Thursday, April 30, 2015

Two North Peaks - 4/30/15

North Peak (Limestone)

North Peak (Sandstone)

Relaxing at North Peak (Sandstone)

Ascending Rocky Gap Road
 Warm day. Pretty good breeze. And, 40% cloud cover. That's what thirteen hikers were dealing with on their 11 mile hike that touched both North Peaks of Red Rock Canyon NCA. We started at the Willow Springs picnic area off of the Red Rock Scenic Loop and hiked up Rocky Gap Road, a 4WD high clearance vehicle road that runs between the scenic loop and Lovell Canyon Road on the other side.

Volunteers' Handiwork
 As we climbed, the group separated but, at first, the separation was not much. A few times, we stopped to regather.

Halfway Up to Red Rock Summit
 When we reached the halfway-to-the-summit-saddle section, we passed by several redbud trees that were in their prime. We pointed out the trail junction where we would be descending later in the day.

Redbuds are Still Blooming at this Elevation

Rough Road Section
 This is the first area where the wash and road collide. It is a particularly challenging section for the off-roaders that love this ride. After climbing a bit further, we found the second section where the wash and road intersect. Several years ago, the road was completely washed out here. There are some especially mean rocks sticking out of the road bed here as well.

Road and Wash Meet
 With the exception of one shortcut, we stayed on the road. One of the shortcuts has been effectively blocked by volunteers who hope that their efforts will reseed the eroded abandoned road.

Canyon Near the Summit
 The last mile or two of the climb kicked all of us but the stronger hikers prevailed and earned a longer rest as the remaining hikers were arriving at the summit saddle.

View Down at Road from Road Above

Resting at Red Rock Summit
With not a vacant rock left to sit on, we took a break before starting up the trail that leads to the Rainbow Wilderness side of the road. This is a very nice trail filled with limestone, juniper and pinion pine. Views can be seen of the road now far below. After about half a mile up the trail, a hiker turned back to return down the road. That hiker happened to be the writer so the remaining narrative is relying mostly on previous trips along this same route.

Starting Up the Trail from Summit
 The climb up the trail takes hikers above the 7000 foot elevation range. Often, the higher altitudes make climbing more difficult. This trail is no different.

Banana Yucca Blooming
 The scenery makes the climb more pleasant and soon, a signed junction is reached.

North Peak (Limestone) Trail

Trail Junction
 The sign directs hikers to choose either Bridge Mountain straight ahead or turn left for North Peak. After turning left, the trail parallels a limestone ridge to the left with grand views of Bridge Mountain to the right. At the end of the ridge, a small scramble up a limestone peak puts you on top of North Peak (Limestone). Long break number one begins.

Bridge Mountain and Its Approach
 After the break, another small scramble off the other side takes you down to the ridge trail that connects both North Peaks.

Ridge Trail Between Two North Peaks
 This trail is becoming more and more clear as more hikers discover this route.

Bridge Mountain Peak

Ridge Decor
 The trail consists of limestone until Dragon Rock, a yellow sandstone jagged rock outcropping appears ahead and to the right. At the Dragon Rock junction, turn right to find the Fern Canyon Overlook Trail; turn left to find the descent to Rocky Gap Road trail; and, follow the ridge straight to find North Peak (Sandstone). The group continues out to the peak climbing over large loose sandstone rocks.

Dragon Rock
 A colorful view of the Calico Hills can be seen from the peak.

Calico Hills from North Peak (Sandstone)
 Long break number two is taken here along with summit photos. (North Peak (Limestone) is such a small peak that it is difficult to take summit photos there.)

North Peak (Sandstone) Summit Photo

Interesting Things at Bottom of North Peak (Sandstone) Descent
 The writer hiked back down the road and reached the descent trail junction 1.75 hours before the group finished their tour. While she waited, she entertained herself watching a black girdle lizard shed a layer of skin. She also found a few fossils! Finally, the group was singing praises that it was approaching the bottom of that very steep and treacherous trail that brings the hiker down from the sandstone area. All together again, we hiked the road down for 2.4 miles to the cars. What a workout!!

11 miles; 3100 feet elevation gain; 6 hours

Nearing Rocky Gap Road on Ridge Descent

Resting Our Wits at Bottom of Steep Descent

Descending Rocky Gap Road

No comments: