Sunday, November 29, 2015

Grand Circle - 11/29/15

Crossing the Limestone Wash

Passing White Rock Peak

Hiking Along the Calico Hills

Starting Up through the Desert
 The Grand Circle Loop of Red Rock Canyon NCA is almost 12 miles in length. The trail is used quite often by trail runners. And, today, there were thirteen club hikers who took on the distance hike with fervor! Out of the thirteen hikers, there were 3 or 4 who had not hiked the complete loop previously. They were introduced to the hike in the best way to do the Grand Circle ... fast! From the beginning, there were two or three hikers that charged out front and set the moving pace of around 3 miles per hour. Our loop hike began at the fee booth parking lot where we would be able to accomplish the entire 12 miles.

Turtlehead Peak and the Calico Hills from the Old Road
 We walked up the paved road below the Visitor Center and connected with the trail that used to be an old gravel road that ran up to the White Rock Hills and beyond.

Climbing Toward the White Rock Hills
 The road runs along a ridge above the Red Rock Wash. Distant views of Turtlehead and closer views of the escarpment were a constant for the first 4 miles as the White Rock Hills neared.

Junctioning with the White Rock Hills Loop

A Bit of Foliage
 The morning was very cold but, thank goodness, there was very little wind to go with it. Therefore, we warmed up and began shedding layers about half way up to the first Scenic Loop crossing. Not far after the paved road, we junctioned with the White Rock Hills Loop trail and turned right. This section of the circle dips down into a brushy wash and out the other side. It is one of the more interesting parts of the hike.

Dipping Down through a Wash
 At the other side of the dip, we came to the old road again. This is the dreaded section of the hike because it is a long continuous upclimb to the high point of the hike while working on the sixth mile.

The Dreaded Climb Up the Old Road Hill

Hmmm. Wrong Way?
 The thirteen hikers were not able to stay together but periodical rests gathered us back into the fold. At the top of this long hill, we took our snack break at the White Rock Springs trailhead, pit toilet provided. Sufficient time was taken then we were on our way again. We began the "downhill" half of the hike by descending the half mile of gravel road built to approach the trailhead. At the bottom of the hill, we crossed the Scenic Loop again and continued down into the desert. The group stayed together much better during the next three miles of undulations.

Crossing the Scenic Loop for the Third Time
 By this time, the whole group was into the fast pace. We were awake! And, we crossed the Scenic Loop a third time.

Getting Closer to Sandstone Quarry

Turtlehead Peak Watches
 The first half of the Grand Circle done in a clockwise direction is not very interesting even though the constant view is quite beautiful. That said, the second half of the Grand Circle done in a clockwise direction is mucho fabuloso! The closer we got to the Calico Hills, the more photos the writer wanted to take. We entered a wash not far from the cracked dino egg rock landmark and crunched down the gravel for a short way. From there, we circled around the end of a ridge and dipped down right at a sandstone hill.

The Cracked Dino Egg Rock Landmark
 Up and over the little hill and we dropped down into the busy Sandstone Quarry area. The parking lot was filled past the brim and we stopped for a short visit to the pit toilet.

Over the Hill and Into Sandstone Quarry
 Now, we were really moving. The group started to spread out again between Sandstone Quarry, Calico II and Calico I which was designated as our next gathering.

Between Calico II and Calico I

Working on the Tenth Mile
 This side of the park was crawling with hikers, tourists and scramblers. The sandstone hills were beautiful in the low winter sun. We seemed to hike faster as we trod along between the sandstone and the Scenic Loop above. Finally, after a rest stop at the Calico I overlook, we started down the rocky home stretch back to the fee booth parking lot. As we hiked the last few feet, smiles could be seen on everyone's faces. What a workout! Fantastic! Now, where's the glass of wine and hot bath! Love it!

12 miles; 1850 feet elevation gain; 4.75 hours

Arriving at Calico I

Small Rest at Calico I Overlook

Home Stretch

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