28 August 2011

the Grotto

Circle X Ranch Mountain Recreation and Conservation Authority

Locate the trailhead.

I had read about a trail to a place that was full of funkyness and a good place to go on those hot days as the destination is shady and has pools of water and water flowing around, at least after the rains. The general plan for hot days seemed to be hike down and wait until it is cool while playing on the boulders then hike back up. This was a hot day and I really wanted a hike, but it wouldn't be expected to be flowing very well. I decided to try it out anyway.

I had errands to do before hiking, so didn't get started until the middle of the afternoon. I had a bit of an extra drive getting there because the directions missed a turn. Even the gooogle maps directions missed a turn. Something about being on two roads that are actually the same, then a third joins and one of the original roads continues while the other two turn... Anyway, my directions said to be on the one that continued, then turn onto a road that I never saw because it was actually a quarter mile further along after making the turn. I figured it out and got to the Circle X Ranch where the trail starts.

Parking is at the top and a short way down a dirt road. Since it was late and the lower lot has a gate that is supposed to close at sunset, I decided to park at the top. The road goes to a campground and on the far side of that is the actual trailhead. After that, the trail is a well established path headed generally downhill. As I went down, a few of the last people already down there were coming back up.

rolling hills with rocky tops at the edges of a grass field with the trail running down it
Starting off down the trail while someone comes up from the grotto below.

red hanging flowers
Some flowers that were hanging over the trail.

The creek areas were dry for most of the way along the trail.

oldish spreading oak
An oak at a widening in the trail.

A sign indicated by the milage left that I was about halfway to the end of the trail and shortly after, water could be found in the creek and then there were a number of boulders. Trails traveled up the walls to the left and down over the boulders in the bottom. None of them seemed to be the proper trail as they all became quite steep and didn't really get anywhere. They seemed to skip the boulders by being even more dangerous, so I stopped trying to find my way along them and tried to pick up the trail over the rocks.

a pool of water forming at the top of the grotto
Approaching the top of the boulder strewn grotto, water appears in pools and a little flow.

rocky walls with holes in them here and there
Steep, rocky walls on the sides. The left is a little more climbable than this right side.

the boulder strewn stream bed
Large rocks that fill in the canyon floor.

Climbing down over the rocks, I found more water and more pools inside caves made by the boulders stacking up over the top. The temperature by the mouths of these caves was very pleasant, especially as it was still hot.

more boulders and water flow
A little more water down among the boulders.

grass and flowers next to a pool among the boulders
An open pool along the way.

water in a cave, with roots hanging down from the ceiling
A sheltered pool where the tree above can be seen below.

After a half an hour or a little more down in the boulders, it was already 7PM so a little late. I packed back up and made my way in the reverse of my previous boulder climbs. Coming upon one huge, flat boulder, I found dozens of dragonflies all zooming around. They seemed to be playing games as they flew around, generally at least four feet up from the rock. I watched them for a bit and then continued on back up the canyon to the car.

the Circle X Ranch
The Circle X Ranch comes into view while the trail climbs up the west slope of the canyon before it drops down again to climb the east side and continue to the camp at the ranch.

same as the start but with sunset colors and no people
Gotten back, but now the sun is setting and changing the colors.

The hike back up was nice and fairly cool until a few tens of vertical feet below the campground. There the atmosphere was suddenly much warmer and it stayed that way all the way back to the car. There was also suddenly more wind to try to keep the warm in check, but the wind was also warm off the desert.

red sky
The last of the sunset from the road.

©2011 Valerie Norton
Posted 14 December 2011

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