Thursday, March 20, 2014

Mountain Spring Peak Loop - 3/20/14

The Limestone Escarpment Cliff Below Mountain Spring Peak

Griffith Peak from the Top of the Red Rock Canyon Escarpment

Hiking Up Heartbreak Hill
For the third time in a week, club members started at the Highway 160 pass Mountain Spring, NV trailhead. Nineteen hikers converged on heartbreak hill for a great loop hike over Mountain Spring Peak, a peak located on the limestone part of the Red Rock Canyon NCA escarpment just behind the sandstone Black Velvet Peak.

Re-Grouping at the Saddle Junction (Note: Mr. Z is back!)
We arrived at the trail junction saddle a few at a time and waited for the rest to arrive. We were all there within the same five minutes.

Climbing Up to the Windy Peak Trail Fork

Hiking Up the Escarpment Ridge
At the saddle junction, we turned left, climbed the next big hill with Windy Peak and Hollow Rock Peak showing off to our right, then took the left fork at the Windy Peak Trail junction. At this point, our route took us around along the ridge where we had a grand view of the back side of Black Velvet Peak. There were a few climbs but, mostly, the hike was just filled with gorgeous views in today's great weather. To our right were the sandstone peaks with Las Vegas beyond and, to our left were views of the Spring Mountains and the small mountain community of Mountain Spring. (It takes a little while to get all these names straight!)

Black Velvet Peak from Escarpment Trail
The line of hikers began to spread out on the trail but we gathered again when we reached Mountain Spring Peak where we all signed into the log register and took in more of the grand views.

Calico Hills from Mountain Spring Peak

Hikers on a Cliff
After finishing up on the peak, we continued along the trail to the other side and found ourselves again at the cliff edge of the escarpment. Taking a short side trip, several hikers balanced out onto a narrow limestone cliff peninsula. Just past here, the trail led us to a seating area right on a very high cliff. This was where we took a snack break and enjoyed the photo opportunities.

The Snack Cliff
On the side of the snack cliff, there is a very small window through which the Stratosphere Tower can be seen.

Snacking on the Cliff

Ridge Descent
The trail continued along the ridge but we took a left down the next ridge dropping down to the left side. This was a fairly steep descent in soft dirt and rock down to the small wash below. Another possible route would be to continue out the initial ridge until the slope drops you into the wash. At any rate, there is very little trail to follow here nor is the route marked by cairns.

Rocky & Brushy Small Wash
The first wash that we reached was small and rocky. Brush covered it intermittently. The descent through the wash is a good workout for a multitude of muscles. Eventually, the wash gets bigger and less brushy.

More Open Medium Wash

Rainbow Springs Road (High Clearance)
As the slope levels out, the wash gets wider and junctions with other washes. Looking for the cairn marker on the left, we turned into another wide sandy wash that soon emptied us out onto Rainbow Springs Road, a dirt high clearance road that begins in Mountain Spring and ends at Rainbow Springs behind the escarpment. We hiked along the road for a mile. Footing here is unpleasant due to the steep sides of the road bed. After the mile, we turned up to our left onto a trail that took us to a rock outcropping and cave.

Hikers Climb Up to Cave Entrance
The cave diversion is welcome after the long road hike. Some hikers climbed up through the hole then we all met again on the dirt road. This side trip cut off a corner of the road's route.

President Steve Exits from a Side Trip to the Cave

Passing One of Two Springs Above Mountain Springs, NV
We hiked past the two springs above the community. Turned left to observe a beautiful ancient agave roasting pit. Then began a cross country hike aiming in the direction of the cars at the trailhead. This brought us through a residential section of the country town and we were met by two very excited shetland ponies in an enclosure by the trail. Then nineteen satisfied hikers reached their cars.

7 miles; 2000 feet elevation gain; 4 hours ... or thereabouts

Pristine Ancient Agave Roasting Pit

Shetland Ponies - Very Happy to Have Visitors!

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