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

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Lee Canyon / Sawmill Wiggles - 10/8/19

Mummy Mountain from Lee Canyon Road Trailhead

The Desert from Sawmill Ridge

Three Lakes Valley from Sawmill Ridge

Diving down the Trail from the Lee Canyon Road Trailhead
 While many club members are out in South Lake Tahoe having fun on the alpine trails ... and being chilly ... four of us girls who remained behind took a loop hike on a fabulous day in the Spring Mountains. The weather is supposed to turn cold and windy here in the next day or two so you might say we "snuck this one in!" We began at the Lee Canyon Road Trailhead. This is an unmarked trailhead on the left side of the road as you climb up 10.5 miles from SR 95 below. At the bottom of the big drop into the large canyon, we found a large rusted tin can with letters from the hardware store stuck on it. They read "Barrow Pit."

The Lee Canyon Trail
A Barrow Pit is defined as a ditch dug along a roadway to furnish fill and provide drainage. Perhaps this sign is referring to the area across Lee Canyon Road from the trailhead. And, perhaps, we should begin calling this trailhead "The Barrow Pit" Trailhead. Hmm. It did need a name!

One of Several Large Cairns
 The trail splits after crossing the wash for the first time. We took the right turn onto the Lee Canyon Trail. This trail is also called the Blue Trail. And, the loop we hiked today could be called the Blue Loop. But, that's not as much fun!

A Meadow in the Canyon

Above Lee Canyon Narrows
 I haven't hiked up this trail in a couple of years so I was anxious to see how the trail has changed or improved. It was very easy to follow except for one area that is always washed out. Nevertheless, pick a route ... any route ... and you cross back onto the official trail soon. This happened twice for only a short distance. Another unfortunate change is that the old wooden sign that used to lean against one of the large cairns near the narrows is missing. It could have been washed away. If you see this sign, please try to return it to the series of large cairns below the narrows. Next, we climbed up and over the trail that circumvents the narrows.

Climbing the Up and Around at the Narrows
 We were maintaining a decent pace and stopping whenever the urge hit us! So this hill surprised us at how much we were sucking air!

Yes, it's a car!
 Coming upon the old car as seen above, we had an idea. The men always love the old cars that we pass while out hiking. So, today, we posed and tried to convey "Hey, guys! It's just a car! (How did we do?)

View down Lee Canyon from Climb Out

Cardamine Road Gate
 We climbed back up to the road on the trail and crossed over to Cardamine Road. This led us to the Sawmill Picnic Area and Trailhead. We stopped for a couple of minutes but the yellow jackets were terrible when we tried to find a table to sit at. They followed us everywhere. Finally, we decided to continue up to the Sawmill Ridge for our break. It was peaceful up there! Some of the best views of the morning were seen on the ridge then we connected down to the continuation of the Blue Trail ... or the beginning of the Sawmill Wiggles. (This trail turns left at the old steep hill.) Before long, we noticed that a downhill run has been cut by, presumably, ATVs. Hmm. Not good.

Sawmill Trail
Then we noticed that the Blue Trail, itself, seems to have been being used by said ATVs. There were two tracks on what used to be a single track trail for most of the way to the No Mads Trail crossing.

Taking a Break at the Red Trail Junction
 Some of the wood on either side of the trail had been trampled by the machines. I'm pretty sure this is not allowed.

Macks, Bonanza, Willow and Wheeler Peaks

Starting down the Blue Trail (Sawmill Wiggles)
We crossed the No Mads Trail and dropped down into the Blue Tree Campground. Exactly here, we crossed the wash and began climbing up the opposite hill by bushwhacking. Our direction did not change from the trail we had just left. It is a diagonal trajectory. This took us up and across the paved road again right to where Forest Road 25855 junctioned with Lee Canyon Road. The forest road parallels the pavement and leads all the way back to the cars after almost a mile. We enjoyed the morning immensely!

7.8 miles; 1300 feet elevation gain; 3.75 hours; average moving speed 2.0 mph

The Blue Trail appears as if there has been ATVs using it.

Connecting with the Old Lee Canyon Road (Forest Road 25855)

Home Stretch on the Forest Road