Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Two North Peaks - 11/29/11

North Peak (Limestone) from the approach trail.

North Peak (Sandstone) from the ridge trail between North Peak (Limestone) and North Peak (Sandstone).

Calling all "hardy" hikers! This eleven mile hike with at least 2700 feet of elevation gain, a long arduous ascent on a dirt road and a very steep descent which lasts longer than one would like is a hike that tests the knees, hips, arms, feet and stamina of even your average strong hiker. It is a hike that fifteen hikers conquered today beginning in the early hours at Willow Springs Picnic Area parking off of the Scenic Loop at Red Rock Canyon NCA. We watched the sun hit the mountains in front of us as we hiked Rocky Gap Road in the shade for half of the way. The last half of the 4.6 miles up to Red Rock Summit were in the sun but we were all very comfortable as we had dressed for the warmer temperatures that were expected during the day.

We stayed together throughout the hike even though a bit strung out and at the North Peak (Limestone) trailhead, we gathered again for the last climb up to the peak. We were taking no prisoners as the saying goes. There were not many stops on the way but the "hardy" hikers of Around the Bend Friends persevered and again the party of fifteen became slightly separated. No worries. We gathered again at the peak for our official snack break. So far, the hike seemed like a regular climb that many of us had done before. Now, things got interesting!

View of Red Rock Canyon and Las Vegas from North Peak (Limestone).

Short scramble off of the limestone peak to begin the ridge trail hike.

We chose to step off the edge of the high peak and meet the trail that would take us to North Peak (Sand- stone). After a little more steep descent, we settled into a rolling descent on the crest of the ridge that separates the two North Peaks. Views on both sides of us were never ending. We were very high above the Red Rock escarpment.

The limestone crags and outcrop- pings along the ridge showed us the way. The entire ridge trail was among the limestone and we only found the sandstone when we made our approach to Dragon Rock, a rock in the shape of a dragon's head ... with a little imagination. Passing another hiking group and a lone hiker who we knew, we made our way quickly over to the peak. This required stepping from sandstone rock to sandstone rock and up to a slanted seating area which easily accommodated our large group. Here, we took another break before the descent began.

The sandstone approach to North Peak (Sandstone).

View of Calico Hills and Las Vegas from North Peak (Sandstone).

Next came the descent back down to Rocky Gap Road ... definitely the most difficult section of the hike. First, we hiked back over the approach to connect with the sandstone slab which leads down a ridge and connects, in turn, with a small trail in limestone forest land covered with the regular junipers and pinion pines with a yucca here and there. The sandstone slab was extremely steep and our concentration was awakened in full gear.

After we reached the limestone portion of the descent trail, our concen- tration had to step it up another notch as this was very slippery with loose rock and not much to hold onto. There were at least five falls on this part of the hike. None were serious; simply part of the sport. Nevertheless, sore butts ensued and, finally, we reached the dirt road 2.5 miles up from the cars.

We hiked the road as quickly as our legs would take us and took inventory of our sore muscles.

At almost 2pm, the sun was already showing us evening light on the White Rock Hills. The hike took six hours.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tight-rope Walker at Angel Pass - 11/28/11

As ten hikers descended from the saddle and passed the angel carving on the Red Springs Loop, Ed looked up and said, rather insistently (!), "Look!" About fifty feet above the floor of the canyon that we were hiking was a guy on a tight-rope!

Yep! Honest to goodness! A man on a tight-rope! Don't know the story but there he was!

That's something you don't see on every hike, huh?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Krafft Mountain Loop - 11/26/11

It was an absolutely gorgeous day here in Las Vegas this Saturday after the Thanks- giving holiday. Clear, warm and with very little wind, many people were about within the open air art gallery that we call Red Rock Canyon NCA. The Around the Bend Friends held their own in numbers as thirty- two hikers came out for a partial loop hike beginning in the Red Springs Picnic Area parking lot of Calico Basin.

The long line of hikers quickly hiked past the Calico Hills, the old filled in foundation, across Ash Creek and up to the base of what some people call "5 Stop Hill." This was where we did most of our elevation gain. The trail climbed up to the saddle next to Krafft Mountain. The thirty- two hikers were of different levels so whether a hiker took zero or five stops to make it up the hill, we were all waiting for the last hiker at the top.

After we claimed the hill and took a break, we started hiking down the other side to drop down into lower Gateway Canyon. We took the first trail to the right which is a shorter approach and found ourselves amidst candy cane colored sandstone ... our own personal "wave." We scrambled down to a small chute that emptied into the canyon. The first photo shows the design of the sandstone chute. To the left, Helmut demonstrates a technique of descent. We enjoyed the challenge and waited at the bottom for the last hiker to find their way down. Here, the view up canyon was dominated by Turtlehead Peak.

The walls of Gateway Canyon are red and white. Sometimes they are striped and sometimes they are polka dotted but they are always unique. Some people call this "Candy Cane Canyon." At any rate, the scrambling continued down among the small boulders and gravel floor.

Soon, the boulders became larger and there were two obstacles that any hiker needs to get by. There are options, however, the most popular options include climbing down off of huge sandstone rocks by use of nature's provided steps. At this point, whoever was leading the line of hikers (and it wasn't the assigned coordinator) started getting too far ahead and the faster and slower hikers began to separate quite a bit. Never fear, the coordinator was near the back sweeping the stragglers and we all regathered at the thirty foot waterfall overlook.

The trail had turned right out of the wash because if one stayed in the wash, they would come to that waterfall with no way down! It was here under a very large boulder that we ate a snack. When we set off again, the coordinator regained the lead and we followed him quickly back to the Ash Creek crossing. It was here that we realized that the end of the line was, again, no where in sight.

We waited for a few minutes then someone looked up and saw that they had taken a shorter route and were now ahead of us. Okay, whatever! So, we returned back to the cars in pieces hiking by the Calico Hills. And, you know what? We had a really great hike!

Friday, November 25, 2011

North Blue Diamond Ridges Photo Essay - 11/24/11 - Thanksgiving Day

The North Blue Diamond Ridges are located across Highway 159 from the Red Rock Canyon NCA Visitors' Center.

Trails begin after walking past the horse corrals where trail rides are offered. We call this photo "Bridle Bouquet."

Today thirteen hikers began their hike by climbing Boneshaker Hill.

Views of the escarpment and Calico Hills were wide open behind us from the steep hill.

The first part of the climb was the steepest. Then the hill, divided in about four parts, became more and more gradual.

We watched the morning sun hit Turtlehead Peak.

We hiked up and into that morning sun.

Finally, at the junction of the ridges cross trail, we found the Boneshaker sign ... dilapidated.

The ridges cross trail led in, out and around the tops of the canyons. We passed many cyclists and family hikers. We also saw two separate trail rides in progress.

This middle section of the hike was, perhaps the most beautiful as we enjoyed and were thankful for the fascinating desert.

When we reached the southernmost side of the ridges, we turned right to begin our descent down Fossil Ridge. This ridge is edged with dark colored caliche stone.

Our six mile hike, sans break, lasted only 2.5 hours. Now, bring on the turkey!