Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sandstone Quarry / Keystone Thrust Loop - 10/4/15

Escarpment from Keystone Wash

Keystone Thrust Fault Area

Approaching the Park this Morning

Turtlehead Peak
 Tony welcomed eleven hikers to the "Rain Dance" this morning. We arrived at the Sandstone Quarry turnout on the Red Rock Canyon NCA scenic loop and started hiking west on the Grand Circle Trail. Right away, the pace was quick and to the point. Rain was predicted and it was already starting to snow over the nearby Spring Mountains. The skies were covered with beautiful clouds colored all shades of gray and white. With the sun rising at the same time, Red Rock's colorful sandstone lit up with bright reflections.

Starting Up the Grand Circle Trail
 The first mile of the trail climbed at a steady rate. Our early morning lungs puffed along until we got our rhythm.

Hiking into the Clouds
 The bad weather seemed to be surrounding us until we got about two miles in. Then, the skies kind of "blew up" with darkened clouds everywhere.

Grand Circle Trail

Crossing the Keystone Wash
 Tony's pace didn't let up. We were a strong group and there was little time to waste! Before long, we were crossing the Keystone Wash on the Grand Circle Trail. This is where the loop of today's route would start. So, we continued up the trail until we reached the Scenic Loop road. After crossing the paved road, we hiked up the dirt road called White Rock Springs Road. There were cars parked at the bottom and top of this road so it was clear, we were not the only hikers out here on this rainy Sunday morning.

Starting Up the Dirt Road
 At the top of the dirt road, we met up with a small group of Red Rock Canyon NCA hikers. These are usually hikers from out of town that receive a nice interpretive hike from the leader for their efforts.

Storms Moving in over the Escarpment
 We took a small break here for the restroom then moved on to our climb up toward Hogback Ridge where Cactus Hill punctuates its end.

Heading Up to the Keystone Thrust Trail

Agave Roasting Pit in Background
We started out the White Rock Trail then turned onto the Keystone Thrust Trail to the right. The climb up to the ridge continued in a strong pace passing the agave roasting pit half way up. Finally, we passed the turn off for Cactus Hill and arrived at our right turn. This was our high point of the day. The view below us is seen in the photo below. In the distance, we could see rain in the valley. The clouds over the escarpment were very menacing and we had already felt several raindrops.

Fault Area where Old Limestone is seen Overtaking Young Sandstone
 We followed Tony down to the fault area and took a somewhat shortened break. A quick peek at the succulents under the sandstone overhang assured us that the special plants were still alive.

Dropping Down
 With the threatening weather, the scenery was very dramatic. We enjoyed the view as long as we could until we heard a distant thunder. Time to move on.

Exposed Keystone Fault

Dropping Down into the Wash Below
 We made the call to don our rain jackets as more drops were felt. The sandstone was not yet too wet to use on our way down into the wash from the fault above. The overcast light brought out the vibrant oranges and whites of the sandstone wash. Down we scrambled through the sculpted drainage. This is the single part of today's hike that we did not speed through. Rain or not. We enjoyed every bit of it!

Walking the Steep Slab
 The clouds were entombing the La Madre mountain range behind us and the rain was slowly covering the entire escarpment.

Enshrouded La Madre Range in Background

 When we got past the sandstone, a cleared gravel wash awaited us. There are only two trees we were required to step over. And, then there is the easy 8 foot dry fall.

Intricate Sandstone Wash

Approaching the Single Dry Fall in Keystone Wash
 Other than that, the wash is in much better shape for hiking than it was only two years ago. Previously, the wash bottom was filled with many large rocks and brush everywhere. Hiking up and around is no longer required anywhere. At the paved scenic road crossing, we ducked through the culvert. We had to bend forward but the culvert is otherwise passable. On the other side, the wash continued in its gravel state.

Diving into the Culvert under the Scenic Loop
 The huge rain we received a couple of years ago must have brought down all the gravel to cover the nuisance rocks. We wondered what changes are in store for next year!

Hiking Down the Keystone Wash below the Scenic Loop
 Staying next to the bank on the left side, we found the left turn onto the Grand Circle Trail that we had come in on. By now, several rolls of thunder had boomed loudly and a steady sprinkle of rain had arrived.

Gravel Filled Keystone Wash

Fun in the Rain
 Our pace turned into "very fast." Rapido! Rain is fun but thunder isn't really. Thunder kind of gave us a little extra "charge." The final 2.5 miles were done in record time! Even though we got a little spread out, Tony kept counting us and we were all within sight of each other. We arrived back at Sandstone Quarry where the parking lot was ... you guessed it ... full to capacity! A great day in the desert! ... And, a fantastic workout!

7 miles; 1400 feet elevation gain; 2.75 hours

Chased by Thunder

Rain Shined Sandstone

Sandstone Quarry

Friday, October 2, 2015

Little Bald Knoll - 10/2/15

Griffith Peak (center) from Little Bald Knoll

La Madre Range from Showgirl Trail

Wooden Bridge on Hike a Bike Trail

Moon Over Mummy
 'Tis a shame that there were only four hikers to enjoy this absolutely beautiful day in the Spring Mountains NRA on an interesting trail that is pretty new to the club. We parked at the Pixie Trailhead turnout that is the next turnout after Robbers' Roost going up the hill on Deer Creek Road. We carefully managed to drop down to the Hike a Bike Trail where we turned left onto a wooded trail. The air was fresh and cool to start off but we warmed up quickly. Staying on the Hike a Bike Trail, we climbed up to the overlook turn off. We went down to take in the view. This area of trails is scheduled to be "decommissioned" soon.

First Break
 We climbed back up and connected with the Camp Trail and used it to drop down to junction with the Showgirl Trail coming in from the direction of its trailhead on Angel Peak Road. At the junction, we turned to the right.

Overlook View

Showgirl Junction
 We followed the Showgirl Trail and turned onto the bypass trail that heads over to a bald saddle area. This junction is seen in the photo to the right. However, it seems that this part of the Showgirl Trail is also scheduled to be "decommissioned" according to the map posted at the Pixie Trailhead turnout. It is difficult to understand what they have in mind for this junction but it IS clear that the "Missing Link Trail," as mentioned in a previous entry, is the actual Showgirl Trail that is yet to be completed. (See the photo of the map at the bottom of this entry.) Next, we passed the saddle and continued on an easy trail that follows the top of the ridge heading toward Kyle Canyon.

Angel Peak & SMYC from Showgirl Trail
 After around a mile, the trail starts descending a little more rapidly. It switchbacks down to cross a deep wash then rises again.

Showgirl Trail
 We studied the wash thinking that it would be a good place to build a trail down to the bottom but we don't think this is what they have in mind.

Taking a Break at Large Wash Area

Arriving at Little Bald Knoll
 We climbed a little and hiked out on an intermediary ridge toward Little Bald Knoll, a small knoll that the trail crosses over top. There are a few low growth trees on the knoll but the views on all sides are readily accessible. It appears that this is a favorite place for the deer as we observed markings in the sand. We sat here taking in the views while munching a snack. Perhaps we stayed a little longer than normal. The cooler weather is so so welcome.

View from Little Bald Knoll
 We began our hike back up the ridge and discovered a shortcut trail that allowed us to skip the whole "switchback through the deep wash" bit. Yep. This is another trail that will be "decommissioned."

Mummy's Toe from Return on Showgirl Trail

An Abundance of Textures
 The shortcut trail removed a large part of the steeper ascent. The remainder of the ascent was a pleasant gradual climb. The views continued to take our breath away. Sometimes we just stopped to look. When we got back to the bald saddle area, we turned to the left and returned to the Hike a Bike Trail a shorter way. We junctioned with this trail and turned left to return to the cars. This hike was food for the soul. - (P.S. A hike straight out to Little Bald Knoll and back from the Pixie TH would be a little less than 6 miles.)

7 miles; 1200 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

Conquering the Bike Jump

Return on the Hike a Bike Trail

Climbing Back up to Cars

Map Posted at the Pixie Trailhead (Red * Indicates Pixie TH)