Monday, March 23, 2015

Brownstone Canyon O&B - 3/23/15

Water in Drainage from Sandstone Plateau above Brownstone Canyon

Some of the Pictographs in Brownstone Canyon

 There were ten of us on this beautiful and slightly cool morning. We started at the Sandstone Quarry trailhead parking lot and hiked up the wash to the Calico Tanks Trail. Turning off of the official trail, we headed over to the Rattlesnake Trail utilizing a recreational route up and over the sandstone. A look back at the escarpment showed clear air after a night of wind.

Making Our Way over to the Rattlesnake Trail

Morning Light on the Esarpment

 We connected with the Rattlesnake Trail and followed it to the base of Red Cap for a small break. Next, we descended down past Ash Canyon and into the Rattlesnake Wash. Finally, we junctioned with Gateway Canyon. To the right was Lower Gateway Canyon. Our route, today, led to the left into Upper Gateway Canyon, a canyon filled with limestone dry falls.

Starting Up Upper Gateway Canyon at the Base of Turtlehead Peak

Climbing Upper Gateway

 This canyon is a lot of fun to scramble up. There are a few choices along the way and everyone got a good challenge out of it. In the upper section of the canyon, there were a couple of places where water was still a factor after the rain and snow we had a two weeks ago. We made sure that everyone was getting up through the dry falls okay.

Another Dry Fall in Upper Gateway

Taking a Break in Upper Gateway Canyon

 We took another small break when we reached the sandstone junction at the top of the canyon. This is a very colorful area and we turned left to follow a trail that led us up the sandstone slab drainage. At the top of the drainage, we sat for a small break. In the quiet, we heard bleating up on the steep hillside to our right; on the slopes of Turtlehead Peak. There was a deep bleat then one that was higher pitched.

Climbing the Sandstone to the Plateau

View from the Sanstone Plateau Back

 We located a younger lamb up on the ridgeline. After watching and listening for a minute, we noticed that there were two more larger bighorns below the lamb that were slowly making their way up. They were all watching us warily even though we were very far away and had no inclination to climb that terrain!

Finding Our Way over the Plateau

Descending into Brownstone Canyon

 Next, we climbed across the sandstone plateau in the direction of the canyon on the other side. There were at least three different interpretations as to how to cross the area! At any rate, we all passed by the landmark large tinaja at one point to find the descent crack that we sought. We converged at the crack and made our descent down into Brownstone Canyon and had our snack break at the ancient native American pictographs painted on the wall here.

Returning to Upper Gateway from the Sandstone Plateau

Redbud Tree in Upper Gateway Canyon

 After the break, we climbed back up the somewhat difficult crack and proceeded to hike a different route back over the plateau. About half way across, we, again, separated into a couple of groups. One group took the obvious and easier route back to the top of the slab drainage and down. The other group went for an adventure that ended up in the small side canyon that took them down to the Upper Gateway junction. All were satisfied and we proceeded down Upper Gateway Canyon getting an upper body workout as we negotiated the boulders and dry falls. At the Rattlesnake Trail junction, we regathered then started up the last and most draining climb of the day up to the base of Red Cap. One final break here and we were on our way back to the cars using the small slot canyon on the way. Excellent morning!

6 miles; 1700 feet elevation gain; 4.5 hours

The Final Break at the Base of Red Cap

Dropping Through the Sandstone Maze

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