Sunday, October 11, 2015

6000 Lee Canyon Loop - 10/11/15

Lee Canyon Down from MM 10.5

Apache Plume in Rocky Gorge Wash

MM 9ish at 6000 Elevation Feet

Top of First Hill
 Another exploratory, today, brought us new information on an area that we did a small hike in three years ago. Our out and back hike from 2012 explored the first part of the hike we did today. But, today, we kept going! Seven hikers parked two cars at the small dirt road that forks off to the right around 9 miles up Lee Canyon Road. This is just previous to the 6000 foot elevation mark. We started hiking up this little road that proved to be very washed out. Just before half a mile, we found a trail that led up the hill to the right. The morning climb felt good.

View of Playa Lake on First Hill
 At the top of the hill, we could see part of a lake in the playa below. This is quite unusual!

One of the Targets in this Area
 We crossed over the road that had continued up via a switchback and started seeing a few elaborate contraptions. After closer inspection, we saw that they were being used for target practice. Perhaps it would be best to watch out for shooting in this area!

Following the Trail

Trail Continues into Distant Hills
 Our small trail gained a northerly direction as we contoured around shallow undulations. To the right, we saw the Sheep Mountain Range and to the left, we saw the Spring Mountains Divide. Views were gorgeous and the weather was perfect. The trail was very easy to follow but got weak as we approached our junction with the Rocky Gorge wash, the only gravel wash we came to. We made our left turn into the wash at around 1.6 miles. The trail should continue across the wash but our cursory glance did not find it.

Rocky Gorge Area as seen from Our Trail
 Just previous to our wash junction, we got a view of Rocky Gorge in the distance. Yes, it is more like a miniature gorge but unusual for the terrain of an alluvial fan.

Starting Up Rocky Gorge Wash
 When we started up the gravel wash, it was clear that the burros use this as their thoroughfare at times. The wash is wide and mostly clear of brush.

Entering Rocky Gorge

Hiking Up through the Shadows of Rocky Gorge
We passed the Rocky Gorge Loop trail that came in from the left and began hiking up between rock walls. The rock underfoot was colored a gray and white stripe. At this time of morning, the "gorge" was completely in the shade and it was very cool. As we hiked through the rock, we searched for an easy climb out to the left side. Just as we were coming to a fork in the wash, we saw our chance up to the left. An easy but steep climb brought us up to the ridge above.

Connecting with Rocky Gorge Loop after Bushwhack Out of Wash
The ridge led us to a "bridge" in the terrain and, following an ESE projection, we junctioned with the Rocky Gorge Loop trail near a high point of the ridge we were on.

Hiking Rocky Gorge Loop back to its Blue Tree Trailhead
Next, we began hiking on the Rocky Gorge Loop in the direction of Lee Canyon Road. It brought us down off the embankment and over to a small wash. The trail continued up this wash.

Taking a Break in some Nice Shade

Rocky Gorge Loop Trailhead at Blue Tree Road
At around 3.75 miles into the hike, we stopped in some good shade and took our break. Refreshed, we continued up the trail / wash to the trailhead located at the Blue Tree Road where there is a small quarry of sorts and several felled ponderosas. There is a trail on the other side of the open area that leads up to Lee Canyon Road but we missed it. Nevertheless, a small easy bushwhack put us right where we needed to be at mile marker 10.5 on Lee Canyon Road.

Crossing Lee Canyon Road at MM 10.5
We crossed the road then took the trail down into Lee Canyon. We usually take the trail "up" Lee Canyon from here but, today, we dropped down to the left and began a first time trek "down" canyon.

Finding Burro Trails to Follow down Lee Canyon
Immediately, we looked for any trails that might be laying around. We found them in the form of burro trails. Guess how we knew they were burro trails.

Burro Trail Crossing the Wash

Castle Rock
Following the small trails, we made our way everywhere except into the gravel wash! But, most interesting, we climbed up the embankment a little on the right side and viewed up close the Pleistocene (Ice Age) conglomerate rock formations of the Lee Canyon alluvial fan. We named one particular outcropping Castle Rock as seen in the photo to the right. Surprisingly, we did not see any burros in this area that they clearly use as shelter.

Entering the Wash
After we tired of the winding burro trails, we dropped down into the gravel wash. ... Or, rather, one of the gravel washes! There were a few.

Hiking Down the Main Wash
Lee Canyon is very wide in this section. The main wash is not always the main wash. And, in a few places, washes were cut very deep from previous relatively recent floods. (i.e. like last year's)

Lee Canyon Wash Deeply Trenched in Some Places

Trail Going Up on Right indicates 4th Point
At about 5.75 miles into the hike, we started seeing points of terrain that jutted into the canyon on the left side. In retrospect, we can now say that there are 4 points that intrude into the canyon before you get to the trail that climbs up near the 6000 foot elevation level. There is a very deep trench on the left side of the canyon at the 4th point. It is best to be on the left side of the canyon already to avoid having to cross this trench. The trail takes hikers out of the canyon and leads down to go along a section of the old Lee Canyon Road. Follow this old pavement down and there is a climb up to cross Lee Canyon Road near the cars. This hike is good for cool weather and greatly improves on the short hike we did back in 2012.

7 miles; 1100 feet elevation gain; 3.25 hours

Trail that Climbs Out of Lee Canyon near Cars

Spying the Cars from "Canyon Escape Trail"

Hiking Down Lee Canyon Road to Cars

Red Indicates Today's Route - Blue is Better Route

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