Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Little Zion (aka The Park) - 10/29/19

View across Little Zion to Arch

Las Vegas from Escarpment Rim

Rainbow Springs

Climbing the Wall
Little Zion (aka The Park) is located just below the Red Rock escarpment rim between Sandstone Peak and Monument Peak. It is unique because the large area consists only of sandstone slab and a few trees. The slab has "hills," washes and dry falls and is bordered by the sandstone bench of Sandstone Peak containing a long arch and another sandstone bench near Monument / Hidden Peaks that creates a beautiful wavy slab wash that sometimes has a trickle of water running down through it. The shortest route to reach the area begins at the Rainbow Springs Trailhead. And, the best way to reach this trailhead is by way of Lovell Canyon Road.

Approach Wash
Fifteen hikers with five high clearance vehicles drove over Mountain Springs Pass (behind a very very very slow double trailer construction semi) and turned right onto Lovell Canyon Road at the trail kiosk. Almost 1 mile down the road, there is a gravel road that turns to the right. This road leads to Rainbow Springs in approximately 3 miles.

Ascent Wash
The gravel road is in good condition but because of the deepish gravel and just a handful of small road obstacles, high clearance is the best way to go. In addition, the end of the road offers a few parking places up on a small embankment that require high clearance to eventually get a vehicle turned around to leave.

Starting around the Escarpment Rim

Rim Trail
We got all five cars parked at the end of the road in the last three parking options. Then we hiked to the vehicle gate and started hiking up the worn trail. Our usual way of reaching the approach canyon is by way of the spring wash. There is water in the springs. Today, however, the marsh grass was covering the trail and I chose to find a "parallel" way to cross the terrain. I didn't go high enough and ended up having to cross the marsh anyway. It's probably best to either take the exit route to get to the correct canyon or to take one of the overland trails that pass by the furthest agave roasting pit. At any rate, when we found that last agave pit, we knew we had found the correct approach canyon.

Sandstone Canyon Below - Indecision Peak Across
The first landmark in the canyon that is very recognizable is the wall scramble as seen in the fourth photo. If you choose to reach the approach canyon via the exit route, you will miss this scramble.

Climbing the Hills on the Escarpment Rim
There are two or three scrambles near this wall and then the wash remains fairly flat and wide with a gentle climb. You see the exit route trail (Mountain Springs Trail) crossing the wash just after the scrambles.

Wind Blown Tree on Rim

"The Cairn" before diving into Little Zion
We settled into a nice pace going up the easy wash. The trail within the small walls was very clear. After about a mile (?), there is a log across the wash that directs you to turn right into a small wash. This is the ascent wash that leads hikers up to the escarpment rim. As you crest the rim, the precipitous Sandstone Canyon drops before you and you see Spring Mountain Ranch between its entrance walls below. Today, we could see that there was almost no water in the state park's lake. To our left, the Indecision Peak bench stretched out toward Cottonwood Valley. To our right, the remaining rim circle above Sandstone Canyon can be seen. Our trail would follow this rim around to Little Zion.

Starting down the Descent Trail
The morning had begun cold with a biting wind that settled down to a breeze once we started. The climb had warmed us up but at the escarpment rim, the wind returned and we anxiously finished our small rest and continued. Turning right, we climbed up the first of four hills.

View back to the Grand Entrance to Little Zion
Colorful views of the jagged canyon entertained and threatened us at the same time. It's forbidding beauty held our eyes and, at the same time, we hiked only a few feet from the slippery edge filled with scree.

Entering Little Zion

The trail to Little Zion is in the best condition that I have ever seen it. We had no problems following it all the way to and from this time. At the crest of the fourth rim hill, the wide sandstone slab of Little Zion came into view. On the rim top, a large cairn has always existed to mark the trail. Today was no different. However, the cairn is not as large as it used to be. We followed the trail over the crest and down the limestone and brush on a diagonal track. At the bottom of the hill, the trail turns down a small wash and ends at a white sandstone dry fall. Taking note of the different twists and turns, we dropped down to the bottom of the falls.

Potholed Wash
At the bottom of the dry fall, I gave the strong group of hikers about 40 minutes to explore and enjoy "The Park." We had three newbies but the rest of the group had been here before. In retrospect, an hour would have been more realistic.

Visiting the Arch
Little Zion is so large that it took almost all of the 40 minutes of time just to hike from the top to one side and back. Most of the hikers chose the arch on the left side. A couple of us visited the wash on the right.

View up the South Wash

View down the South Wash
The wind had lightened up on this east side of the Sandstone Bluffs. Then, all too soon, it was time to leave ... as indicated by the slow movement of the group climbing up the sandstone in ones, twos and threes. They gathered at the meeting point two minutes early as seen in the third photo down. All of us chose to return up the trail we had come down and we climbed up to "The Cairn." A small rest at the crest and we were ready to go up and over the remaining three rim hills. Next, the trail at the descent wash was clearly marked and down we went. There were a lot of warnings yelled out for head level limbs! And, an occasional "Ouch!" was heard!

View back toward the Escarpment Rim
Along the trail above and below the rim, we saw very little bighorn scat but we did see a little bit of elk evidence. We have seen both animals in the past but not today.

Steve & Laurie
Hiking down the two washes that we had come up, we stopped a couple of times. The descent was easy and smooth. The tempest of the escarpment rim was replaced by the calm of the foothills.

Gathering for the Trip Back

One Way to Climb the Big Dry Fall
Down. Down. Down. When we finally reached the Mountain Springs Trail crossing the wash, we stopped for a pause. Phew! The descent had become slightly monotonous. We turned left onto the trail and climbed up and over a small hill. This put us onto Rainbow Springs Road very near a different agave roasting pit. We turned right onto the dirt road at a section where cars are not allowed. This trail led us all the way down to the trailhead with the gate. We noted the other two springs in the area on the left side of the road. There are also a couple more agave roasting pits around. Rainbow Springs must have been a bustling place for the Early Paiutes of the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries.

Climbing out of Little Zion
We had a great group of hikers today. I didn't offer Little Zion last year and many hikers were having withdrawals! It happens that way sometimes!

Climbing back up to "The Cairn"
Next time, we will spend more time at the park.

Rim View

Returning in the Lower Wash
The post script to this entry is a must. We got all the cars turned around on the loose deep sandy gravel and traveled out the three miles to Lovell Canyon Road. Up and over Mountain Springs Pass without a slow truck in front of us but, OMG! There were two separate very long lines of cars queued up behind two different construction trucks exactly like what we had experienced earlier in the morning. They were coming up the hill from Las Vegas! It'll certainly be nice when the construction is done and there is a four lane separated highway up and over on SR 160.

6 miles; 1550 feet elevation gain; 3.25 hours; average moving speed 1.7 mph

Mountain Springs Trail Junction

Rainbow Springs Area (Center Right)

Almost back at the Trailhead

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Calico Hills - 10/26/19

The Calico Hills

Yellow Bush

New Official Trail Sign in Fee Booth Parking Area

Hiking to Calico I on the Grand Circle Trail
It was Saturday morning again. When my carpool got to the fee booth at Red Rock Canyon at 7:40am, there were two cars in front of us. By 7:50am, there were cars lined up out to SR 159. Our meeting time was 8am at the fee booth parking area located behind the fee booth to the left. Needless to say, some of our hikers were stuck in that line! We waited for those hikers that we could see from the parking lot. Crazy! Hiking is a great form of exercise! And, what better place to hike than Red Rock Canyon! Today's hike for fifteen hikers was a scenic trail that runs along the colorful Calico Hills between the fee booth and Sandstone Quarry. One of the best hikes in Red Rock!

Approach to the Calico Hills
There is a newly erected trail sign next to the newly created rock-lined trail that leads out of the parking lot and across the road. See the third photo. Finding the trail across the road, we started up.

Meeting an old Friend at Calico I
It was a beautiful day. Clear blue sky with little puffy and refreshing breezes. The first mile of the hike led us up to the Calico I turnout off of the Scenic Loop.

Climbing the Big Hill to the High Route

Mojave Yucca & Calico Sandstone
This mile of the trail has recently been refurbished. It looks very nice and is cleared of extraneous rocks. When we reached Calico I, we took a long break at the restroom facility. (I hear that it was quite a stinky break! Only one of the restrooms was usable. But, I digress.) While we were waiting, we talked to an old friend, Roger H. He was there to take photos of a large group of volunteers for the Make a Difference Day. These volunteers were painting a coat of sealer on the wooden fences that were added with the new turnout construction at Calico I, Sandstone Quarry, and Pine Creek. Thanks to them from all of us! When everyone returned from the restroom, we bid Roger adieu and hiked down the hill to the Calico Hills / Grand Circle Loop trail. At the wash, we turned up to the right and climbed the next hill up to the upper route. This route is the original Grand Circle Loop. Later, the loop was streamlined to the lower and easier route that we would take on the return. As we followed the route that dips back down to the wash in a scramble, we picked up "Oregon Lady" who decided to follow us through the maze. She appreciated our guidance!

Trail Marker at Scramble Descent
There are huge cairns, as seen in the photo above, but the route is ... unusual. And, fun! So, we got down to the wash and followed our old route along the sandstone slab.

Scramble Descent to Wash
We came to another hiker who wanted to know about the loop route over Angel Pass. I gave him some general directions since he appeared to be able and up to the task.

Scramble Descent to Wash

Hiking the Wash
Choosing not to follow the trail up and around beneath Calico II, we stayed in the wash and hiked through the pleasant shade rejoining the trail at the landmark dead tree. (See the 8th photo down for this wash/trail junction on the return.) The next point of interest are the trailside petroglyphs next to a humongous square boulder and other large square boulders. The petroglyphs seem to be in fairly good condition at this time. (These petroglyphs are routinely defaced with graffiti. Kids never change, huh?) From there, the wide angle views of the Calico Hill walls continue. We began seeing a few rock climbers approaching their challenge for the day.

Petroglyphs on the Grand Circle Trail
There are a couple of spots on the trail where we had to use the good soles of our hiking boots to climb steep sandstone slabs that are already worn from thousands (maybe millions) of hiker feet.

Sandstone Climb
The morning light lent itself to the views in front of us. However, the views of the hikers behind me were a little more tricky to photograph! Nevertheless, "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning!"

Large Sandstone Hills

Exploring the Slot at Sandstone Quarry
We reached Sandstone Quarry and the parking lot was already full to capacity. There was also an ambulance that was staged there. Hmm. We hiked over to the shaded slot entrance for our break. During the break, some of us climbed up into the slot and found two rock climbers doing their thing in the very cool shade. A restroom at the Sandstone Quarry trailhead was also visited during our lengthy break as we watched the cars pour in and try without luck to find a place to park. Finally, we rose to start our descent back to the cars. Our route back was exactly the same except for taking the lower (newer) route after hiking back through the shady wash. We hummed along at a decent speed stopping occasionally to check on everyone and regather.

Exiting the Slot at Sandstone Quarry
There were more hikers out and about. And, we saw several rock climbing groups on the Calico walls hanging from strings like marionettes. (See 4th photo below!)

Returning along the Grand Circle Trail
Autumn colors sprouted up around us in the form of matchweed, or broom snakeweed mostly. (Can you believe that some states try to eradicate this plant as an invasive weed?) Well, I like it!

Between Sandstone Quarry and Calico II

Wash Trail Junction
We climbed back up to Calico I and noticed that the wooden fence was all shiny and new! We wondered how the volunteers found parking spots at Sandstone Quarry to continue their work. We ambled down the last section of the Calico Hills Trail until we reached the fee booth parking lot. The line to get past the fee booth was still crazy out to 159. But, our fifteen hikers had beat the crowd and enjoyed a wonderful morning on the trails. Fantastic group of friends today!

6 miles; 1150 feet elevation gain; 3.25 hours; average moving speed 1.9 mph

Rock Climbers on the Calico Hills (Magic Bus Climbing Route)

Climbing back up to Calico I

Southern End of the Calico Hills