Sunday, May 26, 2024

Pine Nut Loop - 5/25/24

View of Mummy Mountain from Sawmill Ridge

Old sign from old system of Trails

Pinyon Pine Loop

Blue Yellow Trail Junction
So, what do you call a new loop trail that shortens the Pinyon Pine Loop trail? We called it the Pine Nut Loop. I have always wanted to utilize the old Pinyon Pine Loop but it was fabled to be a loooong loop to nowhere that dives deep into the desert below Sawmill Trailhead. Probably mostly used by bikers, this trail begins and ends on the Sawmill Ridge using long washes and ridges. We started out our day by taking the Yellow Trail up and over to the Blue/ Red/ Brown/ Yellow Trail junction. I have to begin by, again, saying that the color coded trails still don't make much sense to us. I think the forest folks have tried to re-sign the colors but there are still some enigmas. At any rate, I photographed some of the signs that we passed on this hike. Many times a colored trail has big gaps between signs and the colors are not contiguous. I will try to describe the hike because the signs are probably not going to be enough to repeat this hike without it. We started out from the Sawmill Trailhead and took the first right. At the next trail junction, we turned to the left and, at the next, we turned right. This section curved around a while until reaching an old gravel road. This is the Yellow/Red/Brown/Blue Trail Junction. We crossed the road and started down the Pinyon Pine Loop trail.

Starting down Pinyon Pine Loop

Pinyon Pine Loop and Mummy Nose, Chin & Forehead

Flattening out on Pinyon Pine Loop

Pinyon Pine (Orange)/Rocky Gorge (Brown)
Trail Junction Sign
This part of the Pinyon Pine Loop is shared with the upper reaches of Rocky Gorge Loop. There is a trail junction further down the trail where the Rocky Gorge Loop continues straight and the Pinyon Pine Loop turns to the left. This is where the crossover begins. You have a choice of either bushwhacking up the hill to the left or taking the trail up. If you bushwhack up and hit the ridge just right, you will only have to go up and over one or two ridges to get to the canyon wash part of the Pinyon Pine Loop return. If you continue up the trail, this takes you further down the ridge and there will be 3 or 4 ups and downs to reach the wash. This is what we did. No worries. It gave us a good workout and explained a lot about the area. The shortcut trails that I imagined on the map didn't materialize but the terrain was easy and the brush was thin. Just before we descended to the targeted wash, we crossed a ridge that held an optional Pinyon Pine Loop trail for the return. We chose the wash because of the forestation. By the time we dipped into the correct canyon wash, we were ready for a short break. After the break, we continued up the canyon wash on a good trail. The trail followed a switchback up to the right where it curved around a bare corner. There were very nice distant views here.

McFarland Peak from top of one of the three ridges on the Crossover

Landing on the Pinyon Pine Trail

After a short Break

Arizona Skyrockets
The trail continued around and up alongside this ridge. There were views across to the Mud Springs trails. Chuck had accomplished the whole 15 miles of the Mud Springs loop just the day before. Wow! A little bit further and we passed the junction for the Mud Springs Trail on our side of the loop. The climb up to the Sawmill Ridge (Green) trail came after and it was a doozy. Finally we made the junction with the sign seen a couple of photos below. After a short breather, we turned to the right and continued climbing up the ridge. Phew! The high point of the hike comes just before the Green Trail reaches the Red Trail (Mud Springs Trail on the other side) junction. (Try to keep up.)

A curve with a View

Passing the Mud Springs Trail junction Area

Nearing the Sawmill Ridge (Green Trail) Junction

Ridge junction Sign
From here, we continued down to the Yellow Trail turn to the left and followed it back to the trailhead. This hike can be tweaked here and there to make a 4.5 to 6 mile hike. I was trying for 5 miles but we made a couple of mistakes for our debut hike. At any rate, it is a good trail / bushwhack hike that will probably be repeated during shoulder seasons. Today's weather was perfect for hiking and the group was a lot of fun.

Stats: 5.3 miles; 1075' gain; 3 hours

Wide views from the Ridge

View down Lee Canyon to the Sheep Mountain Range

A passing horse Parade ... Trail Ride

Friday, May 24, 2024

Lower Rocky Gorge Loop - 5/23/24

Tall Joshua Tree on the Blue Trail

Mummy Mountain from Rocky Gorge Trail Switchback

Pinnacle in Rocky Gorge

Starting down the small wash from the Trailhead
This trailhead is now officially called the Barrow Pit TH. It is located about 10 miles up Lee Canyon Road from SR 95 (which will eventually be I-11). It is on the right side as you are driving up and is relatively unmarked. Right now, there is a yellow caution sign there for some other reason than to mark the trailhead. My low clearance vehicle did fine on the way down the short gravel road and we parked at the bottom where there is sometimes an RV parked using the spot for some limited seclusion. We dropped down into the small wash behind the RV and started down a worn trail. This loop hike is often used by equestrians and on this occasion, there was a single bike track. The wash trail has been minimally maintained but it was easy to follow.

Following the wash Trail

View back from the beginning of the Switchback

Ralyn and Kay at the top of the Switchback

Blooming Beaver Tail Cactus
The wash trail continues down for about 0.75 mile and sometimes leaves the wash right or left to go around brush. Next, the trail turns to the left and crosses the desert over to the base of the neighboring small ridge. A long switchback climbs the hill where there are beautiful views of Mummy Mountain and the north ridge of Charleston Peak. The trail is clear and easy to follow down the ridge where burros are often on their way over to the springs of Deer Creek Canyon. The trail dips down to the left and follows through the brush to climb up to the next ridge and down to Rocky Gorge Wash. Finally there, we turned up to the left where, soon, we found ourselves in a small part of the wash where there were rock walls. The "gorge" is pretty but not large.

Trail leading down from top of Ridge

Arriving in the Rocky Gorge Wash

Scenes from Rocky Gorge

Following the Rocky Gorge Wash
The next 2.5 miles were in the wash following a trail climbing up through the small gravel. Again, it is easy to follow with a few small side trails that accommodate the horses. Finally, after the trail forks up through a wash on the right (not noticeable), we came to a well-marked turn to the right that climbs quickly up to the neighboring ridge. Elk have sometimes been seen here in this area. If you wish to continue on to Sawmill TH, then continue on the trail that goes diagonally down into the next wash and crosses a dirt road. For the short version of this hike, we turned left and followed the ridge all the way up until we junctioned with that same dirt road near the top of a hill (the high point of the hike). Down the road on the other side, we found the Blue Trail crossing and turned to the left. This junction is not marked. Keep your eyes open! Following the Blue Trail, we took a left fork to avoid dipping into the Blue Tree Campground and continued until we took a right turn ... this time we entered the wash below on an old road and turned left ... again.

The right turn Junction

Closer view of Mummy's Head, Lee Peak and Charleston Peak

Mike at the overlook to the Barrow Pit Trailhead

Ralyn following the ascent Ridge
We followed the road straight until we came to a deep wash in front of us. Don't follow the road to the right where the deep wash appears earlier. Our route crossed the deep wash and we ended up on the road that leads to the campground. Further, we finally came into the upper side of the Barrow Pit and on to our cars. It is a nice 6 miles that we do almost every year on the shoulder seasons. Nice views of the snow-capped mountains and just the right temps. Good day!

Stats: 5.9 miles; 1060' gain; 3.25 hours

The Blue Trail above Blue Tree Campground

Old road leading back to the Trailhead

Clean-up from Hurricane Hilary at the Barrow Pit

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Lee Canyon Narrows (Easy) - 5/21/24

Lee Canyon Narrows from Above

Hiking into the Upper Narrows

View back up Lee Canyon Wash

Upper Lee Canyon Narrows
Coming out of my cold virus stupor, I joined Mike and Ralyn to make my return to the Spring Mountains. My foot, although not completely back to normal, felt good enough for a short 2.5 mile walk out of Sawmill Trailhead. The fresh cold morning air was a gift to my lungs as we exited the trailhead parking lot and crossed Lee Canyon Road. The dirt road across the pavement is called Champion Road, a primitive camping area which is sometimes difficult to drive with anything but HCVs. We hiked down the hill to intersect with Lee Canyon Wash and turned to the left, downhill. Immediately, the wash appeared much wider and flatter as the gravel spread over twice as much of the canyon floor. It appeared that a vehicle had driven much of the way down the rocks. It was easy hiking. We reached the upper narrows and admired the high walls. Although not particularly "narrow," this section is glamorous with a few small windows up at the top. Next, we passed the wash car. It seemed a bit deeper than before. And, we noticed the trail car up to the left. It was also a little deeper indicating that the water from Hilary had breached the normal path of the drainage and flowed atop the flat area toward the canyon embankment.

The wash car is buried a little deeper.

Heading into the Lower Narrows

There is a little more space under the obstacle rock.

The trail car is also a little deeper.
Past that, we came to the lower narrows. The gravel here was definitely lower than before as you could tell by the water line on the left side. But, at the crest of the big drop into the real narrows, things appeared much the same except for a dangerous hole in the ground on the right side. Be careful there. Below, there was a new tree obstacle at the bottom but the space underneath Obstacle Rock is larger ... for now. We opted not to go up and around to inspect the lower portion and began our return on the trail. At one point, the trail runs into a small cliff into the wash. Go around to the right, here. We stopped at the trail car and at the chrome bumper car for photos and saw a kangaroo rat wiggle into his hole in the bank. Cute! The bushes need clipping on the trail up to the old road and we climbed up to cross Lee Canyon Road again. Passing some corralled horses back at Sawmill TH, we found the Yellow Trail and circled around to our trailhead. It was very nice to be back with friends. Short hike but very refreshing! My foot, eh!

Stats: 2.5 miles; 450' gain; 1.5 hours

View down Lee Canyon

View up Lee Canyon and Mummy's Nose

Yellow Trail sign at left turn Junction