Thursday, May 8, 2014

Sandstone Quarry / White Rock Hills Loop - 5/8/14

White Rock Hills in Front of Red Rock Escarpment

Sandstone Quarry Sunrise Behind Creosote Bush

 Today's hike was a 4 mile climb up into the hills at the base of the La Madre mountain range followed by a 3 mile descent in a series of washes. It began and ended at the Sandstone Quarry trailhead parking off of the scenic loop of Red Rock Canyon NCA. Fifteen hikers started the trek on a cool May morning finding the Grand Circle Trail that crossed through the quarry area and led west.

Grand Circle Trail
 A swift pace was established right away and we stayed on the Grand Circle all the way across the upper portion of the park where we crossed the scenic loop twice.

Grand Circle Trail

 This part of the hike had its ups and downs. It wasn't until we reached the White Rock Springs Road that we began to feel the familiar ascent muscles take charge. There would be very little downward hiking between this point and the high point of the morning. We hiked quickly up the dirt road as the conversation continued. At the trailhead parking above, a few hikers took a small break at the restroom. Ready to continue, we started up the White Rock Hills Trail and soon turned right onto the Keystone Thrust Trail.

Starting the Climb to Keystone Thrust
 We were beginning to feel the climb as we passed the old agave roasting pit on the way to the fault area. At the fault turn off, there were rocks lined along the trail suggesting that we not continue up the trail seen in the photo below.

Continuation of Trail after Keystone Thrust

 After a brief break, we stepped over the rocks and continued climbing. Our group got a little separated as we took the hill. Old road tracks turned to a single track trail and we continued climbing. Finally, we reached another agave roasting pit that was considerably less preserved. Here, there is a small trail that drops into a small wash to the right. We gathered for the fifth time so far while taking a deserved rest at the high point.

Gathering Spots on the Climb

 We descended single file into the small wash below. Right away, the wash appeared suspiciously larger than it did on previous trips. It wasn't long before the wash junctioned with a much larger wash and it was extremely apparent that this wash had grown wide and rocky from a recent tumultuous rainstorm. Gone was the small quaint brushy wash that used to be fun to negotiate.

Hiking Down Upper Wash
 Now, we had to contend with a lot of loose boulders and gravel galore. The brush was either swept aside or somewhere downstream broken off at the roots and stuffed full of invasive stones.

Newly Washed Out Wash

 We sat among the flood washed boulders for a snack break while we contemplated the change in scenery. Amazing. After the respite, we continued on our way down. Eventually, the large wash junctioned with a really wide wash. This one was familiar in size even though we could tell that it, also, was recently rearranged. As we hiked, the Calico Hills came into view as Turtlehead Peak watched us from overhead on the left side.

Being Careful on Newly Turned Stones
 After exiting from the boulder filled wash, the downhill hike on the gravel was forgiving on our feet.

Previously a Quaint Small Brushy Wash

 We hiked along heading towards the Red Cap crowned quarry area in the distance trying not to disturb the gremlins residing on the hovering Turtlehead Peak. Staying on the right side of the wide wash brought us to an area where we junctioned with the Turtlehead Trail and finished the hike back to the cars in the still cool air.

7 miles; 1700 feet elevation gain; just over 3 hours

Following the Large Wash to the Turtlehead Trail

A Prickly Bouquet

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