Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Calico Tanks - 11/21/17

A Very Dry Tinaja

Steps to Next Shelf

Autumn Color among the Sandstone

Happy Bunch hiking out the Trail
 Calico Tanks Trail is billed as the most scenic trail at Red Rock Canyon NCA and we believe it's true! The trailhead is found at Sandstone Quarry on the Scenic Loop and begins easy enough on a flatish gravel path. Nine club members hiked out past the junction for Turtlehead Peak, past the agave roasting pit and past the gravel wash that flooded around three years ago. During that flood, one of those 3 foot stick signs was buried and all that you can see now is about 5 inches of it! The trail was also re-routed after this. As a result, a fork to the right is taken as you make the bend around the sandstone.

Turtlehead Peak from Limestone Wash
 This area is the northern end of the Calico Hills where most of the sandstone is cream in color.

Calico Tanks Trail
 The middle portion of the Calico Hills is mostly red and the southern section is "calico," or both red and white ... sometimes striped.

Calico Tanks Trail

Water Break at top of First Shelf
 Today's hike was meant to be slow and rated easy-moderate. Emphasis should be placed on the moderate due to the excessive step climbing required. After curving around the sandstone bend, we hit the sand. There is a lot of beachy sand underfoot until you begin to climb up onto the sandstone. It is wise to be very careful in this area since sand on sandstone tends to be very slippery. Plus, several thousand hikers come through this area every year and the sandstone is rounded, no longer holding much of a porous surface in places.

Scrambling Up and Around
 There were already a few other recreational hikers on the trail and we greeted all of them ... even the couple with the cat on a leash!

Small Third Class Scramble (Hands Needed)
 The hands-on scramble came at the step up in the photo above. About three years ago, they removed a log that had helped with the step up before.

The First Steps

Uneven Steps Steeply Up
 Now, the small easy step-up can be described as a 3rd class climb of about 5 feet. There are steps to use for footing but use of hands is necessary. After this, you have to climb some rounded steps on the side of a ledge (not high enough to do irreparable damage in the case of a fall), then it's on to the steps built into a crack as seen in the photo above. At the top of these steps, we were on the shelf at the bottom of Mass Production Wall. (Rock climbers named this!) We passed the wall and continued up the trail that continued with very unevenly placed steps.

Still Climbing
 The CCC can take the "blame" for their uneveness! But, we are all very thankful that they did the sweaty work because it could not have been easy.

Five Hikers taking the Scenic Route on the Ledge
 The steps climbed up the steep side of the canyon that we had been following.

Four Hikers taking the "Just As Scenic" Route Up and Over

A Little Help and We're There
 We climbed up until it leveled off then started climbing again. Along the trail, there are yuccas, old pinion pines and scrub oak. Then, of course, lots and lots of sandstone! Finally, we arrived at the high point of the hike right before we dipped over a crest toward the edge of the main calico tank. This is huge tinaja that holds a lot of water during the rainy seasons. Today was the first time that this writer has seen the tank absolutely and completely dry! (And, I've seen this tank many times!) Next, half the group decided to use the ledge route and half the group used the up and around route to get to the other side of the large tank to take a break at the overlook.

Taking a Break at the Overlook
 There was a thick layer of haze over the city of Las Vegas today, so, we focused on the beauty immediately surrounding us.

The Overlook
 While doing this, we saw that the other club hike (Red Cap via Ash Canyon) was just getting to their snack break, too ... on top of Red Cap! The first two shots below were taken by us from our distant perch.

Our 17 Compadres on Nearby Red Cap

Starting Down
 After the break, we climbed back over the top and started down the steps. Slowly, we went. When we got to the lowest shelf, we started a detour around to pass by the Red Cap approach chute. Six of us were good with this. The other three hikers went back the same way we came up. It was a beautiful day and the Calico Tanks Trail lived up to its billing. It is scenic, unique and colorful. Back at the parking lot, we noted that it was full on this Tuesday before Thanksgiving at 11am. We were lucky to have made it into the parking lot around 9am when there were still parking places available. (It won't be early enough this weekend ... just sayin'.)

3 miles; 500 feet elevation gain; 2.25 hours

Arriving back at Mass Production Wall

Circling around by Red Cap Approach

Exit Slot

Monday, November 20, 2017

Dog Food Loop - 11/20/17

Red Rock Wrangler

Echo Canyon Walls below Fossil Ridge & Calico Hills

Mt. Potosi from Dog Food Loop

Mojave Yucca on Fossil Ridge Trail
 David H. named the small loop at the top of the south end of the North Blue Diamond Hills, the Dog Food Loop. As the story goes, one time when he was doing a hike here, there was a woman with a dog that would stop quite often to give her dog some food. (Either the dog was really hungry or it was really good food!) Anyway, this trail did not have a name so David named it! There were ten hikers on this moderate hike today. As we were leaving the trailhead, there was a wrangler taking a group of mules and horses from the corral to the upper stables. Then, we began climbing the hill up the Fossil Ridge Trail. It was a long hill!

Climbing Fossil Ridge Trail
 Although the hour was late (8am), the sun was just beginning to rise far enough above the horizon to stave off some of the overnight cold temperatures of the mid-30's (F).

Echo Canyon from Fossil Ridge
 The park was quiet. The Thanksgiving week holiday had just begun. A couple of the teacher/hikers were on the hike celebrating their week out of school. The park would soon be bustling!

Upper Horse Stables from Fossil Ridge & Calico Hills

Cat? ... in the North Blue Diamond Hills?
 We climbed the hill slowly but the views all around were very nice in the morning light. When we arrived at the top of the hill, we took in an overlook of Echo Canyon from its cliffs. In this area, paw prints were seen in the sandy dirt. (Looked like a large cat to this writer. Just sayin'.) We connected with the Fossil Canyon Trail and turned to the left. This part of the trail hikes alongside Echo Canyon. The conglomerate walls were covered in chert. In turn, the chert had many fossils hidden in its pockmarked blackness. The North Blue Diamond Hills are in the Bird Spring Formation and, as a result, there are many precambrian fossils (or seabed fossils) that can be found in the canyons and ridges.

Junction with Fossil Canyon Trail
 A long break was taken at a trail junction that turned up to the Cat in the Hat Trail where we would be later.

View Back toward start of Fossil Canyon Trail
 Finally, the group of ten hikers arrived at the top of Echo Canyon/Fossil Canyon Trail where it junctions with the Old Mine Road, SARS, and Dog Food Loop.

Lichen in Chert & Wilson Cliffs

Nearing the Top of Echo Canyon
 After another long pause, we continued across the Old Mine Road and started the Dog Food Loop. This is a very pretty trail that zigzags down to cross a wash then comes back out on the other side. The gypsum mine has claimed more of the terrain for a large road that is used to truck in gypsum from other areas and states. Therefore, our original Dog Food Loop Trail was covered over with dirt and high berms of rock. Improvising, we climbed over a berm and walked down the road a short way. Next, we climbed back over the berm and ended up at the Over the Moon Trail. This trail is at the very top of the Conglomerate Gardens (aka Kibbles 'n' Bits) Trail.

Nice Red Barrels on Dog Food Loop
 Finding the Cat in the Hat Trail, we started our descent back to the cars.

Step Up
 The pace picked up when we started down. It was easy hiking now.

Detour on Gypsum Mind Road

Over the Moon
 The Cat in the Hat Trail took us down through the desert with views of the Wilson Cliffs and the Calico Hills. When a trail came in from the right side, we connected with the Bunny Trail. No, we didn't see any bunnies! They were probably staying warm in their dens. Anyway, we continued down while enjoying the scenery and watching our footing. When we got back to the trailhead, the great Richard Natale was just starting out on a hike with a small group. Beautiful day. Cool but no wind.

5.5 miles; 900 feet elevation gain; 3 hours

Cat in the Hat Descent

Bunny Trail Descent

Bunny Trail Out