Friday, September 11, 2020

Willow Springs Trailhead to North Peak, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, NV

Hiked Saturday, August 22.  Approximately 12 miles total, out and back.

This new blogspot interface still has me confused; no idea why, but my pictures are again disaplying in smaller size, where you can click them and see them larger.  I couldn't tell if this would happen as I wrote, but, after having "published," I can see the result. The text is not going where it was before, though.  Weird!

First shot is a panorama google made, automagically for me, by stitching together a couple of shots.  Not sure when it decides to do this, but it's an interesting capability.  It's near the end of the hike. That's the view from the saddle, where you'd decide whether to drop down and go forward, to Bridge Mountain (in front of you), or turn left, and go along the ridge line, to North Peak.
The trailhead is at the Willow Springs picnic area.  It's about seven miles along the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area scenic drive.  Turn off the main road at the sign, indicating Willow Springs.  Multiple trailheads, here.

At the end of the pavement, the road continues as gravel, starting out smooth, then quickly becoming high clearance/4wd, only.  This is Rocky Gap Road.
Left side of the road is Rainbow Mountain Wilderness Area.  Right side of the road is La Madre Mountains Wilderness Area.

If you do have high clearance/4wd capability, you can drive up this road about 4.4 miles to the saddle, where the road would then descend, towards Lovell Canyon.  There's a small, not entirely marked parking area there, on the left side of the road (if coming out of Red Rock) to park, and begin your hike.
From the saddle, it's a short 1 1/2 miles or so to North Peak, or six miles roundtrip to summit Bridge Mountain.  But if you're walking, especially on a hot day, you'll be pretty beat just going the nearly five miles and 2,000 feet or so to get to the "trailhead."

Starting from Willow Springs trailhead, All Trails gives a total distance of 11.8 miles and 2667 net altitude.

You start the hike at about 4,500 feet, so you'll be topping out at about 7,300 feet.  Doesn't quite match up with the altitude they give, however.

The main point of this is that it's a relatively high-altitude hike for Red Rock.  That makes it significantly cooler than most Red Rock hikes.

Most of the way on this one, you're hiking in juniper/pinyon pine forests.  

You're also going along a couple of washes so where the washes cut along the road, you'll get some nice western redbud blooms in the spring, and some color in the fall (from the redbud, some desert willow, and wild grape).
Poking above the trees, lots of impressive rocky outcroppings.  And, of course, the La Madre Mountains tower to your west.
The unpaved road climbs persistently higher, giving you nice views in all directions.
Scattered clouds as my hike progressed.  By the time I headed back, the increasing heat triggered the formation of cumulonimbus clouds, and even a few drizzles.

The picture below is just of some redbud seed pods.
More views of the La Madre Mountains, below.
There's one recurring area of at least some water on the way up.  Neat little flowers along the bank.  A couple of columbine, mixed in.

There were also some impressive Ponderosa pine, tucked in near where the water emerged.  Later, when looking out towards Bridge Mountain, I saw a few pockets with Ponderosa Pine scattered below me, and on Bridge Mountain, itself.
Just a few more columbine in my little pocket of watered growth.
I'm not 100 percent sure, but I'm saying the yellow flowers near the watery area was goldenrod.
This is along the mostly-level run, a brief resprite from the climbing, before making the final bit up to the saddle that overlooks Bridge Mountain.
Thunderclouds were building.
Nice old rocks, and the clouds, again.
Mormon tea, on the approach to that last saddle.
Rocky Gap road is out of this shot, to the right.
Wider view, looking over to Bridge Mountain.
Moderate zoom on to Bridge Mountain.  The nature bridge appears small, almost dead center.  The opening is 30-40 feet across.  Never made it up there, because the approach is pretty exposed, with a highly likelihood of a fatal end, should you slip.  It's so tiring just to get to the start of that climb that I never managed to psyche myself up for those last few pitches up.
Interesting how the soil just "ends," and the ground cover almost completely stops as you approach the edge of the escarpment.
Pocket of water, with greenery and a few Ponderosa pine, among the exposed sandstone.
This was my most challenging hike in a while.  Decent length, significant climb, very high temperatures, at least at the start.  I was hoping this would be the first of many hikes, but wildfires have closed California national forests, and the current (September 11) air quality would keep me from wanting to hike for now, anyway.  Still have one or two more older hikes to blog, though.

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