Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Potato Knoll - 3/30/10

Seventeen people hiked Potato Knoll on Tuesday with Chris on a very windy day. Originally, the hike was supposed to be to Mountain Spring Peak, however, the hike was changed due to the incoming stronger winds in the middle of the day. The Potato Knoll hike is about 5.3 miles with around 500 feet of elevation gain with the climb to the top of the knoll. Kay Komuro gave us these pictures of the hike.

Bandanas were a popular fashion item for this hike. They were used to protect the respiratory system from the dust carried by the desert winds. (They were also useful to play cowboys and bandits.)

The highlight of the hike was the surprise spotting of a small herd of mule deer at the base of the knoll. As soon as they got a whiff of us, they headed up the side of the hill moving as lithely as big horn sheep.

As an aside, one tick was found climbing on the leg of a hiker at the top of the knoll.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Grapevine Springs - 3/27/10

The hike to Grapevine Springs, today, included thirty-four hikers, wonderful weather, 5.3 miles, two springs, many petroglyphs and views out-the-wazoo! We began at the new paved parking lot on Highway 160 that serves Cottonwood Valley, the immense area of beautiful desert at the base of the Red Rock escarpment south of Spring Mountain Ranch and Bonnie Springs.

We headed toward Windy Peak on a trail that held little elevation change. When we arrived at Grapevine Springs at the base of Windy Peak, we saw that it is protected by a wooden fence as the water is needed for the local wildlife to survive. The landscape around the springs is lush desert flora which glistened in the morning sun among large dark-colored boulders. It is a peaceful place.

From Grapevine Springs, we continued in the direction of Mud Springs which is also at the base of Windy Peak. We passed by a water trough, filled to the brim with water by a black rubber hose from Mud Springs. Not far from here, we entered into a boulder field filled with petroglyphs. As we took our break, several of us ran around looking for different petroglyphs as if we were on a treasure hunt.

The carvings appeared as if they were from different eras or, at least, different artists. Sometimes the big horn sheep were simple stick figures. Other times, they were fat with actual bodies. Some of the carvings were similar to ones we saw at Gold Butte. Some, well, we had never seen before. Again, the natives had a lot to say.

After our break, we returned by Mud Springs and stopped to get a good look. It was also surrounded by a wooden fence and the grass surrounding the spring was long and full. There was a very large trough within the fenced area that was empty. Perhaps, it was once used for wildlife ... before the aforementioned trough was placed in the area.

In the immediate area of Mud Springs, there were more petroglyphs. These carvings seemed to be the most recent as they depicted men in sombreros and wooden wagons. Cottonwood Valley holds the remnants of the old Spanish Trail which came through here as late as the early 1900's. We left the spring and took a more direct trail back to the starting point as Mt. Potosi watched from a distance.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Juniper Canyon - 3/25/10

It was a dim and windy day. A light layer of clouds covered the sky and wind gusted strongly from time to time. Fourteen hikers gathered trying to lighten the mood of the atmosphere with jokes and laughter. Friends. We parked at the Pine Creek parking area and headed toward the old Wilson homestead. Passing the foundation in short time, we crossed the heavily flowing Pine Creek and connected with the Arnight Trail.

The Arnight Trail took us up and around the escarpment until we neared the opening of Juniper Canyon, perhaps the steepest canyon of the escarpment of Red Rock Canyon. We took a right and followed the Juniper Canyon approach trail upwards. Juniper Canyon loomed in front of us.

The plants that we passed showed that spring is here, even though the day's weather was not letting us in on the secret. The chollas we couldn't help but brush past were huge and very healthy. The manzanita bushes were blooming with a sea of small white flowers. And, little tiny leaf buds could be seen on brush that had gone dormant for the winter. It's going to be a beautiful spring.

Soon, we were climbing Juniper Canyon's very steep wash filled with giant boulders. We tackled some pretty difficult scrambles. After the giant boulders came a very steep and slippery dirt trail, the reason we all brought hiking sticks. Looking back, we could see that we had already climbed quite a bit of elevation.

After the dirt trail, we entered into another section of boulder field with smaller rocks. It resembled a rock slide or avalanche from the towering walls above. At this point, Rainbow Wall could be seen in all its glory. It is a concave wall of luminescent colors which rises approximately 1000 feet above the top of the wash. Although it is a rock climbers dream, there were no rock climbers on this wall today.

Rainbow Wall.

Next, we "boarded" the sandstone slab which Juniper Canyon is famous for. The slab reaches all the way up to the base of the vertical walls at around a 45 degree angle. We climbed up the sandstone and sat for a snack in the wind shelter of some rocks. The view was tremendous.

Last, we left our perch and began the long climb back down to civilization. The total distance of the hike was almost 5 miles.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Keystone Thrust - 3/20/10

The Keystone Thrust hike is normally 2 miles in length. However, today we made the hike a 3.4 mile loop and began the hike at the Red Rock Scenic Loop at mile marker six (White Rock Springs Road). After hiking up the road, thirty-two hikers took to the trail and hung a right at the hill of wooden steps. Reaching the saddle, we hung another right and climbed Cactus Hill as a bonus for the day.

Cactus Hill is a great overlook for the Red Rock Canyon floor. We could see where we would be hiking this morning as seen in the photo below. There was also a good overhead view of part of the Keystone Thrust. The latter is seen in the photo at the top. We took a small break here because the climb was tough and this was the highest point of the morning.

We hiked back down the hill the same way we came up and continued to the colorful Keystone Thrust area below. We sat among the sandstone rocks for a nice snack break.

The U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Manage- ment website ( gives us the following information on Red Rock's Keystone Thrust. "The most significant geologic feature of Red Rock Canyon NCA is the Keystone Thrust Fault. The Keystone Thrust is part of a large system of thrust faults that extends north, into Canada and began to develop approximately 65 million years ago. A thrust fault is a fracture in the earth's crust that is the result of compressional forces that drive one crustal plate over the top of another."

"This results in the oldest rocks on the bottom of the upper plate resting directly above the youngest rocks of the lower plate. At Red Rock Canyon NCA, the gray carbonate rocks of the ancient ocean have been thrust over the tan and red sandstone in one of the most dramatic and easily identified thrust faults to be found. The Keystone Thrust Fault extends from the Cottonwood Fault along State Route 160 north for 13 miles along the crest of the Red Rock escarpment. It then curves east along the base of La Madre Mountain before it is obscured by very complex faulting north of the Calico Hills."

Another interesting tidbit about the Keystone Thrust is the succulent which grows beneath the rock overhang. It is possible that it is of the dudleya family of succulents. If you have any information on this plant seen two photos above, please comment below. Later into the hike, we came upon this caterpillar tent seen to the left. This is another sure sign of spring.

After our break, we dropped down into the wash below which begins at the bottom of a dry waterfall about thirty to forty feet high. The wash travels over the red and white sandstone making pools and potholes and creating miniature slot canyons. In the distant background, you could see the escarpment peeking out from behind the adjacent Cactus Hill.

Abruptly exiting the beautiful sandstone, the wash continues down through limestone and brush. There was a trail that lead around some of the more brushy spots. Another ten foot dry waterfall provided some excitement and soon, we came to the wash's intersection with the scenic loop.

We ducked our heads and hiked through the culvert built under the road and continued until the wash intersected with the Grand Circle Trail. The Grand Circle Trail is a twelve mile trail which encircles the Red Rock Canyon floor. After making one last turn to the right, we hiked on this trail for only around half of a mile. This final half mile brought us back up to the road where we had parked our cars earlier. Even though this hike was only 3.4 miles, it was enjoyed by all who participated.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Brownstone Canyon Loop - 3/18/10

The Brownstone Canyon Loop is a 7.3 mile loop trail which begins and ends at the Sandstone Quarry off of the Red Rock Scenic Loop. The trail climbs 1700 feet in elevation with highlights of pictographs within Brownstone Canyon. Nineteen hikers embarked on this hike with a beginning matching that of the Gray Cap hike last week.

We hiked around the base of Red Cap and down through the Krafft Mountain wash to intersect with Gateway Canyon. Sailing up through Gateway Canyon, we enjoyed finding different ways to conquer the high dry waterfalls within. There was not as much water coming through this canyon as there was last week.

At the top of Gateway Canyon, we turned left into another beautiful wash. Hiking through the red and yellow sandstone outlined by limestone, we encountered crystal clear water draining down waterfalls and settling into pockets. This wash took us up to a sandstone plateau. The yellow sandstone was filled with pastel colors of pink and gold. Views of the surrounding mountains included Red Cap, Gray Cap and Turtlehead Peak.

We traversed the plateau and hiked through and around tanks and cacti. The tanks were filled with water and the cacti were fat with rain. At the end of the plateau, we found ourselves on a steep scramble down as we dropped into Brownstone Canyon, itself.

The pictographs were located in the exact area in which we had dropped down on a sandstone wall. Pictographs are painted pictures made by the natives from long long ago. Unlike the petroglyphs which are pictures carved into the rock, the pictographs are painted on the rock using different dyes which have stood the test of time.

These photos show only some of the pictographs in this location. Mysterious and fantastic, they spark your imagination. We gazed at them and the surrounding open canyon while we took our break short of the halfway mark of our intended loop hike. Down canyon, we saw the haze covered Las Vegas Strip.

After our break, we began a hike up the gravelly wash which is the floor of Brownstone Canyon, an interesting canyon which is far from the primary trails of Red Rock Canyon NCA. Perhaps this is one reason that the pictographs are still in decent shape. Our goal was not to climb over at the Turtlehead saddle but to hike around the small range which includes Turtlehead Peak.

We finally reached the smaller saddle which gated the gravelly wash which led back down to Sandstone Quarry. Although the second part of the hike was not as exciting as the first, it was very interesting to see how the puzzle pieces which are Red Rock Canyon came together.