Fern Canyon Overview
After communicating (eletronically) with a few Sp-members, and after reading Dennis Poulin's
recent trip report, I headed for Food-4-Less
to stock up on Snickers Bars, and continued to drive due west from Henderson on Windmill Lane. I had been here before as a passenger, and could see my destination in the distance.The stunning Red Rocks of Nevada's Spring Mountains rise up from the Mojave desert, just a 20-minute drive from greater Las Vegas. Their east-facing escarpment consists of solid rock cathedrals with (nearly) vertical sides and (nearly) pointed summits. More than 600 million years ago, the land that would become Red Rock Canyon was at the bottom of the ocean. Over time, changing land and sea levels resulted in the deposition of both ocean and continental sediments that became grey limestone. Over greater time, the ocean retreated and a GIANT dune field covered this area. The sheer weight of the layers of sand compressed into STONE, and the layers were uplifted by the Keystone Thrust (faulting), forming the Red Rock faces as we experience them today.Because this is a popular recreation area, I had to pay $5.00 at the door. A worthwhile fee for having signed trailheads and restrooms along the way! It was very crowded for a Monday, especially the Calico Hills area. My objective was to hike to the cooler reaches of Fern Canyon, just to the north and within the shadow of an awesomely popular tower of rock called Mescalito
. As I stumbled up Pine Creek Canyon Trail, I veered to the right after viewing the remains of the Wilson homesteading site. I met three hikers coming down a short red "cliff band" of exposed rock to the north, and they admitted they had taken the wrong trail. (Summitpost members???) After leaving the homesteading site, none of the trails are improved, and they spread out into different directions. This is why somebody had established CAIRNS
along the route. Following the cairns, I climbed in elevation to the northeastern edge of the canyon without having to bush-whack through heavy brush. I detected the sound of treefrogs and people's voices, while gazing up at the majestic Mescalito's north face. I could make out the figures of rock climbers on the DARK SHADOWS
route. (Summitpost members???)
A voice suddenly rang out: "Go for it, Bonnie!!! Yeeeeah!" The figure looked so small on the impressive rock face. But in turn, I probably would have looked like an ant if they had been looking at me. Which they weren't.I found the waterway at the center of the narrow canyon, and continued at a slow pace pass some huge Ponderosa pines. I saw maidenhair ferns growing on canyon's north-facing wall. I contemplated near silent green pools, and experienced a true sense of solitude not far from the rock climber's fading voices. It was well after noon, and I scrambled up a sandstone boulder to detour around a small waterfall. I saw where a recent rockslide had left broken rocks and white dust in its wake. Perhaps the rockfall had originated when a bighorn sheep was passing (above) on the south-facing cliff face. I kept looking up, because it was hard not to. I discovered an area where water was running down off the north-facing wall, and the image of a "sun dog"
shown high overhead. Its bark was worst than its bite! I knew I was in a "ferny" kind of HEAVEN called Fern Canyon
How did Mescalito get its name?
Bonnie goes for it!! Full Dark Shadows Route Fern Canyon ferns!
Back in the 1960's, this formation was known as Red Cap, and access was limited due to private property. Jeff Lansing was dating the caretaker's daughter and thus had the connection needed to easily get to the base of the routes. Both caretaker and daughter fit very well into the 1960's hippie psychedelic scene. When Jeff and Peter Wist climbed the east face in 1968, they name the formation Mescalito, which had the proper hallucinogenic overtones. (Info courtesy of Red Rocks Climbing - SuperTopo by Greg Barnes
, Jan. 2004)
North face of Juniper Feedin' time for Wild Burros?
Red Rock Jacks and Jennies
Nope, not a game of cards! Many visitors to Red Rocks enjoy seeing the BURROS
. Burros are well adapted to the Mojave desert and survive high temps and long periods of time without green forage by using shade under rocky cliffs and by being most active in early morning and late afternoon. Burros are generally less than half the size of a horse. Males are called jacks and females are called jennies. Feeding burros encourages these animals to congregate on roadways where many have been killed and injured by automotive vehicles. Eash year, people are injured by burros as they try to feed or pet these animals.
How do I get (my ass) there?
It's very easy to get to the Pine Creek Canyon Trailhead, which is inside RRCNCA (Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area) and the starting point for the hike. Even though the elevation gain is minimal, I suggest the wearing of leather hiking boots if you decide to journey into Fern Canyon. There are several places along the unimproved trail where you have the risk of twisting an ankle. The trail takes you across a very open and sandy part of the desert, and you'll come across an intersecting trail leading to Ice Box Canyon to the north. While passing the Wilson's old homesteading site on the left, immediately veer off to the right, gaining more elevation so you can SKIRT the edge of the thick oak underbrush growing along the length of North Fork of Pine Creek. You may find a seasonal waterfall about halfway up the canyon, after passing several towering pines. Continuing beyond the waterfall will require some tricky rock scrambling.
The scenery is truly breathtaking!!! Lots of room for contemplation ... don't forget the snickers bars, P&J sandwiches, and BURROS if you like to think out of the BOX! Cheers!
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