Friday, October 29, 2021

Fern Canyon - 10/28/21

Fern Canyon Creek

Fern Canyon from Overlook

Autumn at the Wilson Homestead with view of Mescalito Peak

Hiking into Fern Canyon
Fern Canyon! Everybody loves it! It's where I learned to scramble. Autumn is the best time to visit but any time is a good time, except summer. The Six with Sticks arrived at the Pine Creek Trailhead on Red Rock Canyon NCA's scenic loop, all with coincidentally blue/gray hiking attire. Down the long hill to the creek level trail, we hiked, with a stop at the Wilson Homestead for a quick photo. We continued down the trail to the "trail circle" and chose the trail that was at a 12:30 direction. This trail leads through some tall brush then turns to the right and up. Reaching the next shelf above, we circled behind the big landmark rock and continued heading into the canyon on the right side of Mescalito Peak, "The Redhead."

Dark Shadows Climbing Wall

South Wall of Fern Canyon

Blue Belles

The Sloped Rock
Soon after the big rock, the trail divided. The higher trail at the fork is the most direct. We followed it until we dropped into the canyon right in the area of the Dark Shadows climbing wall. The wall already had several climbers at different levels. We followed the path over to the south side of the canyon and tried as best we could to stay on that side for a while. There are a few different routes to take up the canyon and since we only do this hike once a year, it is difficult for us to do the same route every year. Suffice it to say, most of the time, hikers look for a way to get to the next location and if it doesn't work out, you retrace your steps or go around. It's confusing and we joked about writing a book about Fern Canyon and having maps of every rock and scramble!

Cheryl and Jerry climbing a Tough Spot

Rita has help on another Tough Spot

More Scrambling

Tarantula and Tiny Frog
There are only a few cairns in the canyon at this time. The ones that were there were somewhat helpful. But, then again, we were all somewhat familiar with the different landmarks and scrambles from years past. This is not a canyon that I would suggest to try without someone with you that has experience with the canyon. So, when we arrived at the waterfall at the end, we were happy and tired! Although there was water in the bottom of the canyon, the upper portions of the canyon, including the waterfall, were dry. We went over to the north side of the canyon past the waterfall and climbed the very steep scramble. Usually, we make our way from the scramble over to the top of the waterfall but today, we went all the way up to the flat rock on top.

Climbing up the Slab on the North Wall

Arriving at the Dry Waterfall

Hooray for the Blue Team! (On Flat Rock Overlook)

Descent of the North Slab
Here, we took our break and group photo with an unobstructed view of Fern Canyon below. Above us, we saw the Fern Canyon Overlook that can be reached from the North Peak (Sandstone) Trail off of Rocky Gap Road. Cairns on the north wall show a route up to Bridgepoint Peak, a dangerous endeavor, and one route to Mescalito Peak continues up from the flat rock. Mescalito Peak is also a very difficult hike. After our break, we started down taking one scramble at a time with care. One interesting obstacle was the huge obstacle rabbit hole. This is most easily accomplished on the descent and Jerry and Cheryl took Ralyn and Mike on the adventure. I did it once years ago and it is quite fun!

Descent of the Sloped Rock

Routing through the Rabbit Hole at the Huge Obstacle

Ferns in Fern Canyon

Cheryl performing a Cirque du Soleil Act
Down through the brush and scrambles, we hiked from one side of the upper narrow portions to the other finding familiar landmarks. About half way down, we found the south wall trail and stuck to it as much as possible. At the Dark Shadows wall, we saw more climbers and knew we were near the path up and out. Next, we followed the trail around the big rock, down, across the trail circle and up past the Wilson's. The trails were alive with other hikers and we made a beeline up the hill to the cars. Fantastic scramble. 

Stats: 5.5 miles; 900' gain; 4.25 hours

Long Pool at South Wall

Blue Team surrounded by Yellow Leaves

Return to the Sunshine in Pine Creek Canyon

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Kraft Mountain Loop CCW - 10/26/21

North Side of Lower Gateway Canyon

Turtlehead Peak view Up Canyon

South Side of Kraft Mountain Peak

Hiking out the Loop Approach
The Kraft Mountain Loop is normally hiked / scrambled in a clockwise direction. This puts the steep 5 Stop Hill in the beginning of the hike. Afterwards, the remaining hike is dessert; a gradual descent of colorful sandstone with familiar drops and scrambles that slightly change from year to year. Today, the Fearsome Foursome hiked / scrambled the loop in a counterclockwise direction like we have seen numerous others do in the past. However, with the exception of Mike who did the canyon in this direction years ago, we were all newbies! We parked at the Kraft Mountain Trailhead located at the end of Sandstone Drive in the Calico Basin of Red Rock Canyon NCA. After saying hello to an old friend, we headed out the trail at the bottom end of the lot.

"Birthing" Petroglyphs

Circling the South end of Kraft Mountain

Visit to Lettie's Lounge

Start of Scrambling
Recently, a group (maybe Susan Murphy's) has worked on this trail. There were rocks lining the trail with clear directions on which of the many social trails to take. We T-ed into the Kraft Mountain Boulder Field Trail and turned to the right. This trail took us around the south end of Kraft Mountain. It was a very cool morning but, indeed, very pleasant. We were hiking at a good pace that would warm us up before the sun took over that task. The trail dead ended at a place we affectionately call Lettie's Lounge and we dropped into the Gateway Canyon wash. In this unfamiliar direction, everything looked different. We know the canyon wash pretty well, but today, it was a different ballgame! The first scramble of sorts came soon. See the photo to the right.

Lower Gateway Canyon

Big Scramble

Lower Gateway Canyon

Pickle Rock
Next, the scramble with options appeared. The gravel was at a high enough level that the south side of the wash was a fine choice. Climbing on up, Pickle Rock was the next conundrum. It is seen in the photo to the left. The big scramble after that was the one we had cogitated on the night before. This is the three level challenge. Rita, Mike and I took on the challenge and felt pretty good about ourselves for having few problems. When we got up to the top after working hard on the scramble (see photo below), Ralyn appeared around the big boulder. She had found an alternate route through a crack that was a bit easier! 😄The last scramble was hardly a scramble at all since the gravel was at such a high level.

Really Big Scramble

Gravel Filled Scramble

Ms. Tall Shadow

Fearsome Foursome
We arrived at the yellow section found at the end of the red section and decided to take a break and our group photo. The morning sunlight was beautiful on the colorful rocks that were all around. When we got up to go, we were a little disoriented. We didn't realize that we had just passed the Candy Cane Slide and were surprised to see the Gray Fox Canyon area coming up quickly on our right. Also, there is no longer a large cairn in the wash to indicate where the Rattlesnake Trail and the wash junction. But, by then, we knew where we were and found the trail leading up through the bushes at the small canyon outlet on the left. Up the trail to the saddle, we took no breaks. Finally, we started seeing a few other hikers as we descended 5 Stop Hill.

Gateway Colors nearing Gray Fox Canyon

Lower Gateway Canyon from Rattlesnake Trail

Kraft Mountain Saddle

Calico Basin from Saddle
At the bottom of the hill, we changed our trajectory to the left and noticed the Kraft Mountain Boulder Field Trail across an adjacent wash. We crossed over to it and followed the pretty trail through the rock climbing practice boulders until we reached the approach trail that we had come in on. A right turn led us back to the parking lot on the rock lined trail. This was a nice short hike that served us well on this busy day. Lots of fun!

Stats: 4 miles; 700' gain; 2 hours

Finishing 5 Stop Hill

Hiking the Kraft Mountain Boulder Field Trail

Boulder Field Trail with Dragon Peak in Background