Friday, January 15, 2021

Angel Dragon Loop Scramble - 1/14/21

Southern Calico Hills from Angel Peak Ascent

Ash Canyon from High Tank Level

Dragon Canyon to Dragon Peak

Angel Pass Ascent
The Angel Dragon Loop is a combination of scramble ascents and descents that provides hours of entertainment and, oh yeah, a good workout indeed. We were alone all morning with the exception of a short section of the Calico Tanks Trail where we saw 8 other hikers and two dogs! We began at the Kraft Mountain Trailhead in Calico Basin located at the end of Sandstone Drive. There was plenty of parking at 7:30am but when we returned at noon, the lot was packed. Waking up, we started the hike by following the gravel road that led from the end of the parking lot beyond the road gate. At the end of the road, we connected with the Girl Scout Trail turning to the left. This took us around the Calico Hills until we reached the ascent to Angel Pass. And, up we went!

Rita at Cave Rock

Mike hikes in the Sunshine

Peak 3844 from Angel Pass

Ascending to Angel Peak
There is no magic to reaching the top of the pass if you know a few simple landmarks. The Cave Rock, the mid-hill tree, and the scramble between the rocks and a hard place. Then with some heavy breathing, you arrive at the top of Angel Pass where the view back of the rising sun on Calico Basin is mesmerizing. We took a breather then continued our ascent to Angel Peak by turning to our right. Yes, up that crack! All the way up that crack! It's a good one that provides two rabbit holes and a couple of short 3rd class wall climbs. At the top, we navigated over to the left to reach what we call Angel Peak (aka Red Peak). Although the sun was in a terrible place for photos, I couldn't resist using this accomplishment for our group shot seen four photos below.

View down Ascent Crack

Rita through Rabbit Hole

View from Angel Peak

Terrible Threesome on Angel Peak
Here, it was time to scramble down for a little while and we found the descent off the peak between it and the high rock peak on the other side. To the right from here, we found a crack that allowed us to scramble down. Then down, over, down, around, down, along the side and down to the Garden (aka the Garden of Eden). This is a flat sandy area between the Angel Peak side and the main Calico Tank found on the plateau high above on the other side. On the third side, there is a wall with few scramble opportunities. And, on the fourth side around the right corner, there are possibilities of a scramble down to the mouth of Ash Canyon. We sat here for our break on the sunny side of the Garden. Mike said that the whole Garden is in the sun during the spring.

Coming down off of Angel Peak

Scrambling to Garden

Entering the Garden

Calico Peak from Ascent to Main Tank
Now or never! We started up the steep ascent to the main tank. There is a use trail here but we chose the slab sandstone as much as we could. Above us, the cream colored Calico Peak rose pointedly in the 1:30 direction. This is a hike for another day. Today, we climbed stolidly up to the south side of the large main Calico Tank and peered down. Dry as a bone! Below us, there were a few hikers and dogs making their way across the dry pond bottom ... because they could. We took the usual route above the tank over to the lower side and started down the trail. Not wanting to get too near other hikers, (pandemic style), we quickly turned to the right to climb up and over the rocks passing another deep and very dry tinaja.

Ascent to Main Tank

Arriving above Main Tank

Dry Main Tank Below

Crossing to Calico Tanks Trail
On the other side of this tank, the route took us down a parallel wash canyon but as soon as we came back out to the trail, there were two hikers passing by. We didn't pass anymore hikers as we descended the CCC steps and arrived at Mass Production Wall on the right. The three of us voted to take our scramble up and over the hill so we turned and began our ascent up the rocky wash next to the Wall. More heavy breathing brought us up to the slab where we continued climbing all the way up to a plateau area. A straight trajectory sent us to a wall that we climbed up and over to reach the high tank level of the sandstone below Red Cap. The North Descent route off of the Northern Calico Hills is found straight ahead ... behind the very dry Sunken Tank.

Rooster Rock from Calico Tanks Trail

Mass Production Wall

Mike leaving Mass Production Wall

View back from Ascent to High Tank Level
It is necessary to go around the Sunken Tank either right or left. We turned to the right and passed through a very dry Sundial Tank. (At one time a few years ago, someone had built a sundial inside this tank.) Up on the rocks of the other side, there is a tremendous view of Ash Canyon below. We went on around to the Wall Tank (dry) and began our North Descent down the crack. The entire descent to the top area of Ash Canyon is done with several switchbacks. None of us had the switchbacks memorized so we just zigzagged our way down looking for the possibilities. With each turn, we recognized the route and ended safely at the top of Ash Canyon for a small break. The "up and over" route was certainly more exciting than the "around" route!

Mike points out a Route at Sundial Tank

Wall Tank with Red Cap and Turtlehead Beyond

Starting North Descent

Balancing on North Descent
After the rest, we started down the trail above Ash Canyon wash. This trail affords fantastic views of the colors of Ash Canyon and the Calico Hills. We passed the saddle where someone had built a tall cairn then continued through the limestone over to the overlook between Ash and Dragon Canyons. Another fantastic place for meditation! From there, the trail continues to the left to place hikers at the top of Dragon Canyon. There is a trail that continues down the steep canyon but it is better used on the ascent since it is steep and slippery. We used it mostly as a guide and stayed in the wash for much of the time. This was our last hoorah for the day's scramble palooza! Coming out the mouth of the canyon, we followed a very vague trail straight down the hill.

Gray Cap from North Descent

Ash Canyon Trail

Art Appreciation

Dragon Canyon Overlook
This trail eventually ran into a more worn trail and we turned to the left. This is the newly signed Ash Spring Trail. It is a lovely trail that runs alongside the small stream coming from the spring in Ash Meadows. And, yes, finally we saw water!! Ash Spring Trail took us around to the Kraft Mountain Trailhead parking lot. The sign explains that this trail is one mile out and back. Easy and well marked. The parking lot was full as mentioned earlier and there were cars coming in as we rolled out. This was a great scramble with good challenges and minimal exposure. The pace was kept slow and accommodating. My kind of scramble!

Stats: 4.7 miles; 1700' gain; 5 hours

Dragon Canyon Descent

Mike in Dragon Canyon

Connecting with Ash Spring Trail

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Liberty Bell Arch - 1/12/21

Liberty Bell Arch

Colorado River from Overlook

Old Manganese Mine

Starting down to White Rock Canyon
Ralyn's sister, Krista, was visiting this week so we added one to the fearsome foursome to make the fit five! We met at the White Rock Canyon Trailhead located on SR 93 in Arizona on mile marker 4; 4 miles south of the bridge over Hoover Dam and the Colorado River. This is a very popular trailhead since it also serves Arizona Hot Springs and several other lesser known hikes. Therefore, be aware that sometimes it is plagued by ne'er do wells breaking into cars; as recently as last week. Today, my husband, John, came with us to take a small walk then sit in the car and watch the parking lot while we hiked. (He's the best!) When we returned from the hike, there was also a park ranger standing at the trailhead watching for a short while.

Hiking into White Rock Canyon

The Fit Five walked under the highway bridge and down the wide graveled wash as it funneled into White Rock Canyon. 

Right turn onto Liberty Bell Arch Trail

Named for the white granite rocks and boulders that flowed down from the Wilson Range far above dotting the canyon, White Rock Canyon is an awesome sight to behold.

Liberty Bell Arch Trail

Liberty Bell Arch Trail
But that hike is for another day and as we soon found the signed right turn up the embankment, we climbed out. Liberty Bell Arch Trail is a well-marked trail that has recently been maintained. After climbing to the top of the first high point and passing the large mining skiff that is leftover from the manganese mine days, we had a choice of trails. Disregard the trail to the right even though it heads in the direction of the mine below. It also heads to a steep drop! Turn left and follow the trail down until it splits. Take the right fork to detour over to the mine. We always visit the mine and check on its condition. Today, we wanted to show Krista. Everything looked in place so we took our photos and left. The route back to the main trail follows the wash down.

Manganese Mine & Miners(!)

The wash route merges with the main Liberty Bell Trail and continues down the wash. In the spring, this area is absolutely filled with sundrop flowers!

Hiking down Wash - Arch seen Sideways

For some time now, we could see the arch but only its side view. In the morning, there is a hint of daylight shining through the arch from its left side.

Approach to Liberty Bell Arch

Today's Fit Five
The trail begins its climb up to the arch and the hill beyond when it leaves the wash. At the first saddle junction, there is an overlook trail that afforded the view in the photo above. Next, we passed at the base of the arch and took our group photo. There are some amazingly large boulders in this area. The trail continues up past the arch and boulders to provide other great photo opps at a few more points. The trail, then, turns up to the right and heads toward the Colorado River Rim Overlook. This part of the trail requires caution as you climb on sandy stair-stepping rocks. We looked for bighorns but there were none where there have been before. After plateauing out a couple of times, the third time was the charm as we arrived at the overlook.

Arch and Bridge from further up Hill

We climbed on up to the right and sat for a few minutes on the rocks overlooking the river. Unexpectedly, there was no breeze, if only slight. Perfect weather!

Climbing up to the Overlook

Surprisingly, we noticed that someone has installed a log book box on the overlook! It lays next to a group of rocks on the lower corner of the hill by the trail. We signed in. (Most of us have not been here for some time.)

Lake Mead NRA at Black Canyon

Red Barrel & Creosote above River
After the break, we returned down the hill to the arch area. A couple more photos with different light and we began returning the same way we had come. We took the trail up the hill without revisiting the mine. This is a pretty good climb and the whole group did it without stopping. At the top, we took a water pause and continued down past the skiff. The trail led us down and up and down to the junction with White Rock Canyon. What came next was the most difficult, if not just unpleasant part of the hike! We turned left and began the climb back through the gravel to the trailhead. We took every opportunity we could find to get out of the gravel and hike on either solid rock or less travelled gravel.

Our Break at the Overlook

Our pace sped up. With the two steps forward, one step back character of walking in gravel, speed helps.

Mike replaces the Log Book Box

As we neared the bridge, we followed several trails in the wash. None of these were perfect but they helped.

Descending off the Overlook

Huge Boulders below Arch
We hiked under the bridge and started up the hill to the trailhead and passed a large group of COVID oblivious 20ish types. We had our masks pulled up. At the top of the hill, we said "hello" and "thank you" to the park ranger standing watch. It was a beautiful day at the river with the exception of a little haze toward the south. Lake Mead NRA never disappoints.

Stats: 5.5 miles; 1200' gain; 3.25 hours

Leaving the Arch Area

Climbing up White Rock Canyon

The Graveled last Mile