Saturday, October 19, 2019

Boneshaker Hill / Fossil Ridge - 10/19/19

Boneshaker Hill Trail

Boneshaker Sign

Fossil Ridge Trail

Preparing for the Day's Trail Ride
 The sun wasn't even up over the North Blue Diamond Hills. We were just a bit chilly waiting for the start of our hike. And, the parking lot was already filling up at the Cowboy Trails. Finally, the sun peeked up over the ridge to the east. We felt the warmth. Then, it was time for our hike and we walked back into the cold shade! Horses, mules and wranglers were all getting their jewels and baubles on at the barn. We saw King, the Clydesdale, lording over all the others. Our route sidled by the wonderful beasts and turned left up the little hill on the other side of the corral. The trail took us across the desert to the Boneshaker Hill Trail junction.

Bridgepoint Peak from Boneshaker Hill
 A little warmer with the short approach, we began our steepest climb of the day. A strong group of twelve hikers charged up the hill.

Climbing Boneshaker Hill
 By the top of the initial section of the hill, the group had stayed together pretty well. We took a breath then continued climbing between Skull Canyon and Cave Canyon.

Standing at the Edge of Cave Canyon

Taking a Breath
 Gaining altitude quickly, we looked over the edge a few times to gawk at the deep neighboring canyons. The trail kept climbing at a slightly more gentle slope but we were breathing fresh air and enjoying the lower elevation ... that is, without the extra effort to breathe as we had to do all summer in the higher elevations of the Spring Mountains NRA. Finally, after passing two junctioning trails to the left, our route flattened out and reached the Boneshaker Sign. Here, the SARS Trail turned to the right and the Radio Tower Trail proceeded straight. We turned right to take the trail that basically crossed the top of the North Blue Diamond Hills.

Boneshaker Sign Junction (Boneshaker Hill & SARS Trail)
 Soon, we passed three bikers that we had met at the trailhead. They were very excited about making their first run down Boneshaker Hill. We wished them luck! They were stoked! (Do they still say that?)

SARS Trail
 The SARS Trail dipped down at the top of the left fork of Cave Canyon then climbed up and over to the top of the right fork. Next, the trail ran down along the side of this right fork and we stopped for a break. We ate. We talked. And, we found a few fossils.

Break Time on SARS Trail

Interesting Precambrian Fossil
 These hills are full of Precambrian fossils. All you have to do is look! Next, the trail continued down canyon until it climbed out the other side and passed the trails for Second Finger. First Finger came after that. Then, we junctioned with the old mining road trail and turned to the right. Finally, we junctioned with the Echo Canyon Trail that turned to the right. After a pause, we started down the top of Echo Canyon passing one of the First Finger Trails. There are two small switchbacks before hikers are able to veer down to the right into the Echo Canyon wash. We continued straight down the Fossil Ridge Trail and the scenery got even better!

Working our Way over to Echo Canyon
 Fossil Ridge Trail traverses along the side of Echo Canyon among dark colored conglomerate bouldered walls. The trail junctions with the Bunny Trail as it starts to go more steeply downhill.

Starting down Fossil Ridge Trail above Echo Canyon
 The Fossil Ridge Trail turns to the right here and continues along a ridge. A beautiful cactus garden grows on the ridge across from the Echo Canyon high walls.

Conglomerate Boulders near Fossil Trail

Hiking down Fossil Ridge Trail
 The trail has been improved for the horses and mules that accommodate the trail rides but only down to a certain point where they enter the trail from the stables below. After that, our trail had difficult footing for the remaining short descent until we hit the desert floor. It was an absolutely beautiful day ... again! Great group and lots of fun!

6 miles; 1200 feet elevation gain; 3.25 hours; average moving speed 1.8 mph

Cactus Garden on Fossil Ridge

New Stuff at the Trail Rides Station

Descending Fossil Ridge to the Trailhead

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Skull Rock Loop - 10/11/19

Skull Rock & Sign

Bridgepoint & Bridge Mountain from Arnight Trail

Oversized Cairn on Wilson Road

Morning Light on Escarpment
The winds from the day before had subsided. The skies were beautiful blue with abstract wind blown clouds. The air was clear, crisp and fresh. Temperatures started around 40 degrees; later they would rise with the sun to around 60. And, for some odd reason, Red Rock Canyon NCA was very very quiet! Nine  hikers gathered at the Red Rock Scenic Loop Exit parking lot ready for a 6 mile loop in the desert. We crossed the paved loop road and chose the trail to the right to start heading over to the Oak Creek Trailhead. We found ourselves twisting and turning through the sagebrush until we reached the trailhead and its restroom.

Hiking the Arnight Trail
There was an amazing amount of coyote scat along the trail! What do they do at night?? Maybe it was a Coyote Ugly party! Get together and do the dirty deed.

Juniper Canyon Drainage
Almost everyone took advantage of the Oak Creek restroom facility. There were several cars parked at the trailhead. Most likely, these were the cars of rock climbers.

Green Desert

Arnight Trail Steps
After the break, we started up the Arnight Trail. Usually, this trail is extremely rocky. However, the first quarter mile appeared to have been de-rocked. Very nice. After this, the rocks started becoming an issue and it was necessary to watch our step at all times. Once in a while I would stop just to take a look around at the amazing scenery. The desert was so so green! (See photo above.) We crossed the dry Juniper Canyon wash then passed the Knoll and Juniper Canyon Trail junctions. The Knoll Trail junction still has the old metal sign. The large trailside boulder with lines of lichen has recently been used for rock climbing training. We saw the chalk.

Hiking Arnight Trail
The trail leads up near the base of the escarpment peaks and the trees were taller here. We stopped several times to search for deer. But, they are very difficult to spot in the desert brush.

Pine Creek Canyon
Not too far after the lichen boulder, we turned a corner to the left at a tall tree. I believe (with a little imagination) that the trail here led down from the "parking area" of the Wilson Road which ended not too far from this corner. The old trail starts diagonally down the berm into Pine Creek Canyon here. Very rocky. Watch your step!

Points of Interest

Crossing Pine Creek
The views of Pine Creek Canyon over our right shoulder showed the greenness of the Pine Creek drainage. At the bottom of the hill, we turned sharply to the right passing the Pine Creek Trail junction coming in from up canyon. The brush reached in on us here and we noticed an unfamiliar plant that was producing a nasty thorned fruit. I consulted our favorite plant IDer and he said it was a Cocklebur! YIKES! He suggested to let the Red Rock people know about it so that they can eradicate it. They need to cut back the brush here anyway! From here, we continued up to the old Wilson Homestead for a 3 minute break.

Visiting the Wilsons
Pushing on, we started up the trail toward the trailhead and soon, we passed the old Wilson Oven set inside a large boulder next to the trail.

New Burro Fence and Gate on Dale's Trail
Further up, we came to the Dale's Trail junction where there is an old metal trail sign and the remains of a larger sign. On the other side of Pine Creek Trail, there is a tall gate post made of small boulders assumably also a Wilson Homestead remnant.

Nearing Skull Rock

Side View of Skull Rock
We turned left up Dale's Trail and, immediately, we were confronted with a brand spanking new barbed wire fence with a bright yellow pedestrian gate. We decided it must be for burro control. We believe that the BLM has been quietly moving the burros this summer. We really like them but it is true that they can get out of control sometimes as far as numbers go. And, it is difficult to stop people from feeding them as well. We miss the burros but I suppose it is for their own good. (See cute burro photos within the blog entry

Taking a Break near Skull Rock
So, we hiked through the easily opened gate that is spring loaded and on up the trail to Skull Rock. Here, we ... again ... tried to see the "skull" and sat on a protruding nearby sandstone slab for our break.

Hiking Pine Creek Trail to Fire Ecology Trail
One hiker, with burros on her mind said she saw a burro disappear down into the wash! We all took a look-see and preferred not to go down to the wash to look. After our relaxed break, we started back to Pine Creek Trail and, there it was, a deer!

Crossing Pine Creek Canyon on the Fire Ecology Trail

Deer Assessing Us at a Waterhole
It is a little unusual to see a single deer in the desert but this doe was traveling with a mission toward Pine Creek. We took photos of her moving and saw her again when she crossed Pine Creek Trail in front of us. We had turned left back onto the main trail and then, turned right onto the first entrance to the Fire Ecology Trail. Instead of looping back, we crossed Pine Creek and mid-crossing, we saw the doe not far upstream. She saw us and assessed the situation. Ignoring us over her thirst, she dropped her head to lap from a waterhole. Beautiful! We quietly left her to her slaking and finished crossing the widened canyon over to the far side berm.

Leaving Pine Creek
At the berm, we opted not to climb the hill there but to turn left and hike along the base a short distance and climb an old, more gentle but rockier, trail up to the top of the berm ridge.

Climbing Out of Pine Creek Canyon
The ridge isn't very wide but you have to cross it all the way over to the far side to spot a, difficult to see until you are right on it, old 2-track road. We called this the Wilson Road.

The Wilson Road - Old 2-Track

Today's Group at Large Cairn
We turned onto the Wilson Road and hiked past a very large cairn built by ... whom? We followed the road all the way down the ridge to the Scenic Loop. A hike up through the sandy wash area on the right led us to the crossing of the Oak Creek TH road. Here, there is a trail that parallels the Scenic Loop all the way back to the cars. Yes, cars are driving by but we are far enough away from the pavement to not be in danger and the trail is well worn. It was perfect weather for a hike in the desert today. All smiles!

6 miles; 600 feet elevation gain; 3.75 hours; average moving speed 1.6 mph

Hiking the Wilson Road

Hiking Trail along Scenic Loop

Arriving at the Scenic Loop Exit Parking Lot