Saturday, October 22, 2016

Grand Circle Mid-Section - 10/22/16

Turtlehead & Northern Calico Hills from Grand Circle Trail

Old Sandstone Quarry

Turtlehead Peak behind Sandstone Hills

Starting down the Grand Circle
 The Grand Circle Trail loops around the canyon floor/valley of Red Rock Canyon NCA. Some of the trail enters into the La Madre Wilderness. The trail is a total of 12 miles in length, however, it can be divided into 3 or 4 smaller lengths quite easily. Today, seventeen leisurely hikers hiked the top (or middle) section of the trail starting at the bottom of White Rock Springs/Mountain Road found at around the 6 mile marker of the Red Rock Scenic Loop. It is the next right turn after the High Point Overlook.

Wash Crossing
 We crossed the scenic loop from the parking lot and found the trail heading into the desert scrub. The wide view of the escarpment was beautiful in the morning sun.

Red Rock Canyon Escarpment
 We crossed a wash then came to the juniper tree landmark where the trail continues down a gravel wash for a short way. The trail is marked with cairns. Next, we hiked a series of ridges and washes. About a mile into the hike, the longest hill had to be climbed.

Hiking with White Rock Hills Backdrop

The Grand Circle Trail
 The next landmark was where the Grand Circle Trail crossed the scenic loop. This is one of four times that the trail crosses the road but only two on today's hike. Red Rock was very busy today but we managed to hit the road at a quiet time. After this, the trail descends a long hill down to another gravel wash. A large rock marks the entrance into the wash. It is affectionately referred to the Cracked Dinosaur Egg! We walked down the gravel until the trail exited off to the left.

Crossing the Scenic Loop
 There was some more hiking down and around until we reached the area of the Sandstone Quarry turnout parking area.

Nearing the Half Way Point
 Wishing not to enter into the hubbub of the trailhead below, we stayed up on the rocks and took our snack break. No shade but very nice views. It was getting warm but a cool breeze came by occasionally.

Snacking on the Rocks

Turtlehead View from Rocks
 After the break, we dropped down the hill behind us and turned onto a small trail that led up to part of the old sandstone quarry. It is tucked back into the sandstone and few people are aware that it is here. There is a pile of rocks that were not used and there are shelves where the huge blocks were cut out. To reach the quarry, we had to climb almost all the way up the hill. So, the group decided to continue up the hill so as not to lose the hard earned elevation. There is no trail here. So, the leisurely folks were bushwhacking!

Sandstone Quarry TH from Rocks
 On the top of the hill, we could see the Cracked Dino Egg in the wash just below us. Everyone took their own path down and met there at the rock. This served to also eliminate the unpleasant climb up through that loose gravel in the wash.

Old Sandstone Quarry Visit
 Now, the group was getting a little tired and hot. The pace slowed understandably.

Climbing Up from Quarry

Dropping down to Cracked Dino Egg
 Heading toward the La Madre Mountains, the escarpment and the White Rock Hills, we returned to the trailhead on the same trail that we came over on. Every time we crested a ridge, the cool breeze would pass by. By not traveling all the way to Sandstone Quarry parking lot and by bushwhacking over that hill, the almost 5 mile hike ended up being 4.25 miles. Very good morning.

4 miles; 740 feet elevation gain; 2.75 hours

Cracked Dino Egg Landmark

La Madre Wilderness behind Grand Circle Trail

Nearing the Cars

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