Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Lower Rocky Gorge Loop - 9/21/16

Rocky Gorge

Mummy Mountain from Ridge

Lower Elevations from High Point

The Hiker Line
 Eight hikers came out for a fun hike on the lower portion of the Rocky Gorge Loop off of Lee Canyon Road in the lower elevations of the Spring Mountains. The entire loop trail is 8 miles but the shorter version that we did today is only 6 miles. We started at the Blue Tree Campground road that drops off to the right of Lee Canyon Road at around 10.5 miles up. There are a lot of logs that have been dumped here by the BLM and Forestry Service.

Small Wash Trail
 The weather was delightfully cool and there were low hanging clouds all around. However, there were no clouds over our hiking area for most of the morning.

Following Wash Trail
 We hiked the loop in a counter-clockwise direction today. It is possible that the clockwise direction would be preferable for the short version of this loop because of the deep gravel/sand that is in Rocky Gorge wash.

Starting Up Long Switchback

Climbing the Switchback
 So, we started down the trail that lies in and around the small wash that flows down from the parking lot. Recently, a horse and rider had taken this trail and the hoof prints were clearly showing us the way even though the trail is pretty good. The trail left the small wash at around 0.8 miles and led over to the embankment on the left. Here, the old trail had been replaced by a very long switchback that took us up to the top of the ridge.

Mummy from Top of Switchback
 Views from this switchback were the best views of the hike. Mummy Mountain was especially prominent.

Burros among the Joshuas
 When we turned to follow the trail down from the top of the switchback, we spied three burros. They didn't let us get very close at all so there were no great photos. But, zooming in on them when they felt safe from a nearby ridge resulted in the photo below.

The Triangle Lookout Method

Crossing over to the Rocky Gorge Wash
 The trail drops down a small ridge and curves around toward Rocky Gorge wash. As we have done before, we lost the trail just before it began its descent into the wash. A little bushwhacking found the trail and we were good. Maybe someday, we'll figure out why we keep doing it wrong. Anyway, in the wash, we started up the deep gravel/sand. Soon, we were heading into Rocky Gorge.

Starting Up Rocky Gorge Wash
 Rocky Gorge is a narrow canyon with relatively short walls of limestone. It is clearly evident that the burros use this canyon as a safe haven perhaps at night.

Hiking through Rocky Gorge
 We climbed up through the canyon and decided to take our snack break in the shade provided on the other end of the rock walls. Afterwards, we continued following the trail up the wash.

Trail Continues up Wash

Abundant Juniper Berries
 The trail continued up wash but provided short up and arounds when necessary. Since this is primarily an equestrian trail, there has to be a way that a horse and rider can make their way through the trees. The gravel/sand wash bottom was replaced by harder surfaces and the climb was made easier. Eventually, we passed an obvious trail that headed up the hill on the right. This is where hikers need to turn if they are going to do the entire 8 mile loop.

Bushwhacking up the Ridge
 We continued straight up the wash. Not long after that, we climbed the hill on the right just to get to an easier route with less obstacles. This is the bushwhacking stage of the hike.

High Point
 The top of the small ridge was easily navigated. It is important to keep going up here. The small ridge and the high point of the hike at No Mads Trail Road junction very near each other.

Dropping down No Mads Trail Road

Trail above Blue Tree Campground
 At the dirt road, we turned to the left and went up and over the hike high point. A steep descent took us to the Wiggles (Blue) Trail where we turned left again. Following this trail, we forked up then forked down to follow an old forest road. The route continues following this road all the way back to the trailhead. The coolness and the clouds made this a beautiful morning to be in the mountains.

6 miles; 1000 feet elevation gain; 3 hours.

Water Break at very tall Joshua Tree

Wash Crossing

Almost There!

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