Saturday, May 6, 2017

Black Velvet Canyon Loop - 5/6/17

Dropping into Black Velvet Canyon

Morning Light in North Cottonwood Valley

Dry Fall Obstacle in Black Velvet Canyon

Taking the Mustang Trail to the Inner Loop
 There is a canyon within the Red Rock Canyon NCA escarpment that has vertical walls that are hundreds (if not a 1000) of feet high. The walls of Black Velvet Canyon are world famous and are regularly visited by world famous rock climbers. When hiking in this canyon, we are always entertained by the daring displays that are happening on the wall routes above our heads. Today, was no different. However, as hikers / scramblers, we are very satisfied with the excellent big boulder scrambling offered in the floor of the canyon wash. Nine hikers arrived for an unusual late season hike through the desert and up the canyon.

The Garden that is The Desert
 It was a bit warm this morning as the air was assaulted by a beautiful spring desert sunrise. All that would change by the time we began our return.

Horned Toad, Yucca Fruit, Joshua Tree Fruit
 We left the Late Night Trailhead parking lot on the trail leading out to the east. This circled around the hill behind the parking lot.

Mustang / Inner Loop Trail Junction Sign

Inner Loop
 The first thing we noticed were the abundance of spring flowers blooming everywhere. It isn't normal for there to be a day cool enough to hike in Cottonwood Valley in May. A cold front is coming in tonight and this pushed the temperatures down to a fairly comfortable level. At any rate, it is unusual to be able to view the incredible display for blooming desert plants. We constantly mentioned that it was like we were walking through a garden. Look out! A horned toad crossed our path!

Inner Loop
 Along with the horned toad, many lizards and bunnies were running about. We also saw a really big jackrabbit. Boy, was he big!

Black Velvet Road
 We were hiking at a good pace of around 2.5 mph down the Mustang Trail and on to the Inner Loop. The Inner Loop had us zigzagging a little then we arrived at the Black Velvet Road.

Trail Approach to Black Velvet Canyon

Trail descending into Canyon
 The Black Velvet Road is a pretty good dirt road that takes rock climbers directly to their parking/camping lot approximately 3/4 of a mile from the Black Velvet climbing walls. It saves the three mile approach on foot. We turned to our left and hiked up the road through the lot and straight on up the rocky canyon approach trail. There are several trails that break off to the left. These are the rock climbers' trails. Hikers take the trail that continues fairly straight on top of the hillside above the deep wash of the canyon.

A Little Water at Mouth of Black Velvet Canyon
 After maneuvering around a couple of difficult spots on the trail by taking up and arounds, we dropped down a red dirt trail to the canyon's mouth.

Tadpoles in Pool
 There was the usual small amount of water sliding over the bottom shelf rock and a pool of tadpoles sat among the large boulders just above.

The First and Most Difficult Scramble

Under the Rock
 Three hikers decided to stay down at the mouth and enjoy the shade for a longer break. The remaining six hikers started the strenuous scramble up the large boulders. We moved along steadily but did not feel a push for speed. The group of six stayed together helping each other when necessary. Black Velvet Canyon has redbud trees blooming in early spring and yellow autumn leaves in the fall. Today, the canyon was not decorated with much color ... just green leaves and white and red sandstone.

Finding Ways
 Rita watched as one climber lost his footing and fell around 6 or 7 feet hanging only by his harness. He needed a moment after that.

Snack Break at Dry Fall Obstacle
 The route tunneled through some brush and came out at the large dry fall obstacle where we took our turnaround snack break.

Canyon View back from Exit

Finishing the Rocky Approach Trail
 Feeling very pleased, we soon started down the wash. With gravity on our side, it was a tad easier to descend than ascend. BTW, there is a new obstacle at one of the boulder climbs. A large tree limb lies on top of the rocks that you have to climb. It seemed sturdy enough but be careful here. When we reached the mouth of the canyon, the nine hikers were together again. We climbed up the trail on the side of the hill the same way we had come down. Then we had to deal with the very rocky approach trail in reverse.

Starting up Black Velvet Trail
 We passed a lot more rock climbers coming up the approach trail than what we had seen on the walls during our canyon stay. We warned them to, "Be careful!" Maybe we sounded a little like their parents. But, they seemed to heed the warning.

Black Velvet Trail
 As soon as we exited the canyon area, stronger wind whipped up around us. Thanks to that expected cool breeze, the warmth of the late morning did not penetrate our skin. A little later, we even had spotted cloud cover to make the hike very comfortable.

Approach to Pyramid Rock

Passing Pyramid Rock
 The Black Velvet Trail is the first turn to the right out of the canyon. We followed this trail all the way back past Pyramid Rock and through the large wash. Next, we connected with the Outer Loop and Mustang Trail. A Mustang spur trail finished our hike back to the trailhead parking lot which was done at a speed of almost 3 mph. During the morning, we passed several bikers. Everyone had a nice smile on their faces as we let them go by. Pleasantries were exchanged and everyone was happy. Oh, what a beautiful mornin'!

8 miles; 1050 feet elevation gain; 4.25 hours

Connecting with Mustang / Outer Loop Trail

Winterfat (white), Indigo (blue-violet) and Goldenbush (yellow)

The Last Half Mile

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