Sunday, November 28, 2021

Oak Creek Canyon Loop - 11/27/21

Oak Creek Trail / Canyon Junction 

Ramp Landmark

Colorful Section

Trail to Oak Creek Canyon (Right)
A solid three hikers came out for a hike/scramble the Saturday after Thanksgiving to park at the scenic loop exit parking lot. (No way were we going to go inside the loop today!) When we arrived, there were very few cars and no one around. We hiked out the trail (2nd from SR 159) to the Middle Oak Creek Trail (an old abandoned road) and turned to the right. Note the white rock at this junction, the White Rock Junction. The road leads straight up to the escarpment in the distance, but about half way up, rocks cover the road and it is difficult hiking. Regardless, we continued and passed where the trail comes in from the Oak Creek Trailhead and ended up at the "red dirt." There are a lot of side trails along this section. We stayed true to the escarpment.

Wilson Peak (L), Oak Creek Canyon (Ctr), Rainbow Peak (R)

Trail Junction to Oak Creek Trailhead

Starting into Oak Creek Canyon on the Red Dirt

Scrambling on the Trail Up
A word of caution. This area that includes Oak Creek, Oak Creek Canyon, Potato Knoll, Middle Oak Creek Trail, Oak Creek Trail, and all the connecting trails from the scenic loop exit has a very large network of use trails. There are a few that might could be labeled official trails, however, it is easy to start hiking on a use trail that may or may not be well used. It is good to know your landmarks so that you continue to head toward your objective. This becomes especially important on the return leg of this hike. I still haven't done the same route twice ... I don't think! 

We hiked through the red dirt staying on the trail that heads into the canyon on its right embankment. Used mostly by the rock climbers, this trail will eventually take you into the wash of Oak Creek Canyon but you will need to take a jaunt up toward the wall a couple of times. We dropped into the canyon filled with very large cream colored sandstone boulders and began a challenging scramble up. Almost immediately, there is a short up and around on the right side. We scampered up several large scrambles and stopped at the dry pool on top of one of the boulders. All three of us could not negotiate the following climb and we leave no one behind!

Shade Tree on Trail Up

Starting up the Canyon Wash

Big Scramble after Big Scramble

This scramble is too big for Kay!
We sat for a break with Mt. Wilson's ascent via Cleaver Crack in view way above. It was a beautiful day. The weather was quite warm on the return to the cars, however, inside the canyon it was like a refrigerator! We waited for Ralyn to try to find a route up through the brush but the brush and rock were amazingly thick. After a rest, we began our return down canyon. Of course, the scrambles were a lot easier going down and we stopped for our group photo on a sandstone ramp. When we passed the spot where we had originally dropped into the wash, we continued down toward a bright red wall above the wash. The boulders in this section were very colorful. (See third photo.) Finally, we dropped down a dry fall as seen in the first photo. This is a popular turnaround place for the Oak Creek Canyon hike without the canyon scramble. We watched the rock climbers for a minute. They were climbing up the walls on the north side of the canyon. Then, we turned to the right and found the trail that led out of the wash. This trail winds right and left a bit but, basically, it heads straight for Potato Knoll. Again, this is where the trails become somewhat of a spider's web of directions. I prefer to turn to the left at one point and follow the trail toward the left side of the knoll.

Ralyn shows her modeling side!

Yes. We came up this way.

A Solid Three

Descending through Colorful Rocks
At any rate, find your way somehow to the left side of the knoll and you will end up on what appears to be a popular trail. This trail crosses Oak Creek three times ... maybe .... That is, if you are able to stay on the main trail. Regardless, follow along the creek bed (or, in the creek bed) downhill past the knoll until you find a trail that leads up the hill on the left. This trail will take you up to the Middle Oak Creek Trail. Turn to the right and you will come to the White Rock Junction soon to turn left. Today, we did just that. We tried making a straight line, on trails, down the creek bed and finding the trail out of the canyon. Easy enough but I wonder how much I was using my knowledge of the area to get me there. We made our turn at White Rock Junction and followed the 1 mile trail back to the car at a good pace. A fun Saturday outing at a time when Red Rock is bustling with activity.

Stats: 6 miles; 650' gain; 3.75 hours

Heading toward Potato Knoll

Crossing Oak Creek

Heading back toward the Calico Hills, to the Cars

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Ash Canyon / Calico Hills Loop - 11/22/21

Tenacious Trio in Ash Canyon

From High Point at Base of Red Cap to Ash Canyon Overlook

Grand Circle Trail between Sandstone Quarry and Calico II

Following the Trails to the Base of Ash Canyon
Out for another big scramble, the Tenacious Trio left the Red Spring Trailhead to follow the trails out to the base of Ash Canyon. There are a network of trails in this area but perseverance leads hikers to Ash Canyon on any trail that follows the base of the Calico Hills. For the past several years, our route of choice up Ash Canyon has been the high slab on the left (west) side of the canyon wash. Today, we decided to do the work and scramble up the wash route. As it turns out, there is now a third trail up through the canyon. This is the trail we ended up on. The trail reminded me of the dirt and rock trail that scrambles up to Angel Pass. After passing two groups of young people having a great time on their descent, we found the trail and followed it up to the halfway point on the west side of the canyon.

Dragon Peak

Starting into Ash Canyon

View back in Ash Canyon

Starting up the Ash Canyon Wash half way Up
Here, we dropped to the wash and scrambled up the wash all the way to the top and out at the overlook. Fun, fun, fun! We didn't stop for our break until we were at the base of Red Cap, the high point of the hike. After a rest, we rejoined Rattlesnake Trail and followed the trail and scramble around the north side of the Calico Hills. In this section, we used the small slot canyon which was dry and circled around to junction with the Calico Tanks Trail for a short bit. Instead of following this trail back to Sandstone Quarry, we used the wash route and crossed through the quarry. At the parking lot, we took a short break and continued down toward Calico II on the Grand Circle Trail.

Scrambling up the Wash

Ash Canyon Colors

Nearing the Climb Out

Rita and Mike in repose at High Point
Enjoying the beauty of the colorful sandstone walls to our left, we hiked down the familiar trail at a good pace. When the trail dipped down near the gravel wash, we hiked in and took the wash route beneath Calico II turnout above. This put us on a course for the Old Grand Circle Trail route that climbs through the rocks and up onto a hill. Here, we noticed groups of rock climbers learning their skills on the walls above. Hmm. It's not time for Red Rock Rondezvous! Oohhh. We forgot. It is Thanksgiving week and that's when Red Rock really gets hustling. We looked across the desert and saw that there was a long line of cars coming into the fee station and the large Calico I parking lot was almost full. Thus, the large crowd of rock climbers.

Sandstone view on the Rattlesnake Trail

The Small Slot

Gravel Wash on Rattlesnake Trail

Short rest at Sandstone Quarry
At Calico I, we dropped into the wash and found the blackened slot. At the end, Rita and I chose the rabbit hole while Mike muscled it up the 3rd class way on the left. A photo collage below shows the slot and the up and over and drop that is involved here. Next, we came to the slide. It is a very deep drop right now and we didn't like the looks of it so, we turned to the right and scrambled up and over. Back in the wash, we came to several more interesting scrambles that we've learned over the years. Finally, a trail appeared on the left side of the wash heading up onto the plateau between the wash and the rock wall where there were more rock climbers. This trail is now called the Calico Overlook Trail! It travels through the bouldered petroglyph area and up the side of the embankment. We hiked under the balanced rock and connected with the hill climb up to the saddle, or Calico Overlook. (Someday, that balanced rock is coming down ... I just know it!) On the saddle, we turned to the right and climbed a little more to the next high point. Here, there is a trail that veers off to the left. This trail takes a more gentle descent approaching the Red Spring parking lot.
The Grand Circle Trail between Sandstone Quarry and Calico II

Checking on the Petroglyphs

Starting down the Calico Wash

Lots of Rock Climbers
This is a more challenging loop around the Calico Hills than the traditional loop that includes 5 Stop Hill and the Gateway Canyon / Rattlesnake wash trail. We felt like we really did something when we got back to the car! Fun day!

Stats: 6.5 miles; 1500' gain; 4.5 hours

Through the Slot and Up & Over

Trail through another Petroglyph Area

Finishing on the Trail beneath the Balanced Rock