Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Juniper Peak - 3/19/13

                                    Calico Hills From Juniper Peak

                                  Juniper Peak Within the Escarpment

 Today's Super Tuesday Hike attracted seventeen hikers to Juniper Peak. Juniper Peak is a minor peak along the Red Rock Canyon NCA escarpment that reigns between Mescalito Peak and Rainbow Peak. The best way to approach this peak begins at the Pine Creek trailhead off of the scenic loop. We made quick time down into Pine Creek Canyon and, after a small break at the old Wilson foundation, crossed Pine Creek and found the Arnight Trail.

 The Arnight Trail leads over to the base of Juniper Canyon where another trail turns off to the right and heads up to the gaping bouldered wash above. As we took another short break, we noticed Rainbow Wall and Gunsight Notch at the top of the canyon. Rainbow Wall is an extremely large concave wall that is famous for very advanced rock climbers. A photo of the wall is seen seven photos down.

                              Big Boulder Scramble of Juniper Canyon

       Upon reaching the sandstone slab, hikers check out the upcoming route.

 We followed the trail until it dropped into the wash that was covered completely with very large boulders. Climbing the wash takes a lot of upper body strength as the hand holds became just as important as the foot holds. The route, at this time, is heavily cairned which is useful at the many twists and turns. Nearing the top, we were obliged to climb a slippery dirt trail section which eventually led to a steep rock fall.

 At the top of the rock fall, we reached the well known sandstone slab. The slab is very steep but sloped enough to allow climbing in proper hiking footwear. We were now headed up to the north with our focus on a "turtle gargoyle" peeking out just above the ridge. There was a lot of sandstone between us and that turtle so up, up and away we went toward a left turn at the ridge.

                                Halfway Up the Slab to the Left Turn

                                         Waiting For the Stragglers

 The views in this section of the hike were becoming incredible with Rainbow Wall to the south and the North Blue Diamond Hills to the east. We were reaching the top of Juniper Canyon's source. Still on the sandstone, we occasionally followed a trail that led through the bushes. Cairns still ruled the route.

 Just as we were reaching the aforementioned left turn, Mike pointed out that there is an easy way to go up and around the exposed passage that was before us. Exhausted and spent, the writer couldn't care less how "exposed" the twenty foot climb was if it was a short cut to the left turn!!! No, really. It wasn't bad. Compared to Bridge Mountain ... it was about the same and not nearly as dangerous.

                             Mike Demonstrates the Steep Exposed Route

                                Looking Out from the Wall Trail Ascent

So, we got past the slope in question and turned left where we reached a trail that climbed up next to the peak's wall. There was also a dirt trail that led parallel away from the wall but the comfort that the wall provided was worth the high steps. At the top of the wall, there was more climbing. Around the corner, across the ledge (seen to the left), and up through the rabbit hole we scrambled. (That rabbit hole was a doozy!)

 When we had a moment to breathe, there were views of Bridge Mountain, Bridge Point Peak, and Mescalito Peak to our right. This view is in the photo to the right. When the writer arrived, finally, on the peak, the party was well underway. Time for a well deserved snack break while we enjoyed the colorful views and very cool breeze.

                              Seventeen AtBF Hikers on Juniper Peak

                                  Bridge Point Peak from Juniper Peak

 We signed into the log book and took the summit photo above. The photo to the left shows our view when we looked down. That's Oak Creek trailhead that you see in the top of the picture. We were getting a little too cold so we started down through the rabbit hole or the optional slide over the cliff as seen below!

 We were very careful as we made our way down the wall trail, down the "exposed" rock (done easily on the booty), and down the sandstone slab portion. The group regathered at the top of the rock fall and slowly pulled themselves up to tackle the rock fall, steep dirt trail and then the very large boulders.

                           Tom Descending the Steep Exposed Sandstone

                                Susan Negotiating the Sandstone Slab

 By the time we reached the mouth of Juniper Canyon, some of us were pretty tired. All that scrambling down exhausts your arms, legs and stomach muscles. We were all happy to see the trail that would lead us back to the cars. For the return hike, we chose the trail that leads directly down from the Arnight Trail to the Fire Ecology Trail. This is slightly shorter and we were soon making the long climb up the hill on the Pine Creek Trail to the cars.

The hike was a little over five miles after accounting for GPS bounces and there was an elevation gain and loss of 2349 feet. It took us less than five hours for the entire out and back hike.

                  Taking a Final Break at the Bottom of Juniper Canyon

                                              The Sandstone Slab

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