Saturday, November 21, 2015

Calico Tanks - 11/21/15

Main Calico Tank

View from Southeast End of Main Tank

Colorful View Mid-Trail

Starting into the Sandstone Walls
Perhaps the most beautiful short moderate trail in Red Rock Canyon NCA is the Calico Tanks Trail whose trailhead is at the Sandstone Quarry turnout on the Scenic Loop. The Around the Bend Friends use this trail as a beginner scramble. Thirteen hikers arrived this morning to try out their scrambling legs on the sandstone we love to hike so much. Our route up to the main Calico Tank would be the official route using all the steps built by the Civilian Conservation Corps way back in the 30's when the government created jobs for those without.

Multiple Cairns
 The Calico Tanks Trail is not as obvious as some hikers would expect. Good advice would be to either follow other hikers who seem to know where they are going or look very closely to find small and very old signs. There aren't many signs.

Climbing from the "Beach" to the Red Layer
 So, after we passed the left turnoff for Turtlehead Peak, the Calico Tanks Trail continues down then up to enter among the sandstone walls. A good rule of thumb from here is to just stay between the walls as best you can. Following footprints in the sand helps, too.

Getting our Scrambling Legs

Climbing Many Steps
 There is a lot of sand to hike through, then the route begins to climb. At first, the climbing is done on bare rock. It is good to knock the extra sand off your shoes before stepping onto the smoothed rock to decrease slippage. After climbing into the red sandstone layer, the CCC steps begin working the hikers towards the right. There is one pool, at this time, that requires hikers to circle up and around to the right. Afterwards, a vertical climb of 6 feet is done moderately easy by using hand and foot holds. Next, is the first series of stairs.

The Hill below Rooster Rock
 Whenever you see man made steps, take them! These steps will get you there in about 3 or 4 vertical segments.

Skirting Past the Main Calico Tank on the Ledge
 When approaching the large main Calico Tank, hikers cannot see it until they are right on the rim above the northwest end. It lies deep in an indentation of the sandstone.

Taking a Break on the Southeast End of the Main Tank

Others Taking a Break above the Tank
 A tinaja, or tank, is described as an indentation in rock where water gathers and there is no outlet. Evaporation and thirsty wildlife are the only ways water escapes. So, after giving the options, everyone decided to walk along the ledge to the right of the tank to get to the southeast end of the tank. Then we scrambled up to take our break where there is a great view of Las Vegas to enjoy. It was a beautiful day! When we were ready to go, we took the route that goes up and over the ledge section. Everyone was very capable as some hikers handled their first introduction to scrambling.

Overlook Tree
 Back on the northwest end of the main tank, we began our descent of the many steps. We took a small break at the famous rock climbing wall called Mass Production Wall then continued down the last segment of steps.

Returning to Northwest End of Main Tank
 Just before we would have taken the last rock descent to the sandy beach section, we headed past the big red boulder for an alternate route back.

Dropping Back Down to Trail

Down Many Steps
 We hiked and scrambled over past the Red Cap ascent chute then dropped down to pass through the red portal of fun, a small slot with red walls. From there, we followed the gravel wash to junction again with the bottom of the Calico Tanks Trail. We enjoyed this alternate route mostly because there were not any other hikers back in there! It was quiet! Back at the cars, we were all very satisfied with the start of our day.

3 miles; 500 feet elevation gain; 2.5 hours

Detouring Around the Crowds

The Red Portal to Fun

Exiting Through the Portal

Official Trail Map (Does not include today's return route.)

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