Friday, March 24, 2023

Red Rock River (Pine Creek with Snow Melt) - 3/23/23

Waterfall in Fern Canyon Creek

Flooded Pine Creek at Loop Crossing

Following the Burros at Base of Escarpment

Snow-Dusted Rainbow Wall
There's still alotawata out there! The Six with Sticks plus One went out for an innocent look-see and ended up doing a challenging exploratory in addition. The night before, there was ... more ... precipitation in the form of rain and snow on the Spring Mountains. This includes the Red Rock Canyon NCA. It was still Spring Break somewhere but the visiting rock climbers were stifled by the wet sandstone and we had the Pine Creek Trailhead off of the Scenic Loop almost to ourselves at 8am. Btw, the rock climbers were all at the Arizona Hot Springs soaking in the spa waters! Anyway, we started down the trail into Pine Creek Canyon. The scene before us (i.e. Mescalito, Rainbow Wall, etc.) was absolutely beautiful. Snow-dusted, clear and colorful.

Starting into Pine Creek Canyon

Mescalito Peak (Fern Canyon on R & South Fork Pine Creek Canyon on L)

Profile of Skull Rock (Dale's Trail)

Ralyn leads us on the Burro/Rock Climber Trail
We hiked quickly to start with since the air was chilly. About a half mile from the cars, we turned right onto Dale's Trail. Dale's Trail is a beautiful trail that leads through the desert just outside of the Rainbow Wilderness boundary paralleling the escarpment that rises uphill to the west. (You can't miss it!) Soon, we reached Skull Rock. (The old Skull Rock sign is about to be lost as it hangs from a string that someone quickly tied it up with as they passed by. I hope the original sign is rescued.) The trail continues down through a gulley then climbs a hill to the next ridge. There are several gulleys and ridges that flow and trail down from the bluffs above. We found the very vague trail that the rock climbers use to get to Eva's Tower on the left.

The Burros know the Way

Juvenile Burro with Mom Behind

The Rock Climber Trail continues at a Lower Level

Crossing to the Descent into Pine Creek Canyon
We turned and climbed up almost to the base of the towering cliffs following the small ridge trail. Nearing the top, we noticed heavy burro tracks leading to the left (south). We were wondering if there was a way to hike around the cliffs and reach Pine Creek Canyon. The burro trail was small but it appeared that the animals had recently stepped through the mud to show us the way. Ralyn was the first to spot the path and we followed her. After much undulating, the burros took a steep descent to the flatter desert below ... and, there they were! Four brown burros that included a juvenile were hiding among the rocks. We continued following the now cairned path of the rock climbers all the way over to a steep descent into Pine Creek Canyon.

View into Fern Canyon from Previous Descent

Fern Canyon Creek

Getting Photos, Cleaning Sticks and Marveling

Mike takes a rest above a Waterfall
We descended directly onto the Pine Creek Trail up canyon from the Wilson's old house. Glad to be back onto a worn trail, we hiked on into the Fern Canyon side of Mescalito Peak. Our desire to see some of that snow melt water flowing heavily from the peaks drew us into the canyon as far as we could go ... which wasn't very far. The trail took us down to the canyon creek and up a little bit further but crossing the water was pretty much impossible without a wet suit or really thick skin. (It was cold water!) I had left the house with neoprene socks on but found that hiking in those things is a nightmare! At any rate, not all of us were prepared to step into the cold liquid so our hike reframed from the swims that were offered. We all took several photos and videos. There was one waterfall that was especially photogenic. (See first photo and the photo to the right.) We returned to Pine Creek Canyon and turned right onto the Pine Creek Loop Trail. Soon, the trail was asking us to cross the flooded Pine Creek. Nope. Not without stepping into the cold water that rose between ankle and knee deep. We came for photos ... not for a swim. So, we turned around and returned to the canyon trail. Our next stop was the Arnight Trail crossing.

Flooded Arnight Trail Crossing (At least Ankle Deep!)

Rain/Snow Storm coming in over the La Madre Mountains

Picnic Table on the Fire Ecology Loop

Well-Marked Fire Ecology Loop
The water at Arnight Trail crossing was, perhaps the shallowest, but still higher than the tops of our shoes. After a stop at the Wilson House where we saw the view the family had in weather like this, we continued along the trail until a right turn onto the Fire Ecology Loop. One more look-see at the water showed us that the northernmost flow was shallow enough to cross easily but the main flow to the south was wide and calf deep. We took photos and noticed that some of the hikers in the area were getting across with cold wet feet! All of the crossings that we explored are usually either bone dry or just a trickle of water. It was exciting to see the heavy water flow. We had enjoyed our little weird exploratory day, and returned again to the main Pine Creek trail. All that was left was that ascent up the hill to the cars. What a fun day!

Stats: 5.2 miles; 1140' gain; 4.75 hours

Pine Creek Crossing at far end of Fire Ecology Loop

Pine Creek flowing toward Scenic Loop Crossing

Heading back to Cars

Friday, March 17, 2023

Thanks for the Tanks - 3/16/23

Six Scramblers at Pretty Tank

Tanks on Calico II Peak Area

Climbing up to the West Hills Tank

Mike stands above West Hills Tank
There's alotawata out there folks! More water than we've seen in a lot of years. Six club members parked at Sandstone Quarry Trailhead off of the Red Rock Canyon NCA Scenic Loop and went scrambling. We were out to check the status of the many tinajas (water tanks) sitting in the Northern Calico Hills. Please understand if you are not desert dwellers, seeing water in abundance gives us quite a thrill. Not to mention, it offers good photo opportunities. Today, we saw seventeen tanks of nice size and dimension. There were more but we ran out of energy before we ran out of tanks. It was a morning filled with 4 miles and 4 hours of scrambling. That'll do it! We started out by paying a visit to what I call the West Hills.

Amazing Morning at West Hills Tank

Hiking to the Arch

Under the Arch

Leaving the Arch
The West Hills are a small grouping of sandstone hills that rise on the west side of Limestone Wash - across from Turtlehead Peak. The Grand Circle (Loop) Trail takes you up to a small point next to the hills right out of Sandstone Quarry. From that point, we turned off the trail to the right and began climbing the sandstone. This section of sandstone was used as a quarry during the mid-20th century. Evidence of this is found on the west side of the hills. We climbed up the obvious slope until we found the West Hills Tank. It is quite a large tank that is filled with water at this time. The backdrop to this tank is the northern half of the Red Rock escarpment. The low clouds on this morning were the perfect touch for photos.

White Rock Hills from Arch Scramble

Charlie's first visit Here

New Calico Tank Trail Addition

Climbing over to start up Sandstone Ridge
We returned to Limestone Wash and followed it up to an obscure entrance to Arch Canyon. Being very careful ... all day ... of the wet sandstone footing, we hiked out to the arch for a photo. From there, we continued in the same direction and scrambled up to a high point. After a steep drop to the right, an overlook, and a climb up, we decided not to continue to the usual peak. There seemed to be a thin layer of ice in the area. So, we dropped steeply down to the Calico Tanks Trail. Immediately, we crossed the trail and paralleled the flooded trail above. Circling around the usual Trail Tank, we climbed on up to the right turn up toward the plateau. Already, we were running low on reserves so we stopped for a snack. (DST started 5 days ago.) Next, we reached the top of the sandstone ridge to the west of the Calico Tanks Trail that holds many tinajas and Calico II Peak. We spent a lot of time here locating the Large Tank, Pretty Tank, Colon Tank, River Tank, Exclamation Point Tank and Hidden Tank. We bypassed seeing the Asterisk Tank.

Large Tank not dry Anymore

Infinity Tank

Las Vegas native, Bruce, visits Pretty Tank for First Time

River Tank, Exclamation Point Tank,
Colon Tank, and Hidden Tank
After Hidden Tank, we dropped into the Brushy Descent. Our efforts last year of clipping some of the brush still held and we made the drop without getting scratched up. The log crossing was slippery but we made it all the way over the the Sunken Tank wall. In an effort to reach the Long Pool, we were stopped at the Camp Tank. Bruce was able to get over far enough to take a nice photo of the fantastic tinaja. We returned to the rocky climb up to Calico II tanks and the men continued up to make the peak. All of the Calico II Tanks were full of water. Finally, we began our trip back in the direction of the cars. We dropped down through the Chute ... carefully, due to the wetness. It was a very busy day at the Main Calico Tank. This was Spring Break week. We drew a lot of attention as we emerged from the Chute! We slowly descended to the trail and crossed it to climb up ... again ... to see our last tank of importance, the Shelf Tank. It sits on a shelf above the Calico Tanks Trail, quietly, where few hikers are aware of it.

Bruce captured the Long Pool from the upper End

Three Hikers on Calico II Peak

Descending the Chute

Main Calico Tank - Las Vegas Skyline in Background
Dropping down on the sandstone behind the tank, we paralleled on the red rock until we were able to join the trail at the CCC steps. Finishing the steps, our scramble back to the cars stayed parallel to the Trail on the rocks above it. We were not alone! Many of today's hikers were up on the rocks avoiding the muddy mess below. We joined the trail again at the Rattlesnake Trail junction and circled on around crossing Limestone Wash and to the cars. We had a great safe scramble! A little slow - but safe!

Stats: 4 miles; 1100' gain; 4.75 hours

Three Hikers above Shelf Tank

Scrambling down to "Back" Trail

Calico Tanks Trail to Finish