Saturday, September 23, 2023

Hidden Canyon / Bighorn Spur Loop - 9/23/23

Early Morning Sun on the Bike Trails

It was Saturday so we headed up to the Buckskin Cliff Shadows (Equestrian, Bike and Hiking) Park found within the boundaries of Red Rock Canyon NCA on the northwest side of Las Vegas. It was a perfect morning to hike with cloud cover and cooler air. Our hike took us past the large cave at the base of Summerlin Peak, to the bottom of Hidden Canyon and up through the main wash. At this point, the wash is a good scramble with humongous boulders to conquer! Actually, we found the way around most of them but it was a good puzzle to solve. After the scramble, we climbed up to our right to an out-of-this-world overlook of the canyon and city beyond. Next, we dropped down to Blazing Saddle and connected with the Bighorn Spur Trail. This trail took us back toward the cars connecting with the Toque Trail running along the base of Cheyenne Peak. It was a good hike with a speedy pace!

Stats: 5.8 miles; 1000' gain; 3.25 hours

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Keystone Canyon - 9/18/23

Section of the Keystone Thrust Fault with Turtlehead Peak in Background

View down from above Thrust Fault

The Red Rock Escarpment from the Keystone Thrust Trail

In the washed out Keystone Wash
Have you ever done Keystone Thrust Loop in the CCW direction? Five of us did this little jewel for a beautiful ride! However, there were amendments to the original adventure. We parked at the bottom of the White Rock Spring Road at the junction of the Scenic Loop MM6 and hiked down the Grand Circle Loop trail for ~0.4 miles. This section of the loop trail is extremely washed out from recent storms and we lost the trail twice. (... and, we have all been on this section of trail many times!) In fact, we turned up in the wrong wash since this one had also become wide and gravelly. Finding the Keystone wash left turn, we started up the very washed out wide wash that, now, has 4-6 foot walls. It doesn't look much like it did before the rains! The culvert that runs under the scenic loop road, is absolutely clear ... except for the upper end where there is a serious tangled root obstacle. We got through but it wasn't easy! Next, the wash became a little more messy but still interesting and fun.

This used to be flat terrain.

The Culvert

Rita and Ralyn in the wash above the Culvert

The Scramble appears the Same
The scramble seen in the photo to the right was fairly normal in appearance except for a little deeper sand and gravel at the bottom. After that, the tree that used to cross the wash, was moved on down and is no longer an obstacle. From there up, it was clear sailing! We climbed the white rock 3rd class scramble on the right, on the trail to the side and also on the white rock on the other side. All routes were reported to be good. Next, we made our way up the beautiful rocks and climbed / scrambled all the way straight up to the Thrust Fault. We had two different fun routes going here! Finally, we sat at the overhanging rocks to take a break in the shade. The scenery was indeed better, in my opinion, taking the loop in the CCW direction but a view over our shoulders once in a while was also incredible.

Arriving at the top of the Scramble


Ralyn climbs up the Dryfall

Shade in Keystone Canyon
Keystone Thrust is the name for a prominent geologic fault in Red Rock Canyon. Faults are fractures in the Earth’s crust that occur from the movement of rock layers.

The Keystone Thrust is one of a series of faults that formed an estimated 65 million years ago, near the end of the Mesozoic geologic era – about the same time that the dinosaurs went extinct. At this time, the Pacific plate began moving under the North American plate. This caused compressional forces to push up older limestone rock layers over younger sandstone rock layers. At Red Rock Canyon, this is visible as grayish carbonate or limestone layers over red- and buff-colored sandstone.

This feature runs north & south for 13 miles along State Route 159, and curves at La Madre Mountain. It is one of the best examples of thrust faulting there is because you can stand along it with one foot on the younger sandstone rock layer and the other foot on the older limestone rock layer.

Therefore, we must recognize that the rocks we refer to as the "Keystone Thrust" is simply part of a whole that is most recognizable because you can see the two layers of rock that extremely slowly slide across one another. The remaining of the thrust fault can also be seen atop the Red Rock Escarpment where the limestone and sandstone layers come together as clear color change between the limestone and sandstone. Scientists come from all over the world to observe this area since it is one of few examples where this can clearly be seen above ground.

The Open fault area from Below

Succulent indigenous only to this area under the Fault

Another section of the open thrust Fault

A break in the Shade
After the rest, we climbed up to the trail on top of the open fault and followed it over to the Keystone Canyon again. To continue up the canyon, we were faced with about 4 dry falls, half of which were above our pay grade. We climbed up to the right side and followed a game trail up and around the first two dry falls and tackled the remaining canyon in the wash. The canyon became a class 2 climb until we hit the brush. There were trails on the side to get by the brush but this became tedious. Our target was to climb all the way up the wash until we could make our way over to Pinnacle Canyon and up. Keystone Canyon exhausted us as a whole so we stopped when we came to the La Madre Double Arch Trail agave roasting pit intersection. 

First Dryfall in continuation of Keystone Canyon

Bypassing the Dryfalls

East and West Damsel Peaks from Double Arch Trail Junction

Really rough Double Arch Trail
Leaving Pinnacle Canyon for another day, we took a sharp left turn and started down the arch trail toward the Keystone Thrust Trail. So glad we did! As it turned out, the arch trail was terribly washed out. Rocky and gutted. It was slow going on the trail so we did some of the descent on the side in the sticky Blackbrush. Should've worn long pants! When we connected with the Keystone Thrust Trail, it wasn't much better for most of the way. We turned left on the White Rock Hills Trail and hiked into the Upper White Rock Road Trailhead. Another halfish mile down the road and we were back at the car. The first half of this hike was amazing. The second half was exploratory and probably could use some refinement. Great time with friends.

Stats: 5 miles; 1200' gain; 4 hours.

View down to fault area from trail junction on Saddle

Keystone Thrust Trail nearing Upper Trailhead

Happy to be Back! (Really rough descent trail!)

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Mountain Springs Ridges - 9/16/23

View from a Block on Block Ridge

Juniper berries to Wilson Peak

Making our way from Gully Crossing to Upper Cairn Trail

Old Road to Gully Crossing
It was another delightful morning up in the peaks and ridges behind Mountain Springs, Nevada. Our hike would take us up a ridge to the escarpment rim, on up to Mountain Springs Peak and back down via a ridge north of the ascent that we will name Block Ridge, for lack of a better name. This particular ridge is marked with four rock outcrops that block the way of anyone hiking down. The top "block" has a square side that runs along the Mountain Springs Trail and is used as a weather shelter at times. We started out from the Mountain Springs Pass Trailhead, climbed up the first hill of Heartbreak Hill and found our shortcut trail to the next dirt road. About half a mile into the hike, we crossed the large gully to the left.

Mt. Potosi from Roundabout

Starting up the Upper Cairn Trail

Following the Upper Cairn Trail

A Cairn on the Upper Cairn Trail
We continued by following the trail on the other side up to a small roundabout. The Lower / Upper Cairn Trail leads out on the opposite side. A little further up this trail, the Upper Cairn Trail turns off to the left. The trail is fairly well marked even though many of the cairns have been knocked over. The best rule of thumb is to adhere to the top of the ridge all the way up. At one point, you may discover a trail veering down to the north side. Supposedly, this trail leads down to the wash and road that we would eventually descend. However, our route continued up our ridge until we junctioned with the Mountain Springs Trail. Turning to the left, we followed this main trail past the top of Block Ridge and on to the familiar Mountain Springs Peak.

Mountain Springs, Nevada from Ascent Ridge (Pasrump Peak in distance)

Connecting with the Mountain Springs Peak Trail

Top of Block Ridge

Windy and Black Velvet Peaks from Trail
As we hiked the escarpment trail, we admired the Sandstone Bluffs below us to our right. At the peak, we sat for our break to enjoy this always magnificent view. After a snack and a few photos, we started down the same way we came until we reached the upper side of Block Ridge. There is a vague trail where several hikers have come before us that leads around to the ridge and starts down. There is a nice clear saddle then the second block rock outcropping forces you to find your way around. Next comes a descent and another outcrop.

Taking our break on Mountain Springs Peak

Starting down Block Ridge (Second Block ahead)

Surveying our route from the Third Block on Ridge

Descent to a Low Saddle
Making our way around this blockage, the trail seems to be undecided. We hemmed and hawed a little but decided to continue down the ridge toward a deeper saddle. Just before reaching the low point, a sort of clearing appeared to our left where there is a cluttered wash. The west side of the small wash seemed most appropriate to descend so down we went to the main wash below. Even though the work we did on the way down was foreboding, the main wash was surprisingly welcoming. There was a faint trail running through the pleasant, albeit narrow, wash leading us directly to a road junction below. We turned left onto the road, climbed a hill to the top of the next ridge, curved to the right and climbed up the road lined with a grove of prickly pears. At the top of the next hill, there is a large cairn with rocks spelling out "354." 

Easy does it into the wash Below

Following the wash to a road Junction

Mt. Potosi from the Road Junction

Road and cacti lead to the 354 Cairn
The rain washed road continued down toward the town and after a while, we noticed a small trail on the left side. The suggestion of a shortcut down to the mess of roads below where we wanted to go was enough to get us going on a small adventure. The trail was very vague and seemed to have been made by an equestrian. Finally, after several arroyo crossings, we connected with our target road and continued on our way back to the car. It was a fun morning full of adventure and good friends while welcoming Charlie back from his "epic" adventure on Mt. Kilimanjaro!

Stats: 5.1 miles; 1400' gain; 3.75 hours
354 Cairn
354 (?)
Following the Road down to the mess of Old Roads

Mess of Old Roads!