Thursday, April 30, 2009

Waterfall Canyon Loop - 4/30/09

If you ever wake up with a need to hear running and falling FRESH water (and you don't have a fountain in your backyard), then Waterfall Canyon is the place for you to go!

Nine hikers set out from the Willow Springs parking area off of the Red Rock Canyon Scenic Loop to hike a 6.3 mile loop which began in the wash which lies at the end of the picnic area. First, we hiked across the wash to the rock wall where there was a set of petroglyphs. After viewing the ancient Indian pictographs, we headed up the wash which began as a wide gravelly path up the mountain which runs parallel to Rocky Gap Road. Eventually, the gravel turned into small boulders, then larger boulders, then, finally, we were really bouldering up the wash on short steep climbs. This wash is more interesting than it appears from Willow Springs.

About 2.7 miles later, after climbing through a short distance of water, we climbed out of the wash to the right. (The trail on the left, marked by a cairn, leads up to the North Peak Sandstone.) We arrived on the Rocky Gap Road and turned to hike downhill for about half a mile where water crosses the dirt road. Here, we turned left to hike up the small canyon following the beautiful running stream called Waterfall Canyon. Word has it that this stream has been flowing throughout the year as long as anyone in the hiking group can remember.

Waterfall Canyon runs at a fairly steep angle and provides many terraces with waterfalls in between. The trail leads up beside the stream, crossing here and there. Occasionally, the hiker must climb up the slope to avoid steep canyon walls on either side of the stream. The waterfalls flow over limestone which is colored orange and rust by the deposits flowing down from the upper regions.

Photographic opportunities abound!

The final waterfall of our adventure into this beautiful canyon was a 25 foot waterfall about a quarter mile up. It was the Granddaddy of them all! It flowed with a swooping motion over the limestone. At the top, there were great places to perch and eat a snack. Although there were pictographs in the stream at the top of the falls, we had some question as to whether these were ancient or mischievously modern.

Susan demonstrates one way to reach the top of the final falls. Others, climbed up the path on the right! After taking our break, we hiked back down to the road and finished our hike downhill with about 2.25 miles on Rocky Gap Road to arrive at the Willow Springs picnic area around 4 hours after we started.

Below, you see a GPS waypoint map placed on the Google Earth picture. The name of the canyon we were in is not Oak Creek and I believe this is a misprint. At the start and finish of our hike, the GPS took another wayward bounce into the hills to the south so, to eliminate the misleading line, we turned the map around. North is located to the lower right in this picture.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Spring Picnic - 4/25/09

The Spring Picnic of the Around the Bend Friends Hiking Club was well attended at the Children's Memorial Park on the corner of Torrey Pines and Gowan. Guy was the coordinator of the event and he did a fabulous job! Guy went shopping for all the food, presented it well and cooked all the hamburgers and hot dogs with Mac's help. The club paid for all the food and paper products. Usually, everyone brings a side dish and the club only provides the meat and paper products. This time, the club had a little extra money to spend and the picnic was an excellent choice on which to spend it.

Most of the attendees played a round or two of boccie ball. The park provided nice courts for this easy but tricky game. In the game of boccie ball, one tries to roll a heavy ball towards a smaller white ball while hoping his or her ball stops rolling very close by the white ball. Then, of course, there is the strategy of politely yet forcefully knocking other closer balls out of the way to gain points for their team!

Much of the conversation centered around the tough hike called Terrace Canyon which was accomplished two days before. On top of the boulder climbing for miles and the beautiful rewarding scenery at the top of the canyon, the group of 7 or 8 hikers experienced an appearance of six big horn sheep in the upper reaches of the canyon. There were two rams, two ewes and two kids who timidly appeared at the top of the adjoining ridge. Quickly, one by one (lead by the biggest ram with a full grown rack) they ran down the steep side of the canyon, crossed the concave water-covered terrace between two groups of lounging hikers, and ran up the other very steep side. The kids were learning very fast how to keep their balance in times of stress while maintaining an air of exuberance for "sneaking" past these strange two legged creatures.

The people of the ABF club are a very affable group and enjoy each other's company. Whenever they get together, a good time is had by all. Thanks Guy!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

White Rock Hills Loop - 4/16/09

It was a chilly morning on the White Rock Hills Loop for six happy hikers. It dusted snow in the mountains of Red Rock Canyon yesterday along with the 5 inches they received on Mt. Charleston. The wind was still blowing a little and snow was still coming down in the Sheep Mtn. Range so cold air and overcast skies were the order for the day. But, for these six hikers, the cold air was not a problem, only a motivator!

We hiked in a clockwise direction on the loop and about halfway to the peak of the hike, we saw this very tall cairn. The trail is well-established so we can only assume that someone had a little bit too much time on their hands!

Also interesting on this well-worn trail were the many manzanita bushes which are now in full bloom. They have little white flowers which accent the red branches and green leaves of about 1 inch. Folklore says these bushes prefer the cold spots and that it is a good way to be able to tell where to NOT pitch your tent.

The hike is approximately 6.4 miles with about 1000 feet in total elevation gain.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Sandstone Quarry/White Rock Hills Loop - 4/9/09

This morning, we hiked the 7 miles of the Sandstone Quarry / White Rock Hills Loop. Ten hikers set out from the quarry parking lot off of the Red Rock scenic loop drive and began hiking on the Grand Circle Trail towards the White Rock Hills. The weather was perfect for a hike and the morning light showed beautifully on the Red Rock Canyon Escarpment which we faced for around 3 miles.

After making our way over to the White Rock Hills, we headed up the road towards Keystone Thrust. The climb from the beginning of the hike to the peak of the hike was around 1400 feet in a distance of a little over 4 miles. It was quite a workout but, with a few rest stops, we all stayed together. The pace was reasonably fast and light-hearted conversation centered around the possible tastiness and nutrition of the many caterpillars we saw along the way.

About half a mile before we reached the peak of the climb, we passed by the trail leading down to the Keystone Thrust area which is featured in the foreground of the picture to the left. In the distance past the ridge, you see the calico hills and even further, you can see the valley of Las Vegas. Our hike took us to the other side of the ridge in the picture where we followed a main wash back down to the quarry area.

Before reaching the large main gravel-filled wash, we climbed down through this smaller wash which was a favorite part of the hike for many of the hikers. It was filled with small, medium and large boulders which are always fun to negotiate. Then, we hit the wide main wash lying underneath Turtlehead Peak. We found a couple of places where we could substitute the Turtlehead Trail for the wash which was a little easier on the feet. We completed the 7 miles in about 3.5 hours.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Ice Box Canyon - 4/4/09

Sixteen hikers came together to hike Ice Box Canyon this morning in spite of the cold windy weather. When we arrived at the trailhead on the Red Rock scenic loop, the wind had disappeared and the sun was doing a good job of warming things up. The first mile and a half of the hike is approaching the wash. The last mile consists of bouldering up through the wash created by the water coming off of the mountain in the spring time. Today, however, the water facet had not been turned on yet!

After 2.5 miles, the hikers reached the end of the canyon. The small waterfall at the end was just a trickle so this blogger and two other hikers decided to scramble up to the top of the falls to see how much water was up in the pools above. The pool pictured above had a nice reflection of the sunlit top of the canyon. Down below you can see the rest of the hikers who enjoyed just watching the three of us carefully climbing around above.

The morning hike ended much warmer than it began.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Blue Diamond Canyons - 4/2/09

Six hearty hikers arrived to hike the Blue Diamond Canyons located across from the little town of Blue Diamond. Just before we stopped to park we saw five burros on the side of the road (Hwy. 159). We saw a lot of evidence that they frequented the canyons where we hiked.

After crawling through the barb wire fence, we entered the canyon and began climbing. The canyon is filled with rock, barrel cactus, yuccas and various other cacti such as hedge hog and chollas. Other delightful assets of these canyons were the many dry waterfalls. Some waterfalls were easily scrambled up. Some waterfalls required some thought before scrambling and a few required rope!

The six of us were very excited to be on this hike which had not been scheduled for a couple of years. Times of other hikes in these canyons were remembered. Bob and Patti were mentioned several times and then there was the dying owl story. (One time they came upon a dying owl which could not be saved at one of the dry waterfalls. The next time they came through, only a talon was left.) The three pictures below are self-explanatory. What a great hike!

When we reached the top of the first canyon, we could see the landscape of the leftover mining operation. A big wall of loose rock covered the hillside and an old tractor tire had fallen into the ravine where we were. We climbed out to the left and traversed the desert overlooking the Red Rock Escarpment. With a little searching, we found the other canyon we would use to go back down. We were immediately faced with more dry waterfalls, most of which were negotiated with Around the Bend Friends aplomb.

The last waterfall was definitely the most difficult. It was basically a ten foot drop with little to aid in the task of getting down it. We used the handy rope and each of us managed in our own way to get down. To the right, you see Howard preparing his descent with rope in hand. We all survived this last challenge and proceeded down through the rest of the canyon which was now filled with brush. This part of the hike was, perhaps, the most tiring and the hike as a whole gave the body a complete workout.

The GPS was not available but it is estimated that this hike was 3 to 4 miles with approximately 500 feet of elevation gain. By the way, the day was gorgeous!