Thursday, May 26, 2016

Boneshaker Hill / Muffins - 5/26/16

Agave Blooms above The Muffins

Skull Canyon Wash

Desert Willows in front of Horse Trail Peak

Climbing Boneshaker Hill
 Due to a cold and precipitous weather event in the Spring Mountains, today's hike was moved down to a very nice day in the North Blue Diamond Hills of Red Rock Canyon NCA. Thirteen hikers arrived at an empty trailhead parking lot serving the Cowboy Trails on Highway 159. It was the middle of the week after all. We started up the dirt road and turned left at the corner of the horse corral and made our way across the desert floor filled with joshua trees. A right turn at the base of Boneshaker Hill commenced our major climb of the day.

Rainbow Peak from Boneshaker Hill
 Boneshaker Hill was named many years ago by the mountain bikers that use these trails. A descent on the trail of Boneshaker Hill probably shakes a lot of young bones.

Still Climbing
 Today's group of ... older ... bones made impressive time on the ascent. Only a couple of us needed to stop for a breath before we reached the top of the first climb.

Cave Canyon from Boneshaker Hill Neck

Still Climbing
 The Boneshaker Hill ridge (or finger) lies between Cave Canyon and Skull Canyon. At one point during the climb, the trail squeezes along a compressed neck point where a wide view of Cave Canyon can be seen on one side and Skull Canyon can be seen on the other side. A large part of the group climbed all the way up until the slope leveled out with a minimum number of breaks (maybe 3). Very impressive. Then, after the terrain flattened, we began looking for the first trail junction that forks off to the left.

Mystery Woman Canyon Crossing
 This next trail is a continuation of the SARS Trail that makes its way all the way across the upper regions of the North Blue Diamond Hills. However, this part of the trail is not used very much and is in danger of overgrowth.

Skull Canyon Crossing
 Cheat grass covers the trail but we followed it easily as it drew a long diagonal line down toward Mystery Woman Canyon. At the bottom, the trail crossed the canyon and began a steep climb up the other side on a much clearer trail.

The Upper Muffins Trail

Arriving at The Muffins Snack Break
 The SARS Trail leads over the next "finger" then crosses near the top of Skull Canyon. Continuing straight, we climbed the next hill to the Muffins "finger." Choosing the trail that circles around on a lateral contour to the south, we followed the Muffins Trail to the large conglomerate boulders for a short snack break. We were only 3.6 miles into the hike but the clouds were developing to the west. After a beautiful break on the rocks, we started down the Muffins trail. Without stopping (except for photos), we descended all the way down to the Skull Canyon wash.

Muffin Scene
 At 4.75 miles, we still wanted to extend the hike to 6 miles. So, we turned down to the right into the wash on a horse trail that followed the length of the small canyon.

Starting Down from The Muffins
 As soon as we exited the bottom of the wash, we found that the trail became a very thick layer of sand. Although it is a good workout to hike in sand, it is never very pleasant. Nevertheless, we followed the sand through a desert willow forest.

Still Descending

Skull Canyon Wash
At a sandy trail junction, we turned to the left choosing to go around the small Horse Trail Peak to the south. The sand continued. Luckily, we were distracted several times by many bunnies and lizards. We even saw a large family of chukars! Finally, we made the connection with the trail that circles the north side of the corral. We said "hello" to the horses and mules that came to see us go by then hiked around and back to the trailhead. No rain. Perfect temps. A great morning.

6 miles; 1300 feet elevation gain; 3 hours

Horse Trail Peak and Very Sandy Horse Trail

Wash Crossing at Horse Trail Peak

A Mule Greets us at the Corral

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