Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Echo Canyon / Fossil Ridge - 8/28/23

From Echo Canyon to Calico Hills to La Madre Mountains

Heading down Fossil Ridge Trail

Big Step Up - Passing a really nice Shell Fossil in Echo Canyon

View up Echo Canyon
Eight AtBF club members gathered at the Cowboy Trails Trailhead at 6am - another early warm morning. Until we hiked up the road to the upper stable, there was no breeze and the warm temps persisted. As we dipped down into Echo Canyon, we felt coolness caress our skin ... but only for a few moments. Hiking up a little further, we climbed out of the cool layer of air and back into the warmth. A few more minutes and we didn't notice it so much as we turned our brains to the task at hand. Echo Canyon is easy to navigate with worn trails and moderate scrambles. We laughed and talked our way up between the walls, passed the Fossil Ridge Trail turn to the right and hiked on up to the top of the canyon where the trail junctions with the Cat 'n' Hat Trail. Here, there is a seating area where many groups take their break. It was in the shade, however, our group was not interested too much in taking a long snack break and, after a short pause, we turned right onto the Cat 'n' Hat Trail to start our descent.

Following a Trail up and Around

Hiking to the Top of Echo Canyon

Cat 'n' Hat Trail

Waiting on the Fossil Ridge Trail
Although the Cat 'n' Hat Trail descends all the way to the Bunny Trail, that in turn, descends all the way to the cars, we turned to the right to connect with the Fossil Ridge Trail. This connecting trail is found about 0.6 miles down from the top of Echo Canyon. We zigzagged down to the Fossil Ridge Trail and proceeded to hike down the beautiful ridge above Echo Canyon. Our pace was swift. It was getting hotter. We followed the trail all the way down the ridge and dropped into the horse corral area near the cars. It was a wonderful hot morning with friends.

 Stats: 4.5 miles; 900' gain; 2.25 hours

John pauses on the Fossil Ridge Trail

Fossil Ridge and Echo Canyon at Echo Spot

Rick and Rosie descend Fossil Ridge

Monday, August 28, 2023

Calico I Scramble v Red Spring - 8/27/23

Taking a break up on the Red Rocks

Narrows to Dry Fall

The Wash

Eleven hikers started from the Red Springs Picnic Area parking lot early in the morning. Yes, the Spring Mountains are still closed. Yes, there are rumors. But, until I feel comfortable, I will not be recommending any hikes in higher elevations. So, early in the morning just before 6am (we weren't the only ones there!), we started our hike by walking up and around the boardwalk and climbing up to the overlook above on the Red Spring Ridge Trail. We descended the trail about halfway then took a right onto a trail that crosses under the balanced rock and on down to the petroglyph area. This trail is called the Lower Calico Hills Trail (aka the South Calico Hills Trail). The trail continues along the base of the red rock above and drops into the wash. It continues across the wash, however today, we turned to the right and started hiking up the wash. 

No Filter! The sun coming Up

Waiting in the Wash

Arch along Trail

Scramble down from Trail to Gulley
Sometimes, we would use the wash to travel and sometimes when the scramble got tough, we would follow the trail on the left side of the wash. We made it all the way up to the Calico I Overlook then followed the trail down the other side to climb up the hill on the right. It would be a short hike, so we didn't mind the effort. Still slightly cool in the shade, we knew that it would be hot by the time we returned to the cars. We chose the lower ridge trail to the right and found a scramble drop into the canyon gulley below us. Aha! Several of us had never been in this area right under our nose where we see multiple rock climbers going up to scale the walls. Fun! Our scramble took us down to cross over to the second crack that led to the right. It is very narrow. We scrambled our way up the crack and started getting into a few bushes. Just when the brush got really bad, we stepped up onto a ramp that led up after a sharp turn to the left. At the top of the ramp, we all stopped for a rest and a morning snack.

Scrambling to next Gulley

Following David through narrow Gulley

Sittin' around on the Red Rocks

Ramp Down - Our gulley to the Left
While we were taking a relaxing break, a young couple who had climbed the rock hill near us, came by to ask us if we would take a photo of the two of them. Sure! Then, they revealed to us that they had just become engaged on the rock just above us! It made the moment on the red rock quite poignant! Afterwards, we finished our break and started down the ramp on the other side of the rock hill. This ramp took us down and back up to the trail near where we had dropped down in the scramble gulley. From there, we followed the trail all the way down and up to the Calico I Overlook. The trail took us back down to a point where we could drop into the wash narrows. This is where the narrows finish in a dry fall that is usually so washed out that only the advanced hikers dare to go. (There is a go around.)

Starting down the Wash Narrows

No slip Zone

The Narrows

David demonstrates the Dry Fall Descent
But, we had noticed on our way out that tons of sediment had come down through the narrows and filled the drop area during the Hurricane Hilary episode. You can see in the photo to the left that the drop was very doable. We continued down the wash noting the tadpoles in the small wash pools. There were also hummingbird moths flying around enjoying the water. Once we connected with the Lower Calico Hills Trail again, we started feeling the real heat of the morning. Out of the shade, we became more serious about the speed of the pace. That last climb up to the Red Springs Ridge Overlook was enough to almost do us in! But, it didn't. Just exaggerating! On the boardwalk below, there were two different photographers with their clients. It was a beautiful scene at Red Spring. Wonderful morning ... albeit hot!

Stats: 3.75 miles; 700' gain; 2.75 hours

Sue climbs through the Rubble

Back up on the Overlook

Exiting by way of the Boardwalk

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Windy Peak / Lower Cairn Loop - 8/22/23

Windy Peak Trail with Cloud Cover

View north along the Sandstone Bluffs

Sandstone to Limestone Transition Area

Driving by a Turtlehead Morning
My apologies for such a long break. Things to do. People to see. We came back to Hurricane Hilary and its aftermath! The Spring Mountains were closed but the weather was unusually cool. Rain was borderline but we took a chance (... it is Las Vegas ...) and drove up to the Mountain Springs Pass Trailhead for a beautiful hike up to Windy Peak. It was magnificent! As we entered the parking lot, we saw an old friend that just came to say "hello." Bruce! Good to see him but he said he wasn't up to a peak hike so we left him to wander around the foothills. We started up Heartbreak Hill to the relay tower at a slow steady pace. No one was running so the climb was very pleasant as we took in the scenery full of low lying clouds.

Heartbreak Hill

Windy Peak from the Saddle at top of Heartbreak Hill

Gray Guys at the Trail Fork

Sun on Cottonwood Valley
The sun was still coming up underneath the clouds so the light show was otherworldly. At the saddle, we paused for water then followed Mike up the next section to the fork. The fork divides the Windy Peak Trail to the right and the Mountain Springs Peak to the left. We paused here again for a photo then headed up the hill to the right. Our slow steady pace served us well and reaching the high point of the hike, we were no worse for the wear. Coming up over the rise, we watched the low clouds coming in from the south. They didn't appear to be especially heavy. We noted where the trail for Global Peak dropped down to the left on about the third saddle along the bench. Next, we started around to the Limestone / Sandstone transition.

View back toward Mountain Springs, NV

We watched in awe as a cloud passed by on our approach.

Color Everywhere!

Limestone/Sandstone Transition
Here, we stopped in our tracks as we watched a particularly low cloud pass in front of our eyes, south to north. At one point, the cloud almost obliterated Windy Peak as we approached. The question popped into everyone's mind at the same time. Should we continue onto possibly wet sandstone? (We are cautious hikers.) Before we could expound on the answer to that question, the cloud/fog revealed the sandstone peak. Although still wet from Hilary's pounding, we were comforted by knowing the trail and its safety. Continuing, we found the scrambling extremely entertaining as we found little ways to make the hike different from times before. Colors off the wet rock and cloud cover were intense. Photos were fun! 

At the peak, Mike signed in for us then we all hiked out to the cliffy eastern edge of the peak. Views of the valley and back along the Sandstone Bluffs were covered in low clouds with sun splotches coming through. Our small escape from the city was very rewarding ... and quiet! We had our fill of the location and turned back to descend. Again being cautious on the wet sandstone, we travelled over to the limestone and climbed up to the high point.

Small Tinaja on Windy Peak

View from east side of Windy Peak

Chuck and Mike signing the log Book

Cairn on east side of Peak
As we descended to the aforementioned "fork," we decided to complete the hike with a loop using the Lower Cairn Trail. Passing the fork, we looked to the right and saw the large rock outcrop that marks the end of one of the area's trailing ridges. This ridge holds the Lower Cairn Trail. Many of the higher cairns have been either knocked over by other hikers or destroyed by the storm so the junction is obscure again. We found the trail and started down noting that many of the cairns lower down are still more or less intact. Maybe the cairns will return. They are not only informative but also entertaining! Some real artwork! The trail culminates by crossing a deep gulley and continuing to an old road circle after it passes the bottom of the Upper Cairn Trail junction.

Mike eating again on East Windy Peak

View back toward SR 160 E

Actual Windy Peak (R)

Windy Peak Trail Descent
The trail crosses the old road circle and continues down along the gulley to the left. At an obstructed fork, we veered left and crossed the gulley again. Now, on another old road, we turned to the right and followed the road down and up to junction with a shortcut trail. This shortcut trail turns to the right and sports a nice new cairn (at least, for the time being!). It travels over to connect with the beginning hill of Heartbreak Hill. We hiked into the parking lot and found several other cars parked. It was a good location for a hike today ... even though it is August! We enjoyed our little excursion.

5 miles; 1500' gain; 3.5ish hours

The Cairn Tree on Lower Cairn Trail

Heading Home

Amazing cloud Scenery

The maps below reflect a climb up the Burnt Ridge which runs parallel to Heartbreak Hill to the west. The described hike above ascended via Heartbreak Hill passing by the relay tower.