Saturday, February 6, 2016

Lone Grapevine Springs Canyon & Exploratory - 2/6/16

Lone Grapevine Canyon between Hollow Rock and Windy Peaks

Lone Grapevine Canyon Wash

View North in Cottonwood Valley

Hiking Out the Outer Loop
 Twelve hikers arrived for an exploratory hike in Cottonwood Valley starting from the Late Night Trailhead on the north side of Highway 160. Although we have hiked to Lone Grapevine Springs and the Petroglyphs at Muddy Springs many times, we have never explored further into Lone Grapevine Canyon with the exception of the annual trip for the strenuous hikers up the front of Windy Peak. There are also a few small trails that are off the beaten path that looked intriguing and needed to be followed.

The Upper Tunnels
 We began by hiking up by Highway 160 on the Outer Loop bike trail all the way to the Upper Tunnels. We found this stretch of the route unpleasant due to the noise of the cars whizzing past and the smell of their exhaust fumes.

Crossing a Wide Gravel Wash
 When we finally reached the Upper Tunnels that led under the highway to the left, we turned off to the right and began hiking into the valley toward the escarpment.

Following the First Small Trail

Sunlight in Chollas
 There should be a short trail that connects the Outer Loop trail to the dirt road and wash beyond as we neared the escarpment. There isn't, so we bushwhacked a short way over, crossed the wide gravel wash and found a small trail that led along the wash on the west side. This trail was very pleasant and did not hold the threat of passing bicycles. It balanced on a small ridge above the wash heading toward a small parking area on the dirt road that serves the aforementioned Windy Peak hikers. Near the parking area, we turned onto a main trail to the left.

Trail to Lone Grapevine Canyon
 This trail took us directly over to the Lone Grapevine Springs that is surrounded by a protective wooden fence. Several hikers in our group had not seen the springs so we stopped here for a moment.

Lone Grapevine Springs
 We returned to the trail and started following it up into the canyon to our left. This is the Windy Peak trail and it climbs along the base of the peak above.

Small Trail to Windy Peak Climb

Leaving Trail to Drop in Wash
 We came to a definite point of decision on the trail and turned down to our left to find a way into the canyon wash. This was no easy task. The canyon wash is protected by thick brush on both sides. Perseverance plopped us into the sandstone boulders and gravel. From there, we began our descent. The wash is great fun but it would have been more fun if there wasn't so much brush. We learned that the wash was the best way to go ... and, sometimes the only way to go.

Lone Grapevine Canyon
 Almost all of the scrambling was moderate with the exception of one particular drop that we had to skirt around. This is where we began finding ticks clinging to our clothes. By the end of the hike, we had removed a total of fifteen of the little buggers.

Lone Grapevine Canyon
 The group of moderate hikers handled the scramble slowly but very well.

Lone Grapevine Canyon

Nearing the Trail Junction
 By the time we reached the point of the trail junction, the moderate scramblers were very ready for a break! Refreshed for the second half of the hike, we turned left up the trail that carried us over to the water trough, Muddy Springs and the petroglyphs. Again, we took a cursory glance at these things not wishing to spend much time enjoying the anomalies. They are for another hike called Lone Grapevine Spring. So we hiked past the trough up the hill to the fenced in springs area.

Wildlife Water Trough
 We hiked through the petroglyph area noting the few petroglyphs that you can see from the trail.

Cowboy Petroglyphs
 Then dropped down to connect with a small trail that headed to the north. This trail led along the base contour of the peak above, crossed a drainage, then took a decided turn down to the right.

The Second Small Trail

Passing Muddy Springs Canyon
We followed the trail down the descending ridge, crossed two washes and a burro trail at the bottom then junctioned with the Black Velvet Trail right where it reaches that dirt road. From here, it was a simple familiar 2 mile return around the hill to our left and back to the cars. It was a fun morning of exploration. We learned a lot and are ready for further exploration in the canyon. (Next time, maybe we should bring clippers!)

7 miles; 1100 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

On Return Trail

Return Trail

Nearing the Last Junction

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