Saturday, March 21, 2009

Ash Canyon Overlook - 03/21/09

Twenty eight club members started out from the Red Rock Sandstone Quarry this morning for a hike to the Ash Canyon Overlook. The hike was only a total of 2.88 miles but held a few fairly steep inclines to make it interesting. Looking back during the morning jaunt, we saw the Escarpment in the morning sunlight as the sun rose over the sandstone hills which were all around us.

The hike began as if going to the Calico Tank but took a turn to the left soon after. Winding around through a small wash, we arrived at a small interesting slot canyon. One by one, we climbed through the small waterfalls inside the slot and continued a little further in the wash. We climbed over some sandstone outcroppings and found a trail on desert terrain.

The trail circled around a sandstone calico hill. Red barrel cacti dotted the landscape. After climbing a hill to the formal Ash Canyon saddle, most of the group continued a little further down a steep swooping grade to find the clearest view of Ash Canyon. Here, we sat for a rest and a snack. The close view of Ash Canyon was beautiful. It is a large, steep canyon full of huge boulders. The distant view was hazy and the Las Vegas skyline disappeared into the horizon.

To begin the return, we had to hike back up the swooping steep trail on loose dirt and rock. We all made it back safely joining the others who had stayed behind. The picture above shows hikers climbing down the hill from the saddle. It was fun finding our way back through the obstacle course of sandstone, gravel wash and the slot canyon. To the right, you see a hiker negotiating one of the small dry waterfalls in the slot. This trail has several small challenges which adds to its charm.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Turtlehead Peak - 03/19/09

Twelve hikers gathered in the Sandstone Quarry parking lot off of the Red Rock Scenic Loop with the idea of conquering the looming Turtlehead Peak. This was a new hike for the blogger so, perhaps the reader will forgive a slight background of awe for this legendary hike!

We began hiking up the wash using a side trail and the wash itself. We then crossed the wash and headed up to the north slope. At this point, the trail became gradually steeper and within about a mile of the beginning, we were climbing a very steep slope filled with loose dirt and rock towards the saddle below the peak. This part of the climb lasted for around a mile. Although there were several different trails to choose from, all trails were very challenging. We stopped several times for necessary breathers.

Along the way, we saw more of the red orange Indian Paintbrush bloom displays. Near the top, we saw several of these yellow blooms which the blogger is guessing is a variety of acacia (perhaps Whitethorn Acacias).The wildflowers have begun.

The caterpillars have also just been born! We saw several cocoons, or tents, along the trail and noticed that some were still enclosed and others were teeming with baby caterpillars crawling around, no doubt looking for their first meal of leaves.

Arriving at the saddle, we were then able to view the other side of the peak which is Brownstone Canyon. Beyond this juniper tree stump, the red and white sandstone of Brownstone Canyon can be seen.

Another half mile of not quite so steep ascent brought the hikers to the peak of Turtlehead. Since this was a first, the blogger was surprised to see the landscape of the peak appears like regular desert terrain. From below, the peak seems to be only made of limestone rock. Upon arrival at the turnaround point, we sat for a snack, to write in the sign-in book and to take in the tremendous view that Turtlehead provided.

Below, there was a clear view of the Calico Hills, including Red Cap and various nearby tanks. We also saw Gateway Canyon in its entirety, a hazy view of the Las Vegas skyline, Brownstone Canyon, a snow-covered Griffith Peak, the La Madre Mountain Range and, of course, the Escarpment and Red Rock Canyon floor.


We could even see the Sandstone Quarry parking lot and the wash leading to the right of the picture above where we began the hike.

A tall cairn marked the peak while we waited for all twelve hikers to summit. The descent was going to be dicey so we were in no hurry to begin. Luckily, most of us had a hiking stick or two, good hiking boots and a great respect for the slippery downhill we were about to embark upon. For the blogger and maybe several others, the descent was the most difficult part of the five mile/2000 foot gain hike.

Just after passing the saddle, we descended through this split rock formation on one of the many trails offered. After that, Chris led us through as much rock and boulders as he could find making the trail down a little more safe. Our hiking sticks really became useful and this blogger expects sore arms in the coming days!

The weather was mild with little wind except for a crosswind on the saddle. On the waypoint map below, disregard the line heading out into thin air from the peak! It is just an unfortunate "bounce." (Although Turtlehead Peak would be a great place for a zipline!)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Potato Knoll Loop - 3/14/09

Although Oak Creek was on the schedule for today, Ann preferred to take us on a five mile hike around Potato Knoll. There were six hikers who decided to go ahead with the bouldering plan and ended up bouldering to their pleasure at Pine Creek instead of Oak Creek. Eighteen others went with Ann and had a very pleasant and beautiful hike which is featured here. Above, you can see Potato Knoll which lies at the base of Wilson Peak within the Escarpment.

We parked at the horse trailer parking lot at the exit of the Scenic Loop of Red Rock and hiked out into the desert towards the knoll.

Along the way, we noticed that the joshua trees had produced large seeds where the blooms had been last spring. We also found our first wild flowers of the season. Indian Paintbrush peered out from under desert brush as we passed by. We can expect a nicely flowering season ahead as we received a good amount of rain this winter.

During the hike, we crossed Oak Creek six times. (Three times each way.) The creek was about one third full and flowing. It was easily crossed over stepping stones. Another interesting find of the morning was part of an old bone lying next to the path.

This picture shows why Rainbow Peak of the Escarpment is called Rainbow Peak! It is located to the right of Wilson Peak when facing the Escarpment.

We circled around Potato Knoll in a counter clockwise direction. On the back side of the knoll, we stopped to take a snack and chat a while. Then we continued around and headed back through the desert. The day started chilly but quickly got warmer with the arrival of the higher sun. We enjoyed every moment of the return of warmth.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Red Cap - 3/12/09

The hike to the top of Red Cap (seen above) or Turtlehead Junior, as it is affectionately called locally, began with nine hikers. A tenth hiker was added halfway up as he caught up from behind!

We started the hike out of Sandstone Quarry on the Red Rock Scenic Loop and hiked in a short distance of the Calico Tanks jaunt. Bearing left to head up a rocky wash, we left the main trail and began a series of scrambles up through a red layer of sandstone, then a white layer.

To the left is one of three "skinny man" scrambles. The footing is challenging for shorter legs but there's no denying that all the scrambles are fun. The last third of the short climb is probably the steepest. In the end, what Red Cap lacks in distance, it makes up for in an excellent work out. The total hike is less than three miles long but the elevation gain in the first mile is around 725 feet.

The Red Cap route is difficult, at best, to remember. This blogger has done the hike three times and would still feel uncomfortable leading a group to the peak! However, someone has recently made an attempt in the higher regions of the climb to place cairns in strategic locations to guide those attempting to find their way. Above, you can see two of the creative cairns.

The weather was okay. There was a cold wind until we got to the top of the rock. Then the warmth was allowed to come in. The sky was cloudy, but this only increased the perceived color of the surrounding landscape.

On reaching the peak, the group sat for a while to take in the tremendous view and have a middle morning snack. Conversation centered around anything and everything. Peering down from our perch, we noticed a tank we had not visited before. Perhaps it doesn't usually have water in it. This time it did and so did many other tanks in the area. So, we decided to see if we could reach the "new" tank on our "tour of tanks" on the way down.

Various methods are used in going down off of some of these steep rock mountain sides! The picture above demonstrates a few different ones. This blogger is often comforted knowing that she is BEHIND the camera. Her style is probably not quite so dainty as Caroline's! Any method that gets you up or down safely is an acceptable one. (And, Chris is always there to lend a helping hand.)

We found an easy way to hike over to the "new" tank and were rewarded with this view looking back at Red Cap where we had been seated moments before.

From the "new" tank, we climbed up to one of our regular tanks arriving from the backside of the tank. Here, the next two pictures were taken.

After, backtracking 100 yards to view an enclosed tank, we traipsed through the large empty tank below and headed down the mountain using a route near, but not next to, Mass Production Wall. (This wall mass produces bowling ball size boulders which cover the ground next to the bottom of the wall.) We hiked out by way of the Calico Tanks trail which we intersected at the bottom of the mountain.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Badger Pass Trail - 03/07/09

Twenty-four hikers decided to brave the early morning cold wind to hike Badger Pass which is located in the Cottonwood Valley section of Red Rock across Hwy 160 on the way up to the mountain pass.

Coming in at under 3 miles and with only around 450 feet of elevation gain, the Badger Pass Trail is quite tame as it offers beautiful large views of the surrounding landscape filled with joshua trees and desert yuccas. Used mainly as a bike path, the trail has several turnoffs at different points. We hung a sharp right just after beginning the trail off of the parking lot.

This part of the trail takes the hiker up and over a small hill gaining around 450 feet in elevation. After reaching the other side of the hill, the trail ends at another cross trail. Here, we took another right which took us down the hill using switchbacks. At the bottom, we arrived at the Dead Man's Loop Trail. (Where do they get these names?) Turning right at Dead Man's Loop took us back to the parking lot.

The weather ended very pleasant with the wind dying down about halfway through the hike.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ash Canyon / Gateway Canyon - 3/3/09

On this Tuesday, twenty-four hikers came out to join Chris for a Red Rock hike up Ash Canyon, a rather formidable canyon, I might add.

We met at the Red Springs parking lot and began our hike as if heading toward the Red Springs climb. Nearing the climb, we veered off to the right and headed to Ash Canyon, the next canyon climb. After reaching the end of the trail proper, we began bouldering. For those hikers unfamiliar with "bouldering," the upcoming climb provided a quick class in Bouldering 101 (and 102 and 103).

Because many of the hikers were seasoned Red Rock hikers, the group became very spread out at a couple of points during the hike. (It's tough to herd cats sometimes!) At any rate, many people chose the climb that they wanted to do and Ash Canyon cooperated in providing many options.

Nearing the top of the canyon, the wind kicked up like gangbusters. At times, it was difficult to stand, much less climb into the wind. Finally reaching the top of the canyon (and, out of breath for a few of us), we were met with this beautiful view of Turtlehead Peak.

Attempting to escape the wind, we again got separated as we hiked down the connector trail to Gateway Canyon. This canyon is one of the most beautiful canyons in Red Rock. There are red rocks, candy-stripe rocks and white rocks accentuated by the gray limestone gravel floor of the wash.

The rock formations on either side of the canyon were rounded and towering about 100 feet above the floor.

The obstacles that Gateway Canyon provided were as challenging as the Ash Canyon obstacles except for one thing, gravity was now on our side. The sitting and sliding method became useful a few times. I was assured that Gateway changes its obstacles every year. This was backed up by visual evidence of powerful water drainage showing 10 to 20 feet up on the canyon walls.

After exiting Gateway Canyon, we followed the trail back to the cars. Again, we became separated and two different trails were taken. Along this portion of the hike, one hiker spotted this small desert tortoise. There was some speculation that the poor thing might be dead.

It was a beautiful day ... just a little windy. Krafft Mtn. was showing its colors. The hike totaled around 7 miles with 900 feet in elevation gain.