Friday, November 18, 2016

Burro Trail - 11/18/16

Boulder filled with Petroglyphs

Escarpment from Tertiary Ridge

Moon over Lone Grapevine Canyon

Starting Out from Late Night Trailhead
 There were four of us out for a perfect walk in the desert today. It was a point to point hike from the Late Night Trailhead on Highway 160 to the Blue Diamond Trailhead off of Highway 159. Along the way, we saw some of the best stuff that the middle Cottonwood Valley has to offer. We used one car to drive to the trailhead and saw that the road crews were installing the big sign and large iron sculptures there commemorating the Old Spanish Trail that runs through this area. A cowboy on a horse with 2 burros trailing. Fantastic!

Talking about Chinle Formation
 Our route started out toward the south end of the escarpment. We were headed straight for Lone Grapevine Spring.

Lone Grapevine Spring
 At the spring, the moon was perched straight up the canyon beyond and we stood near the spring and talked about the chinle rock formation which are the dark colored conglomerate rock that accents the cactus gardens here.

Chinle Rock and Cactus Garden

Water from Mud Spring
 After enjoying the scenery, we turned to hike over to the Mud Spring water trough. It was full of clear water and the pipe was running well. We headed up the hill behind the trough and came to the fenced in Mud Spring. Here, petroglyphs started appearing in many places. We searched for one particular petroglyph but could not find it, however, we did locate the grinding stone that was "lost" for a while. We danced through the hillside looking for the ancient writings then continued down the trail below them.

Mud Spring
 The trail continues along the base contour of the escarpment peaks but it was not a well used trail and it soon became clear that wild burros, likely, are the most frequent users.

 When we rounded a corner in the trail, we saw four or five burros to our right down the hill just a short distance away. Three of them seemed to be young.

Burro Trail along Escarpment

We found the burros not far from their trail.
 The burro trail was fun to follow until it reached the edge of a ridge coming down from the canyon above. The trail turned right to go down the ridge but we decided to take the rocky trail that dropped down into the wash area in front of us. Soon the trail disappeared and we had to find our way across the deepish wash and through the desert from there. Our target was clear. We were headed for Pyramid Rock, a well-known landmark on the Black Velvet Trail. The brush was not thick and we found the trail quickly.

Mud Spring Canyon Wash
 This part of the Black Velvet Trail is the most scenic part. There are many sandstone rock formations within the chinle layer giving the area color and texture.

Joining Trail at Pyramid Rock
 As we neared the Black Velvet Canyon approach trail, we felt activity in the air. After turning the corner to the right, we saw that there were several cars parked at the Black Velvet Road parking lot.

Black Velvet Trail

Black Velvet Road
 These cars probably belonged to rock climbers that come to challenge themselves on the world class climbing walls of Black Velvet Canyon. If they camped here last night, they were probably very cold. The temperatures dropped below freezing for the first time this season. The air was crisp but the sun was nurturing. We walked down the dirt road until we found a trail that turned up to the left. Above us, there was an annoying acrobatic airplane showing off. It was very loud until it finally went away.

Trail Junction Sign
 The trail took us up to a multi-trail junction. We turned right then left onto the Landmine Loop then immediately turned left again onto Dave's Driveway.

Climbing Tertiary Ridge
 This trail led straight up to the trail that climbs the ridge that was in front of us. Our first serious climb of the day came in our fifth mile. We took it slow and gentle.

Eating Lizards Six Miles In

Balancing the Tertiary Ridge
 The climb held fantastic views of the escarpment and two bikers and a jogger passed us. Taking a bypass trail to the ridge, we hit our high point at 6 miles in. We sat on the sharp rocks for our lizard break. (Some of you know what that means!) Anyway, we enjoyed the short rest then got up to proceed along the ridge trail toward Blue Diamond. We junctioned with another familiar trail and made our way down through an inner canyon and back through the small community. Beautiful day and nice cool fresh air. Very comfortable for hiking.

8.5 miles; +1070 feet elevation gain; -1612 feet elevation loss; 4.5 hours

Dropping Down

Trail along Inner Canyon

Heading for Blue Diamond

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