Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Two North Peaks - 4/3/12

                         North Peak (Sandstone) from North Peak (Limestone)

 Ah, Super Tuesday! What can be said? The pace was fast. The hike was long. The views were fantastic. The company was jovial. This is definitely a group of people that just gotta hike!

Thirteen hikers began their hike, today, at the Willow Springs Picnic Area off of the Red Rock Canyon NCA scenic loop. The objective of the hike was to summit the two peaks on the ridge to the left of Rocky Gap Road; one made of limestone and one made of sandstone. The first part of the hike was a climb up to Red Rock Summit via that aforementioned Rocky Gap Road.

 So, why does anyone hike this road five miles up 2000 elevation feet? See photo to left. Yep, this is one tough road to drive. Not that it can't be done. In fact, we observed more cars, motorcycle, and bicycles on the road today than any other time we have been here. The road seems to be in fairly good condition except for the drainage crossings. Again, see photo to left.

                                Trail to North Peak (Limestone)

                             Hiking to North Peak (Limestone)

 The thirteen hikers tried their best to stay together but a large group of jack rabbits managed to make it to the road summit about fifteen minutes before the end of the line. With about 3/4 of a mile to go to our first peak, we started climbing again after a decent break. This part of the climb was more pleasant than the road. Limestone outcroppings, juniper and pinion pine, and manzanita bushes lined the trail which took us up another 650 elevation feet.

 We regathered at the trail junction for Bridge Mountain then hiked the remaining trail to the peak together. One last scramble over the craggy limestone put us on top of North Peak (Limestone) where we took our much deserved first break. From this vantage point, we could see all of the park except the escarpment peaks past Bridgepoint. Bridge Mountain, which is nestled in between Ice Box Canyon and Pine Creek Canyon was prominent to the east.

                                Taking a Break on North Peak (Limestone)

                                Bridge Mountain from North Peak (Limestone)

 The next mile of the hike was done on the ridge between the two North Peaks. We dropped off of the other side of the limestone peak and began a beautiful hike through limestone decor. The ridge was sufficiently wide for hiking, however both sides of the ridge went steeply down.

 Hiking as a group again, we made our way to the sandstone, passed Dragon Rock and hiked over to the peak at the end of the ridge. This was our second North Peak of the day, North Peak (Sandstone). Although the views were similar to the views from this peak's limestone counterpart, the difference in rock changed the look quite a bit. For the second time on the hike, we signed the summit log book noting that the last time we did this same hike was four months ago.

                                Approaching North Peak (Sandstone)

                                View of Calico Hills from North Peak (Sandstone)

 Most of us were dreading the last portion of the hike. The trail down to the road from North Peak (Sandstone) is extremely steep. On tired legs, we all had to be very careful. The going was slow and quiet. Concentration was key. Four or five breaks were taken to gather our wits. Unlike the previous hike that we did in this location, no one hit the dirt ... and rocks and bushes and ... well, you understand.

 To continue the descent, we had 2.5 miles more to hike on Rocky Gap Road. So after one last break at the bottom of the very steep hill, (which was much needed), we headed down to the cars. We separated according to our desired speed but we reached Willow Springs within ten minutes of each other. The eleven mile hike is likely one of the more challenging hikes done by the Around the Bend Friends.

                                Approaching the end of a six hour hike!


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