Sunday, April 17, 2016

Escarpment Rim Loop - 4/17/16

Escarpment Rim from South to North

Mountain Springs Peak

Back Side of Escarpment Rim

Starting Up Heartbreak Hill
Today's hike was first explored December 2015 by the Around the Bend Friends Hiking Club. Dubbed a "keeper," we repeated the hike today smoothly following the GPS track from before. We parked our cars at the Mountain Springs Summit Pass Trailhead and began our warm up climbing Heartbreak Hill. We had a strong group of hikers for this long distance hike through the Rainbow Wilderness. They were similar in strength and the hike up the hill to the saddle was accomplished somewhat close together.

Climbing Heartbreak Hill with Mt. Potosi in Background
The faster hikers zoomed up while the slower hikers kept a steady but sure pace. Regardless, we all started again from the saddle together.

Mountain Springs Peak Trail just after Fork
After another gathering at the trail fork (Windy Peak right and Mountain Springs Peak left), we took the left fork and continued out to the escarpment rim where we reached a great view of Black Velvet Peak and Las Vegas beyond.

Black Velvet Peak with Las Vegas in Background

Peaking Out on Mountain Spring Peak
We followed the familiar trail above Black Velvet Peak around and up and around and up to Mountain Springs Peak. We took a well deserved break here to sign the log book and take in the views. This initial elevation gain up to the peak was the most work of the day. Although there is quite a bit of ups and downs left to do in the remaining 8 miles, the rest of the hike is all icing on the cake! We began by following the escarpment rim trail down the other side of the peak.

Following the Trail along the Rim
  We passed Snack Break Rock pointing out the small window where you can see the Stratosphere. We passed the turnoff for the Mountain Springs Peak Loop. Then, we circled around the area where there is a limestone arch / window protruding from one of the escarpment rocky peaks.

The Limestone Window on Rim
We stopped for a photo on the other side of that rocky peak looking back at the natural formation.

The Scramble Section

More Scrambling
Not long after that, we hit the trail junction for Little Zion. If you continue down on the trail, you will pass above the Little Zion area. We opted to continue along the limestone rim. This part of the hike is not well trailed but small hints at a route along the highest part of the rim showed us the way. There were 3 or 4 scramble-like sections but they were all fairly easy. This interesting section of today's hike lasted for around a quarter mile and ended at the Big Cairn above Little Zion; a well-known landmark for many Las Vegas hikers.

Finishing the Scramble Section
Here, we gathered again to make sure that everyone made it through the rough section seen in the photo above.

The Big Cairn above Little Zion
The good trail returned here as we turned to the left to hike along the rim that now circled above Sandstone Canyon and the Spring Mountain Ranch State Park.

Snow Caps in the Spring Mountains

From Rim to Spring Mountain Ranch SP
This part of the trail has small cairns to show the way all the way around and down to the wash trail that is usually used for the Little Zion approach from Rainbow Springs. We passed this junction with little "to do." The next section of the Escarpment Rim Trail serves up several steep ascents and descents as it runs over rocky peaks. During the course of this section of the hike, we passed another popular wash trail marked with a large cairn. But, our hike continued its steep climbs and drops along the rim.

Circling the Rim
We neared the small sandstone peak called Peak-ee-Toe that jutted out from the limestone and we could see Indecision Peak further out. But, before we reached this junction, we found what we were looking for; Mountain Springs Trail at 5 miles into the hike.

Peak-ee-Toe and Indecision Peaks from Escarpment Rim Trail
This well maintained trail (probably a horse trail) leads down from the rim to the Rainbow Springs area and continues along the foothills all the way to the little town of Mountain Springs.

Just Below Rim and Mountain Springs Trail Junction

Starting Down the Mountain Springs Trail
We took our break out of the wind then skipped our way down the good trail temporarily losing it only once. The trail enters the adjacent wash a couple of times but, for the most part, it is a trail. When we reached the Rainbow Springs area at one of the agave roasting pits, we had to turn left onto the dirt road then shortly turn left again onto the trail where we passed around a fence erected to keep out motorized traffic. The trail is smaller here but still easy to follow.

Passing a Rocky Section of the Mountain Springs Trail
Now, it was a simple task to follow the good Mountain Springs Trail two miles along the foothills as it undulated all the way to Mountain Springs.

Wide View down the Trail
In due time, we passed over the large wash used in the Mountain Springs Peak Loop hike. Among the many short hills, there is only one large hill that the trail climbs over as we neared the little town.

Passing through the Rainbow Springs Area on the Trail

View Down toward Dirt Road from Trail
 The trail junctions with civilization at the springs area above the town. We took the familiar route past the agave roasting pits, along the winding route to the farm houses and, after a left turn, we passed the beautiful white horse with two miniature friends. The horses eagerly came out to greet us! And, now, the road led us to our cars. A great hike that has just about everything in it!

10 miles; 2200 feet elevation gain; 5.25 hours

Following the Trail along the Foothills

The Trail passing an Ornate Tree

Arriving at the Springs and Passing through the Area to the Trailhead

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