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

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