Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Two North Peaks - 4/29/14

North Peak Limestone

North Peak Sandstone

Rocky Gap Road

 Two North Peaks is a hike that took fifteen hikers up Rocky Gap Road to the summit pass, climbed to North Peak Limestone via trail, lost elevation via a connecting ridge trail ending at North Peak Sandstone, dropped steeply back down to Rocky Gap Road, then finally, returned to the cars via the road. We filed into Red Rock Canyon NCA early this morning and parked off of the scenic loop at the Willow Springs picnic area.

Hiking Up the Last Half Mile of Rocky Gap Road
 Climbing the 5 miles of Rocky Gap Road, we stayed together pretty well. Chris pointed out a couple of interesting spots along the way, including the junction of the North Peak Sandstone trail for our descent much later.

 Those 5 miles on the road took their toll and we needed a break at the summit. The morning started out with a stiff wind but, by the time we reached the top of the road, we were warmed up from the inside out. The trail from the road summit to North Peak Limestone is quite beautiful albeit arduous after the climb of 3000 elevation feet already accomplished. There are junipers, manzanita, pinyon pine and plenty of limestone rock outcroppings to complement the trail.

Alex Reaches the Switchbacks
 Altitude becomes a bit of a factor at this point in the hike as we reached the 7000 foot level. Those with difficulty just slowed their pace a little to accommodate the small lack of oxygen.

Bridge Mountain and Escarpment from North Peak Limestone
 We gathered again at the North Peak trail junction and enjoyed the last quarter mile to the peak. Bridge Mountain came into view to our right as well as all the rest of the colorful sandstone on the top of the escarpment on our end.

North Peak Limestone Approach, Summit & View

 We didn't stay long on the peak. A quick bite. A quick log sign-in. A few quick photos and we were dropping down off of the end of the peak to reach the trail that follows the ridge to the sandstone beyond. The photo to the left shows the layout of this ridge ending at North Peak Sandstone. The ridge trail begins with a steep descent.

Dropping Off the Peak to the Ridge Trail
 Although the ridge trail has its ups and downs, around 300 feet of elevation is lost between North Peak Limestone and the beginning of the sandstone underfoot.

Descending on the Ridge Trail

 Most of the trail follows as close to the top of the ridge as possible with limestone rock outcroppings leading the way. Some of the limestone is embedded with fossils from the precambrian era but it is not predominant among the ridge. The outward views are colorful but the views of the ridge, itself, are most interesting as you hike along.

Ridge Trail View
 Limestone and old juniper trees never fail to intrigue the photographer!

Hiking the Ridge Trail
 With the exception of a few faster hikers, the group stayed together on the ridge until we reached "Dragon Rock." If you view this rock from the correct angle, the rock appears to be a dragon with an open mouth. Beyond, Bridge Mountain can be seen through the "mouth!"

Dragon Rock Welcomes Us to the Sandstone

 Hitting the sandstone, we hiked another half mile over and up to the peak at the end of the ridge. The loose sandstone slabs on the way to the peak were difficult for tired legs and feet. We took a longer break on North Peak Sandstone enjoying the colorful views around us of the Calico Hills and, again, Bridge Mountain. We all knew what was coming next and we were in no hurry to start the slip and slide descent.

North Peak Sandstone Peak and Views
 But first, we had to hike back over the sandstone almost all the way to Dragon Rock. In this area, we began turning to the right catching the start of a long ridge that descended to Rocky Gap Road.

Dropping Off of North Peak Sandstone

 A lot fewer photos were taken from this point on. We all commiserated on how many times each one of us had fallen on this particular section of trail that drops 1500 feet in elevation over a possible three quarters mile of space ... at most! It is a mean piece of trail! Today, the hill chose only two victims. All hikers survived to hike another day and when we got down to Rocky Gap Road, we took a break filled with relief. Just 2.5 miles to go. By the end of the hike, many of us were simply putting our feet out and hoping that they held our weight! Okay, it wasn't that bad ... but close!

Dealing with the Slip and Slide Limestone Descent
 11.5 miles; 3500 feet elevation gain; just under 6 hours

Descent Ridge from North Peak Sandstone to Rocky Gap Road

Happy Tired Hikers!

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