Thursday, April 12, 2012

Calico Hills / Gateway Canyon Loop - 4/12/12

                                Calico Hills from the Grand Circle Trail

                                Redbud Tree and White Sandstone

 As the waning gibbous moon watched from the southern morning sky, thirteen hikers descended upon the Red Springs Picnic Area in the Calico Basin of Red Rock Canyon NCA. The wind was predicted to settle long enough for another great Thursday hike and the troops began their pleasant eight mile march around the Calico Hills.

 We climbed up from the boardwalk to the saddle at the southern end of the Calico Hills then dropped down to the wash and climbed the same elevation again. Happy with our elevation placement (and a little out of breath), we began hiking on flat ground around to the Grand Circle Trail below the Calico I Scenic Overlook. There, we dropped down to the wash level and continued hiking on Red Rock's Grand Circle.

                                April Flowers at Red Rock Canyon NCA - 2012

 Along the trail between Calico I and Sandstone Quarry, we began noticing that a few different flowers had begun blooming. It is not likely to be a very flowery spring for the Las Vegas desert, however, a little bit of color is better than no color at all. There just hasn't been enough rain this winter to even fill the sandstone water tanks, or tenajas.

 We took a small break at Sandstone Quarry where there are restroom facilities then continued hiking toward the towering Turtlehead Peak. The hike led around the north end of the Calico Hills where the trails for Red Cap and Ash Canyon Overlook coincide. It was in this area that we first began seeing the abundance of blooming redbud trees. This time last week, the buds were just beginning to show.

                                Circling the north end of Calico Hills.

 We were maintaining a steady pace. Two hikers had elected to take the scenic loop road between Calico I and Sandstone Quarry and the writer brought up the rear on the trail. Small breaks were taken as needed and no one was in a hurry. As we passed the high point at the base of Red Cap, we elected to have our snack break when we got into Lower Gateway Canyon.

 A forest of redbud trees awaited us at a point soon after our entrance into Gateway. We had arrived in the canyon at the punctual time for the plentiful profusely pink and purple buds to provide us their perfect portrait. ...Or, there were a lot of redbuds and they were pretty.

                                Sandstone Walls from Lower Gateway Canyon

We sat on the striped sandstone at a beautiful location and had our snack break. Six miles down and two to go.  Everywhere we looked, the sandstone colors were vibrant.

Continuing down canyon, we passed through the obstacles with rehearsed precision.

After the end of Lower Gateway Canyon, the remaining part of the hike crossed through the desert of Calico Basin, a somewhat less interesting portion of the hike. Again, the weather was great and we enjoyed our morning under the blue desert sky.

                            Redbud Tree and red sandstone.

                          The last obstacle in Lower Gateway Canyon.

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