Thursday, November 15, 2018

Fern Canyon - 11/15/18

Pools in Fern Canyon

Leaf-covered Pools in Fern Canyon

Wilson Gate - Fern Canyon to Right of Mescalito (Redhead)

Hiking Pine Creek Canyon
 Fern Canyon is located in the Rainbow Wilderness of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Although we usually have between ten and fifteen hikers on our Thursday hikes, we had nineteen show up today. Still, gee, we had a great time! We parked at the Pine Creek Trailhead off the Scenic Loop and started down into Pine Creek Canyon. The trail maintenance volunteers have done an excellent job with the long downhill trail by taking out some of the steps and flattening out the bedrock. Past this, the trail still had its sections of rocky terrain.

Mescalito from the Wilson House
 We arrived at the Wilson House foundation and took a couple of photos. The tree that still had yellow leaves hanging on was an Ash Tree. A lot of the yellow trees had already lost their leaves.

The "Bermuda Triangle" of Pine Creek Canyon
 We continued, from the house, on the right fork that headed toward the north canyon next to Mescalito Peak. This is the redhead peak that points upward in the middle of the larger Pine Creek Canyon.

Climbing up to Canyon Entrance Trail

Counting 19 Hikers
 The trail comes to a rocked-off triangle area. We joke that it is the "Bermuda Triangle" of Pine Creek since hikers tend to lose their way here. To get to Fern Canyon, it is important to keep to the right here. Then, take the trail that bears right into the trees. The proper trail soon heads up the hill and climbs around a very large boulder before connecting with a good trail that traverses along the north hill into Fern Canyon. (Try not to drop into the canyon too early.) As we neared the canyon, we saw climbers on the Dark Shadows climbing route. It is a difficult route that seems to always have someone on it. We dropped into the canyon right at the staging area for this climb.

Two Rock Climbers on Dark Shadows Route
 We made our way over to the left (south) wall of the canyon and began our scramble. Right away, we saw several of the ferns for which Fern Canyon is named. These are big and very healthy right now.

One of Fern Canyon's Ferns
 Then we started seeing water. A lot of dark deepish water that was sometimes covered with brown and gold fallen leaves. We had to be careful where we stepped! The leaves made the trail a bit deceptive.

Leaf-covered Pool in Fern Canyon

Climbing a Steep Rock
We stayed on that left wall as much as absolutely possible. A couple of times, we had to go toward the center of the wash to get around obstacles but we came right back to the wall. At the top of the pooled areas, we came to the up and around and/or the rabbit hole junction found right at a big pool. The up and around didn't look like it had seen much use lately. Several hikers took the difficult scramble below. After this, we climbed a steeply sloped boulder relying on our shoes for traction. Jacob's Ladder is, perhaps, the second named obstacle. It is found on the side of a huge boulder next to the same left wall. It is a great way to get up to the next level.
Climbing up the Sandstone Slab
 There are a few boulders that require aid to surmount. The main problem is that these scrambles have no handholds whatsoever and the rock, itself, is worn smooth. One of these comes right after the Ladder.

Counting 19 Hikers
 Continuing up the canyon was a slow but deliberate adventure. The next counterintuitive change of route is marked with a small cairn that leads back into the center of the canyon; up and over a natural wall of rocks and trees.

The Top of the Waterfall

Looking out from the Top of the Waterfall
 Not long after this is the Sandstone Slab section where the canyon is closing in to a narrow point. We climbed up the slab and followed it along deeper into the canyon. A few more scrambles that end up on the left wall again, and we were walking into the base of the twenty foot dry waterfall that marks the end of the regular Fern Canyon scramble. We take it just a little further and climb the vertical scramble on the right side of the waterfall to get to a left turn that goes around the rock protrusion and down to the top of the waterfall. There was no water falling but there were three small pools in the area on top. We sat up here in the coolness to take our break.

Taking a cool Break
 The light is difficult here for taking photos but it is a nice overlook to the canyon. We didn't sit too long since it was cold so we got up to begin retracing our steps.

We're just fine right here!
 Of course, everything looks different from the other direction but we did pretty well going down anyway. Still slow but deliberate.

Jerry descends Jacob's Ladder

Inching down a Steep Rock
 There was only one spot we didn't do the same thing. On the way down, we tiptoed across the tops of some large pointy rocks in the water, a route I had followed someone on before. No one fell in the water. Yep, we bad. We found the trail out that we had come in on and counted hikers for about the tenth time! Still nineteen. Out of the cool canyon and into the warm November sun! Fantastic hike and even better group of hikers!

5 miles; ~1000 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

Alternate to Up and Around

Taking Trail out of the Canyon

Returning up the Pine Creek Trail

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