Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Muffins / Cairn Overlook / Echo Canyon - 4/14/16

The Muffins, Mojave Yucca and Red Barrel Cacti

Griffith Peak from Cairn Overlook

Echo Canyon and Bridge Point Peak

Climbing the Muffins Trail
 When fourteen hikers started out at the Cowboy Trails parking lot this morning, the sky appeared quite dreary. Although forecasts promised some blue sky, it was horizon to horizon clouds. We hiked past the horse corral and on over to the Boneshaker Hill area. We were well into our climb (at a good pace) before the sky started opening up. The pace taxed our lungs and heart but the many strong hikers participating today took the climb with gusto.

Still Climbing

View Back to Muffins Trail

The Muffins
 About halfway up the hill, the stronger hikers separated from the others. It was a good workout and we were all breathing pretty hard when we arrived at the Muffins. (Okay. I wasn't going to mention the three younger hikers that passed us after giving us somewhat of a head start.) Anyway, we caught our breath with a short break at the Muffins view and continued up the trail. Searching carefully, we found the right turn off of the Rim Trail to the Upper Muffins Trail and went on our way following the little faint path.

Dusty Las Vegas View

Pacific Gopher Snake

Climbing the Three Amigos Trail
 The Pacific Gopher Snake was just off of the little path. He was still cold from the night temps and not moving real fast. After some encouragement from one of the hikers, the snake gave us the forked tongue and squiggled into a tight knot at the base of a nearby bush. We moved on to cross the SARS Trail onto the northern portion of the Three Amigos Trail. This is also a tiny path but it takes hikers up to the New LV Overlook area efficiently. Turning a sharp left, we took a trail that crossed over to the Rim Trail. Then, we exited the trail to climb a little hill up to the Cairn Overlook.

Arriving at the Cairn Overlook

Dusty Las Vegas View from Cairn Overlook

Heading Down the Three Amigos Trail
 The old wooden stick held into the ground with guy wires had been broken off recently. The cairn that sat nearby was also torn down. It didn't matter. We enjoyed the snack break just the same as we looked out over the valley covered with dust that this week's winds are bringing in. Behind us, Griffith Peak sported a new coat of snow as it rose up behind the La Madre Mountain Range beyond the Red Rock Canyon sandstone. Ready for the downhill portion of today's entertainment, we broke camp and started down the southern portion of the Three Amigos Trail.

The Boneshaker Sign

SARS Trail

Hedgehog Cactus Bloom
 This part of the Three Amigos Trail routes along the rim of Mystery Woman Canyon then connects with the Boneshaker Trail near the Boneshaker sign. Continuing south, we began following the SARS Trail that connects the north and south ends of the North Blue Diamond Hills on their high end. The trail traveled down to cross the upper end of Cave Canyon north fork then over the next ridge to travel down through the upper portion of Cave Canyon south fork. Along the hike, we saw a handful of hedgehog cacti with single blooms.

Baby Horned Toad Lizard

Dropping into Echo Canyon from Top

Echo Canyon Scrambling
 The SARS Trail crossed the Cave Canyon south fork, passed both of the trails to Second Finger and one of the two trails to First Finger. Then we junctioned with the old mining road and turned to the right. As we descended down to the Echo Canyon junction, we saw a baby horned toad lizard on the side of the trail. Couldn't find it in the LCD screen so, well, see the photo above! Anyway, we turned to our right onto the upper Echo Canyon trail and gently dropped down into the drainage. Up to our left, a jackrabbit posed for its portrait.

Posing Black-Tailed Jackrabbit (aka American Desert Hare)

A Little Brush to go Through

Calico Hills beyond Echo Canyon
 The descent through Echo Canyon is very different from the ascent through the same. Picking the route, we scrambled down staying in the wash almost all the time. Finally, we came to the big drop where there is a perfect seashell fossil up on the side rock. After negotiating this, there were a couple more significant drops and we connected with the trail. By now, the sun was shining warmly and the breeze was enough to cool us. We all agreed that it had been a fantastic day for a hike!

8.5 miles; 1450 feet elevation gain; 4.25 hours

Seashell Scramble

Exiting Mouth of Echo Canyon

Approaching the Upper Horse Stables

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