Thursday, March 19, 2009

Turtlehead Peak - 03/19/09

Twelve hikers gathered in the Sandstone Quarry parking lot off of the Red Rock Scenic Loop with the idea of conquering the looming Turtlehead Peak. This was a new hike for the blogger so, perhaps the reader will forgive a slight background of awe for this legendary hike!

We began hiking up the wash using a side trail and the wash itself. We then crossed the wash and headed up to the north slope. At this point, the trail became gradually steeper and within about a mile of the beginning, we were climbing a very steep slope filled with loose dirt and rock towards the saddle below the peak. This part of the climb lasted for around a mile. Although there were several different trails to choose from, all trails were very challenging. We stopped several times for necessary breathers.

Along the way, we saw more of the red orange Indian Paintbrush bloom displays. Near the top, we saw several of these yellow blooms which the blogger is guessing is a variety of acacia (perhaps Whitethorn Acacias).The wildflowers have begun.

The caterpillars have also just been born! We saw several cocoons, or tents, along the trail and noticed that some were still enclosed and others were teeming with baby caterpillars crawling around, no doubt looking for their first meal of leaves.

Arriving at the saddle, we were then able to view the other side of the peak which is Brownstone Canyon. Beyond this juniper tree stump, the red and white sandstone of Brownstone Canyon can be seen.

Another half mile of not quite so steep ascent brought the hikers to the peak of Turtlehead. Since this was a first, the blogger was surprised to see the landscape of the peak appears like regular desert terrain. From below, the peak seems to be only made of limestone rock. Upon arrival at the turnaround point, we sat for a snack, to write in the sign-in book and to take in the tremendous view that Turtlehead provided.

Below, there was a clear view of the Calico Hills, including Red Cap and various nearby tanks. We also saw Gateway Canyon in its entirety, a hazy view of the Las Vegas skyline, Brownstone Canyon, a snow-covered Griffith Peak, the La Madre Mountain Range and, of course, the Escarpment and Red Rock Canyon floor.


We could even see the Sandstone Quarry parking lot and the wash leading to the right of the picture above where we began the hike.

A tall cairn marked the peak while we waited for all twelve hikers to summit. The descent was going to be dicey so we were in no hurry to begin. Luckily, most of us had a hiking stick or two, good hiking boots and a great respect for the slippery downhill we were about to embark upon. For the blogger and maybe several others, the descent was the most difficult part of the five mile/2000 foot gain hike.

Just after passing the saddle, we descended through this split rock formation on one of the many trails offered. After that, Chris led us through as much rock and boulders as he could find making the trail down a little more safe. Our hiking sticks really became useful and this blogger expects sore arms in the coming days!

The weather was mild with little wind except for a crosswind on the saddle. On the waypoint map below, disregard the line heading out into thin air from the peak! It is just an unfortunate "bounce." (Although Turtlehead Peak would be a great place for a zipline!)

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