Friday, October 23, 2015

Escarpment Base Trail Extended - 10/23/15

Escarpment Base Trail at Skull Rock

Sunrise on the Red Rock Escarpment

Sunrise on Turtlehead Peak and the Calico Hills

The Approach Trail
 To avoid a 13 mile trip around the scenic loop of Red Rock Canyon NCA, the 11 mile Escarpment Base Trail turns into the 13 mile Escarpment Base Trail Extended. Eight hikers parked in the exit parking lot of the scenic loop on Highway 159 and watched the sun rise on the escarpment. After preparing for our long haul, we started out by taking one of the approach trails that runs between the exit parking lot and the Oak Creek Trailhead parking lot.  It took us almost directly toward the escarpment at Rainbow Peak. When we reached the trailhead, we took a short break for the restroom.

View Toward the La Madre Mountain Range
 The next trail on the route was the Arnight Trail that leaves the parking lot from the lower corner.

The Arnight Trail
 The Arnight Trail becomes increasingly rocky underfoot. This is fine on the way out but during the twelfth mile on the way back, the rocks are a bit annoying!

Occasional Shade

Approaching Pine Creek Canyon on the Arnight Trail
 We passed where the Knoll Trail turns off to the left and then, later, where the Juniper Canyon Trail turns off. The sun warmed our backs until it rose a little higher in the sky. The air was clear. Chollas flourished along the whole route and we were constantly encouraged to avoid their hooking spines. As we turned the corner to begin the drop down into Pine Creek Canyon, the sound of water in Pine Creek rose up loudly from below.

Pine Creek
 Pine Creek was full but not too full. We crossed the water on the trail without getting our feet wet.

Wilson Homestead Ruins
 We passed the Wilson Homestead ruins without stopping on the way out. But, on the return, we took a small break there.

One of Several Deep Washes on Dale's Trail

Dale's Trail
 After hiking down the Pine Creek Trail a little way, we turned left onto Dale's Trail which is arguably the prettiest part of today's route. Although Dale's Trail has several deep washes to cross, it makes up the extra effort with splashes of color throughout. The sandstone changes from white to red to white a few times and the cacti and junipers are plentiful. The trail dirt was red and there were strong views of both the escarpment and the Calico Hills across the Red Rock alluvial fan.

Turtlehead from Dale's Trail
 At one point, we could see one of the new bridges being constructed on the scenic loop.

Sandstone Color
 After we passed The Bench, it wasn't long before we junctioned with Ice Box Canyon Trail. We crossed this trail and continued on the SMYC Trail.

Passing by Ice Box Canyon

Healthy Prickly Pear on the SMYC Trail
 The SMYC Trail also has its charm. The escarpment above is very interestingly shaped and there have been rumors of a mountain lion den there in the past. No lions today. We had rounded a point in the escarpment and could see the Willow Springs area in the distance. A few more washes to dip down into and climb back out and we would be at the half way point. Prickly pear seems to be very happy growing in this part of Red Rock.

The SMYC Trail
 As we hiked the trail, a helicopter flew by. Judging by sound, we think it may have picked up someone in the Willow Springs area.

Approaching Lost Creek Trailhead in the Red Rock Wash
 The SMYC Trail finishes off in the Red Rock Wash as it approaches the Lost Creek Trailhead. We took our snack break here.

Small Break in Front of Ice Box Canyon on the Return

SMYC Trail on Approach to Ice Box Canyon
The return trip afforded different views of the escarpment. We hiked along talking the whole way. We used the same route as we did on the way out. The trail is easy to follow for the most part, however, there are a few social trails (especially on the Arnight Trail) that fork off from the main drag. Probably the best technique to find your way would be to look ahead and see which trail goes the way you want to go! In the desert, this usually works pretty well.

Dale's Trail
 As we tired, the line of hikers separated only slightly. We were evenly matched most of the way as Chris led a pace of around 2 miles per hour.

A Deep Wash on Dale's Trail
 We did not see any wildlife all day ... except for one bunny.

Rainbow and Wilson Peaks in Distance

Mike and His Agave Spears
 When we neared Skull Rock on the return, Mike collected two gargantuan agave spears that will make nice hiking sticks. Unfortunately for Mike, we still had about 3.5 miles to go. The spears were so long that he had difficulty maneuvering at times! Nevertheless, he happily hiked into the parking lot at the end of the hike still carrying his load. And, we also hiked into the parking lot happily as the 13 miler ended as a success.

13 miles; 1800 feet elevation gain; 6.5 hours

Have Agave Spears - Will Travel

Approaching Skull Rock Area

Dropping Down to the Pine Creek Trail

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