Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Another group hike today, this time we drove up to White Rock Canyon and hiked the Blue Dot and Red Dot trails. On a number of past hikes, I have used spectacular to describe the views on those hikes. I find myself needing to use spectacular again to describe the views on this hike. The Rio Grande River has carved out a seriously magnificent canyon and given us some spectacular panoramas. Standing on the rim of the canyon gazing down at the Rio Grande River, I felt the same awe I felt the first time I looked into the Grand Canyon. If you haven’t done this hike, put it on your To Do list because you won’t be disappointed. This hike is definitely a keeper! πŸ™‚

The Blue Dot/Red Dot hike actually encompasses two additional trails: The River Trail, which connects the Blue Dot and Red Dot trails at the base of the canyon, and the White Rock Canyon Rim Trail, which connects the Blue Dot and Red Dot trail heads at the top of the canyon. This is a long loop hike which can be done in either direction. We opted to hike in a clockwise direction, starting, and finishing, at the Blue Dot Trail Head. The Blue Dot and Red Dot trails are named for the blue and red dots painted on the rocks to help you find your way.

The Blue Dot Trail Head is on the edge of the town of White Rock (use the trail map, below, to navigate your way to the trail head) and is located on the rim of the canyon, right next to a dog park. There is ample, paved parking and no fee to park, but I didn’t spot any facilities, such as restrooms or pit toilets.

Elevation at the trail head is 6,293 feet. The Blue Dot Trail is rocky, but with virtually no pebble-size scree that can cause you to suddenly end up on the ground. As you descend into the canyon, which, at its deepest, is 900-1,000 feet, the average grade is 15%, but there are numerous, short sections where the grades increase to 25% and can even go to 35% and higher. Boots with thick soles and good traction are recommended, as well as trekking poles if you have balance issues. It took us about 45 minutes to hike a little less than a mile down to the base of the canyon where we connected with the River Trail.

At the base of the canyon, at an elevation of 5,526 feet, the River Trail is about 2.3 miles long, is relatively flat with only 267 feet of total climbing, and, as the name suggests, generally follows the Rio Grande River. This trail is a mix of sandy, marshy, rocky, and woodsy. Along the way, we left the trail a couple of times, once finding a geocache and once finding some petroglyphs. However, the mass of what initially appeared to be petroglyphs turned out to be nothing more than modern day graffiti, compliments of local kids who fancy themselves artists. Who knows, maybe in a thousand years the image of Snoopy carved onto a boulder will be viewed as a petroglyph of our time, but on this hike, it just came across as graffiti.

But there is one thing that absolutely did NOT happen while we were hiking the River Trail:


The Things You Find Along A Trail

We absolutely did NOT get taken in by a fake lizard someone left sitting on a rock. And we absolutely did NOT creep up on this fake lizard, slowly and silently, so as not to scare it off. But most of all, I absolutely did NOT take over a dozen pics of this fake lizard before realizing I had been taken in by a, well… fake lizard. I don’t know who is passing this stuff around as though it were fact ’cause it absolutely did NOT happen!! Hey… I should know because I was there. So let’s put an end to these rumors before someone gets really embarrassed!!!!Β  πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰

At the end of the River Trail there is a live stream which led us to a most pleasant surprise — at least for those of us who hadn’t done this hike before — a pretty large pool of crystal clear water fed by a small waterfall, which, I assume, is fed by Pajarito Springs. Turned out to be the perfect place to take our lunch break. The waterfall marks the end of the River Trail and the beginning of the Red Dot Trail, and that can only mean… it’s time to start climbing out of the canyon!

As you can see in the elevation profile, below, the Red Dot Trail is a little steeper than the Blue Dot Trail. Again, the average grade was 15%, but there are numerous, short sections where the grades increase to 25% and can even go to 35% and higher. Although both the Blue Dot and Red Dot trails are steep and rocky, the rocks are mostly large and fixed, and act as stepping stones, which was a benefit on the mile climb to get up and out of the canyon. And, as you might expect, it took twice as long to go from river-to-rim as it did to go from rim-to-river.

The total length of the hike from rim-to-river-to-rim was 4.2 miles and took 3.5 hours to complete, including stops, of which 2.5 hours was actual hiking time. Total climbing on this part of the hike was 1,087 feet. Yes, I said this part of the hike! πŸ˜‰

If there is a downside to such a beautiful experience: after a 4.2 mile hike, after climbing a mile up the very steep Red Dot Trail, and after finally gaining the rim, you stop and think to yourself: “Wow! What a great hike! I finally made it!” But no, such is not the case because you now have to get back to your vehicle, which is another… <drum roll please>… 3.5 mile hike away!! What!? That’s almost as long as the entire canyon hike! Bummer. Hmmm. Did I remember to bring an extra granola bar? 😦

Well, it is what it is. You either suck it up and make the long hike back to your vehicle, partly on city streets, but mostly on the Canyon Rim Trail… or take a second vehicle and work a shuttle… or swallow your pride and crawl along the street on your hands and knees hoping some sympathetic local will show mercy and give you a ride. We didn’t have a second vehicle. And all the sympathetic locals were apparently at Starbucks, oblivious to our plight. Hey, wait a minute. There isn’t a Starbucks in White Rock. No matter. We sucked it up and did what we had to do. By the time we got back to the van, our boot treads had logged nearly 7.8 miles over five-plus hours. Not too shabby for a small group of senior hikers! πŸ˜‰

Click Here for the topo map with the trail route, then click on the individual icons for trail notes and/or pics. If the icon info comes up empty, try reloading the map.

Blue Dot / Red Dot Trail Map

Topo Map / Trail Route

Blue Dot / Red Dot Elevation Profile

Elevation Profile

Click the first pic to start the manual slide show: