Wednesday, November 1, 2023

First Creek Canyon - 10/31/23

Heading into First Creek Canyon (Round peak at top is First Creek Peak)

The Grotto

Sign at Trailhead

Wide Main Trail through Desert Terrain
It had been years since any of us had climbed up into First Creek Canyon. Jerry and Cheryl had the most experience with the canyon and wash between Wilson Peak and Indecision Peak so they led the charge. Five of us parked at the signed trailhead located on SR 159, 2 miles south of the Red Rock Scenic Loop exit (or 1.2 miles north of the entrance to the Spring Mountain Ranch State Park. From the west side of the highway, we headed through the pedestrian gate (a simple construction) and on up toward the Sandstone Bluffs. Our first note was that the cable that used to connect the fence posts along the trail for the first half mile was missing. Not sure why. There is some rutting happening here so that may have something to do with it.

Jerry and Cheryl drop into the Grotto Area

Group Photo above Grotto

Sunrise on Escarpment (First Creek in Foreground)

Well worn Trail
Until the trail reaches the Rainbow Wilderness boundary outside the high sandstone walls, it is wide and clearly worn. There are two places where a worn trail veers off to the north. The first spur trail heads into the First Creek wash where many hikers choose to scramble up the wash to reach the Grotto. We passed this and turned right on the next trail that veered right. This trail brought us close to the wash and eventually, we found a very worn trail that drops steeply down into the wash. Be careful here. About half way down the hill, continue on the trail that turns to the left. This short trail takes you to the Grotto where there is usually pooled water. During the spring or after a rainstorm, a large waterfall can be seen pouring down into the pool. On this hike, however, there was no water pouring down, not even a trickle. In fact, the black pool of the grotto was pretty smelly! We took our photos down below. Then, we hiked up to the trail overlook above to take a group shot. Afterwards, we continued up the trail that soon reconnected with the wide main trail. There are trail sign posts but some of them are falling down. The desert ground is very difficult to dig into to place these signs so, sometimes, volunteers simply try propping up the signs instead of digging into the rock hard ground.

Last trail sign on Oak Creek Canyon Hike

Zen setting in First Creek

First Creek before it goes Underground

I went as a pumpkin for Halloween!
The trail remained close to the wash and soon, we could hear running water. Cheryl went down a steep hill to get photos of the creek. While she was down there, Jerry and I helped Mike back down to where we were after he went on an exploration of one of the rock climbers' spur trails. While he was up the hill, we took note of the rock climbing walls named Lotta Balls Wall and Alcohol Wall. (Gotta love the rock climbers' imagination.) We continued up the trail climbing to a Kayenta layer crossing. After that, the trail dives into a "jungle" of brush and large rocks and boulders. The trail was still pretty clear even though it was covered with plants on both sides. We had fun following Jerry and Cheryl up the path of scrambles after scrambles. There was one daunting scramble between huge boulders that I solved by going up and around. The others did fine on the offered trail through the boulders. A little more winding through jungle and we were nearing the scramble up the wash. As I understood it, the wash was where the scrambling got "serious." We reached another very large boulder in the path and decided to turnaround. After all, the trail sign at the beginning says the canyon hike is 2 miles one way. We were now over 2 miles in. 

The Kayenta Crossing

High Scramble

Quick photo at our Turnaround Point

View out of canyon at the Photo Rock
Back through the jungle scramble, we returned to the very large boulder scramble where we stopped to take a break and photos. As we rested, we were able to spot several rock climbers up on the walls on either side. They are actors of a completely different sport! Jerry said that he talked to one of them at the trailhead and the guy had a squirrel costume on for Halloween. Wait for it. 

We continued back out of the canyon the same way we had come in. Scrambling through some more jungle and making the Kayenta Crossing.

Group on the Photo Rock

Up Canyon view at Photo Rock

Mike emerges from the Jungle Scramble

Kayenta Crossing
Once we connected with the wide main trail that leads back to the cars, we didn't stop. All we could think about was how far the approach is to the rock climbing walls. At least two miles carrying all that rope and equipment. They are strong youngsters! Anyway, we decided that we should probably do this hike more often. Nice hike. Nice canyon.

Stats: 4.3 miles; 670' gain; 3.75 hours

Scrambling in the Jungle

Rita Sweeps

Out of the Jungle - Into the Light

1 comment:

Kay Blackwell said...

BLM took out the cable that was fed into the wooden posts. Originally it was put in to keep the area protected from a fire several years ago, and potentially revegetate. Enough time had passed since that fire, so the cable was taken out. They left the posts more as just a way of marking the trail.

Another interesting point, originally the trail was 1.5 miles, but when Jason Douglas (when he was a BLM ranger & is now supervisor for fire department in Lee Canyon) remapped it for new publications & Avenza app he made it 2 miles. When I asked him why he added another 1/2 mile he said he really didn’t know where it ended.

Earlier this year (or last year) BLM had Southern Nevada Climbers Coalition do trail work on First Creek and routed it toward the climbing walls, blocking the routes that all the hikers took into the creek. I went out with ranger Jon Prescott (BLM outdoor recreation planner) and we made some changes so that climbers and hikers would be happy.

Susan M.