Thursday, December 3, 2009

Juniper Canyon - 12/03/09

Nine hearty hikers were absolutely "WOW-ed" by a chilly hike into Juniper Canyon today!

We began the hike at the Pine Creek Trailhead off of the Red Rock Canyon Scenic Loop. Passing the old Wilson house foundation, we caught the Arnight Trail which led over to the lead-off for Juniper Canyon. On the way over, we spied an elk carousing among the chollas on the canyon floor between us and the Oak Creek parking area. We were amazed to see an elk this far down in elevation as they usually reside in the higher altitudes of the Spring Mountains.

After 1.75 miles, we, finally, dropped down into the Juniper Canyon wash where we immediately began some really tough scrambling over large boulders up a steep incline. There were a few spots where some of the hikers needed a helping hand. The challenge was enjoyed by everyone as the wash got steeper and steeper.

Soon, we had to climb a large rock fall up to a level made of sandstone slab which was inclined at about 30 to 60 degrees. The exposure created by the sandstone was exhilarating as our hiking boots held on well to the rock.

Our climb ended near the rock face on the right side of the wash in an area where it was obvious that big horn sheep frequented. There were many prickly pear and agaves growing on the steep slope in the sun.

Another point of interest loomed large on the left side of the wash. Rainbow Wall, a popular and challenging rock climbing destination rose about 1000 feet above the wash. If you looked closely, you could see different colors in the rock. Beyond our view and higher into the canyon wash, is Gunsight Notch. A little further is where Juniper Peak is located. (Definitely a hike for another day!)

We sat, contentedly, on the sandstone slab eating our lunch and enjoying a spectacular view of the Red Rock Canyon floor and beyond. The hike down was strenuous and we took a slightly different route back to the Pine Creek parking area. The hike today was almost five miles with an elevation gain of around 1300 feet.


Jim said...

You never know for sure about these things because wildlife managers like to move animals around, but my guess is that if we have Elk in RRCNCA, they are only at the far north end. Even then, they would have to come south of the Lee Canyon Road to be in the NCA.

That said, I'm afraid your beast is a mule deer, a big one, but just a mule deer. An elk would have much heavier (especially thicker) antlers. Attached is a photo of a Roosevelt Elk from northwest California to which you can compare antler sizes to your photos.

I've only seen a handful of deer in the Scenic Loop area, so you should feel lucky to see this big boy. I got a report of a big deer just north of Pine Creek parking about 2 weeks ago from my photography buddy. Unfortunately, all he could get out before it ran off was his cell phone camera.

Larry said...

After I sent Kay’s photo to you, I studied it more carefully and compared it with photos of elk on the Web.

I reached the same conclusion – mule deer.

The giveaways for me were (1) the big ears and (2) the lack of dark coloration on the head and shoulders. But it really was a BIG buck! It may well have been the one that your friend spotted a couple of week ago. I don’t imagine there are many that size around these parts.