Friday, June 24, 2016

South Sister Saddle Loop - 6/24/16

Charleston Peak from Bonanza Trail

Bonanza Trail

South Sister Saddle Ridge Trail

Starting Up Lower Bristlecone Trail
 It was going to be a very warm day in the valley but fifteen hikers decided to beat the heat by driving up Lee Canyon Road in the Spring Mountains NRA to the Lower Bristlecone Trailhead. Along the way, we passed a large group of burros (complete with a baby burro) ... and then ... we passed a large group of wild horses (with another one or two babies)! The morning had started off right as all the wild horses and burros appeared healthy.

Nearing the Bonanza Trail Junction
 Today's hike was listed as moderate but we had several stronger hikers attending. We hiked the first 3 miles of the Lower Bristlecone Trail at as fast a pace as we could individually manage since it was all in the sun.

Hiking the Bonanza Trail Switchbacks
 The easy 3 miles were completed in one hour and we felt like we were warmed up! We gathered in the shade of the Bonanza Trail junction.

No Name / Bonanza Trail Junction

Steep Climb on Bonanza Trail
 Next, we tackled the Bonanza Trail switchbacks. Now, in the trees with partial shade, we slowed our pace down as we climbed the steeper terrain. At the No Name / Bonanza Trail junction, we rewarded ourselves with the first of two longer breaks. It was still early but we were already 3.70 miles into a 7.5 mile hike and most of the climbing was behind us. After the break, we took off again. The Bonanza Trail begins a steep climb at this point as we gained the ridge of the Spring Mountain Divide.

Bonanza Trail
 Bonanza is a beautiful trail laid out up among the old bristlecones. We had begun on the southern end of this point to point route that can be hiked 15 miles to Cold Creek, NV.

Bristlecone Cones
 We passed Pine Cone Canyon and reached the little Bonanza switchbacks that lead up to an intermittent peak of the ridge.

Climbing the Little Bonanza Switchbacks

Junction Stump with Rock
 After a small dip in elevation, we returned up to the high point of today's hike. McFarland Peak rises in the near distance and provides a nice backdrop to many photo ops. Then, as we rounded a curve, we saw the junction stump on the left side of the trail. Usually, there is also a rock or two placed on the stump. The stump indicates that the South Sister Saddle Ridge Trail turns here to the right. After gathering the troops again, we stepped over the ridge and began dropping steeply on a small trail.

Descending the Ridge Trail
 This trail has become much more clear in the last 2 years. Even if it disappears under your feet, the route simply follows the top of the ridge down.

Another Break in the Shade
 We stopped at the shaded log seating for our second break. It was nice to get out of the sun. There were many wildflowers all around but most were past their prime.

South Sister from the Ridge Trail

Desert Paintbrush
 After the break, we continued following the ridge until we dropped down to the South Sister Saddle, a saddle we pass when climbing South Sister. From there, we dropped down the steep section of the South Sister Trail until we reached the much more pleasant woodland section. A couple more rotted trees have fallen since we were last here 3 weeks ago. Finally, we hiked along the back side of the Old Mill Picnic Area and found the last hill to climb up to the manhole cover junction with Lower Bristlecone Trail. Great workout today. The moderate hikers really stepped up! (More horses on the way home!)

8 miles; 1700 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

Gathering at the South Sister Saddle

Steep Descent from the Saddle

Last Hill to Lower Bristlecone Trail (at the Manhole Cover)

First Charleston Peak Summit of the Season - 6/23/16

Laszlo, Candace, Bob, Donette, Rita, Susan, Steve, Richard, Jenn, Steve, Mike
 With a nice new flag, Charleston Peak is ready to roll for the Summer 2016 season!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Fletcher Peak - 6/19/16

Northern View from Fletcher Peak

Southern View from Fletcher Peak

Fletcher Peak from North Loop Approach

Starting Up the North Loop Trail
 In our series of Sunday training hikes, today was a beautiful climb up Fletcher Peak as an out and back on the North Loop Trail. Thirteen hikers arrived at the North Loop Trailhead just after 8am and the main parking area was already full. We parked at the area just before the main one and made our way to the trailhead. Cars were arriving right and left! These training hikes have been scheduled as moderately strenuous hikes at a moderate pace but many of the strenuous hikers have been attending to prepare for their climb up Charleston Peak in four days.

Hiking the North Loop Trail

Desert Paintbrush

 There were only three hikers of moderate pace and we stuck together! However, this gave us a chance to compare ourselves with the stronger hikers who charged out in front. We could feel that the training hikes have improved our strength as we hiked up the North Loop Trail without having to take a break. This is quite different from when we last climbed this trail in May. As we made the last turn before the North Loop Meadows, we couldn't help but notice that the huge bristlecone tree that stood around this corner and had died in 2009 or 2010, was lying on the ground. Unless it took an extremely lucky fall away from the trail, it is possible that it was taken down on purpose. (Maybe the same time that the wind break was removed at Raintree.) As we climbed, we noticed that there were a few other trees that "took a lucky fall" off of the trail. Below, there are a couple of photos that were taken just before this tree died.

Tribute to Fallen Tree on the North Loop Trail

A Favorite Photo of the Fallen Tree in its Day

Gathering at the North Loop Meadows
 At the North Loop Meadows, the group had gathered and were waiting for us. A quick photo, a short breather, a drink of water, then we took off up the North Loop switchbacks. This time, the stronger hikers didn't have a lot of time to get too far ahead. But, during the short time they spent at the North Loop high point corner, a cold wind whipped up and they were anxious to move on down the trail. So, we gathered again at the Fletcher Peak Trail junction. Here, two hikers decided to abort the peak hike and wait, due to a sore toe. We continued.

Starting Up the North Loop Switchbacks

Top of the Switchbacks

Heading Away from the High Point Corner
 The next gathering would not be until the peak. The stronger hikers happily took off! The three moderate hikers plodded along without stopping still quite happy with our "strong" pace. (Those other guys are animals!) We dropped down to the ridge saddle then proceeded to climb up two separate false peaks. The trail followed along the ridge and provided beautiful views of the south side of Kyle Canyon with old bristlecones in the foreground. Soon, we found ourselves at the base of the final climb. The forest here reminded us of a setting for Lord of the Rings!

View Back to the Fletcher Peak Trail from Saddle

View Forward on the Fletcher Peak Trail

The Peak from the Ridge Trail
 Strongly, we climbed the small zigzags and arrived on the south end of Fletcher Peak. From here, there is a grand view of Charleston Peak, Griffith Peak, and Harris Peak. It's possible that someday soon, we will be able to climb to Griffith Peak again. They are finally working on it three years after the Carpenter One fire. On the northern end of Fletcher Peak, we could see Mummy's Nose and the desert plateaus. We took a summit photo with the hikers that were immediately available, signed the log book then began our trek back to the cars.

Climbing Fletcher Peak

Rounding a Small False Peak

Limestone Outcroppings near Peak
 It was a beautiful day. Warm with a refreshing occasional wind. There were very many hikers on the trail that we passed as we were going down. As we descended, we talked about some of the things that every hiker age 50 and older should have with them. For instance, a hat, a rain jacket and/or space blanket, lots of water, and a hiking stick. The sun can cause skin cancer. When it rains in the mountains, it is very cold rain. Water should be self-explanatory. And, a hiking stick allows us to move more smoothly down the mountain and saves our knees (two of the first things to go when you hike a lot). Great hike. Lovely day!

7 miles; 2300 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

Summit Photo (minus a few)

Southeastern View from Fletcher Peak

Fletcher Peak Trail on Return (nearing saddle)