Friday, November 11, 2016

Fern Canyon - 11/10/16

Fern Canyon Fern

Jacob's Ladder

Waterfall at Top

Rainbow & Juniper from Pine Creek Trail
 Okay, so, twenty hikers is probably too many for a serious scramble into the Rainbow Wilderness of Fern Canyon. But the club had not had Fern Canyon on its schedule for a couple of years. So everyone showed up! Well, thank goodness, not "everyone!" Anyway, since it had been a while since we had hiked into this gorgeous canyon, it was really nice to have many veteran hikers along to nudge us this way or that. We parked at the Pine Creek Trailhead off of the scenic loop of Red Rock Canyon NCA barely squeezing in our cars since this is a very popular rock climbing "jumping off point."

Mescalito Peak from Wilson House
 Our long line of hikers moved along the Pine Creek Trail waking up our muscles among the rocky terrain. We passed the Wilson House with just a quick photo.

Twenty Hikers on Pine Creek Trail
 To approach Fern Canyon which lies to the right (north) of Mescalito Peak, keep choosing the right fork in the trail. The last right fork heads into the bushes.

Fern Canyon from High Canyon Trail

Zigzagging through the Bottom of Fern Canyon
 Immediately after this turn, the trail begins a short climb up past a huge boulder and turns to the left on the ridge. We kept taking the left fork but the right fork would work, too, if you don't find yourself climbing up to the rock walls above. Eventually, we dropped into the canyon where water was pooled all along the opposite wall. Fern Canyon is called this because of two species of ferns that grow within its moisturized walls. We saw a few cattails as well. Soon, we were passing the base of the Dark Shadows climbing wall where there were several rock climbers preparing for their turn on the ropes. They obliged us with a photo!

Reflecting Pool
 Our path zigzagged quite a bit. We followed trails that were there and also had to avoid some of the pools.

Rock Climbers having Fun at Base of Dark Shadows Wall
 The foliage in the canyon is old growth and some of the bushes and other greenery really come into play when figuring out how to climb through the canyon.

Thickly Wooded Fern Canyon

Left Wall of Canyon
 Right away, the landmarks were recognized. Even though the whole scramble was not remembered, the landmarks led us from point to point most of the time. When the trail squeezes along the left wall, we, unfortunately, ended up on the right wall at a difficult but possible scramble. This is where we got delayed by the hikers in the rear of the line. The front hikers had to wait around fifteen minutes until the back hikers decided to separate with another trusty leader or two. This worked out well and the front hikers finally continued.

Waiting for the Last Hikers to Arrive
 The photo below shows the obstacle that we came to when we knew we had to take a climb up the hill to the right. The grapevine was in its dormancy so we didn't feel like we were going to be swallowed by it!

Obstacle located at Up and Around
 It took a few minutes for everyone to get over the hill and return to the canyon. Then we climbed up the slanted boulder.

Climbing onto the Slab

Climbing up beside the Waterfall
 After this, the scrambling was non-stop and the water dried up. The route gets a little complicated and few photos were taken but two recognized main landmarks were Jacob's Ladder and the large slab on the right side of the canyon. There is a way to go around Jacob's Ladder but it is so fun to climb up the side of the huge boulder using the natural holes in the rock that most of us went out of our way to do that. Just before reaching the waterfall at the destination, the route goes through the wash avoiding a lot of brush. At the waterfall, we found just a trickle sliding down the wall.

Good Place for Reflection
 One final climb found us scrambling steeply up the right side of the waterfall wall through dirt and rock and brush.

Tricky Spot
 At the second outlet on the left side of the climb, we squeezed past the tree and wall to circle around high above where we came from.

Time for a Break

Enjoying the High Place
 The reward for this climb and the somewhat scary trip around the rock is a beautiful terrace area where the water stays pooled. There are reflections in the water and, in the spring, frogs and tadpoles are about. Most of us sat on the side of the pools at the top of the waterfall for our break. A few hikers opted out of the last scary traverse required to get there. It felt wonderful to be at this peaceful place again. Fern Canyon should not be underestimated! It is quite the moderately strenuous scramble as the last hikers would attest to on their own arrival at the waterfall.

Back down the Slab
 The group stayed together a bit better on the way down even though there were still a couple of stops made to wait for the last hikers.

Above Jacob's Ladder
 The "correct" route was followed on the way down avoiding that detour over to the other side of the canyon.

Down Jacob's Ladder

Down from another Slab
 There is a point at which the trail follows along the Mescalito side right at the wall for some distance. Must remember that! Anyway, we picked up a couple of hikers that stayed down and waited, then passed the rock climbers who were all on the wall by then. We left the canyon on a trail that climbed out at a higher point than what we used coming in then waited for everyone to catch up while we stood in the last of the shade. Finally, we zoomed back to the trailhead through the warm day with a cool breeze. We need to do Fern Canyon more often!

5.5 miles; 900 feet elevation gain; 4.25 hours

More Scrambling

Nearing the Trail Exit

Back on the Trail

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