Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Two North Peaks - 4/30/13

Reason #7 to not try driving Rocky Gap Road!

 Fifteen hikers showed up for a hot hike to the two North Peaks in Red Rock Canyon NCA. One is a limestone peak and one is made of sandstone. The eleven miles of this hike gain a total of 3500 elevation feet.  The hike begins and ends at the Willow Springs Picnic Area parking. From there, the hike follows Rocky Gap Road (aka the Old Potato Road) for five miles up to Red Rock Summit.

View of North Peak (Sandstone) from North Peak (Limestone)

Turning left onto a trail, hikers proceed up to North Peak (Limestone) for their first snack break. After this break, hikers drop down to a trail along the ridge in front of them which will lead to North Peak (Sandstone). Another break is well-deserved, then the trail leads steeply back down to Rocky Gap Road. The hike is completed by hiking back down 2.5 miles of the dirt road.

The Return Down Rocky Gap Road

Monday, April 29, 2013

Fern Canyon - 4/29/13

View Up Canyon Above Waterfall

Trail to Fern Canyon

 Yep! It was a hot one today! With the temperatures climbing into the 90's even at Red Rock Canyon NCA, eleven hikers still arrived for an adventure into Fern Canyon, the north fork of Pine Creek. Determined to not let a few more degrees ruin our fun, we began at the Pine Creek trailhead off of the scenic loop. It was already hot so that the hike across the desert toward the old Wilson house foundation, went quickly. There, we stopped for some water in the shade.

A Pair of Mallards Live in the Canyon

Climbing the Boulders

 We finished the desert traverse and climbed up the hill to approach the canyon wash. With Kay in the lead, we dropped down earlier than usual and found that there are a pair of ducks living in the lower pools of the creek. We began our scrambling early but soon found familiar surroundings. From there, we scrambled from landmark to landmark. Sometimes, the landmarks were difficult to find. Nevertheless, we made our way up the canyon in the heat at a slow pace.

Top of Waterfall at the High Point of the Hike

View Down Canyon from Above Waterfall

 Arriving at the waterfall, we stood staring at a mere trickle sliding down the rock face. A few of us climbed up to the top on the right side of the waterfall and took a few photos. We also found a single tiny frog (seen in the photo to the left) in the pool above. After taking our break and tending to bleeding hikers (gotta watch those head bangers), we began our descent down the wash. The descent went a lot quicker and easier. Gravity is a beautiful thing!

Coming Off of Flat Rock Section

Descending Jacob's Ladder

 With the last rest among the trees near the wash, and then one more rest at the Wilson house shade, we put enough water in our systems to make it all the way up the last hill to our cars. By then, the heat was almost overwhelming as we passed a huge group of elementary school kids on their way in. It was still a great 5 mile hike with around 900 feet in total elevation gain.

Last Shade Before Hike Back Through Desert

Trail Out of Pine Creek Canyon

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hollow Rock Peak - 4/25/13

Hollow Rock Peak from Approach

Michael Relaxing Near the Peak

 The hike to Hollow Rock Peak begins at the Highway 160 mountain pass at Mountain Springs, Nevada. There is trailhead parking at a somewhat hidden north turn just where the highway changes from two lanes going toward Pahrump to one lane. Fourteen hikers arrived here and began climbing the first mile which holds 600 feet of elevation gain. This is often referred to as "Heartbreak Hill." It'll wake you up!

The Group Musters at the Top of Heartbreak Hill

 At the top of the hill, we turned right and continued climbing another 100 feet in elevation to our high point for the day. Following the ridgeline, we went up and down a couple more times with a sandstone view of Windy Peak which lays next door on the escarpment of Red Rock Canyon NCA. The Las Vegas Strip could be seen in the distance through a bit of a haze.
Windy Peak and Grapevine Canyon

 When we hit the limestone / sandstone line, the colors went from gray to red, yellow and purple! Here, there was some scrambling over loose sandstone rock. We were met with two separate down and up climbs that were pretty steep and then we were there at the peak. The peak is topped with a very large rock that can be climbed if you are careful. (The coming down part is a lot harder.) A few of the hikers did just that and, in fact, one hiker had to do it twice because he left his gloves up there the first time!

One of Two Down Scrambles

 After enjoying a relaxing break at the peak, we started back. Just before the limestone line, we turned down to our left and found a trail that led to an old abandoned dirt road. We descended the road and junctioned with the dirt road that parallels the highway and turned right to finish the partial loop hike back at the cars. This hike is just short of six miles and is a very pleasant combination of climbing, hiking and scrambling.

Colorful Rock on the Return

Finishing the Hike on the Dirt Road


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Brownstone Canyon (O & B) - 4/21/13

Pictograph at Brownstone Canyon

View From Above Brownstone Canyon

 Eleven hikers came out on a beautiful and warm day to do an out and back hike to Brownstone Canyon by way of Gateway Canyon. We began at the Calico Basin dirt parking lot and climbed up 5 Stop Hill to reach the Krafft Saddle as seen to the left. After confirming that our hearts were awake, we descended into Gateway Canyon and began our scramble up through the gravel filled wash.

Turtlehead Peak Observing Drop to Gateway Canyon

Turtlehead Peak From Upper Gateway Canyon

 When we passed the Connector Canyon, we were officially in Upper Gateway Canyon. The upper portion of Gateway is made of limestone as opposed to the lower portion colored with red and white sandstone. The dry falls in the upper canyon are fun to climb and we enjoyed our ascent with Turtlehead Peak looming large above us. When we reached the top of the canyon, limestone gave way to red and white sandstone and paths were offered in three directions.

Climbing Wash From the Top of Upper Gateway Canyon

Sandstone Wash Above Gateway Canyon

 We took the path (or route) to the left and climbed up the beautifully colored wash of sandstone. This is a steep climb that brought us out at the top of a yellow sandstone plateau. Enjoying a bit more scrambling, we made our way towards Brownstone Canyon. The drop into Brownstone was a crack wash filled with large boulders. Hanging on with fingernails and toes, we negotiated this drop easily and ended up right beside our lunch spot.

Scrambling Over Sandstone

The Drop to Brownstone Canyon

 On the wall, there was a large grouping of pictographs painted by the ancient peoples up to 1000 years ago. This area is protected and hikers should never touch the writings. Down canyon about a quarter of a mile, there is also a very nice collection of petroglyphs high up on the wall to the south. We enjoyed our snack feeling the ancients' presence plus a couple if ticks. When it was time to go, we decided to find an easier way up the wall to return.

Large Tank Above Brownstone Canyon

Scrambling Back Across Sandstone

 We did find an easier and more fun way back up to the sandstone plateau and worked our way over to a large tank in the area. A few hikers challenged themselves with a precarious descent on the back side of the tank. The return was a pleasant descent down to Gateway and on down to the trail up to Krafft Saddle. As we were climbing up to the saddle, Lettie noticed that there were a pair of eyes watching us from above. We all looked up to the ridge and there was a bighorn sheep staring straight down at us. Cute!

The hike was 6 miles with 2015 feet of total elevation gain.

Climb Up to Krafft Saddle

Someone is Watching!