Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sandstone Quarry / Keystone Thrust Loop - 10/4/15

Escarpment from Keystone Wash

Keystone Thrust Fault Area

Approaching the Park this Morning

Turtlehead Peak
 Tony welcomed eleven hikers to the "Rain Dance" this morning. We arrived at the Sandstone Quarry turnout on the Red Rock Canyon NCA scenic loop and started hiking west on the Grand Circle Trail. Right away, the pace was quick and to the point. Rain was predicted and it was already starting to snow over the nearby Spring Mountains. The skies were covered with beautiful clouds colored all shades of gray and white. With the sun rising at the same time, Red Rock's colorful sandstone lit up with bright reflections.

Starting Up the Grand Circle Trail
 The first mile of the trail climbed at a steady rate. Our early morning lungs puffed along until we got our rhythm.

Hiking into the Clouds
 The bad weather seemed to be surrounding us until we got about two miles in. Then, the skies kind of "blew up" with darkened clouds everywhere.

Grand Circle Trail

Crossing the Keystone Wash
 Tony's pace didn't let up. We were a strong group and there was little time to waste! Before long, we were crossing the Keystone Wash on the Grand Circle Trail. This is where the loop of today's route would start. So, we continued up the trail until we reached the Scenic Loop road. After crossing the paved road, we hiked up the dirt road called White Rock Springs Road. There were cars parked at the bottom and top of this road so it was clear, we were not the only hikers out here on this rainy Sunday morning.

Starting Up the Dirt Road
 At the top of the dirt road, we met up with a small group of Red Rock Canyon NCA hikers. These are usually hikers from out of town that receive a nice interpretive hike from the leader for their efforts.

Storms Moving in over the Escarpment
 We took a small break here for the restroom then moved on to our climb up toward Hogback Ridge where Cactus Hill punctuates its end.

Heading Up to the Keystone Thrust Trail

Agave Roasting Pit in Background
We started out the White Rock Trail then turned onto the Keystone Thrust Trail to the right. The climb up to the ridge continued in a strong pace passing the agave roasting pit half way up. Finally, we passed the turn off for Cactus Hill and arrived at our right turn. This was our high point of the day. The view below us is seen in the photo below. In the distance, we could see rain in the valley. The clouds over the escarpment were very menacing and we had already felt several raindrops.

Fault Area where Old Limestone is seen Overtaking Young Sandstone
 We followed Tony down to the fault area and took a somewhat shortened break. A quick peek at the succulents under the sandstone overhang assured us that the special plants were still alive.

Dropping Down
 With the threatening weather, the scenery was very dramatic. We enjoyed the view as long as we could until we heard a distant thunder. Time to move on.

Exposed Keystone Fault

Dropping Down into the Wash Below
 We made the call to don our rain jackets as more drops were felt. The sandstone was not yet too wet to use on our way down into the wash from the fault above. The overcast light brought out the vibrant oranges and whites of the sandstone wash. Down we scrambled through the sculpted drainage. This is the single part of today's hike that we did not speed through. Rain or not. We enjoyed every bit of it!

Walking the Steep Slab
 The clouds were entombing the La Madre mountain range behind us and the rain was slowly covering the entire escarpment.

Enshrouded La Madre Range in Background

 When we got past the sandstone, a cleared gravel wash awaited us. There are only two trees we were required to step over. And, then there is the easy 8 foot dry fall.

Intricate Sandstone Wash

Approaching the Single Dry Fall in Keystone Wash
 Other than that, the wash is in much better shape for hiking than it was only two years ago. Previously, the wash bottom was filled with many large rocks and brush everywhere. Hiking up and around is no longer required anywhere. At the paved scenic road crossing, we ducked through the culvert. We had to bend forward but the culvert is otherwise passable. On the other side, the wash continued in its gravel state.

Diving into the Culvert under the Scenic Loop
 The huge rain we received a couple of years ago must have brought down all the gravel to cover the nuisance rocks. We wondered what changes are in store for next year!

Hiking Down the Keystone Wash below the Scenic Loop
 Staying next to the bank on the left side, we found the left turn onto the Grand Circle Trail that we had come in on. By now, several rolls of thunder had boomed loudly and a steady sprinkle of rain had arrived.

Gravel Filled Keystone Wash

Fun in the Rain
 Our pace turned into "very fast." Rapido! Rain is fun but thunder isn't really. Thunder kind of gave us a little extra "charge." The final 2.5 miles were done in record time! Even though we got a little spread out, Tony kept counting us and we were all within sight of each other. We arrived back at Sandstone Quarry where the parking lot was ... you guessed it ... full to capacity! A great day in the desert! ... And, a fantastic workout!

7 miles; 1400 feet elevation gain; 2.75 hours

Chased by Thunder

Rain Shined Sandstone

Sandstone Quarry

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