Monday, April 18, 2011
Tank Discovery Scramble - 4/18/11
The Tank Discovery Scramble hike that thirteen members of the club did today is a new hike. Four members of the club worked on the route during four previous explorations and today was the hike's debut. All members of the hike had fun and enjoyed the new discoveries over 4.25 miles with a net gain of 1200 elevation feet over three separate ascents.
The hike began at the Sandstone Quarry parking area off of the Red Rock Canyon NCA scenic loop. We hiked past the quarry and took a right turn into the hills. Our first stop was at the hidden arch where we took our photos then began a strenuous trek up into the sandstone. Up, down, up and up brought us to the top of a peak where we overlooked the floor of Red Rock Canyon.
Partially retracing our steps down to a junction, we then descended down to a mid-point on the Calico Tanks Trail. Phase I of the hike was done. Phase II would begin after climbing just past Rooster Rock on the Tanks Trail. An obscure trail heads up to the right just after the first set of stairs past the introduction of red sandstone. Up we went onto the yellow sandstone again.
Continuing in the initial direction of the right turn, we crossed over to a place where we could climb up (steeply) onto the large sandstone hill in front of us. Up we went again. This time we were in search of a large tank about half of the size of the main Calico Tank. Keeping to the left, we found the tank as seen in the photo to the right. It was somewhat deep into the sandstone but it appeared that animals could probably get down to it if motivated.
Next, we found our way up to the layer of sandstone above. Passing smaller "puddle tanks" (most of which were dry after last week's warmer weather), we came to another decently sized tank that looked out to Turtlehead Peak. Although only half of the hikers decided to climb down to the tank, photos of this tank were the most promising (as seen below). Unfortunately, today's sky did not help matters as it was very overcast and windy.
From this tank, we scrambled over to the other side of the hill and dropped down into a dirt and brush area as seen in the photo above. We followed this down into a rocky slope, crossed a couple of downed trees which lent their trunks to the cause and climbed up to the base of another deep tank as seen in the first photo of this entry. After climbing up to view this tank, we continued our climb up a rocky slope and reached the top of Calico II Peak. Finally, here, we sat and ate our snack where we could get out of the wind.
On Calico II Peak, there are three tanks, only one of which was filled with water (as seen in the photo to the left). There is a view of the Las Vegas Strip and the sandstone formations are very interesting. Although there are a couple of easier ways to get down off of the peak, our route, today, was chosen for excitement. And, excitement was what we got as we headed down off the side of the peak with nothing but the main Calico Tank about 500 feet below us.
This descent requires two hands, two feet and two butt cheeks for most of us. It's fairly steep and the provided ledges are quite narrow. The first large photo immediately above shows this section.
Next, we leaned against a large boulder to descend another twenty feet. The photo above shows the view from here. The main tank is visible in the small triangle near the center of the photo. Stepping across the strong trunk of a small shrub, we then descended down the sandstone to a particularly frustrating crack that must be negotiated. This crack descent is seen in the photo to the right. There were almost as many variations to the method as there were number of hikers. Some methods worked better than others, however, we all got down safely.
Finally, we were back down to the main Calico Tank as seen in the photo to the right. It is full of water and ready to settle down for a long hot summer. We turned to our left to hike down the trail a few feet before we took a side trail up to another small tank as seen in the next photo. A few photos later, we returned to the trail and climbed down to the red sandstone at Mass Production Wall. At this junction, we kept going straight instead of beginning the climb down the nicely built steps that turn to the left. No, we preferred scrambling down the side of the hill!
We made our way over to the bottom of the Red Cap scramble, went through the small sideways slot and headed out a graveled wash seldom used by any other trail. At the end of this wash, we climbed the dry waterfall of Turtlehead Canyon (named by us!). There is a trail above the wash which we followed to the left and entered into a sandstone inlet. Phase III of the hike was well underway.
The final climb of the day was located here inside the inlet. We started steeply up to the left where there was a slightly slanted slope to the rock. Up, up and up we went. Lo and behold, there was the final tank; a beautiful tank which overlooks Turtlehead on one side and the Escarpment on the other. The sandstone dips gracefully down to the water and when one sits at the edge and speaks, one's voice dies immediately into the rock (no echo!). It would be a great place for a string quartet to perform!
We descended back into the inlet, curved around some more rocks and came out onto the Turtlehead Peak Trail. We followed this trail out to the parking area and rested the rest of the day!
Oh, yeah! There were petroglyphs somewhere....