Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ash Canyon / Gateway Canyon - 2/23/12

                                From Ash Canyon to Calico Basin

 Lying between the Calico Hills and New Peak with Turtlehead Peak on one end and Calico Basin on the other is a rather formidable local canyon called Ash Canyon. It is named for the Ash trees that grow at its base and Ash Creek that flows lightly from a spring within the canyon. It is filled with large car- sized boulders and can be climbed in several different ways. The trailhead begins from the Red Springs parking lot in the Red Rock Canyon NCA.

 Twenty- three hikers converged at Red Springs this morning. Las Vegas was presenting a gorgeous weather day and the predicted high winds never did arrive between our chosen walls. With Mike O'C at the wheel, we began our hike and found our way to the ash tree meadow. (Someone had built a fire underneath one of the ash trees. Hmmm! Probably could have found a better place, don't ya think?)

                                Climbing Ash Canyon

At the bottom of Ash Canyon, we split into three groups of hikers. One group went up the middle with a grand boulder scramble. A second group chose the left side of the canyon that presented rock walls and hefty exposure. The third group decided to explore the right side of the canyon while keeping as much elevation as possible. This group divided into yet another sub- group as a few hikers took a slower pace.

 The first and third groups met up at the saddle where Ash Canyon teases you into thinking that you have finished climbing until you peek over it and see more "up" as seen in the photo below. We had to wait here for several minutes for everyone to arrive. No problem. The view was great!

                                Top of Ash Canyon from below.

 With these two groups together again, we continued our climb up that last segment finishing at the top, locally named Ash Canyon Overlook. It was here that we found the second group of hikers. They had been waiting there several minutes. After an extended break, we headed down the next wash to junction with Gateway Canyon.

 The familiar wash went by quickly and gathering again, we turned right into Lower Gateway and hiked down through the remaining limestone walls. The red, white and calico sandstone walls beckoned us from below. Gateway Canyon is a colorful canyon filled with stripes and polka dots of red, white and yellow hues. The canyon remains unchanged from last year as we had very little rain over the winter months.

                                Starting down Gateway Canyon

 The canyon is filled with limestone and sandstone gravel which is easily moved around by heavy rainstorms that are able to create flash floods in the normally dry canyon. The group became spread out but before we arrived at either of the two most interesting obstacles, we stopped for our lunch break.

 Among the twenty- three hikers, seven were women. The Thursday crowd seemed happy to be back at good ol' Red Rock. Conversations ranged from vacations to banking to business to vacations again. Eventually, we did start hiking again. After all, "You can't call it a hike unless you start walking!"

 The first interesting obstacle has three ways to get down. Huge boulders lie in the middle of the canyon blocking a regular easy route. Jerry demonstrates the most difficult choice above. Tricky! Later, there is one more blocked route with another three ways to get past it. The most used route is demonstrated in the photo below by Paul. Another route involves a rabbit hole. The third route goes up and around to the left.

 We reached the bottom of the striped canyon, visited the dry waterfall off to the left, then began hiking across the desert of Calico Basin. At the cars, we had hiked around six miles and climbed one thousand elevation feet; most of which were climbed in Ash Canyon. And, what a beautiful day in Vegas!

                                Exiting Gateway Canyon

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