Thursday, November 19, 2015

Juniper Canyon - 11/19/15

Black Boulder on Slab

Within Juniper Canyon

Two Hikes / 30 Hikers / 1 Big Bunch of Friends

There they go! The Peak Climbers.
Today was a special day in that there were two hikes offered in the same vicinity. That would be the vicinity of Juniper Peak. In all, thirty hikers showed up for the combined total. Sixteen hikers were prepared for a loop that climbed up almost to Terrace Canyon, headed up the wall to Juniper Peak, then descended down through Juniper Canyon. The remaining fourteen hikers came for just a bit of bouldering in Juniper Canyon with a lunch on the really cool sandstone slab at the top. All hikers left the Pine Creek Trailhead off of the Scenic Loop in Red Rock Canyon NCA at the same time. It wasn't long before the peak climbers had created a large separation between the two groups.

Wilson House in Autumn
 We continued down the trail to the Wilson House foundation at our moderately strenuous pace. The trees along Pine Creek had begun to turn yellow.

Dropping Down to Pine Creek Crossing
 From the house, we dropped down to cross Pine Creek and climb the hill on the Knoll Trail.

Knoll Trail approach to Juniper Canyon Cutoff

Juniper Canyon Trail
 We followed the trail across the desert until there was a very clear fork where the left fork leads down and the right fork leads up. The right fork is the Juniper Canyon Trail. As soon as we turned onto the trail, we began climbing toward Juniper Canyon in front of us. Reaching the wash that exudes from the canyon, we turned left onto a trail that seemed to have a lot of cairns. In retrospect, it would have been better to stay to the right. But, we were looking for a fun morning so left it was. We climbed over a few boulders then, finally, dropped into the wash at an easy trail drop.

Approaching the Mouth of Juniper Canyon
 The first obstacle we came to was very familiar from the few times that the writer has done this canyon.

The First Obstacle
 It is difficult for most hikers to surmount the boulder on their own. No worries. We had plenty of help to share.

Waiting in Line for First Obstacle

Anticipating a lot of Fun
After this first obstacle, we met challenge after challenge. Blazing the trail was a group effort. There were many cairns to help us out. However, even then, the route always had to be solved. We continued the scramble around the huge black boulder about halfway up the canyon. Then, the drainage became more narrow with smaller boulders. We high-stepped it up the drainage until we came to the steep dirt trail that climbs out of the wash on the right. On the ascent, we took the second trail junction to eliminate a small section of the steep trail.

Now, we're bouldering!
 One of our hikers was having a difficult time with the higher boulders so we had plenty of time to check out different options of routes.

Steep Dirt Trail
 We were trying to repeat the route that we always did before, however, this trail has morphed slightly in a couple of places and concentration was required.

View out of Canyon from Rotted Log

Passing Yellow on the Climbers' Trail
 At the top of the steep dirt trail hill, the trail continues along in an easy flattish fashion. Nice! Then we came to a junction. In retrospect, the hikers' trail forks to the right even though it may not appear viable. We mistakenly turned to the left and ended up on the rock climbers' trail along the canyon wall. Trying to extricate ourselves from the wrong way route, we ended up bushwhacking through some serious brush finding our way over to the rockfall where we knew we should be. But, hey, we found a beautiful yellow tree on our way!

On the Slab
 Finally, we reached the top of the rockfall and began climbing up the sandstone slab.

Climbing the Sandstone Slab
 The slab is steep but not too steep to climb. Some of us climbed up to where the sun was shining on the sandstone. Others stayed in the shade of the lower portions.

Taking our Break on the Slab

Autumn Sun peeks over Rainbow Wall
 As the writer was getting situated, a full pink water bottle was dropped from the slab. Fourteen pairs of eyes simply watched as it gathered speed bouncing down the slab and over the cliff. It presumably landed in an area where it is almost impossible to get to so we said goodbye. If anyone finds it, it's yours! You deserve it! As we sat taking our break, Rainbow Wall rose high above us on the opposite side of the canyon. Gunsight Notch could be seen up to the right and Juniper Peak was up on the ridge behind us. Oh yeah! The peak climbers! We could hear their voices so we guessed that they had made it up the wall from Terrace Canyon and were maneuvering their way along the ridge above us.

Slab Descent
 We yelled up to them two or three times but all we heard in return was our own echo. I'm sure they were very busy!

Rockfall Descent
 When we started down off of the slab, we made sure to find the hikers' trail down the rockfall. It was pretty easy to follow.

Back through the Boulders

Return on Juniper Canyon Trail
 Next, we dropped down the dirt trail and dropped down the boulders. We returned down the boulders almost the same way we came up but we exited the drainage earlier on a clear trail that bypassed that first obstacle. This trail was easy to follow down to the Knoll Trail then we made the right turn onto a cross desert trail that ended on the Fire Ecology Trail at Pine Creek. From there, we just connected with Pine Creek Trail and returned to the cars. Great fun was had by all! Juniper Canyon shouldn't be such a stranger!

5 miles; 1400 feet elevation gain; 4.5 hours

Using the Cross Desert Trail to Return

Starting Down to Pine Creek

Almost back to the Trailhead

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