Thursday, December 2, 2010

Calico Hills / Gateway Canyon Loop - 12/2/10

Today's hike for the Around the Bend Friends was Calico Hills Loop or Calico / Gateway Loop or what about an 8.4 mile extravaganza of calico colored rock. It begins at the Red Springs Picnic Area in Calico Basin where seventeen hikers gathered for the trek around the Calico Hills, around Red Cap, through Lower Gateway Canyon and back across Calico Basin.

The hike began by climbing the steep hill behind the boardwalk. (That'll wake you up!) Then we dipped down to the wash and climbed another steep hill. (Just in case you still weren't awake.) At this point, we were in the area of the scenic loop and were soon to join the Grand Circle Trail below the Calico I overlook. Reaching the overlook, we took a small break and headed down into the wash that runs along the Calico Hills. Today, we stayed on the scenic loop side of the wash and headed toward Calico II overlook.

We passed Calico II and stopped for a moment at the petroglyphs on a large boulder next to the Grand Circle Trail. These petroglyphs were most likely made by the early Paiute native Americans around a thousand years ago. Continuing up between the scenic loop and the Calico Hills, we reached the Sandstone Quarry area and took a small break while taking advantage of the bathroom located here.

We left the Grand Circle Trail at this point and took the Calico Tanks Trail until we hit the Red Cap wash which leads off to the left. We climbed through the small slot canyon in this area and hiked along the base of Red Cap. At the end of this section, we climbed up on the large rock outcropping to take our lunch break while taking in the beautiful view of the Ash Canyon Overlook and beyond.

Our break was pleasantly long and we relaxed in the cool sun. There was little wind and we had already shed layers of clothing early on. From here, we hiked down past Ash Canyon to Gateway Canyon on the trail between the base of Turtlehead Peak and Krafft Mountain. This trail deposited us directly into the beginning of Lower Gateway Canyon where water runs wild during storms and extraordinary snow melt. However, ... today it was dry with the exception of a few small puddles.

The canyon was still limestone for around a third of a mile. After that the limestone turned to white and yellow striped sandstone. This turned into yellow sandstone decorated with red spots. As the canyon began twisting and turning the yellow sandstone turned into red and white striped sandstone presenting a candy cane appearance.

Gateway Canyon isn't only looks and no smarts. It is a beautiful canyon but it is also somewhat challenging. There are several interesting obstacles presented to the hiker as he or she descends through the candy cane maze. To the right, you can see a photo which was taken at the top of one of these obstacles which brought the hiker down in elevation of about twenty feet. Soon after this obstacle, there is another one which drops another twelve feet. This one is only possible to descend when there is no water in the pool area below it. Sometimes, there is up to seven or eight feet of water in this particular pool. A trail which leads around to the left helps the hiker avoid getting wet.

As you can also see in the photo, the leaves on the trees in the canyon have changed. The sparse yellow leaves are beautiful against the red walls.

We accomp- lished the Gateway Canyon portion of the hike and made a right turn back into Calico Basin which is a huge area of homes and trails at the base of Krafft Mountain and the Calico Hills. Taking a small side excursion, we made a photo stop at the top of the forty foot dry waterfall where the water would flow out of Gateway Canyon. See the photo at the bottom of the entry. Carol was brave to pose for this picture!

Passing several "mattress people" (okay, rock climbers with crash pads), we hiked quickly along the maze of flat trails back toward Red Springs. We did the 8.4 miles in 4.5 hours. That's pretty darn quick. But, hopefully, one of our hikers was able to make her job interview and get a job. That's not easy to do in Las Vegas at this point in time.

This elevation chart represents a slight variation in route between Calico I and Calico II overlooks from today's hike.

This GPS map represents a slight variation in route between Calico I and Calico II overlooks from today's hike.

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