Thursday, April 15, 2010
Calico II / Red Cap Loop - 4/15/10
Twenty hikers arrived to do a four- part loop hike which began at the Calico II parking area on the Scenic Loop of Red Rock Canyon NCA. It was a beautiful warm day for the 5-mile hike. We started down the hill at Calico II for the first part of the hike.
Hiking the Grand Circle Trail from Calico II to Sandstone Quarry, we admired the Calico Hills as we passed by them. We noted the boulder with the petroglyphs; we warmed up our legs and lungs; and, we commented on the wildlife ... two models in cocktail wear up against the red rock while being photographed for a spread somewhere.
Part Two of this hike lead from Sandstone Quarry to the top of Red Cap Peak. This is a route that can only be described as "fun." There are fantastic views at every turn and several scrambling sections to challenge your memory of the monkey bars. After starting with the Rookie's Climb and Fat Man's Squeeze, the trail climbs a very steep section of sandstone to circle around the mountain which is topped by a cap of red sandstone.
The climb continues past a few areas which might be considered exposed to thin air as the sandstone takes a dive down a steep slope to the right. We hugged the wall! Then a couple more steep climbs through rock-filled cracks brings the hiker to the final climb of the summit. On the top of Red Cap, the views are 360 degrees of Red Rock Canyon NCA.
We took our first break while gazing at Turtlehead, Gray Cap, the Escarpment, the La Madre mountains, a haze- covered Las Vegas Strip and Calico Peak which we were to climb next. We also saw several water tanks, or tanajas, which help keep local wildlife alive through the summer in the sandstone below us.
Part Three of this hike began here. We climbed down off of the Red Cap summit and passed by three large tanajas. Last summer, someone had built a sundial, which still stands, in the largest tank when it was dry. Reflections of Red Cap and Turtlehead Peak show strong in the water.
Next, we began the most exposed scrambling section of the day. Traversing the ridge, we made our way to Calico Peak summit. This required one very steep dip down 35 feet. When approaching the edge, the hiker can't help but wonder, "We're going down there??" However, after taking that first step, it becomes clear that the steps and hand- holds are abundant. Help was given when needed by friends and all minus three made it down. Those three decided to return to the cars a different way. We summitted Calico Peak and descended down to the main Calico Tank to begin Part Four of the hike.
Part Four extended from the main tank back to the Calico II parking area. This was an extreme downhill scramble of approximately half a mile. We followed Don down red boulder after red boulder finding interesting rock formations along the way. Caves and shelters dotted the hillside and small arches and holes were common in the red rock.
We reached the bottom of the wash, climbed over the connecting sandstone plateau and climbed the hill back to the parking area where we were met by the three hikers that had returned by the different route. This was a beautiful way to escape the weight of "tax day."