Saturday, September 23, 2017

Cathedral Rock via Echo Trailhead - 9/23/17

Cathedral Rock from Echo Trailhead

Trail through Aspens in Mazie Canyon

Cathedral Rock (L), Aspens on North Loop (C), Cockscomb Ridge (R)

Echo Trail
 The aspens are showing their full color in the Spring Mountains NRA. Seven hikers drove up Kyle Canyon, veered right onto Echo Drive and turned left into the Echo Trailhead parking lot. Today's moderate hike was an out and back to Cathedral Rock. Besides the yellowing aspens, the other excitement was the drop in temperature. The mercury hovered around 40 degrees throughout our adventure. We were bundled up and feeling fine as we headed up the hill on the Echo Trail. The climb took us to a fork in the trail where we turned left and went down. This connected us with the Little Falls Trail. We turned left and descended to the area of the old Cathedral Rock Trailhead.

Deer Shedding Antlers
 Wanting to make a pit stop at the new Cathedral Rock Trailhead, we took a use trail down to the left. Before we got down the hill, we spied three mule deer ahead of us in the meadow. One was shedding his antlers.

Cathedral Rock from start of Climb
 We nudged them out of the way and hiked over to the restrooms. From there, we started up the hill on the Cathedral Rock Trail.

Heading into the Aspens

Aspen Tunnel in Mazie Canyon
 The Cathedral Rock Trail switchbacks through Mazie Canyon. This canyon was the victim of an avalanche a little over twelve years ago. After such an event, aspens are a popular natural replacement. So up, we went, through a tunnel of yellowing aspens. Our pace was slow and steady. It was a beautiful day! We continued up until we stopped at Echo Falls turnoff. All but one hiker made the short trip up to view Echo Falls. Four hikers even climbed up to see inside the basin above the lower waterfall. Not much water was flowing but there was a small steady stream.

Exploring Echo Falls
 From here, we all enjoyed the aspen views as we completed the climb up to the top of the rock. It was chilly but not too windy so we stayed here for our break.

Nearing Aspen Exit
 Overhead, dark clouds kept passing by. It would get dark then light then dark again. There was very little blue sky still showing.

Starting the Final Approach

Climbing the Rock
 So, we headed down the rock, down through Mazie Canyon and decided to take that detour, again, by the restrooms. While we waited there, we experienced an isolated snow shower. Yes! There were several flakes anointing the parking lot. But, as soon as we left the restrooms, the snow stopped. We climbed back to the Little Falls Trail and connected with the Echo Trail. We didn't see anymore flakes until we got back to the cars. Maybe these were only "parking lot snow showers!" Anyway, what a wonderful day!

5 miles; 1400 feet elevation gain; 2.75 hours

Mazie Canyon Aspens from Rock

Enjoying the Cool on Top

Mummy Mountain from Cathedral Rock

Friday, September 22, 2017

First Creek Grotto via Valley Trail - 9/22/17

Joshua Tree along Valley Trail

Wilson Peak behind Matchweed Bush

Calico Hills from Valley Trail

Hikers viewing Red Rock Escarpment
 Fall is a good time of year to do the Valley Trail in Red Rock Canyon NCA since the trail is totally in the sun. Today, the temps were in the 50's and 60's with an occasional light cool breeze. Four hikers chose to add part of the First Creek Trail to the Valley Trail. This made a normally moderate hike on all trail turn into a moderately strenuous hike of 6.5 miles. In the addition, there was a bit of bushwhacking and scrambling in the First Creek wash. We parked at the Red Rock Scenic Loop exit then headed out the trail to the south that is closest to Highway 159. We were immediately enveloped by the desert foliage.

Hiking the Valley Trail
 Warned, we kept an eye out for the rattlesnakes that might be sunning themselves after a cool night.

The Hill
 We stopped quite often to take in the scenery. Naming the peaks of the escarpment; pointing out Sherwood Forest on the face of Wilson Peak; naming different desert plants along the trail.

Nearing the Oak Creek Wash

Hollyleaf Cherry (Prunus Ilicifolia)
 We made a left turn before the first Oak Creek wash crossing. This trail led up a little hill that gave a bit of a grand view of the escarpment across from us. Two beautiful horse and riders passed us as they were galloping along. Dropping back down to the wash, we came upon a tree we mistakenly thought was simply a holly oak. However, this tree had fruit on it as seen to the left. The fruit felt like a grape. After a minimal amount of research, a conclusion was perceived. This is a hollyleaf cherry tree. Or, more properly, prunus ilicifolia! The "cherries" are actually edible ... it said.

Someone's done some work!
 The trail came to the gate on the "New Oak Creek Trail." (So, the sign said.) We passed around the gate, walked through the decorated wash (seen above) and found a blocked trail that turned to the left.

Looking for Trail at Oak Creek Wash
 This area of the route is somewhat messy. Suffice it to say, the route stays between the wash and the small ridge to the right. There is, indeed, a hard-to-find trail.

First Creek Wash

First Creek Junction
 The route eventually began veering around to the right and passed the junction that we would take on the return. The next point of interest is the First Creek wash. We crossed this and joined with a much better trail that headed straight for a perpendicular junction to First Creek Trail where we turned to the right. Not long after our turn, we veered again to the right to find our way into the First Creek wash. At this point, we began a messy scramble up the wash that included a lot of bushwhacking and bouldering. Finally, we came to the First Creek Grotto area.

Scrambling up First Creek Wash
 A couple of hikers with two gorgeous and smart dogs were enjoying the grotto. They were just leaving so we stopped here and had our snack break.

The Grotto
 The water was barely trickling through the rocks at the bottom. During the snow melt, this grotto is filled with a decent waterfall ... in the desert!

Fern on Walls of Grotto

Top near Grotto
 After our snack, we climbed out of the grotto in the usual way up the side of the canyon. Next, we descended back to the Valley Trail junction by way of the First Creek Trail. Our return to the cars was different for about a mile. This happens after turning at that junction we passed earlier then following a trail that was between the trail we took out and the escarpment. Part of it was on that small ridge. The Valley Trail is a difficult trail to follow since there are so many little trails going in the same direction. But, we all agreed that it is near impossible to get lost!

6.5 miles; 500 feet elevation gain; 3.75 hours

Back out First Creek Trail

Matchweed on Oak Creek Road

Almost back to Scenic Loop Exit TH

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Robbers' Roost Loop - 9/13/17

Robbers in the Roost!

Overlook from Old Deer Creek Road

Starting down Upper Showgirl Trail

Shaded and Cool on Showgirl
There were seven hikers on a new moderate loop in the Spring Mountains NRA. After driving up Kyle Canyon Road and turning right on Deer Creek Road, we turned right again onto Angel Peak / Lucky Strike Road. Veering to the right at the fork, we drove down to the Juniper Trailhead and parked. Ready to go, we started down the Upper Showgirl Trail, a well-made bike trail. We only saw one biker all day since this is an autumn Wednesday. Our first view of Mummy's Nose was decorated with a lot of puffy clouds. A 40% chance of rain was in the forecast.

Angel Peak from Showgirl
The Showgirl Trail winds in and out of ravines quite a bit. Angel Peak, with its round white dome, can be seen from a few viewpoints.

Hike a Bike Trail
We passed the junctions for the Camp Trail then connected with the Hike a Bike Trail by staying straight. The Trough Trail turned left here.

Old Deer Creek Road on Hike a Bike Trail

Robbers' Roost Trailhead
The Hike a Bike Trail took us down on the traverse across a little bridge and below the Pixie Trailhead above. In retrospect, there are four official trailheads that can be used for this loop. About half way down, we joined a section of the Old Deer Creek Road. At the junction of the top of Telephone Canyon Road, we turned into the woods on a path to the right. This short steep trail took us up to the Robbers' Roost Trailhead where we crossed the road and headed up. Not far up the road, there were a wedding couple and photographers in their full regalia! Beautiful and happy. We excused ourselves as we passed and threw in a few congratulatory comments.

Switchback with Cave
Although one hiker chose to scramble up the wash, the remaining six took the switchback up to the "roost" area. A couple of rock climbers had just finished here. We took our break then came back down passing the bride and groom again. We offered to be their wedding party but they declined.

Starting out Old Deer Creek Road to Gypsy Trail
Turning left before we reached the road again, we started up the Old Deer Creek Road. The trail was covered with bits of asphalt. This is the start of what the bikers have named the Gypsy Trail. The dark clouds above finally spit a few sprinkles at us prompting the donning of rain jackets. No thunder.

Bike Jump on Gypsy Trail of Old Deer Creek Road

Old Deer Creek Road
There are several bike jumps built on this trail. We followed the old road all the way up and around, parallel to the new Deer Creek Road but high above passing a couple more bike trails. There are wide views of the Deer Creek Road alley toward Kyle Canyon. At the top, we dropped off the trail at the bikers' trailhead on the highway. A short walk down the road to the campground junction brought us to the small wash that we followed all the way back to the Showgirl Trail. There is a lot of trash in this wash and we were caught without bags! Finally, we connected with the Showgirl Trail and climbed back up to the cars. This is a very nice loop that is best done when there are no bikers on the Gypsy Trail portion of the hike.

6 miles; 1000 feet elevation gain; 3.25 hours

Road and Wash Junction seen below Trail

Arriving at the Bikers' Trailhead

Small Wash Descent