Friday, March 13, 2020

Blue Diamond Canyons 2&3 - 3/12/20

Blue Diamond Canyon #2

Crossover at Top

Starting down Blue Diamond Canyon #3

Slippery First Scramble
On the south side of the North Blue Diamond Hill, just across SR 159 from the small community of Blue Diamond, NV, there are 5 deep canyons that cut into the terrain below the gypsum mine. They generally run north/south, have high walls and contain fantastic dry fall obstacles. The oldest hike for the club among these canyons is called Blue Diamond Canyons 2&3. One of the almost original members of the club, Guy Galante, used to lead this one as his favorite. He loved to scramble! He would always bring his strapping to help with a couple of the dry falls and we would have loads of fun! Today's hike brought back a lot of memories even though I continue to lead this hike every year.

Pools along the Way
With all the recent rain, rain to come and cancelled hikes, this normally overlooked hike attracted fourteen hikers. Several of the advanced hikers on today's hike were newbies. What? How did that happen?

Hiking Stick in the Pool below Rope Scramble - Oops
So, the trailhead is located at the small utility building across from Blue Diamond. We parked at the gate being careful not to block the gate where workers sometimes have to drive in.

Climbing Canyon #2

Climbing Canyon #2
The fencing is there to prevent burros from entering the area. We easily climbed through a wide barbed wire space to the right of the gate. A lock was put on the gate a few years ago because some hikers couldn't seem to remember to close the gate behind them. We hiked across the desert terrain to drop into the canyon to the right. This is Blue Diamond Canyon #2. The canyons are numbered from right to left. (Yeah, I don't know why either.) After dealing with the rocks and brush for a few minutes, we entered into the high walls and came to the first dry fall obstacle. Normally, this dry fall was fast and easy. Today, it was slippery due to the dampness.

Stair-Stepping Obstacle
The beauty of the canyon hit the newbies like a ton of bricks! It really is surprising that this beautiful canyon lies here in the desert all unassuming-like.

Another Pool
There were several pools of water during the first half of the canyon. We easily avoided them and tried not to get our feet wet. The wetter your feet, the more difficult the limestone scrambles.

Last Dry Fall Up - A Tricky One

A Pause in the Sun
Slowly, we made our way up the canyon taking each dry fall and each scramble one at a time. We were pressed to get the hike done before noon since a rainstorm was approaching from the south. We had a good view of the south so we were constantly up to date on its progress. We had to go up and around one dry fall in Canyon #2 due to the dampness. (To be fair, one hiker made it up!) The last dry fall scramble of Canyon #2 is the trickiest. Both the right side and the left side are climbable but they are still difficult and there is no "up and around." After a little bit of instruction, I clamored up and the rest of the group followed. Only one hiker got delayed here but there were plenty of helping hands for everyone.

Crossing over at the Top
After this, the canyon begins to level out. When you look up to the right and see tailings from the gypsum mine, and you see a few big white rocks in the wash, there is a trailing ridge to the left that we climb up.

Snack Break at top of Canyon #3
This intersects a vague trail near the top. We turned left on the trail and headed over and down to the top of the next canyon, Canyon #3. We took our break at the top of this canyon with somewhat of an overlook of Canyon #3 and Mt. Potosi beyond.

Getting into the Nitty Gritty of Canyon #3

Drop or Go Around
As we dropped into the main part of the canyon, we were met with more brush than usual. Both of these canyons (especially #3) could use a little bit of clipping. Once we began the drop scrambles, we lost elevation steadily. About half way down the canyon, we came to the Big Drop. This is where Guy used to pull out his strapping! Nowadays, some hikers scramble down on the left side and some hikers use the up and around trail high up on the right. Today, because of the slipperiness, all of us took the trail and chose to live for another hike! Afterwards, the canyon continued to drop fast and steady. There were some more good obstacles that were easily met.

The Big Drop appears too Slippery
The back of the line continued to slow so we had to wait several times so that we stayed together. With a long line of hikers and a narrow snaky canyon, I can't always see the back of the line.

Storm beginning to show its Forerunners from South
As the canyon begins leveling out, the heavy brush and rocky pathway returns. We ducked and weaved and weaved and ducked!

Going Up and Around the Big Drop

Waiting for the End of the Line
The only signs of life we saw in the canyons were lizards. However, in the past, we have seen a rattlesnake, two owls, and three mule deer. As we neared Blue Diamond seen across the highway, we came to the trail that climbs up to the left and out of the canyon. This trail vaguely leads hikers back across the terrain between the two canyons and back to the cars. I probably do this different every time until I get to the dip just before the gate. Here, there is a trail to the right of a low tree on the west side of the dip. A great day and great fun group! This hike has stood the test of time!

4 miles; 900 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours

Easy Large Drop

Fun Large Drop

Blue Diamond, NV being swallowed by Approaching Storm

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Redstone / Jean's Canyon & Jean's Saddle Trail Loop - 3/8/20

Redstone from Jean's Saddle Trail

Salted Sky from Pinto Valley Wash

Morning near Bittersprings Valley

Following the Wash Trail
 The Redstone of Lake Mead NRA near Northshore Road's mile marker 26 is Aztec Sandstone. The surrounding layer of terrain is the Rainbow Gardens Member of the Horse Spring Formation, an unconformity. The Rainbow Gardens Member is estimated to have been deposited at least 17 million years ago; the Aztec Sandstone was deposited about 180 million years ago. This gap in the geologic record (an unconformity), therefore, represents a time span of some 160 million years. This is the same unconformity seen just east of Frenchman Mountain just east of Las Vegas. In this area, there are flat, step-like terraces midway up the ridge.*

Mushroom Rock
 They are remnants of ancient valley floors that were covered with sand, gravel, and cobbles that came from the ridge to the southeast, then were uplifted during Miocene time, and now are being dissected by streams to form a lower alluvial terrace.*

Leaning in to some Redstone Scrambling
 Geologists have identified two sets of successively lower (younger) terraces in this area, which are evidence of at least two major periods of uplift. The highest flat-topped terrace is all that is left of the original valley surface.*

Beautiful Area of Redstone Outcroppings

Resting Eagle with Egg
Across Northshore Road to the north is Bittersprings Valley. The prominent, discontinuous, pink-tan ridge in the distance is composed of the Bitter Ridge Limestone Member of the Horse Spring Formation. (We refer to this formation as The Desert Colosseum!) This relatively young rock unit (deposited about 13 million years before present) is folded, tilted, and faulted proving that major geologic activity took place in this region after that time. The narrow, rugged buttes protruding from the valley floor are composed of the Thumb Member of the Horse Spring Formation capped by iron-stained Thumb breccia.*
Morning Light
 *Geologic Tours in the Las Vegas Area (Expanded Edition with GPS Coordinates), Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Special Publication 16, University of Nevada, Reno, Mackay School of Earth Sciences, 2008, Bear Printing, Sparks, NV; pages 75 & 76.

Flying Eagle has Landed!
 So, after a little geological background, the stage has been set! Seven hikers emerged from their vehicles at Northshore Road's mile marker 26 trailhead and crossed the road. After dropping into the first wash on a small trail, we crossed over to the 3rd wash going east and started up.

Following Game Trails Up and Down

And, Redstone Slabs
 We followed the trail up and over a hill then down into another wash. After a more extended wash section, we followed the trail, again, up a hill to visit the Mushroom Rock formation to the right. This section of the redstone is my favorite because of its seemingly delicate nature. Small windows and rounded formations surrounded us as we walked through the area. Across the wash to the east, we saw the Flying Eagle (or Landing Eagle) formation. Up to our left, we found the Resting Eagle with Egg formation. From here, we climbed up to the first plateau (or terrace) and connected with a game trail that took us on a journey up, down, up, down and up to the Bridge Trail ridge.

Pinto Valley View from Bridge Trail High Point
 On the Bridge Trail, there is an overlook of Pinto Valley to the left. If you follow the trail all the way to the right, you cross the terrain bridge over to the Old Arrowhead Road. We hiked to the right just 20 yards then began our descent to the left.

The Slot
This trajectory pointed us down to the canyon within redstone that ends in a small slot. The entrance to the slot is approximately 6 feet wide. At the end of the slot, it narrows down to about 1 foot wide. We all made it through!

Tight Squeeze

 In the area where we emerged from the slot, we found several very nice petroglyphs. Then, from the pooled canyon, we climbed up a slab to the next plateau. This plateau has very steep sides to the west (our trajectory) and to the north. There are very few options for getting down below the plateau to the Pinto Valley washes. A couple of the options can be found up toward the foothills to the south. Two other options are found only by returning back toward the Bridge Trail plateau. After surveying the north end of the plateau, I spied a possible perfect solution. A vague game trail headed down to a crack. We walked around making sure that the crack was navigable. Yep! And, down we went. The group called it Kay's Drop!

Kay's Drop
 At the bottom of the drop, we visited a large arch on the west side of the plateau then descended to the terrain and washes below. We could see the Cut Wash in the near distance so we found a small wash that led there and hiked on down through the Cut.

Pinto Valley through an Arch
It was a windy day but warm. Because of the wind, the sky seemed to be constantly changing with its arrangement of clouds. Small puffs started blowing in!

Cut Wash

The Cut
We reached the junction with the Pinto Valley Wash / Old Arrowhead Road and turned left. Just around the corner, there were some nice rocks to sit on for our break. This is where I took the second photo of this entry. The road intersperses with the wash in this section. So after our break, we started down the wash and road as we chose which one to follow. The road usually cut off the wiggles of the wash. About 0.65 mile down the wash, we junctioned with the bottom of Jean's Canyon to the right. There isn't a good landmark here except that the road runs straight and parallel with the wash on the other side (unusual). Jean's Canyon begins with a sharp turn to the right.

Pinto Valley Wash
About half a mile up the small canyon, we reached the bottom of the Slip 'n' Slide dry fall area. The Slip 'n' Slide is very difficult to climb up but there is an up and around option to its left. This worked great for us!

Pinto Valley Wash
 The canyon begins getting steeper and we came to a 3rd class climb up another dry fall. BTW, this dry fall is much easier to climb than to drop from! Next, the wash climbs steeply up to the canyon's saddle where several Bear Paw Poppies and Sun Ray flowers bask in the sun.

Jean's Canyon

Jean's Canyon
 Now, the canyon begins dropping with a few scrambles on slanted, layered rock. We passed the junction of the Jean's Peak descent wash and continued until we saw the Gray Rock Curve. Just before this curve, there is an obvious trail leading out of the wash to the right. We saw the saddle up on the ridge and the trail leading up to it. It is a good trail. New and fun! The climb up isn't too taxing and the view from the saddle is absolutely fantastic! The wind was still gusting so we didn't take much of a break here. Maybe next time! The trail down the other side was not real apparent from the saddle.

3rd Class Scramble in Jean's Canyon
 Standing on the saddle, the trail leads diagonally down to the left. Then, make a small switchback to adjust to another vague trail below you then continue down to the left. A better trail will soon appear!

Approach to Bear Paw Poppy Saddle
 As we slowly descended on the diagonal, we saw where the trail was leading. There is an optional trail route further to the left but the route seen below us is good stuff!

Interesting Sights

Starting up Jean's Saddle Trail from Canyon
 The trail took us around an exposed corner, down toward a wash, over two small steep humps then rolled us out into a perpendicular junction with the Old Arrowhead Road not far from Heartbreak Hill to the right! Fun way to start concluding the hike! We turned left on the road and followed it for 0.8 mile down to Northshore Road. We found ourselves less than a tenth of a mile from the cars. Fun new hike! Great group of hikers! We'll do it again next year!

5.8 miles; 1100 feet elevation gain; 3.75 hours; average speed 1.5 mph

View down Jean's Canyon from Saddle Trail
Fun Trail

Following Old Arrowhead Road back to Trailhead