Saturday, August 23, 2014

Dragon Canyon / Gateway Canyon Loop - 8/23/14

Overlook at Top of Dragon Canyon

Turtlehead Peak from Top of Ash Canyon

Ash Meadows
 It was a beautiful morning at Red Rock Canyon NCA. Sixteen hikers found their way to the dirt parking area in Calico Basin located at the base of Krafft Mountain for a loop hike that included some mild scrambling. We walked out to the end of the dirt parking area and stepped over the rope for the hike to begin. Not far down the road, we turned right down a worn trail that led to Ash Meadows where large ash trees grew among the creek bed. Taking little used trails, we headed toward the entrance to Dragon Canyon.

Finding Trails to Dragon Canyon
Last year, we named this canyon that runs parallel to Ash Canyon on its east side for the rocky peak in which it lies. Although this peak is referred to as New Peak nowadays, the older hikers know it as Dragon Peak - named for its long craggy ridge that looks like a dragon's tail.

During our tough scramble up through the small canyon, one hiker mistakenly used a large rock that turned out to be loose. He got quite a bump on his head. Probably don't need to say it - but y'all be careful out there!

Scrambling up Dragon Canyon toward Dragon Peak
After attending to the hiker, we finished climbing the canyon and connected with Ash Canyon about halfway up. Views at this point were pretty fantastic.

Red Cap from Top of Dragon Canyon

Hiking Upper Ash Canyon
From there, we took the upper trail (one of 3 trails all together) all the way up to the top of Ash Canyon where a few hikers were waiting. We sat for a short break under the gaze of a towering Turtlehead Peak while a couple of hikers were patched up. No, no one wanted to go back ... "they were fine."

Next, we dropped down to the Rattlesnake Trail that connects this area to Gateway Canyon through a wash.

Hiking Down Through Rattlesnake Trail Wash
The Rattlesnake Trail wash seemed to be rearranged. This summer's rains were likely the culprit. We were careful of our steps on the slippery limestone and reached Gateway Canyon junction. Already, we could tell that Gateway (true to its nature) was also quite rearranged. The gravel was very thick here and there were no longer "ruts" to indicate where the water runoff had been. Hmmm. This made the hike down through Lower Gateway Canyon very exciting! Each familiar obstacle was in question before we got to it.

Deepened Dry Fall just down from Rattlesnake Trail in Lower Gateway Canyon
The first "obstacle" was never really an obstacle in the recent past. That first dry fall showed that the gravel had been washed away and the down climb there was a 5 or 6 foot drop.

Jim Sees Polka Dots in Gateway Canyon

Pickle Rock in Gateway Canyon
We hiked down a wide flat gravel wash until things got interesting again. A lot of gravel has been deposited in the "slide" area and that drop had been reduced from 5 feet to a mere 2 feet. Next came the first big dry fall that we usually find our way around on the right. A few of today's hikers braved the drop as the rest of us did the scramble down. The drop appeared to be not too bad when we circled around to take a look.

Using Another Up and Around due to a Wash Out
Next came "Pickle Rock." This obstacle was named when Lettie found herself in a pickle here, one time, while hiking through. Today, there was no way to climb down the usual way, before the rock, so we did the steep walk down on top of the rock. The usual way had been washed out very deep but the gravel below Pickle Rock was pretty high so it all worked out.

From there, the last large scramble was only mildly changed as seen in the photo below. Then, the hike around Krafft Mountain finished off the morning.

The Last Scramble in Gateway Canyon
5 miles; 950 feet elevation gain; 2.5 hours

Hiking Around the Southern End of Krafft Mountain

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