Tuesday, May 23, 2017

South Loop Conditions and Bird Nest ALERT - 5/23/17

South Loop Conditions Today

Unless you are prepared for hiking in the snow, the South Loop still has large snow patches. They get a little dicey right after the 1st Overlook. Then, at the Wilderness sign, the trail appears covered until the start of the second set of switchbacks. Give it another week. I reached the Wilderness sign (2.4 miles up) but decided not to try to go further.

Kay Blackwell

Lettie, I saw on the schedule David Gray had Griffith Peak set for May 31st. I want to advise him there will be too much snow up there! The Tuesday group attempted yesterday (May 23) and half had to go back due to conditions. After the first overlook it started to get pretty bad. Five hikers were prepared for the snow and went to the peak. The peak had over 6 ft. of snow and was a very dangerous trip.

Tim Borem-

We followed the old trail up and tried to follow the new trail down.  There was a LOT of snow.  If you didn’t have poles and spikes you weren’t going to make it.
Jerry Thomas

Bird Nest ALERT

There is a small bird nesting on the side of the trail at the top of the first section of steps located just after the Rainbow Loop turnoff and before the bottom of the first set of switchbacks. She is in a small shallow hole and flew out as I went up and went down. After inspection, I saw three little blue eggs. The nest is in a very dangerous spot right next to the trail and it will be a miracle if the eggs develop and grow to be fledglings. Just watch your step and stay on the uphill side of the trail on the steps. The nest is in the downhill side embankment about one foot up from the floor of the trail. Godspeed, little bird.

South Loop 5/23/17

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Upper Mud Springs Loop - 5/21/17

View from Red Trail

View from Green Trail

View from Yellow Trail

Hiking the Blue Trail
 The primary color array of trails that emanate from the Sawmill Trailhead are beginning to make just a wee bit of sense! More signs helped. Located about 12 miles up Lee Canyon Road from 95 in the Spring Mountains NRA, the Sawmill Trailhead accommodates hikers, bikers and equestrian activities. Today, eleven hikers arrived for a long distance hike in the foothills of the Spring Mountains in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. It was a cool morning but we were prepared for the warmth that would soon arrive. A constant cool breeze wasn't in the forecast.

Waking Up on the Steep Hill
 The trail that leads out from the upper picnic area is the Yellow Trail Loop. Quickly, we turned to our right still on the Yellow Loop. The trail stayed fairly flat until we reached a junction where we turned left. (Still the Yellow Trail.)

Starting down the Green Trail
 Further up the hill, we met another junction. Turning left would keep us on the Yellow Trail. We turned to the right and, now, we were on the Blue Trail.

Junction - Turn Left to Stay on Green Trail

Hiking down Wash
 At the next junction, the Blue Trail continues with a jog down and left. Straight across was the Pinyon Pine Loop (not sure what color ... orange?). We turned to our left (also not sure of the color). This is a steep hill that woke us up! At the top, we passed the No Mads Trail junction then turned right at the next trail. We had reached the Green Trail which would take us all the way down to a wash connector. And, down we went! At a junction that gave us a choice of straight or left, we turned left to stay on the Green Trail. This put us in the wash below.

Our Trail Maintenance!
 As we hiked down the wash, we came to a trail sign that had fallen. Using the rotten rope that had held it up previously, we tried to tie it up again. Good job, huh?

View to Wheeler Pass & Peak
 When we came out of the wash at the bottom, we headed into a series of undulations that went up and down several arroyos. The terrain was covered with pinyon pine and juniper trees. There were also a few joshua trees. (One joshua looks like the head of a swan!)

Swan Joshua

Over one of many Green Trail Undulations
 When views opened up down to the valley of the Las Vegas Wash, the desert was colorful and large. When we wiggled around to see the mountains, Macks Peak and McFarland Peak rose shyly up over the horizon. We felt like we were in the middle of nowhere! That's a great feeling when you have ten of your best buddies with you. We saw a minimal number of rabbits, a maximum number of lizards and no large wildlife. Yep. We were alone. ... Oops, correction! Behind us came four bikers on fat wheels. "Are you doing the whole loop?", one asked us. "Just the upper loop," we replied. "Have a good one," we exchanged. And, off they went.

McFarland Peak from Green Trail
 By the time we reached the wash connector, we were working on "spent." The undulations had taken their toll and the weather was getting warm.

Nearing the Wash Connector ... Almost
 We turned left in the wash connector and made an effort to keep going without a break just yet. That didn't last long in the loose gravel so we found some shade with stadium seating and refreshed.

Taking a Break in the Wash Connector (Stadium Seating)

The Wash Connector
 After the break, the gravel was more palatable. We finished hiking up the wash and found a really nice trail turning left out of the wash. Thinking this was the Red Trail, we turned. Actually, this turned out to be a steep shortcut to the Red Trail. Next time, we will continue up the wash and take the real Red Trail to the left. Nevertheless, we started up the Red Trail when we found it and a cold breeze started to pop up here and there. Thanks. The Red Trail provided a gentle climb up through washes by traversing the contours of the ridges to the right. "Gentle", that is, until we got closer and closer to the Saddle Junction of the Green Ridge Trail above.

Trudging Up the Gravel Wash
 Our pace during the whole hike averaged just over 2 mph. It was a pleasant pace that we could keep even when going uphill. (A couple of the hills got a little slower!)

Claret Cups on Rock Outcropping
 Finally, we reached the Saddle Junction! Up until then, for 7.5 miles, the group was very quietly working hard. Humorously, when we reached the Saddle Junction (High Point), we simultaneously let out a cross between a sigh of relief and a happy squeal of exhilaration!

Starting Up Red Trail with Mummy's Nose in View

Is this your scarf? (Red Trail)
All downhill from here! We started down the hill and the talking started up again. It had been an absolutely great morning and we had had a fantastic workout. This hike would be a great hike or run for interval training! Just make sure the weather is cool enough. We made sure we drank a lot of water!

9 miles; 1500 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

Still hiking Strong

At Last! The Saddle Junction

9 Miles; 11 Hikers; Still Happy!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Lower Rocky Gorge Loop - 5/20/17

Rocky Gorge

Desert Sage near Lee Canyon

Mummy Mountain from Big Switchback

Starting Trail down Little Wash
 Rocky Gorge Loop is an old horse trail that was revived when it appeared on the trail map given out at the new Spring Mountains Gateway Visitor Center opening in the Spring of 2015. The trailhead for the loop can be anywhere in the Blue Tree Campground area off of Lee Canyon Road. It can be hiked clockwise or counterclockwise with advantages to either way. Today, ten hikers hiked the lower 6 mile portion of the 8 mile loop in a counterclockwise direction starting from Blue Tree Road about 10 miles up from the Lee Canyon Road / 95 junction on the right side.

DNWR beyond our Trail Downhill
 It was a cool morning with promises of warming up to around 70 degrees. Perfect!

A Look Back
 The trail begins to the right of the large parking area by dropping down beside a small wash. There were a lot of prints showing that this trail is still popular with horse riders.

Small Breath at Bottom of Big Switchback

Descending Ridge after Switchback
 The trail is easy to follow staying either in the small wash or just outside of it until it curves off to the left heading toward the nearby escarpment. We could see the big switchback scar in the hill that would take us up to the top. As we climbed the big switchback, the views down were the best that a desert could offer. The views up showed us Mummy Mountain, also one of the best views in the Spring Mountains, with Charleston Peak peeking up behind the highest ridges.

Joshua Tree & Beyond
 Once on the top of the hill, we began following the trail down a long ridge line. Although we didn't see any large wildlife, we did see evidence of elk.

Dropping into the Rocky Gorge Wash

Heading into Rocky Gorge
 The small trail led us down into a wash then out to traverse around a gentle ridge. Here, the trail jogs down on another ridge then turns to the left. (We missed this again.) Finally, the trail brings hikers into the wash below. This is the Rocky Gorge wash. After a short break, we started up the wash. There were a lot of cliffrose bushes blooming in the area. We also saw larkspur, beavertail, and some blackbrush with blooms. Very soon, we entered Rocky Gorge. This is a small gorge made of limestone. Unusual for this area and terrain, it is a pretty anomaly.

Gorge provides Shade for Wildlife
 We zigzagged through the gorge that holds a few steps in the rocks then, just as quickly, exited the slot. Next, we found ourselves trudging up loose gravel in the bed of the wash for around a mile.

Cliffrose at Gorge Pinnacle

Hiking through the Gorge
Sometimes a side trail would offer some relief from the gravel. We took our snack break in some tree shade then continued. We occupied our minds with looking for the turnoff to the right. It is marked with a dead log. We gave up looking right before we got to it. We had bushwhacked up and crossed it on the ridge above. The long version of this loop follows this trail down to cross No Mads (dirt road) in a large dip. For the short version, we followed the ridge we were on until we reached No Mads near the top of a hill.

Loose Gravel in Most of Wash
 The ridge has been traveled by other hikers and horses so a trail is starting to get worn in. We balanced the ridge all the way up to the dirt road junction.

A Break in the Shade
 Next, a left turn on the road led us to a steep downhill. About halfway down the hill, a trail (Sawmill Wiggles) crosses the road. We turned left onto this trail and started toward the Blue Tree Campground.

Balancing the Ridge

Dirt Road Junction
 Nearing the bottom of the hill, a fork was offered and we veered left to go up and around the campground below. Firefighters were still camping here for training and their large tents were set up. As we continued over the trail and through the area below, we found three more fireman blankets (large shiny silver things) discarded in the brush. Hmm. Don't they know they are missing some blankets? Anyway, we picked them up, offered them to the firemen we saw later but they didn't speak English. And, ... it was siesta time. So, we disposed of the blankets ourselves. A gorgeous day in the mountain foothills.

6 miles; 1100 feet elevation gain; 3 hours

Trail Up & Around Blue Tree Campground

Ten Happy Hikers

Gathering Firefighters' Blankets from Brush