Friday, February 17, 2017

Hoodoo Forest Loop (Desert National Wildlife Refuge) - 2/16/17

Hoodoo Forest above Playas

Small Foreground Peak Today's High Point from Ridge

Hiking Area from Corn Creek Road (Right)

Eighteen Miles of Dirt Road
 The club has been slowly exploring bits and pieces of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge over the past few years. In addition to the well known Gass Peak and Hidden Forest, we have mapped out Long Valley, Yucca Peak, Yucca Fossil Beds, Quartzite Peak, Corkscrew Canyon and, Thursday's hike, Hoodoo Forest. The hikes seem to get better and better. Just make sure you have a high clearance vehicle with good tires. ... And, a spare! (Paved roads are far far into the future!)

Wagon Wheel Trailhead
 From the short stop at the Visitor Center to sign in, we drove 12 miles out the graded Alamo Road (to the left) and turned right onto the signed Cow Camp Road. There are 6 miles from the junction still to go.

Hiking toward Escarpment on Abandoned Road
 Cow Camp Road was nicely graded until just before it ran through the gap in the mountains. Within the gap, the road gets a little sandy and you have to zigzag through a couple of mysterious pipes and large rocks sticking up from the road. It is narrow.

Game Trails from Wagon Canyon to Hoodoo Canyon

Dropping into Hoodoo Canyon above Dry Falls
 After the gap, the road is much more rough but we had no problem in our great cars/trucks. We passed a parking area that is likely used for Picture Canyon and Wildhorse Pass then, at the fork, we turned to the left and parked at the end of the road where there is a fenced circle. This is the Wagon Wheel Trailhead. We exited the cars and prepared for our adventure. A gap in the fence showed which direction to go and this was also the extension of the road we were on. This part of the road is now abandoned but it made a nice trail leading up to the limestone escarpment.

Starting Up Hoodoo Canyon
 Near the mountains, we veered left to go take a look-see view of the entrance to Wagon Canyon with its hoodoos. This canyon is the normal route leading up to Sheep Peak. (I hear that's a tough one with 4000 feet of gain.)

The Eagle Watches (as does the Guard Dog on the Left)
 Near Wagon Canyon, there is an easy route up to the top of the cliffs to the right. We followed faint game trails over to the next canyon, Hoodoo Canyon, above the escarpment.

Curving around the High Arch

Wide Wash below Jerry's Buttress
 There was an easy drop down into Hoodoo Canyon above its high dry falls at the cliffs. These dry falls are sometimes used for canyoneering training. In the wash, we immediately noted an arch window in one of the "fins" on the left side of the canyon. After curving around it, we also noted a couple of interesting small hoodoos up above; an eagle and a watch dog. Continuing up the canyon, we were surrounded by hoodoos right and left ... and, this wasn't even the hoodoo forest that was to come!

Passing into Lower Forest of Hoodoos
 At a fork, we probably should have gone to the right but we went left and had to climb over to the right very soon. We, then, dropped into that other wash but probably should have stayed up on this ridge. We, soon, climbed back up on this ridge.

Starting Up the Steep Ridge
 This is the nature of strenuous exploratory hikes. It would be nice to find an easier way up to the high ridge above us but this was what we did today.

Jerry's Buttress from Ridge Climb

Hikers on Different Routes
 Three or four routes were explored all starting from the same position. Two hikers traversed over to another ridge that appeared less steep. Four hikers chose to traverse on a diagonal up to the ridge's high point but ran into a rock fall that made the going very tough. But, one hiker probably made the best choice and her route is reflected on the maps below. She chose to go directly up the steep ridge we were on getting to the top then simply enjoying a stroll along the ridge over to the high point where we all met up for our break! This will be the suggested route until someone comes up with a better one.

High Point Snack Break
 We sat on a limestone outcropping that gave us an overview of our climb to the top. We dubbed the large black outcropping on the ridge to the west, Jerry's Buttress. It was a landmark for much of the hike that looped around this unforgiving rock fortress.

Traverse past Small Peak to Ridge
 After resting our legs, we promised each other that we would not climb significantly any more throughout the rest of the hike! So, we bypassed the small peak another 100 feet vertical to our left by traversing over to the ridge we wanted.

Starting Long Ridge Descent

Hoodoo Forest
Finding the ridge again, the curtains of the previous climb covering our eyes disappeared. Wow! This ridge was absolutely gorgeous! Sure, the views were magnificent, but the features around and below us were very unique. Not to mention, the ridge was extremely wide and easy to negotiate. We followed a sheep trail much of the time. This is where we happened upon the Hoodoo Forest that we quickly and easily named. Just below us inside our route loop, the pinnacles rose up all over the place. Beyond, we could see the Three Lakes Valley, the large playa seen in the photos.

Hoodoo Forest
 There were several other features seen in and around the hoodoos. Many of them are in photos below. Arches, skinny pinnacles and weird triangle caves.

Various Ridge Features
 The seven hikers wandered down the mostly gentle ridge staying next to Teresa Canyon. (Teresa Canyon is named for a rock climber's wife, I've heard.) A couple of times, we had to go around rock outcroppings to get back to the canyon's edge.

Descending through some Hoodoos

View back to Hoodoo Forest
 Our descent was steady and beautiful. We constantly eyed the slope down to the canyon to our right. Finally, just before the ridge came to the last large pinnacle, (the black one at the end of the ridge in the photos below), we came to a saddle area that offered a fairly gently down climb to Teresa Canyon. One hiker continued on the ridge to explore while the rest of us took the route presented. The lone hiker descended later reporting that our route was likely the best.

Still Descending Ridge adjacent to Teresa Canyon
 We were pleasantly surprised to see that Teresa Canyon was easily navigated. There were a few minor scrambles but nothing more than a bit of fun.

Saddle before Black Pinnacle
 As we neared the dry falls of the escarpment, another canyoneering training spot, we found the trail that would take us back up and over the neighboring ridge to Hoodoo Canyon.

Descent into Teresa Canyon

Gentle Teresa Canyon
 The trail was quite nice. Someone has been here before. When we were almost over to the next canyon, we veered off the trail toward the cliffs and there was a decent place to scramble down to the ground below. Et voila! The old abandoned road was there to take us back to the cars. Eighteen more exciting miles in the cars and we were done! This hike should be repeated but it will be labeled strenuous due to the climb up to the ridge. The Hoodoo Forest is definitely a sight to behold ... and, will be again. Fun, fun, fun!

5 miles; 1600 feet elevation gain; 3.75 hours (not including drive time)

Trail from Teresa Canyon to Hoodoo Canyon

Descent off Escarpment just before Hoodoo Canyon

Returning to Cars down Abandoned Road

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