Friday, April 12, 2024

Black Velvet Canyon - 4/11/24

Black Velvet Canyon Entrance

Black Velvet Canyon and Epinephrine climbing wall on Left 

Mike's Rock

Starting into Cottonwood Valley
from Late Night TH
I enjoy the months of March and April every year for a lot of reasons. One of those is that there are so many spring break rock climbers on the walls that it is almost constant entertainment! Some of the best walls for observation are in Black Velvet Canyon. World class stuff, people! Five of us parked at Late Night Trailhead and started out to the east around the hill behind the parking lot. Continuing straight on the Mustang Trail, we could see Black Velvet Canyon to the left just beyond the small hills in the distance in front of us. Staying on this trail, we junctioned with the Black Velvet dirt road in 2.2 miles. Turning left on the road, we hiked through the small car campground that is used by rock climbers from all over.

Mike, Theresa, Susan, John and Me (behind the camera)

Black Velvet Canyon left of center Hill

Starting up from the rock climbers' Campground

The trail up through the Chollas
Staying straight, the road turns into a trail complete with informational signs. As we climbed up through a buckhorn cholla forest, we made sure to stay on the hiking trail and not get sidetracked up to a climbing wall. We stayed on the embankment but right at the edge of the big drop to the wash below. This is the old trail. Over the years, it has become more difficult to navigate but up and around trails to the uphill side do the trick. We reached the red dirt drop into the mouth of Black Velvet Canyon and saw that there was a lot of water pooled and trickling in this colorful section. The first scramble has always been the most difficult for me but with everyone helping everyone else, we made it up and continued to meet the obstacles head on.

Hiking down from Embankment

Reaching the mouth of the canyon Wash

Water pooling at the mouth of the Canyon

Helping each other up the first
and most difficult Scramble
Many of the boulders in this canyon are the size of small cars! Some are bigger! The sandstone scrambles are best taken with a good pair of "sticky" shoe soles ... and a nice set of leg muscles! The scrambles haven't changed much since the first time I tackled them many years ago. One particular recent change is the absence of a long tree limb that used to lie along the top of rocks in the wash at a certain climb. It has been washed away. Thus, so have the hand holds washed away that we counted on for a few years. I expected more evidence of the big rains we had in the last year but I really didn't see much. Therefore, when we reached the waterfall at the end of the hiking route, I was very surprised that it appeared exactly the same!

Huge overhanging boulder in Wash

Boulder Scrambling

Climbers on Black Velvet Wall

Taking a break at the Waterfall
As we sat for our break, we watched the rock climbers up on the challenging walls called Epinephrine, Prince of Darkness, Cutting Edge and several others. It's a completely different world up there on the walls! We had our fill of the suspense and started down the canyon. It is much easier to descend the wash than to climb it! Duh. Climbing out at the mouth of the canyon with all the trickling and pooled water, we climbed back up to the edge of the embankment and followed the now familiar trail back through the chollas and down to the informational signs. Here, we turned to the right onto the official Black Velvet Trail. This section is the most beautiful of the trailed part of the hike.

Hikers' end point Waterfall

Rock climbers with an early start on Epinephrine 

Descent in wash is easier than Ascent!

Mike and John
The cholla ground cover began to peter out but joshua trees joined in along with yuccas and a slightly undulating terrain. Each time we crossed an arroyo, we checked to see if wild burros were lingering downstream. We never saw them but we heard them a few times. They enjoy the springs over on this side of Cottonwood Valley. There were many burro trails crisscrossing our trail as we hiked toward Mike's Rock. Mike's Rock is a big pyramid shaped rock that rises straight out of the desert. Although Mike eyed the rock questioningly this time, he still climbed up the side of the steep slant all the way to the top. Well, he swears, that's the easy part. It is the coming down part that is daunting and difficult. We all kept our eyes turned for most of it until he reached terra firma again! Nerves of steel! Next, our hike continued along the trail until we crossed a wash filled with limestone gravel and climbed up the other side. Here, we turned to the right. About 0.2 mile along this trail, there is a narrow fork that leads off to the left. We veered here and crossed diagonally up toward the hill to the left of us. The next junction was a right turn followed by crossing the next intersection straight. This trail allowed us to curve around to the left where we found our trail veering right and left at a road.

A little waterfall under big Boulders

Trail along wash Below

Approach trail through the Chollas

Black Velvet Trail
Finally, we started downhill and found a left turn in a finely graveled wash. This is a relatively new shortcut route back to the trailhead. It keeps you away from the road fumes of SR 160. (Not a bad thing.) We had had a quick paced 7.6 miles with a slower workout in the canyon. We were done! Great group. Great hike.

Stats: 7.6 miles;1040' gain; 5 hours

Mike's Rock in Situ

He did it again!

Trail back to Trailhead

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Pink Goblin Pass (aka Kraft Saddle) - 4/3/24

Pink Goblins?

About 180 degree view at the Point

Turtlehead Peak from Pink Goblin Pass

Road Runner
We heard a cry, kind of like a small puppy, as we walked along the Calico Basin Trail. Coyote pups? Lost puppy? Nope. We think it was a road runner! Are we wrong? A hiker looked over to the right down from the Calico Hills base and saw the magnificent but ferocious bird sitting on a rock. When we stopped to look, the cry ceased. We took the photo and continued around Cannibal's Crag to the slabby part of the sandstone. There were only a handful of rock climbers doing their thing at the early hour of 8am but this included 3 on the famous Big Bad Wolf climb above us. We dropped down to cross the waters of Calico Spring where a decent pool had gathered. A little further into the first canyon, we stopped at the large Girl Scout Trail sign. Here, we took a sharp right to follow that trail along the base of the next bulge of the Calico Hills. The next canyon indentation isn't hiked a lot but we followed the small trail that led there just to get a closer look!

Calico Spring Pool

Girl Scout Trail

Cantilevered Boulder

Passing a Canyon
It was a new small route for most of the ten club members on the trail today. Our trail switchbacked us to the official Girl Scout Trail and we continued all the way down to Ash Meadow. There are several ash trees growing in this area where Ash Spring and Ash Creek bubbles up. It is a beautiful area during the seasonal changes with the backdrop of red and white sandstone peaks. We turned to the right on the Ash Creek Trail, crossed the small creek and climbed up onto the high embankment. The trail, here, has caved into the creek about 20 feet below so it was wise to stay away from the edge as we followed the trail along the hill and dipped down and up to start a climb up to the Point saddle. The trail was slabby and fun to hike. It is one of my favorite trails in the Calico Basin. When we reached the saddle that crosses just below an overlook Point, we took a breath and dipped into the 5 Stop Hill ascent. Most of the moderate hikers stayed together as they tackled the slow climb. There were a few stragglers but this wasn't a race. Eventually, all but two hikers made it up to Pink Goblin Pass where we sat for a break. We saw them sitting in the dip at the bottom of 5 Stop. They had already climbed over half of the elevation gain of the day.

Ash Creek

Slabby trail (right) up to Point Saddle

5 Stop Hill to Pink Goblin Pass

Pink Goblin Pass (aka Kraft Saddle)
After enjoying our accomplishment for a few minutes, we started back down toward the Point saddle picking up the two hikers in the dip of the hill. We took our group photo at the saddle and climbed up to the tip of a ridge that holds the remnants of an old road. This should be called the Point Overlook as you can see the colorful hills all around you. A 360 degree camera would have been nice! Next, we turned to follow the old messy dirt rock road all the way down to cross a gravel road where we jogged to the right and left to catch a trail that runs along Ash Creek. A horse, rider and dog passed us as we continued along the wash. Soon, we dropped down into the wash and continued until we crossed another gravel road. Straight across from here, we followed a trail all the way to the Red Spring parking lot. A very enjoyable hike. Short in distance but long in interest. Good group and warm beautiful day!

Stats: 3.6 miles; 850' gain; 2.5 hours

5 Stop Hill Descent

Ten hikers on Point Saddle

Using Ash Creek Wash on Return