Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Signature Rock Loop - 1/7/19

Signature Rock (small dark brown dot) from Petroglyphs

Descending Arrowhead Road from Switchback

The Eagle

Ripple Rock from Ancient Mudflats

The Arrowhead Trail or Arrowhead Highway was the first all-weather road in the Western United States that connected Los Angeles, California to Salt Lake City, Utah by way of Las Vegas, Nevada. Built primarily during the auto trails period of the 1910s, prior to the establishment of the U.S. numbered highway system, the road was replaced in 1926 by U.S. Route 91 (US 91) and subsequently Interstate 15 (I‑15). Small portions of the route in California and Las Vegas, Las Vegas Boulevard, are sometimes still referred to by the name, or as Arrow Highway. ~ Wikipedia

Climbing a Slippery Cottonwood Spring Dry Fall
The Arrowhead Auto Trail can be seen and experienced on the north side of Lake Mead in what locals have named Pinto Valley. This valley is an extremely colorful segment of the highway.

Regathering at the Fork (Arrowhead Road & North Razorback Wash)
It must have been quite the scenic drive as some of these photos show. The valley is also culturally historic with very old petroglyphs engraved on rocks in at least three different sections of the valley.

Side Wash

Heading up the Road
Thirteen hikers showed up for the Signature Rock Loop found in Pinto Valley on a marginal day, weather-wise. It was not my first time hiking this route in rainy weather so I knew it could be done ... carefully. The rain happened on Saturday night and the hike happened on Monday. There was still one small spot of running water in the big wash but, for the most part, the damp packed sand in the middle of the wash was the place to be. It was out of the red mud on the sides of the wash. There, we could avoid the mud most of the time. The temperatures were awesome and the predicted wind gusts never reached us. Good day!

Rocks used to Reinforce the Arrowhead Road
Since it was overcast and the terrain was damp, colors along the route were rich; not washed out like they are on a warm sunny day. We parked at Northshore Road's mile marker 18 turnout and entered the big wash across the road.

Color, Bare Tree and Cryptobiotic Soil
We didn't spend a lot of time getting from the road to Cottonwood Springs dry fall but we did stop at the large slab of ripple rock fossilized from ancient mudflats. We separated at the dry fall since it was extremely slippery. Gathered. Then gathered later at the wash fork. This fork is important to notice since the main wash appears to go left into the North Razorback Wash arm. The old Arrowhead Highway takes the right fork when scenery goes from very pretty to beautiful!

Multiple Colors at Three Mile Mark

Wash Dry Fall
Sometimes we could tell that we were on an old road but most of the time, it just looked like we were in a wash. The wash has taken over the road in many places since it was abandoned in 1926. There is a well-known switchback on the road that leads up to the secondary high point of the hike. This part of the road is still propped up by layers of rocks that can be seen on its approach. Then, one of the route's most colorful sections is the one seen as you descend from the high point. We stayed in the narrow wash at the bottom to avoid the mud on the old road here. The wash and road come back together in short time.

Striations in Wash
Next, the wash becomes very interesting with a few small dry falls and striations. This is perhaps the best that the wash has to offer. It is clear why the road drifts up to the east for a short way. This section of the wash has probably always been "beautiful!"

Peeking into Pinto Valley
When you see the "Eagle" tor on the right side of the wash, you know you are nearing the west end of Pinto Valley. Finally, passing the end of the wall on the right, make a sharp right. The first small pile of rocks up this way hold some very old petroglyphs. You might even find a Kokopelli!

Vertical Layers

Fin Work on Right Bank
After the petroglyph exploration, return to the main wash the same way you came and continue down a little further. On the left side of the big valley wash, there is a rock with modern graffiti. This is Signature Rock! You may only engrave on it if you have perfectly chiseled block letters! No, really, just kidding. It was originally signed by Tony Kreager in 1922 as a road sign to point out that Boulder Canyon (not Lake Mead, yet) was 5 miles away if you take the next right! Now, the rock serves as a hike destination and here, we sat for our break next to a 1935 survey marker. There are a couple of petroglyphs on the hill next to Signature Rock, too. But we didn't look around today.

After the break, we returned up the wash for about 0.4 mile and turned right into a side wash. This wash begins with an easy zigzag through beautiful rock. Then quite suddenly, we came to a series of sandstone water slides. These were easily climbed by the group.

Clam Shell Rock
After a half mile from the beginning of the side wash and dry falls, a trail can be seen on the right side of the wash. Take this trail steeply up to the top of the hill and over the other side. If you choose to not take the trail, you will have one of two non-negotiable dry falls to contend with.

Signature Rock

Bighorn Skull hidden many Years
After coming down off the trailed hill, a medium sized wash invites you in with another sandstone waterslide. Enter this maze at your own risk! The mud hill maze wiggles and wiggles making a slow route to the red/brown mud ridge between Razorback Ridge and the Chocolate Hills. There is really only one main choice you have to make. Someone placed a cairn but it is still difficult to decipher the direction. Suffice it to say that there are three choices of washes. The correct one is in the middle and it is clear that a path walks through it. We chose the middle fork and soon saw the muddy climb up to the saddle. (If the following climb is blocked or too muddy, continue in the right wash and climb up to the end.) The climb to the saddle is a steep trail hanging off the side of one of the mud hills. I was apprehensive but dared to be the first. My shoes, thankfully, were sticking to the damp dirt. Perhaps the climb was easier than if the dirt was completely dry. Up, we all went to a very small narrow saddle. (Small sign of relief when the last hiker arrived at the top!) Fantastic group of hikers!

Climbing another Slippery Dry Fall
It was interesting that we saw horse hoof prints in the washes here. I know the riders did not take horses up and over the saddle the same way we did it! There is a trail along the saddle ridge. Perhaps they know an easier way or perhaps they use that alternate that I mentioned.

Approaching the Chocolate Hills
But, for hikers, the steep muddy trail is a lot of fun! Anyway, we continued down the wash on the other side and came to the bottom of the Arrowhead Highway switchback.

The Trail with Chocolate Hills Behind

Snaking our way through to Saddle Climb
The remaining part of the hike was a simple return the way we came from this point. The scenery was still fascinating and the dirt was a little drier than it was first thing in the morning. We separated again to deal with Cottonwood Springs dry fall then headed on down stopping a few times just to make sure we weren't leaving anyone behind. By the ninth mile of the hike, the rocks could be felt under our feet! It was a very enjoyable hike full of interesting points. I'll never get tired of the scenery here!

9.2 miles; 1150 feet elevation gain; 4.5 hours; average moving speed 2.1 mph

Saddle Trail

Joining the Arrowhead Road at the Switchback (Saddle in Background)

Returning down past Hamblin Mountain Route Junction

We used the Yellow Route today.

1 comment:

Kay Blackwell said...

Kay--Enjoyed your Sig-R Hike and blog photos. The damp soil really dramatized the colors. Your saddle climb photo neatly caught the depth of the climb. Thanks--Chuck H.