Friday, October 19, 2018

Slots of Fun / Big Dune - Valley of Fire - 10/16/18


Super Tuesday found about ten strong club hikers in the Valley of Fire State Park where Brian was leading an encore of the Slots of Fun / Big Dune (aka Dunes & Slots) hike in the northwest corner of the park. These photos say it all! Brian's stats say the rest:

4.6 miles (perceived as much more!)
1200 ft gross gain.
Moving average 2.2 mph
Overall average 1.3 mph
Moving time 2:06 h
Stopped time 1:32

Monday, October 1, 2018

South Loop Autumn Photo Essay - 9/30/18

Aspen Grove in 2005 Avalanche Field (12pm)
Follow along with Rita and Kay B. (me) up and down the South Loop with autumn color. Enjoy!

Starting Up the South Loop (8am; 1/2 mile up)

Setting Moon above Echo Cliffs

Shadows among rising Sunlight

The Steps Section
 Two club members opted to stay in the mountains today and hike the South Loop in an attempt to capture the amazing beauty of the changing aspens and the clear air. Hurricane Rosa was on her way up the Baja and into Arizona but Las Vegas was catching some strong winds and will have a couple of days of rain. (Nothing like what Arizona will endure.) Rita and I stepped out of the car into the strong wind ravaging the trailhead parking lot. However, we knew that much of the south southwest wind would be blocked by the mountains on the South Loop Trail. After saying hello to another club member who was also preparing for a small group hiking up the South Loop (Larry S.), we headed up the trail. It was chilly! We needed to warm up so up we went.

Techno Aspens!

Top of Steps Section

Hikers climb the First Switchbacks

Amazing Color


 We didn't know how far we would hike. Just going up! As it turned out, there were many many Sunday solo and paired hikers heading up today. Everyone had the biggest smiles on their faces! Las Vegas had just endured a very hot /wet summer and the coolness was sooo welcome. After about half a mile, we turned the corner above the aspen wash field that was the result of an avalanche in 2005. The morning sun lit the aspens up like fire on the lower reaches of the grove as we hiked through them on the trail. The Echo Cliffs above were still blocking the sunlight of the upper parts so photos were difficult to meter from the bottom of the steps section up to the First Switchbacks. A little bit of photoshop rendered the "Techno Aspens" in the photo five photos up from this paragraph! I couldn't resist. (Kinda cool though, huh?)


Nearing First Overlook

View over to North Loop Aspen Grove

Wilderness Sign (2 miles)

A Switchback between First and Second Overlook
Since I was stopping for billions of photos, it took us a while to hike up through the first switchbacks! We passed through the First Overlook where a group of hikers were playing with hammocks. (hmm) Then we continued up the next long switchbacks passing the wilderness sign, crossing the cliffy wash and on up to the Second Overlook. Here, we quickly grabbed a photo of the arrival of Rosa's front cloud bands. They were not intimidating but really beautiful. By the end of the hike, they were actually kind of surreal looking with sharp edges and very very thick. As we neared the ridge above, we watched the clouds moving extremely fast from south south west to northeast. We were still being shielded by the mountain, but every once in a while we would get a cold blast! We had tied knots in our hat strings!

Rosa's Clouds Building at Second Overlook (Charleston Peak)

Griffith Peak Overlook

Peering down Last Switchback before Saddle (Harris Peak)

Approaching "Train Station" Saddle

Trail Sign on Saddle (~10,500')
 We passed the Third Overlook and the clouds had already changed to a thicker display. Rita and I agreed that we could go further and we continued climbing. There wasn't a lot of autumn color in this area so we didn't stop for photos much until we reached the Griffith Peak overlook corner. From there, we tackled the last few switchbacks up through the grassy field. It was here that we passed another club member, Kay T. We said "hi" and she warned us that the saddle was very windy and cold. Not a place to stick around for very long today. She was not the only hiker to have informed us of the saddle weather and when we reached the very last short switchback to the saddle, we heard the wind howling above us. It sounded like a freight train! At this point, we still didn't feel the wind and were still fairly comfortable. Weird. Then, we hiked up the last few feet....

Just below Saddle (out of wind)

Third Overlook (Charleston Peak)

Heading Down the First Switchbacks

Hiker among the Aspens

View down Kyle Canyon from Switchbacks (before noon)

Colorful Wash below Griffith Peak
 Yep! The wind was howling. The air was very cold. There was no one hanging around. We took our photo then dropped back down the trail a few feet to take our break. The view down Kyle Canyon was so clear, unusual. We just sat and enjoyed it. From there, our descent was uneventful after passing Larry and his group who were almost up to the saddle. We grabbed a photo at the Third Overlook since the clouds were looking better than before. But, when we reached the aspen grove again, the photos started again! Now, with the sunlight covering the upper reaches of the yellow aspens, there was a new set of photos to be taken! I hope you enjoy the photos I have offered on this blog. The first photo was taken on our way down but, starting with the second photo, you can hike along with us all the way up and down the South Loop Trail in autumn technicolor!

8 beautiful miles


Starting Steps Descent

Shadows Gone at Midday

Last View back at the Aspen Grove

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Showgirl Trail (Original) - Top to Bottom - 9/24/18

Lower Showgirl Trail 

La Madre Range from Top of The Dive

Autumn Color on Mummy Mountain (near Juniper TH)

Starting Fresh on Upper Showgirl
 In the spring of 2015, the National Forest Service opened the Spring Mountains Gateway Visitor Center. With that opening, they gave out a map of trails, some of which were low elevation trails that we were not familiar with. One of those trails was the Showgirl Trail. The brown line ran from a new trailhead, called the Juniper Trailhead, 9 miles down to a new trailhead (complete with highway tunnel by-thru) that they didn't name and still does not have a sign. We call it the Lower Showgirl Trailhead. This trailhead is located just inside the Carpenter One fire boundary but they have removed the sign asking hikers and bikers to not park there. For a while, we parked on the roadside but it is safer to park just up the short trailhead road away from the busy Kyle Canyon Road. This trailhead is located 14 miles up from Highway 95 on the left (south) side. Now, only the sign that warns of the burn area still remains at the trailhead entrance. Thank you Forest Service.

Shaded Trail

First Left Turn Junction

Hiking "around" Angel Peak Views

Beginning of Gentle Descent
 Today, getting to the Juniper Trailhead for seven hikers was a test of patience. After dropping off one car at the Lower Showgirl TH, we waited approximately 15 minutes at the Kyle/Deer Creek junction for road work crews the allow us to turn right. Thankfully, all this work was wrapped up before we had to shuttle cars at the end of the hike. We turned right near the top of the hill (Hilltop Campground), veered to the right again, then arrived at today's trailhead around 9:00am. There was no grumbling. We all had planned for a long day anyway. It would be a warm day but it would also be a slightly breezy day. Cool breezes! Lucious cool breezes! After preparations, we started down the Upper Showgirl Trail.

Harris Peak view from Gentle Descent

Hiking into a Wooded Wash Area

Small Cliff with Telephone Canyon Overlook

Harris Peak View from Gentle Descent
 The brown line on that map showed that the Showgirl Trail headed straight over the ridge line and down the end of the ridge. While exploring this new trail, we found that the trail, while new and gorgeously among the trees, had no finish that we could find! Somewhere, we were missing the final descent to the middle portion of the trail. Apparently, this was a common complaint and the Forest Service simply removed the trail from the maps ... instead of improving the trail or making signs. Over the next 2 years, we simply used known trails (like the Trough Trail and Tin Can Alley) to get ourselves from the ridge line, down the side of the mountain and around to the junction point that we were expecting. (See previous Showgirl Trail and Missing Link blogs for further explanation.)

Arriving at Little Bald Knoll (Top of Steeper Descent)

View down into Angel Canyon Narrows

Nearing The Dive

Full Concentration during The Dive
 During the past year, the bikers have solved the problem of the Missing Link by making the last steep descent clear. We call it The Dive! It is very steep and somewhat slippery but still negotiable for us mere hikers .... Also, very steep and adrenaline rushy for brave bikers! At any rate, the more experienced hikers and bikers take it in stride ... (pun). After working our way down the ridge line and over Little Bald Knoll, we carefully and slowly hiked down The Dive ending at the trail that Google Earth now names the Showgirl Trail. So, what is the name of the trail that we came down on? I call it the Original Showgirl Trail! We turned to the left on the Showgirl Trail and soon found some shade and low lying logs to sit on for a break. We were 5 miles into the hike and still comfortable.

Autumn Color in Kyle Canyon (Harris [L] & Griffith [R] Peaks)

John works his way down The Dive.

Taking a Break in the Shade after The Dive

Middle Showgirl Trail on Trailing Ridge
 At the junction, we had entered the Middle Showgirl Trail. This part of the trail zigzags down a small trailing ridge that extends between Angel Canyon and Telephone Canyon. Finally, we dropped into the Angel Canyon side and began crossing its mouth wash. Hmmm. Mouthwash? Anyway, the trail circles around the following ridge and runs alongside the wash on the north side of Kyle Canyon Road that is created by Angel Canyon and Telephone Canyon both. Eventually, Showgirl climbs out of the wash and into a somewhat higher elevation that takes you along a winding route in and out of ravines and arroyos. Even though this seems like a circuitous way to get from point A to point B, the scenery is beautiful in an Upper Sonoran Desert terrain sort of way and provides a lot of hiking, if that's what you came for. I would think that it would be a good trail running trail as well.

Circling around the Ridge Corner

Hiking the Lower Showgirl Trail

One of Several Large Groupings of Joshua Trees

Pain Alleviated!
 Around the 6 mile mark or the 6000 foot elevations, Joshua Trees begin appearing more and more. The interesting thing about this is that several of them grow in large clumps here. After they show up, we crossed the Wooden Pole Powerline Road, a forest road that comes from the BLM fire station site and runs atop a ridge leading to Angel Peak. Having hiked that road one time, I can attest to the fact that it is a terrible road for hiking; very rocky and steep in some sections. (You could use it to climb Angel Peak only if you are into masochism.) After the road, the clumps of Joshua Trees begin appearing more often. In fact, there is one wall of Joshuas along the trail here.

Crossing the Wooden Pole Powerline Forest Road

Group Photo at the Wall of Joshuas

Charleston Peak from Lower Showgirl Trail

View down Kyle Canyon just before Last Drop
 We continued a few more zigzags as we neared the 8th mile marker. Next, we were starting a drop into a wash that provided a different surrounding. The trail doesn't stay in the wash long before we rounded a corner and saw Kyle Canyon Road. A hike under the bridge put us on the other side. We circled around to the road again where our shuttle car was parked. This was a great hike with great hikers that enjoyed their day! That's it for another year! God willing.

9 miles; +400 feet elevation gain; -2650 feet elevation loss; 4.5 hours

Still Hiking Strong!

Presenting our Next Club President, John!

The Tunnel at Lower Showgirl Trailhead (Graffiti Photoshopped Out)