Thursday, October 28, 2010

Little Zion via Mountain Spring Peak - 10/28/10

Today's 7.6 mile loop hike travelled up and over Mountain Spring Peak, continued along Red Rock's escarpment for another half mile and stopped to turn back at an overlook point of Little Zion which is also known as The Park. The original plan was to continue down into The Park made of acres of sandstone atop the escarpment. However, this would have made the hike around ten miles with an added long downhill and return uphill. Seventeen club members agreed that this would be a bit much for the day. The maps below will show the reader how close we came to our goal.

The day began very chilly with lows around forty degrees. This being the lowest temperature so far this season, we were surprised yet prepared with coats and fleece. Leaving from the parking area off of the pass on Highway 160, we climbed and climbed while gaining 1200 feet of altitude in the first 2.5 miles. On Mountain Spring Peak, we signed the book, took pictures and continued along the escarpment.

On the next stretch, we saw interesting points along the limestone cliffs including a small window and a large arch. Up, down, up and down, we went. Finally, we climbed over the final ridge and took in a full view of Little Zion from Monument Peak to Sandstone Peak. The hike had already been tough and it was a little disappointing to see such a large descent in front of us in order to actually step into The Park. A decision was quickly made to have our snack break right there and settle on reaching a gorgeous view of a clear day in which we could see Little Zion, the Calico Hills and the Las Vegas Strip without any telltale signs of dust, haze or pollution. (This view is seen in the first two photos.)

While we took our break, one of the members of our party did an exploration of possible trails into The Park. He found a couple of viable routes. The easiest one would involve continuing along the escarpment to the point where the traditional route enters The Park. Another route descended to the sandstone on the Monument Peak side of The Park. Soon, it was time to continue our loop by retracing our steps for a short distance and head down a scree-filled ridge.

The second "half" of the loop was longer yet easier. The most difficult part was coming down the slope of the ridge which was steep and slippery at times. During this descent, we almost ran over a large tarantula who was simply minding his own business when ...! At the bottom of the sloping ridge, we dropped into a sandy wash and connected with a dirt road that we hiked for about a mile.

Along the way back to our cars, we visited a cave in the hill above us. We hiked past springs above the little town of Mountain Springs. We visited a large pristine agave roasting pit and another not so pristine one of the same. We passed a few farm houses, saw a beautiful horse who was otherwise occupied, and came perilously close to the house where "the dog from hell" lives. We were all appropriately fatigued when we reached our cars and will probably sleep well tonight.

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