Saturday, October 7, 2017

Angel Canyon Loop (aka AtBF Canyon) - 10/7/17

Angel Canyon

Missing Link Trail

Heading into the Narrows of Angel Canyon

Hiking the Showgirl Trail
 In the Spring Mountains NRA, there is a canyon that runs from the base of Angel Peak down to Kyle Canyon ending very near Telephone Canyon Road. In the past, we have called this canyon AtBF Canyon but Angel Canyon is more descriptive of this wonderful bit of terrain that has narrows filled with five challenging dry falls, each of around 6-7 feet in height. From now on, we will refer to this canyon as Angel Canyon. Five hikers drove up to the Juniper Trailhead that is located on Angel Peak Road off of Deer Creek Road and started down the Showgirl Trail. This trail is gentle in its slope rate with some descents and some ascents.

Junction for Missing Link Trail
 After a little over a mile, there is a trail that turns off to the left. Since this trail was previously unfinished, the moniker "Missing Link" stuck.

Hummingbird Gulch & Mummy's Toe
 With good information that the trail is finished, we started down the trail with confidence. It should take us all the way down to the bottom of Angel Canyon.

Mississippian Monte Cristo Limestone Ridge

Stepladder Peak from Missing Link Trail
 The Missing Link Trail runs along a ridge that is parallel to Telephone Canyon below. There is at least one point where the ridge connects to another ridge as it winds in and out along the terrain. The trail is very easy to follow since there are bikers that use it on a regular basis. After climbing to the top of a rise, the trail begins to descend using several sharp turns and long traverses. There are many very nice views of surrounding mountains and canyons. At this time, fall color is hanging on but fading fast. At 3.5 miles into the hike, we came to Little Bald Knoll.

Hiking the Missing Link Trail
 This little hill is significant because it marks where the trail starts a decided descent down the end of the ridge.

Approach to Little Bald Knoll
 Sometimes, the club does an out and back hike just to this point. (Note: the return for this hike is mostly uphill.)

Little Bald Knoll

Starting the Big Drop
 Soon, we were taking a sharp turn to the left on a slippery hill. We were in the middle of this negotiation when four bikers decked out with helmets arrived behind us. We stepped off the trail and let them by. Now we were sure that the trail would take us all the way down. Yea! 😁 So, we curved around the corner with small cliffs to our right and came to a turn to the right that went ... downhill! Really downhill! In the past, we have stayed on the hiking trail that continues straight and found the trail to just ... disappear. With the sharp right turn, we understood the solution. This first section was steep and slippery.

Hikable but Steep Drop Trail
 The Big Drop wiggled quite a bit as it made its way down the ridge. Some sections gave us a respite from the steepness but most of it was ... well, pretty steep.

One of the Really Steep Parts
 All in all, the five great hikers in the group agreed that it didn't really live up to the hype and was just fine as steep downhills go.

Mouth of Angel Canyon Wash

First Scramble up Dry Fall
 The Middle Showgirl Trail crosses the Big Drop Trail and, here, we turned to the left. We switchbacked down the intermediary ridge with Angel Canyon on our left. After a short search, we found an easy trail that led down into the mouth of Angel Canyon. We stopped here under a tree and had our snack break at almost 5 miles into the hike. The remaining part of the hike would ascend through the canyon and another wash so we needed to regather our strength. After the break, we started a warm hike up through the brushy mouth following one of a couple of washes as best as it would allow us.

Fall Color inside Angel Canyon
 The narrows of Angel Canyon start when a limestone ridge leans down from the left side and meets the right side. The first dry fall is very soon after the wash narrows to around 10 feet.

More Fall Color in the Narrows
 This first dry fall is, perhaps, the easiest to climb. As we hiked further up canyon, the leaves on the oak trees seemed to be at their height of color for the fall.

Third Dry Fall Scramble

Angel Canyon Narrows Wash
 The second and third dry falls came close together. By this time, we had noted that the limestone had been polished from hikers. Many of the footholds were slippery but still were usable. However, we expected that it won't be long before hikers will have to start piling up rocks at the bottom of the falls to aid in the climbing. Most of the dry falls do not offer an up and around option. The fourth dry fall, the exception, has always been too slippery to climb at the wash. Therefore, we stepped up to the left side and climbed an easier crack. Not sure most folks do this but we always have.

Fourth Dry Fall Scramble
 The narrows widened then narrowed again. The temperatures were cooling off as we gained elevation. Finally, we came to the fifth and final dry fall. This was the most difficult.

Fifth and Most Difficult Dry Fall Scramble
 The first few times we climbed Angel Canyon, this dry fall had a fallen tree in front of it. We used the tree to help us climb up.

Upper Angel Canyon Wash

After Wash Junction Turn to Left
 However, the tree is gone and has been for a year or two. Not sure where it went. It was pretty big! Anyway, we now have to climb this dry fall on the right side and it is somewhat precarious. Nevertheless, each of us got up the wall without a lot of help, proud scramblers that we are! From here, we began our long climb up through the wash of the canyon and on to the connecting wash that would lead us back to the trailhead. We struggled through the last half mile of the climb but still had enough energy to bushwhack up the hill to the Showgirl Trail in the end. Great hike and great workout!

9 miles; 1700 feet elevation gain; 5 hours

Varied Photos of Wash Climb

Hiking the Wash

Finishing on the Top of Showgirl Trail

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