Thursday, March 18, 2010

Brownstone Canyon Loop - 3/18/10

The Brownstone Canyon Loop is a 7.3 mile loop trail which begins and ends at the Sandstone Quarry off of the Red Rock Scenic Loop. The trail climbs 1700 feet in elevation with highlights of pictographs within Brownstone Canyon. Nineteen hikers embarked on this hike with a beginning matching that of the Gray Cap hike last week.

We hiked around the base of Red Cap and down through the Krafft Mountain wash to intersect with Gateway Canyon. Sailing up through Gateway Canyon, we enjoyed finding different ways to conquer the high dry waterfalls within. There was not as much water coming through this canyon as there was last week.

At the top of Gateway Canyon, we turned left into another beautiful wash. Hiking through the red and yellow sandstone outlined by limestone, we encountered crystal clear water draining down waterfalls and settling into pockets. This wash took us up to a sandstone plateau. The yellow sandstone was filled with pastel colors of pink and gold. Views of the surrounding mountains included Red Cap, Gray Cap and Turtlehead Peak.

We traversed the plateau and hiked through and around tanks and cacti. The tanks were filled with water and the cacti were fat with rain. At the end of the plateau, we found ourselves on a steep scramble down as we dropped into Brownstone Canyon, itself.

The pictographs were located in the exact area in which we had dropped down on a sandstone wall. Pictographs are painted pictures made by the natives from long long ago. Unlike the petroglyphs which are pictures carved into the rock, the pictographs are painted on the rock using different dyes which have stood the test of time.

These photos show only some of the pictographs in this location. Mysterious and fantastic, they spark your imagination. We gazed at them and the surrounding open canyon while we took our break short of the halfway mark of our intended loop hike. Down canyon, we saw the haze covered Las Vegas Strip.

After our break, we began a hike up the gravelly wash which is the floor of Brownstone Canyon, an interesting canyon which is far from the primary trails of Red Rock Canyon NCA. Perhaps this is one reason that the pictographs are still in decent shape. Our goal was not to climb over at the Turtlehead saddle but to hike around the small range which includes Turtlehead Peak.

We finally reached the smaller saddle which gated the gravelly wash which led back down to Sandstone Quarry. Although the second part of the hike was not as exciting as the first, it was very interesting to see how the puzzle pieces which are Red Rock Canyon came together.

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