scenic Loop Exit on SR 159. There is another one on the Scenic Loop and a couple more from SR 159 that are unsigned.
Painted Lady on Indigo
Years ago, this Oak Creek Trailhead had a campground. SR 159 was a simple dirt road. When Las Vegans would want to visit Red Rock Canyon, they would have to travel this dirt road that ultimately arrived at the White Rock Hills. Rocky Gap Road would take them over the ridge leading them to Pahrump.
Heading up the Oak Creek Trail
Hiking the Valley Trail
Times have changed. The dirt road is now partly a busy paved highway and partly the Grand Circle Trail. Rocky Gap Road is only travelled by the absolute toughest of cars. And, the park is now a conservation area. Who knows what the coming years will bring to the landscape. Anyway, we left the trailhead to follow the road through the abandoned campground area, past the gate and across the Oak Creek Wash. About a third of a mile from the TH, the road/trail forks. A third option turns a sharp left up the hill to the top of a small ridge. This is part of the Valley Trail that leads from the Scenic Loop Exit TH to Spring Mountain Ranch State Park.
First Creek Trail Crossing
We turned left and followed the trail until it dropped down the ridge. Soon, it junctioned with a cross trail at the First Creek wash. We turned right to follow the trail down and across the wash.
First Creek and Wilson Peak
There was a lot of water in the wash but a few stepping stones helped us across. (See photos above.)
Indigo Bush with Rainbow Peak, Bridge Mountain, and Bridgepoint Peak
Hiking up First Creek Trail
The trail continued toward the First Creek Trail and soon, we were there. First Creek Trail is obvious, very large and usually has other hikers about. We turned right onto the large trail and chose the right fork at most opportunities so that we didn't get too far from the canyon wash. Today, we couldn't remember the correct landmarks for the Grotto trail. (In retrospect, John's first guess was the correct one!) So, some of us hiked up the trail until the trail met the wash. Nope. We passed it somewhere way back! Anyway, we added some healthy mileage and returned to the Grotto area that we had passed earlier.
Blooming Hedgehog Cactus
The maps and statistics below indicate the corrected route. (Someday, I'll remember the landmarks.) ... Or not.
Male and Female Side-blotched Lizards
Finally, we zeroed in on the Grotto by first finding the overlook above it. After a couple of photos, we climbed up to the beginning of the spur trail that heads down into the canyon.
First Creek Canyon
Top of Grotto Waterfall
Look for a tall tree to the south of the main trail, turn north and look for a bunch of embedded flat rocks. Follow the spur trail down to the left. Wow! Today, the waterfall was flowing very strong! And, the lagoon was filled almost to capacity. We were the only ones down there at the time and we enjoyed taking photos and eating a snack on the side of the pool. Very nice respite! As more hikers started intruding on our revery, we got up to leave taking the well-learned scramble up next to the wall. At the top, we placed a couple of cairns but, really, we don't expect the cairns to be there next year! ... Tall tree and flat rocks.
First Creek Waterfall from Top
Two of today's hikers scooted on down the trail without us. Probably had Mother's Day plans.
Start of Grotto Spur Trail into Canyon
The remaining five club members hiked at a decent pace down to the Valley Trail junction and turned left.
Small Waterfall in First Creek
Taking a Break at the Grotto
The Valley Trail was easy to follow on the return and then we turned right onto the Oak Creek Trail, again an easily recognizable large trail that forked in the immediate vicinity of the Valley Trail junction. On the way back from the Grotto, we enjoyed the beautiful desert landscape and the majesty of the Red Rock escarpment. We had started early and now it was getting hot. Time to go home. Great hike!
The photos speak for themselves. Jerry and Cheryl sent these from a duo climb to Lee Peak by way of the Lee Canyon Ski Slopes and the North Loop Trail. As you can see, there is still a lot of snow up there even though it is the middle of May. The Thomases are experienced in snow hiking having attended a few snow schools and climbed many snowy peaks. Be prepared properly when attempting a snow climb.
Other information on snow coverage that club members have gathered: - The South Loop Trailhead gate is still closed at this time. - The highest we have safely climbed on the Trail Canyon / North Loop Trails is about 3 miles up. This is just before that long switchback up to Mummy Junction. Here, the snow endangers simple hiking progress. - Harris Peak will remain closed this summer. Please respect the wilderness replacement progress.
Whew! Cold rain for the first half of the hike! But, nine hikers toughed it out without complaint. From the Mountain Springs Pass Trailhead, we took the Forest Service Road east and junctioned with the old abandoned dirt road that switchbacks up to the ridge next to the large sandstone wash. The road turns into a trail at the top then there are several use trails that continue to the ridge. We junctioned with the ridge at the campfire ring where the Hollow Rock Peak Trail begins on the beautiful pink, purple and yellow sandstone of the bench. Here, it was a pretty large consensus among the hikers to make this the turnaround spot. Being out on wet sandstone with even a small threat of lightening is never a good idea. And, that's what we would have to do to get to the rocky peak. So, we took a short break and began returning the way we had come. The rain had stopped but the skies were still keeping a few secrets. On the way down the abandoned road, at the apex of the switchback, we noticed a beautiful new trail across the arroyo in front of us. Where did that come from? Everyone was game so we made our way down to the trail and just followed it! The well-made trail led us zigzagging down to the forest road. The forest road junction was about 1/2 mile from the trailhead. What a great find! Thanks to whoever worked so hard to make the trail! It is a much improved route between the trailhead and the abandoned road switchback. It never rained again but we returned happy to have found a new trail.
The limestone / dolomite found in the Red Rock Canyon NCA was deposited in the Paleozoic Era between 540 to 250 million years ago from a shallow sea that first occupied this area of the globe. After that, in the Jurassic Era, around 180 million years ago, sand dunes built up over the limestone layer and formed sandstone. Next, the tremendous force of the movement of the North American continent against the floor of the Pacific Ocean created several thrust fault situations in western North America. The Keystone Thrust fault is one of the faults created by this force as the younger sandstone layers became the subduction zone and the older limestone layer was pushed on top of it. This also resulted in the two layers being pushed eastward where they came to rest locally in what was to become Nevada. The limestone / sandstone line is clearly seen along the top of the Red Rock escarpment or Sandstone Bluffs.
Short Distance on the White Rock Hills Loop
This line, or Keystone Thrust fault, runs north south for several miles but there is one place in particular that people from all over the world have come to know as the poster child of the Keystone Thrust fault.
Group of Five - We aren't your normal grandparents!
This special place is where the thrust fault, itself, can be observed above ground. It is one of a handful of such geologic anomalies in the world. And, it is located in the heart of Red Rock Canyon NCA about a mile upslope from the Scenic Loop High Point Overlook.
Steps at Junction to Keystone Thrust Trail
Agave Roasting Pit and Cactus Hill
Ready for another cool early morning hike, five hikers parked at the White Rock Mountain Road Trailhead located at the junction of the Scenic Loop about 6.5 miles past the Visitor Center. The day before, Red Rock and the rest of Las Vegas had endured a "whammy" of thunderstorms that included hailstones and buckets of rain. The clouds remained low lying and created a beautiful spectacle of a sunrise as they slowly burned off over the next 3 hours. We set off up the half mile of dirt road choosing not to give in to the temptation of a jacket in the 46 degree temperatures. We knew it would warm up quickly! A quick restroom stop at the top of the road, the White Rock Hills Trailhead, then we continued up onto the White Rock Hills Trail.
View Down to Fault Area from High Point
We passed an old overgrown agave roasting pit, crossed a wide gravel wash, then climbed another fifty feet or so to the Keystone Thrust Trail turnoff to the right.
Rare Succulents at Fault Area
About ten stair steps have been built here to accommodate the hiker's climb up the embankment to the remains of an old abandoned road.
Down Keystone Wash from Fault
Taking a Look at the Surface Fault
On the way up the old road, we stopped at another agave roasting pit that is in better condition than the first. To our right rose Cactus Hill; a hill that can be climbed for an overlook of the wide Red Rock Wash area. Eventually, the climb ended at another trail junction marked by rock lines. The road continues up the ridge to a fabled chop shop that operated during the post depression era. We took in the view on the other side of the ridge where red sandstone rose from the depths of surrounding limestone. The rock lines turned us in that direction downhill. The trail led us to the slab where we chose an interesting route to scramble down to the surface fault.
Climbing Up to Reconnect with Trail
The foggy morning afforded deep colors for the camera. At the fault area, we noted the rare desert succulents that live under the overhanging fault layer. They are thriving this year with all the rain!
View down Keystone Wash
Today, we decided to take a different route down to the wash by hiking up to the ridge on the other side of the fault. (The usual route is a steep trail down the base of Cactus Hill.)
Upper Wash Junction
Climbing to Ridge
There is a very clear trail that travels from the top of the sandstone slab over and up to the ridge. On the way, hikers have to dip down into the wash then climb steeply up the hill. While in the wash, we noted a trail that led down the wash where we wanted to eventually end up. This is good info for later. Instead, we continued up to the top of the ridge where a beautiful view of the Calico Hills awaited us. As we stood there, we looked up toward the La Madre Mountains and were presented with an otherworldly view of the clouds allowing a peak to peek up and through the fluffiness. Beautiful! This made it worth the early start! The trail became more vague but we found it leading along the ridge. Unfortunately, I missed the turnoff to the right where the trail traverses down a precarious route to the wash.
Calico Hills from Ridge
Instead, we found ourselves finding our own route down the side of the hill ending in the wash. Maybe next time we will try the trail at the wash crossing. (But that means that we miss the high viewpoint of Calico Hills.) Anyway, we ended up in the wash right around the area of the white rocks. Back on the normal track of the Keystone Thrust Loop.
La Madre Range peeks Out
After another couple of photos looking back up at the red sandstone and clouds and mountain peaks, we started down the wash. Ahead of us, we could see the escarpment playing within the clouds.
Fault Area from Ridge
Dropping to Wash
We stayed in the wash all the way down past the low crossing tree trunk and resisted the urge to do the limbo! The wash appeared recently washed out. When we reached the dry fall seen in the photo below, it was necessary to be very careful since the rocks were shiny and polished. Even down the steep slope from the ridge and down the rocky wash, all five of us stayed upright! No falls. Our slow pace was perhaps to credit for that. Down, down, down, then finally, we reached the culvert under the Scenic Loop. It was also recently washed out and we bent over for our hike through a clean culvert! On the other side, the hike down the wash continued as we watched a couple of cars pass on the Scenic Loop above us.
The Dry Fall Drop
This part of the wash opens out into the desert while maintaining its splitting gravel bed. We watched for our landmark juniper about half a mile past the culvert.
Dottie emerges from the Culvert
The landmark juniper tree is large and stands out in the immediate surrounding desert. This is where the Grand Circle Trail crosses the wash we were in.
More Mountain Peeking
Continuing down the Wash
Finding the juniper and the trail, we turned right onto the trail and followed it up about 1/3 mile to cross the Scenic Loop exactly at the junction of White Mountain Road. Our cars waited for us there. It was a beautiful morning and the sun was beginning to make its appearance. Along with the sun came the heat! Everyone enjoyed the two hours of fun and nature and were ready to meet the day!
Red Rock Canyon's history of geology is millions of years old. Between 540 to 250 million years ago, this part of the continent was under a warm tropical sea. The animals in these vast waters decayed into the seawater and eventually created the surrounding limestone mountains of Red Rock. Around 200 million years ago, sand dunes covered the entire area. These sand dunes hardened due to overlying pressure and the cementing effects of mineral-laden groundwater particularly containing calcium carbonate that glued grains of sand together to create the Aztec Sandstone of the Sandstone Bluffs and the Calico Hills.
Starting down toward the Quarry
Some time later, there were tremendous tectonic movements that created such a large amount of pressure that the underlying limestone was pushed up above the sandstone. Erosion shaped the remaining landscape as we see it today.
The West Hills from Approach
Although we have named this area Red Rock Canyon, it is really comprised of around nine major canyons mostly within the escarpment. Each canyon has its own charm and challenges for hikers, scramblers, and rock climbers.
Morning Sun on the Sandstone Bluffs from the West Hills
Climbing the West Hills to First Tank
So, today, in the year 2019, those canyons and hardened sand dunes are the playground for thousands of outdoor recreation enthusiasts. Fifteen club members arrived at the Sandstone Quarry Trailhead located 3 miles into the Scenic Loop of Red Rock Canyon NCA for a grueling scramble in the northern section of the Calico Hills.
Scrambling can be described as anything from "stair climbing" rocks to climbing rocks and slabs with the use of your hands. In other words, scrambling is the type of "hiking" you do between following trails and bouldering. In the Calico Hills, this is most hikers' modus operandi besides, of course, all-out rock climbing.
Pause at the First Tank
Because of its location, we seldom visit the West Calico Hills. They aren't far from the Calico Tanks Trail but it is difficult to tie them in with other hiking routes. We made that trip over to the hills via a small section of the Grand Circle Trail.
Group at the Third Tank
The climb up to the highest point of the West Calico Hills is a good warm-up. It left us breathing strongly! Along the climb, we came across three tinajas that were very full of water. Views of the escarpment and Sandstone Quarry were unique.
Descending West Hills
Finding Trails to Wander On (and connect with the Turtlehead Peak Trail)
Our trip up the big rock hill and back down covered around a half mile. When we returned to the limestone wash below, we began following a series of use trails in the area between the West Hills high point and the Turtlehead Peak Trail. It was a wandering route just to see what we had not seen before. Soon, we were connecting with the Turtlehead Peak Trail and we followed it up to the Petroglyph Corner passing the Mormon Cave, a large cave alcove in the West Hills. All of today's participants climbed up a steep sandstone fin to the right of the ancient petroglyphs using their mantling skills. We turned the corner at the top and descended into the small inlet between sandstone walls.
Mormon Cave from Turtlehead Peak Trail
An outlet in front of us put us on a small use trail that leads to Turtlehead Canyon. (This trail used to be part of the Rattlesnake Trail.) When the trail drops into a wash, we started down.
Climbing the Fin to Petroglyph Corner
The wash has a few beautiful scrambles and leads down to an interesting drop slot. If you turn around and look behind you from within the slot, you see Turtlehead Peak.
Mohave Yuccas blooming in front of Turtlehead Peak
Not as Hard as it Looks! (in Turtlehead Canyon)
Turtlehead Canyon starts at the beautiful wash, drops down into the slot, then passes through a dark "alley." Today, the alley was filled with morning sun and shade of leaf designs. Redbud flowers were added to the large mohave yucca blooms, desert marigolds and dandelions, purple asters, Utah Penstemons, and Cliffrose. Spring sprang and I almost missed it! We circled around the Redbud trees and joined the Rattlesnake Trail at the red rock slot. A left turn into the slot took us to the Red Cap approach area. We continued a traverse around the red rock passing the large white boulders that look somewhat out of place after falling in years past from the white sandstone walls above.
Descending Turtlehead Canyon
By staying high, this trajectory sent us on a scrambling journey above the official Calico Tanks Trail. Next, we climbed the red wall to our left and crossed over the first set of CCC steps on the Trail.
Sunlight in Turtlehead Canyon
We passed the bottom of the Mass Production Wall descent where a small spring was running then climbed the next set of CCC steps on the Trail.
Redbud on Rattlesnake Trail
Passing the Big White Rocks
Taking a left turn at some large boulders, we started up a neighboring small canyon, climbed the left side wall and followed the wall until it dropped back in. A couple of climbs to our right put us at the Ledge Tank. The tank was full. The view was fantastic. And, some shade was offered. We stopped for our break at the pond finding a few tiny fairy shrimp in the tank. (Anostraca is one of the four orders of crustaceans in the class Branchiopoda; its members are also known as fairy shrimp. They are usually 6–25 mm.~ Wikipedia) We dropped back to the Trail and climbed up to a completely full main Calico Tank. It was huge! I wonder if it's okay to bring a raft! Probably not. Remember the wildlife!
Scrambling above the Calico Tanks Trail
We circled around to the opposite end of the tank, in awe of its unusual beauty. Then, after a brief pause, we started down the steep descent to Calico II.
Scrambling to Left of Calico Tanks Trail's Steps
It is a descent but use of many muscles are required as we waded through loose rocks, sit and slide situations, big step downs, and finding the preferred routes.
Snack Break View
Snack Break on the Pond
On the way down, we saw a glimpse of a gray fox and a quick view of a chuckwalla ... or a gila monster. (Watch those gila monsters! Very dangerous!) Recently, a rock climber in Red Rock was bitten by one. Their poison is akin to a rattlesnake's. We passed several rock climbers on the route down. At least one was hanging from a wall about 70 or 80 feet above the ground. The descent route passes through another rock climbing venue where there were two ladies having a great day on the walls. Eventually, the route drops into a grassy area where there are a few paths through the brush.
Descent from Snack Break Pond
Coming out of the brush, you find yourself at the bottom of Angel Canyon. We turned to the right and made our way toward the Scenic Loop and the Grand Circle Trail.
Starting the Steep Descent from Overlook
A right turn on this trail will take you back to Sandstone Quarry and the cars. There are 300 feet of gain in elevation during this last mile of our loop.
Over the Hump and Down between the Walls
Rock Climbing Entertainment
At the bottom of the descent, I was worn out and when we junctioned with the Grand Circle Trail below Calico II, the heat hit me strong. I was a bit slow in that last mile! Besides that, the hike was very well received and it was a beautiful but warm day. The route was about one mile longer than I had anticipated but worth repeating in the future. A fun morning of scrambling.
It was 117˚ on the Colorado River today. Only the tough guys (and Tonya) showed up. We locked the gate to White Rock Canyon as we left this morning. Too damn hot. Closed till Thanksgiving. MOC
The forecast indicated that a high of 91 degrees should be expected in the Liberty Bell Arch area today. But, I bet it felt like 117! Just a reminder: the White Rock Canyon Trailhead is closed from May 15th to October 1st every year. Please be smart and stay out of this area during the hot time of year if you are hiking. Kayaking in to the area is a good suggestion. And, no matter what, always bring lots and lots of water. We're not kidding, folks!
Blue Diamond Gypsum Mine - Overlook Top Right in Foreground
Scars from Gypsum Mining in North Blue Diamond Hills
Joshua Tree in rare Full Bloom (Bridge Point Peak)
According to Google Earth's satellite photos of the western side of the North Blue Diamond Hills, a couple of new trails have cropped up. Today, eleven hikers explored one of those trails. In May of 2017, the satellite photos showed that the trail we hiked today only went to a certain point on the western ridge and without any extension of the trail around the overlook corner. Now, in April 2019, we proved that the trail leads all the way to the "peak" of the ridge then continues down from there as seen in the first photo of this entry. (We are probably a little late to the party because the trail appears that it has been there for a long while!)
Finding small Game Trail Connection from end of Conglomerate Gardens Trail
We assumed it was a bike trail since the trail zigzags up the hills making the ascent and following descent gentle and gradual. However, today, a Sunday, we did not see any bikers.
Blooming Mojave Yucca, Game Trail and Target "V" in Ridge Beyond
Researching the route, I saw that the trail was not easily accessible by any known route in the Hills except for the dirt road that is gated at SR 159. One could argue that the hike could begin at that gate but the gate should not be blocked at any time. (See the last map below.)
Target "V" in Ridge from dirt road Crossing
Connecting with a very nice Trail
Therefore, we started our hike at the Cowboy Trails Trailhead today to make our way across the desert to the "V" in the western ridge where we would pick up the worn trail. The hike would turn out to be a solid moderate hike as an out and back. Through the ranch gate, we took a sharp right and dropped into the wash next to the trailhead. A little further up, the Conglomerate Gardens (Kibbles 'n' Bits) Trail comes out of the wash on the left. Follow this trail shortly until it makes a sharp right turn around a boundary of piled dirt. After the turn, go straight finding a game trail junction that is barely discernible. Then, follow the burro tracks! They know where they are going!
Yucca Bloom in front of Calico Hills
This game trail drops into the wash. It does cross the wash but turning left into the wash works, too. We learned this coming back. So, just stay in the wash until there is a very small deep cut wash on the right side where we placed a cairn. I hope the cairn stays for a while!
Panorama from First Hill - Trail Continuation from our Junction
This little wash crosses the dirt road and shallowly leads up to the worn trail junction in the ridge "V". Turn right onto this trail and you begin your zigzagging ascent.
Hike Points of Interest
Hiking a Moenkopi Layer of Limestone
First, the trail zigzags up a small hill, then it crosses over to an intermediate hill with more zigzags. Finally, the trail perches atop the long western ridge of the North Blue Diamond Hills. Along the way, the views are unique and wide of the Calico Hills, the Sandstone Bluffs and the north and east North Blue Diamond Hills. The ascent continued along interesting terrain traveling through a Moenkopi layer of limestone. The cliffs on the east side became steeper and there is a very safe but thrilling view over toward the dirt road and the very old mining scars leftover from back in the day. The higher we got, the more we could see the southern portion of the Sandstone Bluffs and Mt. Potosi.
Climb continues on Neighboring Hill (Rainbow Peak-L, Bridge Point Peak-R)
It was a mixed moderate crowd today and we all had no problem with the moving pace of 2.1 mph. We moved along taking note of lizards and flowers along the trail.
Easy Stepping Limestone Slab
We passed the "end" of the trail as indicated on my GPS and saw that the very well maintained trail continued to the peak overlook. We were very happy about that!
Wide Views of Red Rock Canyon NCA
Well-Maintained Trail near Top
Arriving at the overlook appeared that we had arrived at a bottomless clifftop! When we sidled over to the edge, we saw that the "cliff" would have been easily down climbed into the remains of the Blue Diamond Gypsum Mine but that would be crossing a private property boundary as claimed by the Corner Boundary Marker placed on the cliff rocks. The Red Rock Canyon NCA ended here but still continued down the ridge in the southern direction. I was surprised to see a long trail appearing that led down toward the old Oliver Ranch off of SR 159. (Not seen on the May 2017 satellite photo.) We took our break here on the overlook ruminating on how we can use these trails for the future.
Mt. Potosi and Sandstone Bluffs from our Gypsum Jump Trail
We enjoyed our stay then started down. I asked the women behind me what I should call the hike on this blog. "Gypsum Overlook" and "Gypsum Jump Off" were two suggestions. I gave it some thought and went with Gypsum Jump Overlook. Maybe the bikers who created the trail would like that!
Taking a Break on the Gypsum Jump Overlook
Descending the trail, we noticed an old mining claim. Interesting that it is still there. Also, "something" zoomed across in front of me so fast that it was a mere blur. Thinking it might be a kangaroo rat, I followed the blur until it stopped.
Corner Boundary Marker at Gypsum Jump Overlook
Starting our Descent
Peeking out from behind a rock, we could see that it was a Great Basin Collared Lizard. These are larger than the common Side-blotched Lizards. It was an uncommon sight here at RRCNCA. We continued down the zigzags and dropped off the worn trail into the small wash, crossed the dirt road and continued into the larger wash where we placed a cairn. Finding the game trail out of the wash was not easy and we had to use the GPS but suffice it to say, this wash is the same wash that leads all the way to the trailhead. We always have a lot of fun doing new stuff! Great group today!