Monday, November 10, 2014

Sandstone Quarry / Keystone Thrust Loop - 11/10/14

Keystone Thrust Geological Area

Keystone Thrust to Turtlehead Peak

Climbing up from Sandstone Quarry on the Grand Circle
 Two sites (given below) that explain the interesting geological anomalies found on the Keystone Thrust Trail in Red Rock Canyon NCA are Jim Boone's Bird and Hike and SunsetCities's Red Rock Canyon section. These explanations will not be repeated here but, suffice it to say, the Keystone Thrust Trail leads to an area where scientists from all over the world come to study one of few worldwide places where the movement of tectonic plates show how it can happen that older limestone can move over newer sandstone. Today's hike to the Keystone Thrust Trail began at Sandstone Quarry off of the Red Rock scenic loop.

Landmark Where the Trail Meets the Limestone Wash
 By starting at this location, the normally short three mile visit to the Keystone Thrust Trail is lengthened into a seven mile workout using the Grand Circle Trail.

Hiking the Grand Circle Trail

The Red Rock Escarpment from the Grand Circle
 We climbed up out of the quarry area on the Grand Circle Trail and enjoyed the morning view of the escarpment as we zigzagged our way over the ridges and washes of the desert landscape. When the trail dipped down into the Limestone Wash that passes by the base of Turtlehead Peak, we hiked upwash until we found the "cracked dinosaur egg" rock where we connected again with the trail. Next, we crossed the scenic loop and hiked across the desert below the scenic loop's high point overlook turnout.

Nine Strong Hikers
 A couple more zigzags and we dropped into another wash, the Keystone Wash. This is where our loop would begin. We went upwash for a short distance and retrieved the trail at the large juniper tree landmark.

Landmark Where the Trail Meets the Keystone Wash

Keystone Thrust Trail to Right
 The trail quickly took us up to the scenic loop again where we crossed it and began following the dirt road, White Rock Springs Road, up. At the top of the dirt road, there is trailhead parking and a pit toilet. We took a short break here but didn't dally since we still had a bit of climbing to do. Next, we began hiking the Keystone Thrust Trail. This trail climbs up a ridge, around an ancient agave roasting pit, around to the back side of Cactus Peak (a small peak on the ridge) and, finally, to a trail junction that leads off to the right.

Climbing the Steps of the Keystone Thrust Trail
 Standing at the trail junction, we saw the view in the photo below. This is an area that shows how the older limestone layer is eroding off of the newer sandstone layer underneath.

Starting Descent into Thrust Area - Older Limestone Eroding off of Newer Sandstone

Keystone Wash below Thrust Area
 We started our descent down to the sandstone and sat at the thrust area for our break. This is a beautiful and colorful area at the center of the Red Rock Canyon recreational part. As we sat and listened to the silence, we had the view down the Keystone Wash that is seen in the photo to the right. Afterwards, we got up and found the small trail that leads around to the right side of the wash. It is a steep and slippery trail but it gets hikers down into the wash safely.

Descending Down into Keystone Wash
 Once we were down in the wash, we looked back up toward the thrust area. The La Madre Mountain Range was quickly disappearing behind the sandstone.

Keystone Wash below Thrust Area Above

White Sandstone with Escarpment Beyond
 When we got past the colorful sandstone scrambling section of the wash, we dove into the gravelly rest of it. We were all very surprised to experience a wash that has been recently "house cleaned." A rainstorm in the past year has obviously flooded the wash and it is easily hiked right down the middle. (In the past, there were a couple of up and around trails required to stay out of the heavy brush.) In fact, the most difficult brush obstacle we met was a tree across the wash as seen in the photo below.

The Only Brush Remaining after a Wash Out
 The one dry fall within the wash was unchanged. We handled it like pros!

Dry Fall Still Easily Negotiable

Richard Unfolds out of the Culvert
 When the wash met the scenic loop above, we were obligated to stoop down to a 3 foot stature in order to go through without hitting our head! Next, we finished the wash down to the loop junction with the Grand Circle Trail. Now, on our way back, we gave the trail all we had left in energy reserves. When we walked back into the parking lot at Sandstone Quarry, we felt done and energized all at the same time! Great workout!

7 miles; 1350 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours

Approaching the Grand Circle Trail Junction

Nearing the Calico Hills and Sandstone Quarry

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