Monday, March 6, 2017

Red Springs / Gateway Loop - 3/6/17

Heads will roll!

Grand Circle Trail

Colors of Gateway Canyon

Red Springs Boardwalk
 The trailhead for the Red Springs / Gateway Loop is located in Calico Basin at the Red Springs Picnic Area. Thirteen hikers gathered at the large parking lot then started hiking around the left side of the boardwalk fence. This trail leads to a short but formidable hill climb to start the day off right! The climb reaches a saddle that connects to the southeast corner of the Calico Hills. Next, we began the steep descent on the other side but turned onto a trail to the right about a third of the way down to the wash.

At the Top of First Hill
 We stopped here to take note of the balanced rock above our heads. (See the first photo of the entry.) Then, we continued following the trail down to an area with a lot of very large boulders.

Circling the Southern Calico Hills
 On some of these boulders, there are ancient petroglyphs that age from 500 to 1000 years old. They were likely made by the Early Paiutes.

Hiking the Grand Circle Trail

Trail at Base of Calico Hills
 After a stop to show off the petroglyphs, we continued along the trail above the wash. Eventually, the trail dropped down and crossed the wash. We followed this trail for a short while until we reached a trail that turned up to the right. Instead of continuing all the way to the base of Calico I, we climbed the hill here. Then, we hiked along the Scenic Loop up to Calico I where there is a lot of construction going on. They are enlarging the parking lot and adding a restroom here. Normally, hikers should not hike through this zone, however, today, we got away with it because there were no workers and activity.

Approaching Petroglyphs
 So, we quickly hiked down the hill to connect with the Grand Circle Trail at the overlook.
Climbing the Sandstone
 The Grand Circle Trail leads along the base of the Calico Hills wash. It undulates a bit so it is a good workout when hiking at a decent pace.

Leaving Sandstone Quarry

Pause at the Agave Roasting Pit
 We passed below Calico II then hiked along the beautiful red and white sandstone all the way up to Sandstone Quarry parking lot and trailhead. Here, we took a short break to use the facilities. Turtlehead Peak rose menacingly up ahead. After the break, we hiked out the Turtlehead / Calico Tanks Trail and paused at the informational sign about the agave roasting pit nearby. We had veered to the right at a trail junction then made a left turn a little further on.

Water Disappearing Act
 This put us on the Rattlesnake Trail that takes hikers through a sandstone scramble. We could not get through the small slot due to a large puddle that refuses to dry up!

Scrambling at Base of Turtlehead Peak
 So, we took the "go around" and finally ended up on the sandstone ledge that overlooks a gorgeous view of the white sandstone and escarpment beyond.

Scrambling Up

View from Snack Place
 Here, we took our long break enjoying the view and conversation. The Rattlesnake Trail continued around the corner and up to the base of Red Cap on the north end of the Calico Hills. This was our high point for the day. At around 4.5 miles, we were all doing great! This trail then drops down near the top of Ash Canyon and continues down through a wash that would connect us to Gateway Canyon. While we were hiking this area we saw something we have never seen before!

Reaching the Base of Red Cap (High Point)
 A red helicopter came whizzing above our heads very close in the canyon. We watched as it flew down to the Gateway Canyon junction and turned right.

Rattlesnake Trail descent with Gray Cap Above
 Yes! It was that low! It could have been a training exercise. Nonetheless, it was very impressive. The photographer was so shocked that a photograph of the intruder never happened!

The Sliding Rock Challenge

Descending Gateway Canyon
 So, we followed the helicopter down through the connector canyon on the Rattlesnake Trail and turned right in Gateway Canyon. (BTW, the redbuds haven't even begun to put out buds.) We took turns sliding down the limestone rock slide then hiked down the gravel of Gateway Canyon. Before we reached the really colorful part of the canyon, we turned to the right onto the trail that would take us up to the Kraft Mountain Saddle.

Trail Climb out of Gateway Canyon
 This is one of the times during the hike that we were allowed to climb at our own pace so, one by one, we arrived at the saddle and waited ... not long.

View of Calico Basin from Saddle
 Next, we dropped slowly down 5 Stop Hill. Staying on a straight route, we ended up passing Ash Meadows and Ash Creek. The creek had a decent amount of water in it but we would never have described it as "flooded."

Down 5 Stop Hill

Passing Ash Meadows at Creek
 Our route climbed up by the old concrete foundation then passed through the old Girl Scouts picnic table area. We heard the whole story about Vera Krupp. This was very interesting and a new addition to the history lessons of the area. From here, we continued on the trail that circles the base of the Calico Hills and finishes at Red Springs. This was a great hike with great company!

7.5 miles; 1700 feet elevation gain; 4.75 hours

Ash Canyon beyond Ash Meadows

Passing Entrance into Angel Pass Canyon

Following Trail back to Trailhead

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