Sunday, June 16, 2019

South Loop 1st Overlook & Echo Falls - 6/15/19

1st Overlook from South Loop Switchbacks

High Flow at Echo Falls

Upper Griffith Drainage from South Loop Switchbacks

The Group heads out Strong
We had some warmer weather this week and the South Loop's 1st Overlook is now accessible without donning a pair of microspikes. (Albeit, there are still a few small snow mounds on the switchbacks and, of course, there is the always-last-to-melt second drainage crossing. That's always fun. Also, the forest service or wilderness volunteers ... someone ... has done a lot of tree cutting allowing hikers to hike the lower South Loop Trail without having to climb over, under or around the many fallen trees resulting from the harsh winter weather of 2019. There was a whopping twenty-four hikers that showed up today; a fantastic showing for this hike level!

Pleasant Surprise - Many of the Trees are Cut
We parked at the South Loop / Cathedral Rock Trailhead where there were already many cars even at 7:30 in the morning. It was Saturday and it was going to be a beautiful day. The early bird gets the parking space!

Staying on the Trail
Since it was unusual for so many of the strenuous hikers to hike on the same hike, we introduced ourselves then started up. The faster hikers got the go ahead to "see you at the overlook!"

The First Drainage Crossing (High Flow)

The Group Scatters on the Switchbacks
We all started out strong but after about 3/4 of a mile, we had separated loosely into three groups. When the strong but not as fast back group got up the monster steps after the one mile mark, we could see the front hikers enjoying the switchbacks. The middle group seemed to be staying together very well. (See photo to right.) The back group carefully made their way across the snow-covered second drainage crossing and started up. About 5 snow mounds still exist throughout the 14 switchbacks but there is only one that gives you any trouble. Also, there is a fallen tree on switchback number 11 (or 9, hmm). Hikers have been cutting this switchback as the only way to get by. Hopefully, this tree will get taken care of soon so that the trail is not damaged any more than necessary.

View down the Drainage from the Second Crossing
One hiker noticed that there was a new small crop of recently uncovered fossil rocks. The seabed fossils that can be found in the Spring Mountains are mind boggling. These high peaks used to be at the bottom of a shallow sea.

The Second Drainage Crossing
The precipitous slopes that reached upward to Griffith Peak were still covered with a lot of snow and the view from the switchbacks was fabulouso! Eventually, after talking to others on the trail, we all arrived at the 1st Overlook and took a group photo. Peeking around the corner, we saw that there is still snow on the slope above the Echo Cliffs.

Switchbacks with only a few Obstacles

Nearing the last Switchback
Will the 3rd Overlook be accessible by next Thursday? Good question. We will probably try! After the cursory break, we started down. Again, we separated fairly quick but we planned to gather again at the Cathedral Rock Trail junction found near the Trailhead. On the way, we spoke to a group of fun-loving young men who were sliding down the snow at the second drainage crossing! Go Raiders!! Anyway, when the last of the group arrived at the meeting spot, all the others were happily waiting. Next, we started up the Cathedral Rock Trail. Our second climb of the day was shorter but it was noticeably steeper.

Finding "new" Fossil Rocks
The strong and determined hikers climbed without rest! Well, a few hikers stopped here and there. It was good for us. With the late start in the higher elevations, we need to push ourselves.

Twenty-Four at 1st Overlook
The Saturday recreationalists had begun to fill the trails with their kids and dogs. Most of them were headed to Cathedral Rock's summit. This would require a large snow crossing in Mazie Canyon.

Continuation of South Loop from 1st Overlook

Readying for Descent
Our goal was just short of the snow. We stopped at the small spur trail junction to Echo Falls. All the water drainages are running full flow in these mountains with the heavy snow melt and we anticipated a spectacular display at the usually trickling waterfall. Half of us hiked up the trail to the falls that was covered with about 3 inches of running water. We were not disappointed! It is beautiful. Mike decided he was hot enough to try putting his head under the lower falls. Hmm. I don't think he would recommend it to anyone else. He said it was so cold that it hurt! Good research. We got our photos and returned to the trail junction where everyone was taking their second "stand-up" break. When the last hiker returned from the waterfall, we started back down.

Long Line begins Descent
The trail switchbacks down among the 10 foot tall aspens that were sporting bright green leaves. I couldn't see many other hikers in our group unless they were either right in front of me or right behind me.

Front of Line reaches Drainage
At the spur trail, we had noticed a dark cloud encroaching on our vicinity. By the time we were descending the last three switchbacks, we started feeling sprinkles.

Cathedral Rock Trail heading toward The Vatican

Gathering at Echo Falls Turnoff
Monsoon season has arrived. This is a good reason to start your hikes early. The monsoons usually begin their thunderstorms at the 11am hour ... give or take. Today's dark cloud didn't include the thunder and lightening but very often, they do. Be safe and don't expose yourself to such storms. The sprinkles were still falling when we arrived back at the cars. Perfect timing. Fantastic group today. Hope to see you all again soon.

6 miles; 1850 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours; my average speed 1.6 mph

Mike taking a Very Cold Shower!!

Shallow Water on Trail

Descending just before Sprinkles Begin

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Mummy Junction - 6/6/19

Beautiful Charleston Peak

The South Ridge ... And a Tree

Hiking past Cave Springs

Starting up Trail Canyon
The Spring Mountains look so beautiful this year. With all our speculations on how long it will take the snow to melt so that we can climb Ol' Charlie, we also remain in awe at the beauty the snow adds to the upper elevations. Today, eleven hikers got an early start up Trail Canyon. By 1 hour and 10 minutes, all eleven hikers were up at the saddle sitting on the log. With each climb, Trail Canyon becomes more tame but it is a hard fought battle. Nonetheless, the trail is snow-free with the exception of a few patches here and there. Cockscomb Ridge still has some snow below its first fin but that will be gone soon. At the saddle, we turned left and started up the North Loop.

Never forget to look back!
In this section before Cave Spring, there are some amazing views of Charleston Peak and the South Ridge. That's where the first photo of this entry was taken.

Good lookin' Group at the Saddle Junction
One by one ... or two by two ... we passed Cave Spring without stopping. The horse trough had water in it but there was no water coming from the pipe. The North Loop is losing snow sooner than the South Loop.

Charleston Peak

Cave Spring Trough
The first time we saw snow on the trail was about half a mile after the trough. Some snow patches covered the trail and required us to balance our way over the icy hills. These patches are shown in the photo below. Other than this, the trail is snow-free. The front hikers pulled out and made it to the Mummy Junction break spot. Almost everyone was soon there and Rita took a photo. After the break, the group started their descent in small groups. There were smiles on everyone's face. So nice to see. Today's workout was sufficient. A short stop at the saddle sent all of us down Trail Canyon.

Snow Patches on Trail above Cave Spring
The temperatures were excellent and a cold breeze was whipping up to push out the haze in the valley below.

The Aspen Corridor
The lead hikers took their time going down and the slower hikers were happy to be able to take care of a couple of long held gimpinesses. (New word.)

Mummy Junction Break

Harris Peak, Rainbow Saddle, Griffith Peak,
and Cockscomb Ridge from North Loop
If you haven't gone up to the Spring Mountains yet this spring, you really must. It is a beautiful sight. Just watch your speed. The police are out! No more running over the wildlife! The snow is melting and soon, it will be gone. This is one for the record books.

Great day in the mountains!

7 miles; 2500 feet elevation gain; 3.75 hours

Happy Hikers on the way Down

Careful at the Snow Crossings

Did someone lose an onion?

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Lower South Loop & Little Falls - 6/2/19

Little Falls (June 2, 2019)

Griffith Peak Drainage from the South Loop Trail

Starting up the South Loop Trail

Many Fallen Trees to Cross Over, Under & Around
 The South Loop Trail has been the big mystery this spring of 2019. So, today, Rita and I hiked up to see how far we could go without microspikes. Presently, the answer to this question seems to be just above the steps that come after the 1 mile mark. Before you reach the second big wash crossing, the snow is still covering the trail on a steep hillside. There are foot steps to step into but the snow is icy since it is starting to melt. We turned around at this point since there was another hiker coming our way on the one-way snow path. We could see the first switchbacks and they seemed to be fairly hikable. The problem was in getting to them.

Approaching the Wide Wash
 We passed several Sunday hikers on the way down. Many of them came prepared with microspikes and were ready to assault Griffith Peak.

Starting up the Steps
 We passed a fire and rescue man and he said that yesterday, they had to rescue hikers from the top of Charleston Peak! The hikers had used the Bristlecone/Ski slope/Ridge route. But, I guess they couldn't get down. This guy also intimated that the snow will probably not completely disappear until July. Hmmm.

After Steps comes Snow

After Snow comes Difficult Snow - Then first Switchbacks
 So, we got back down to the South Loop / Cathedral Rock Trailhead and decided to continue up to Little Falls since we had not tired ourselves out yet. This trail was free of snow all the way up to the Little Falls slot. At the slot, we ran into a large creek coming down the trail. With waterproof shoes, we finally gave up trying not to get our feet wet and stepped in the shallows all the way up to the waterfall. Oh my goodness! The waterfall and the creek below it were soo beautiful! It was definitely worth the wet feet! We stayed here taking photos for several minutes.

View of North Loop Ridge on Descent
This waterfall only runs during the snow melt season. Otherwise, it is a small trickle. To see the waterfall in this condition is very rare.

Echo Trail Junction free of Snow
 After getting our fill of the water, we turned to go back down the creek. Waterproof shoes only work just so far, then the cold water enters in.

Reaching the Little Falls Slot

A Veritable Creek!
 We hiked back the way we came except for taking the shortcut through the lower Cathedral Rock parking lot. (See the map below.) Our adventure was only 4 miles today but another mile could be added by parking at the Echo Trailhead. The elevation gain for today was around 1600 feet. It didn't seem like that much. Anyway, we had a lot of fun and plan to repeat this hike for the group on Tuesday with the additional mile.

4 miles; 1600 feet elevation gain; ~2.75 hours

Kay & Rita at Little Falls

Fisheye View from Slot Corner

Creek Descent