Thursday, November 15, 2018

Fern Canyon - 11/15/18

Pools in Fern Canyon

Leaf-covered Pools in Fern Canyon

Wilson Gate - Fern Canyon to Right of Mescalito (Redhead)

Hiking Pine Creek Canyon
 Fern Canyon is located in the Rainbow Wilderness of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Although we usually have between ten and fifteen hikers on our Thursday hikes, we had nineteen show up today. Still, gee, we had a great time! We parked at the Pine Creek Trailhead off the Scenic Loop and started down into Pine Creek Canyon. The trail maintenance volunteers have done an excellent job with the long downhill trail by taking out some of the steps and flattening out the bedrock. Past this, the trail still had its sections of rocky terrain.

Mescalito from the Wilson House
 We arrived at the Wilson House foundation and took a couple of photos. The tree that still had yellow leaves hanging on was an Ash Tree. A lot of the yellow trees had already lost their leaves.

The "Bermuda Triangle" of Pine Creek Canyon
 We continued, from the house, on the right fork that headed toward the north canyon next to Mescalito Peak. This is the redhead peak that points upward in the middle of the larger Pine Creek Canyon.

Climbing up to Canyon Entrance Trail

Counting 19 Hikers
 The trail comes to a rocked-off triangle area. We joke that it is the "Bermuda Triangle" of Pine Creek since hikers tend to lose their way here. To get to Fern Canyon, it is important to keep to the right here. Then, take the trail that bears right into the trees. The proper trail soon heads up the hill and climbs around a very large boulder before connecting with a good trail that traverses along the north hill into Fern Canyon. (Try not to drop into the canyon too early.) As we neared the canyon, we saw climbers on the Dark Shadows climbing route. It is a difficult route that seems to always have someone on it. We dropped into the canyon right at the staging area for this climb.

Two Rock Climbers on Dark Shadows Route
 We made our way over to the left (south) wall of the canyon and began our scramble. Right away, we saw several of the ferns for which Fern Canyon is named. These are big and very healthy right now.

One of Fern Canyon's Ferns
 Then we started seeing water. A lot of dark deepish water that was sometimes covered with brown and gold fallen leaves. We had to be careful where we stepped! The leaves made the trail a bit deceptive.

Leaf-covered Pool in Fern Canyon

Climbing a Steep Rock
We stayed on that left wall as much as absolutely possible. A couple of times, we had to go toward the center of the wash to get around obstacles but we came right back to the wall. At the top of the pooled areas, we came to the up and around and/or the rabbit hole junction found right at a big pool. The up and around didn't look like it had seen much use lately. Several hikers took the difficult scramble below. After this, we climbed a steeply sloped boulder relying on our shoes for traction. Jacob's Ladder is, perhaps, the second named obstacle. It is found on the side of a huge boulder next to the same left wall. It is a great way to get up to the next level.
Climbing up the Sandstone Slab
 There are a few boulders that require aid to surmount. The main problem is that these scrambles have no handholds whatsoever and the rock, itself, is worn smooth. One of these comes right after the Ladder.

Counting 19 Hikers
 Continuing up the canyon was a slow but deliberate adventure. The next counterintuitive change of route is marked with a small cairn that leads back into the center of the canyon; up and over a natural wall of rocks and trees.

The Top of the Waterfall

Looking out from the Top of the Waterfall
 Not long after this is the Sandstone Slab section where the canyon is closing in to a narrow point. We climbed up the slab and followed it along deeper into the canyon. A few more scrambles that end up on the left wall again, and we were walking into the base of the twenty foot dry waterfall that marks the end of the regular Fern Canyon scramble. We take it just a little further and climb the vertical scramble on the right side of the waterfall to get to a left turn that goes around the rock protrusion and down to the top of the waterfall. There was no water falling but there were three small pools in the area on top. We sat up here in the coolness to take our break.

Taking a cool Break
 The light is difficult here for taking photos but it is a nice overlook to the canyon. We didn't sit too long since it was cold so we got up to begin retracing our steps.

We're just fine right here!
 Of course, everything looks different from the other direction but we did pretty well going down anyway. Still slow but deliberate.

Jerry descends Jacob's Ladder

Inching down a Steep Rock
 There was only one spot we didn't do the same thing. On the way down, we tiptoed across the tops of some large pointy rocks in the water, a route I had followed someone on before. No one fell in the water. Yep, we bad. We found the trail out that we had come in on and counted hikers for about the tenth time! Still nineteen. Out of the cool canyon and into the warm November sun! Fantastic hike and even better group of hikers!

5 miles; ~1000 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

Alternate to Up and Around

Taking Trail out of the Canyon

Returning up the Pine Creek Trail

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Calico Hills & Moenkopi Hill - 11/12/18

Sandstone Quarry Slot

Grand Circle Trail & Calico Hills

Approaching Calico Hills

Be vewy, vewy kwiet! (Photo: John Ward)
It was the Veteran's Day holiday and Red Rock Canyon was all aflutter with hikers, climbers and sightseers! Eleven club members decided it would be a great way to join among the celebration and honors to "get out in it!" We got to the park early (around 8am) and grabbed a parking spot at the fee booth parking lot. This hike was chosen so that a drive around the tourist laden 13-mile scenic loop was unnecessary. The cars were starting to roll in past the fee booth as we started out toward the Calico Hills by crossing the road over to the beginning of the Grand Circle Trail. (Now aka Grand Loop!)

Enjoying the Morning 

Climbing up to the Old Grand Circle Trail

Descent on Old Trail

Using the Wash below Calico II
It was a chilly morning and the wind would pick up quite a bit by the end of the hike. We were prepared! The route today climbed up to Calico I Overlook and dropped into the sandstone wash. Immediately, we climbed up the hill on the sandstone side of the wash. This is the old route of the Grand Circle. This trail put us in the gusty wind until we dropped down next to the wash again with a mild bit of scrambling. Next, we chose the route that led past Calico II above and through the gravel and sandstone wash. This route is shaded and eliminates one big hill to climb on the trail.

The Grand Circle Petroglyphs

Steep Slab Sandstone on Trail

Calico Hills View

Calico II Peak
After we connected with the Grand Circle Trail, again, we passed the old petroglyphs and climbed up toward Sandstone Quarry. This section of the trail was especially colorful with today's blue sky. Every once in a while, we would stop to look for rock climbers. We could hear them speak to each other as the sound bounced off their sandstone walls but, sometimes, they were difficult to find! We made a short stop on the white sandstone overlook near Sandstone Quarry for a view, then we hiked into the popular turnout. The parking lot was packed with cars, hikers and tourists. The holiday in the park was well on its way to an excited crowd! We parked ourselves at the slot for our break. A few of us went up into the slot for a look-see.

View toward Sandstone Quarry

View toward Calico II on Scenic Loop

Slot at Sandstone Quarry Break

Lots of Cars ... & Steve
It was a great group of club hikers, today. We were all enjoying the people around us. The tourists stopped us to ask questions and rock climbers were everywhere by the time we started to head back. At break time, we agreed to a decision of taking a slightly different route on the return. But, first, we retraced our steps back to the area below the Calico II Overlook. Here, we connected with the new Grand Circle Trail that follows along the wash on the Scenic Loop side. This trail has its descents and ascents, too, but no scrambling. When we got back to Calico I, we weaved our way through the crowd up to the parking area and again agreed to the decision to return via Moenkopi Hill. So, we turned to the right and hiked all the way up to the top end of the parking lot to connect with that trail.

Break in the Sun at Slot

Hiking Back

Approach to Calico II

Rock Climbers near Calico II
There weren't many other hikers on this trail and we climbed up and over the hill that provides wide views of, well, everything! We took note of the burn area of 2005. Some of the yuccas are growing back but it will take many decades for them to appear as they did before the fire. At the other side of the hill, we connected with the Grand Circle Trail again and chose to go through the Visitor Center parking lot to finish our route back to the fee booth parking lot. At this time, we were surprised (and caught off guard) that there was a sign saying that the last part of the trail was closed. Hmm. Anyway, we enjoyed the day and the people. We kind of even enjoyed the chilly wind!

7 miles; 1300 feet elevation gain; 3.75 hours

Starting on Moenkopi Trail

Climbing Moenkopi Hill

On Top