Thursday, November 30, 2017

Conglomerate Gardens Loop - 11/29/17


More Gardens

Wilson Cliffs in the Sunrise

Warming up on the Climb
Located in the North Blue Diamond Hills of Red Rock Canyon NCA, the Conglomerate Gardens Loop was named for the abundance of large dark colored conglomerate boulders and beautiful old growth desert foliage found along the winding wiggly trail created and maintained by bikers of Las Vegas. The loop begins at the Cowboy Trails Trailhead one mile south of the entrance to the Red Rock Scenic Loop. It makes use of 4 named bike trails that include the Bunny Trail, Cat in the Hat, Over the Moon and, the pièce de résistance, Kibbles 'n' Bits.

Be verwy, verwy quiet.
Twelve hikers set out to climb the first three segments of the trail. This amounts to 2 of the 6.4 miles of the loop.

Arriving at the Kibbles 'n' Bits Turnoff

The Wiggles Begin
It was a beautiful morning; a little chilly to start but much warmer as the sun strengthened. We had chosen the trail that leads to the far right (but not into the wash) after passing under the ranch gate. Views of the Calico Hills and the Wilson Cliffs were outstanding as we climbed higher over the ridges. This trail showed signs of a lot of horse ride usage. With every choice of trail in the form of a fork, we chose the right fork. The first right fork put us on the Cat in the Hat Trail.

Fossils on a passing Wall
The second right fork put us on the Over the Moon Trail. The third right fork led us to the transition onto the Kibble 'n' Bits Trails.

Trail through Desert Garden
This last transition is not real clear. Suffice it to say, you find a trail that turns down to the right before you reach the overturned soil of the mining property. This is where the route began its 4 mile descent and the pace picked up slightly.

Conglomerate Field

We kept our eyes peeled to follow the trail in its many wiggles but it is well-marked with bright white gypsum rock cairns and rock-lined paths. There are many times when the trail follows the tops of rock underfoot. These places are marked with the lined rocks sometimes. We passed the multiple seabed fossils in a rock wall just past a corner wiggle. Then the trail made a short climb up to reach a wonderful area of conglomerate and cacti. This is where we had our break.

View from the Snack Break Area
Among the rocks here, someone has placed a "family" of stuffed Winnie the Pooh animals. Recently, a buddha has been added! Hmm. (Pooh - Buddha, Pooh - Buddha) I don't get it.

Taking a Break
Today's hikers were a great group of friends. We tried to stick to the "slower than moderate pace" but it sneaked up to moderate a few times on the way down.

More Wiggles with a La Madre Range Backdrop

More Conglomerate
Regardless of the pace changes, everyone seemed to be happy with a few water stops and points of interests. Conglomerate Gardens Loop is a really pretty section of the North Blue Diamond Hills that backs up to the gypsum mine property. Even though the ugliness of the mine property can be seen for most of the descent, there are plenty of other places to look that are much more pleasant. On a previous hike, we even saw a large mule deer here. But, not today. Only bunnies!
Nice Trail Design
Yes, we saw one lizard. The lizards must be hiding wherever they can find warmth right now.

Crossing a busy Wash

Almost down in Elevation
After most of the wiggles were done, we began the hike back to the cars. This is a beautiful section of trail, too, except for the area where there are a lot of old mining exploratory digs. We finally hiked back into trailhead using that trail that goes into the wash for a short way. On our return, Jackson, the burro, heehawed a long greeting! Great morning!

6.4 miles; 1000 feet elevation gain; 3.25 hours

Calico Hills in View Again

Nice Cairn

One last Wiggle before the Finish

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Mountain Springs Loop - 11/25/17

Springs above Mountains Springs

Mountain Springs House from Trail Above

Tree on HCV Dirt Road

Sharing the Shade
 In the spring of 1844, the expedition of John C. Fremont discovered the shortcut route of the Fremont Cutoff, between Resting Springs and the Virgin River. Mountain Springs Summit was the mountain pass taken by this route over the Spring Mountains between the Pahrump Valley and the Las Vegas Springs in the Las Vegas Valley on the Old Spanish Trail. After 1848 it was followed by wagon trains on the Mormon Road, traveling between southern California and Salt Lake City, Utah. The summit was named for the nearby mountain springs, a watering place and a camping location at the top of the pass at the springs. ~ Wikipedia   (Resting Springs is the name of the springs in Tecopa, Calfornia.)

Crossing a Deep Wash
 Thirteen hikers drove up to the trailhead located on Mountain Springs Pass after a brief pit stop at the Late Night Trailhead.

"Ugly Betty" Agave Roasting Pit
 We hiked up the road/trail and turned left onto a shortcut trail. This took us over to another high clearance vehicle dirt road that led us on a journey through a maze of dirt roads.

Leaving a Pristine Agave Roasting Pit

Tree and Cactus on Mountain Springs Trail
 We avoided a previous snafu of a deep wash crossing by taking a different road and, this time, we found that Early Native American agave roasting pit on the left side. It was not in very good condition but it was the first of five ARPs that we would pass this morning. Back on the road we dipped around and passed the best ARP that is still pristine without any large plants in its middle. We had begun seeing a lot of different animal tracks in the dirt. The most prevalent was elk and we saw their evidence throughout our hike. We also saw fox, mountain lion and deer tracks. This area must be very active in the middle of the night and early morning. We curved around and found a very small trail that turns to the right.

Trail to Wash Junction
 This is also a shortcut trail and it ends at the southern end of the Mountain Springs Trail that travels along the back foothills of the escarpment of Red Rock Canyon NCA and the Rainbow Wilderness.

Hiking down the Wash
 This is a good trail to follow and is kept up by horses and riders out of Mountain Springs, Nevada. We followed it to a large flat wash just before the trail takes a turn up in elevation.

Trail Marker near bottom of Wash on Left

View from Snack Rock
 The gravel wash led us down easily and, not far before we reached the Rainbow Springs Road, we turned left onto a small trail marked with the sign seen in the photo above. This is a very vague trail but we were able to follow it. (The elk went thisaway!) Soon, we saw a large limestone outcropping rising on top of the hill to our left. We climbed the hill to take our break on the rock. There was a nice view from the top and we basked in the warm sun. Returning to the trail, we continued to follow it and found the old truck wreck at one of the springs. The spring was flowing pretty good. From there, we used the trail to pass the rock outcropping with a large cave and on to the Rainbow Springs Road junction.

Taking a Break on Snack Rock
 Turning left on the dirt road takes you up and around the top of the small mountain community where most of the springs are located. There are also a couple of trailheads up there.

Passing the Old Truck Wreck
 Fall is a pretty time to visit Mountain Springs, Nevada as you can see in the photo below.

Mountain Springs from Trail

Spring with Elk Wallow
We passed the springs then turned left where the community has placed large boulders across the road to keep off-roaders from driving near the third ARP. Dropping down past this and curving around the corner, we passed two more ARPs. From there, the route headed straight back toward the cars on a trail. We passed a ranch with two miniature horses behind the fence. It was a beautiful day with warm temperatures for this Thanksgiving weekend.

3.5 miles; 500 feet elevation gain; 2.25 hours

Third Agave Roasting Pit

Hiking the Trail back to the Cars

Miniature Horse

Friday, November 24, 2017

Calico Hills Loop CW - 11/24/17

Sunrise at Red Spring (Red Rock Canyon NCA)

Colorful Calico Hills

Diving into Gateway Canyon

Top of Red Spring Hill
 Calico Hills Loop is a moderately strenuous hike in the Red Rock Canyon NCA. However, today, eight hikers accomplished this hike at a strenuous pace that averaged 2.5 mph. The hike begins at the Red Spring trailhead and parking lot and may proceed in either a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction. Our hike headed up and over the Red Spring hill to encircle the Calico Hills in a clockwise direction. The hill woke us up and we were "off." This first section of the route may be hiked in three different ways. One way is to climb the other side of the wash and continue along a trail along the ridge. The second way is to drop down to the wash and scramble up the wash all the way to Calico I turnout.

Circling the South End of Calico Hills
 Our way, the third route, is to drop down on the trail that passes the petroglyphs and continue on this trail that parallels the Calico Wash all the way to Calico I.

Between Calico I and Calico II on the Grand Circle
 This trail is challenging since it has several steep hills to tackle. The last difficult hill climbs up to the Calico I Overlook.

Between Calico II and Sandstone Quarry on the Grand Circle

Turtlehead Peak from Sandstone Quarry
 The next section travels from Calico I to Sandstone Quarry passing below Calico II. This was a welcome rest since much of the trail (Grand Circle Loop) from Calico I to II is flattish. We dropped into the wash to go through the Calico II area then returned to the trail. We started ascending on trail and sandstone but the colorful view distracted us from the blistering pace. (What the heck. Maybe we needed a good workout on the day after Thanksgiving!) Finally, after only about five short pauses, we waltzed (a fast waltz) into Sandstone Quarry. Here, we stopped at the restrooms for a small break. It was a gorgeous day with warm temperatures. Unbelievable!

Red Slot on Rattlesnake Trail
 After our restroom break, we continued out the Calico Tanks Trail until we came to the Rattlesnake Trail junction. This is a wash turn to the left that is blocked off with small rocks. Just step over them.

Rattlesnake Trail in the Northern Calico Hills
 The Rattlesnake Trail is a beautiful trail that takes hikers from Sandstone Quarry (or the Turtlehead Trail if you go out further) to Gateway Canyon by way of skirting the northern Calico Hills. Our high point was during this segment at the base of Red Cap.

Snack Break with a View

Rattlesnake Trail and Dragon Peak
Before we reached the high point, we stopped for our snack break among the beautiful cream colored sandstone with views of the Wilson Cliffs in the distance. The low sunlight of an approaching winter solstice played softly on the cracks and crevices, peaks and valleys of the sandstone. We rejoined the Rattlesnake Trail, hiked over the high point then headed down to junction with Gateway Canyon. This segment is very familiar to all of us since we use this thoroughfare often for many different hikes. The fast pace continued and we each chose our own path down the wash. Some of us took the trail on the right or left and one of us scrambled straight down the middle.

Leaving Red Cap Base
 At Gateway Canyon, we turned to the right and very soon came to the only dryfall on the hike today. The limestone waterslide is deeper than ever since September's rains washed it out a bit.

Rattlesnake Trail to Gateway Canyon
 It isn't too difficult to negotiate with hand and foot holds. Someone has built up a rock pile at the bottom ... probably more for going up the dryfall than for going down it.

Limestone Waterslide

Color in Middle Gateway Canyon
 After this obstacle, there is one or two other smaller obstacles in the limestone before it is clear sailing down the gravel. Note that limestone gets much more slick than sandstone when water flows over it. Don't get the two mixed up when you are hiking! You will end up on your .... So, as we hiked down the gravel, the canyon started becoming more colorful with the addition of fall colored foliage and the redstone that peeks out around the corner. At the large cairn in the middle of the wash, we turned right onto a trail. This is actually the continuation of the Rattlesnake Trail but it is used primarily for the Kraft Mountain Loop. We climbed up and up until we reached the Kraft Saddle.

Trail to Kraft Saddle and Lower Gateway Canyon
 Finally, we began seeing a lot of holiday recreational hikers out and about. It takes a while for the visitors to get breakfast at the hotel and drive out to the park. It's unfortunate since some of the best light at Red Rock is in the early morning hours.

Kraft Saddle
 We also passed people we knew. It was a great day to be on the trails!

Down 5 Stop Hill

Following Trail back to Red Spring
Down 5 Stop Hill, and we were on the home stretch. From here, the route follows an almost straight line as it curves past Ash Meadow and the old home foundation with the zen circles. Our trail passed the trails heading to the base of Angel Pass and went through the old picnic area that seems to never be used anymore. From here, we joined the melee! Visitors everywhere!! Everyone sported a smile or an expression of curiosity. The kids were excited and there were several other hikers and climbers like us who were simply trying to navigate in a friendly way! Phew! What a workout! 😛

8 miles; 1700 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours

Passing Ash Meadow

Autumn Color and Angel Pass in Distance

Circling the Southern Calico Hills