Saturday, March 30, 2013

Conglomerate Gardens - 3/30/13

                     Blooming Mojave Yucca in Front of the Calico Hills

                                          Terraced Natural Garden

 Today's early Saturday hike was a desert loop called Conglomerate Gardens which was attended by sixteen hikers. Located in the North Blue Diamond Hills of Red Rock Canyon NCA, the trail was adorned with blooming mojave yuccas and yucca brevia (aka Joshua Trees). Also abundantly seen among the rocks were Engelmann Hedgehog Cacti, Prickly Pear Opuntia, Red Barrel Ferocactus, and Jumping Cholla (another opuntia).

                   Engelmann Hedgehog Cacti in Front of Opuntia Cacti

                       Samples of Flora on the North Blue Diamond Hills

 The hike travels uphill for two miles then begins a very windy route downhill of more than four miles. It winds through and among a large outcropping of conglomerate rock formations for which we named the trail. It was originally a bicycle trail that bike enthusiasts still call "Kibbles 'n' Bits." Several fossils are seen on the trail. One wall in particular is covered with them.

                                  Some of the Many Fossils on the Trail

                                              Conglomerate Rock

 We took our break on large conglomerate rocks and one very large ledge that two hikers were sitting on actually broke off of the main. No one got hurt but there was quite a squeal! From there we winded our way back to the cars while we watched stormy weather come in from the southwest over the Spring Mountains. Nice hike with 996 feet total gain in elevation over 6 miles.

                           Weather Building Up in the Spring Mountains

                                                   Heading Home

Friday, March 29, 2013

Angel Pass to Red Springs Peak Loop - 3/29/13

                               View North on the Southern Calico Hills

                                        The Guardian Angel Carving

 It was Jim's turn to coordinate the Friday hike today as thirteen then eleven club members followed along. We began our hike at the Red Springs Picnic Area Boardwalk in Red Rock Canyon NCA by hiking past a cute couple who had laid out a table and chairs and were happily munching a breakfast of cereal right there on the trail. Around the base of the southern section of the Calcio Hills, we hiked. Near the bottom of the Angel Pass climb, we came across a lady who was taking her two pet goats out for a morning stroll. Can a hike begin any more interestingly than this?

                                             Daphnie, the Pet Goat

 So, we began the climb up to Angel Pass with energy but as is usually the case, we got quite separated and reached the top one by one. It was a beautiful morning and we were already getting warm in the sun. Occasionally, there was a slight breeze that cooled us off. Scrambling down the other side of the pass, we found the angel carving taking several different trails. Two hikers got behind a bit and decided that they would escape the hike at Calico II which was coming up. Yep. This hike is a tough scramble from beginning to end.

                                Forget-Me-Nots at the Top of Angel Pass

We climbed up over the large rock area and dropped back onto the trail that leads up to Calico II. Jim showed us a rock "throne" where we took turns posing for photos as seen below. After the queen photos, Jim posed on the throne with a roll of toilet paper while reading a newspaper. That photo didn't make the blog!

                                           Queen Jan and Her Men

 Here, we dropped into the wash below then hiked out along the regular route taken on the hill above the washes. This is a nice trail that takes the hiker away from the crowded Grand Circle Trail that is closer to the scenic loop drive. Climbing down into the wash again at Calico I, we hiked down to the slot seen in the photo below and climbed over the obstacle at the end.

                                                 The Calico I Slot

 Just before we would drop into the wash again, we turned our attention to an uphill climb that would eventually take us up to the top of the Calico Hills above us. But, before we did that, we took our snack break in the shade. It was a beautiful place that few of us had ever seen.

                                   Diane Takes a Break in the Shade

 The small canyon or chute that we used for the climb to the top of the hills began with a slither through a colorfully decorated partial tunnel as seen in the photo below. It is nicknamed "The Red Rock Wave." From there, we saw a seemingly brush filled canyon that opened up into a nice scramble after we climbed up to the right side of it. The scramble went steeply up, however, all the obstacles were easily overcome.

                                               The Calico I Wave

With Jim leading the way, we climbed the sandstone for a while. We climbed with determination and sticky shoes! We made one or two dog leg turns to the right and came to a clearing. Still not at the top, we continued climbing until we were at the high point of our hike which we called Red Springs Peak.

                                                A Little Exposure

 On Red Springs Peak, we enjoyed the tremendous views around us and picked out our cars in the parking lot way below us. On the other side of the peak, we could see the hustle and bustle of the Red Rock Scenic Loop at Calico I on this Spring Break holiday of Good Friday. The first photo in the entry was made as we hiked south across the hills to their southern edge.

                                       Scramble Down the South Side

 We found a couple of landmarks that Jim went by (Helen's Tree and the triangular rabbit hole) then proceeded to start dropping at a very steep rate. The scramble down was precarious at times but, again, met with determination by the remaining eleven hikers. On our way down, we met up with a chuckwalla who lives on this side of the hills. Although one or two hikers have seen him before, he or she is now on record with a close-up photo seen below. The hike finally came to the bottom of the descent at the Red Springs Boardwalk where we hiked backed to the cars along the fence.

Totals for this hike were as follows:
- Just under 4 miles
- 1302 feet in elevation gain
- Just under 4 hours

                                      Chuckwalla Finally on Record

                         Finishing the Hike at the Red Springs Boardwalk

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Windy Peak - 3/28/13

                               Wilson Peak Framed by Windy Peak Tree

                                                    Flora Collage

 One of our standard Thursday hikes that is usually done twice each year is Windy Peak from the Mountain Spring trailhead. Eighteen hikers participated today on a very pleasant hike of five miles in three hours with 1712 feet of total elevation gain. The one mile climb that starts the hike seems to get shorter with each passing year! Without anyone provoking a race, we reached the Hollow Rock Peak trail junction in good time anyway.

                                     View From Trail to Northwest

                                    Descending to Windy Peak Bridge

Opting for a small detour, the group passed the second junction for Mountain Spring Peak without making the necessary right turn. In a few yards, we turned right and bushwacked up the hill peaking out on today's highpoint. From there, we dropped back to the trail and proceeded to cross the land bridge (seen in the photo to the left) to the sandstone peak which lies between Hollow Rock Peak and Black Velvet Peak of the southern part of the Red Rock Canyon NCA escarpment.

                                Escarpment Limestone / Sandstone Line

                                 Descending the Last of the Limestone

 As a group, we hiked along the bridge noting the limestone / sandstone line to our left. This is evidence of the older encroaching limestone that strives to cover the younger sandstone of the Keystone Thrust area. Still having some of the sandstone to "play" on, we crossed up onto the pink rock and scrambled over to the peak. Here, we enjoyed the fantastic weather, wrote in the book and explored out to the tip of the Windy Peak point. To our left, we saw the high point of the escarpment, Wilson Peak and, to the right of us, Mt. Potosi rose up across the way.

                 Eighteen Hikers Enjoying the Perfect Weather on Windy Peak

                                  View of Wilson Peak from Windy Peak

 Reluctantly, we gathered ourselves and began the return. Across the sandstone, up onto the limestone bridge and down the usual trail to the Hollow Rock Peak junction. Here, three hikers opted to descend on the ridge route and the rest of us chose to go back the way we came. We both reached the cars at around the same time and everyone except five celebrated with the required trip to the Mountain Springs Saloon, a bikers' bar which is "world famous!"

                                Dropping Off of the Sandstone Stretch

                     One of Three Hikers Who Opted for the Ridge Descent