Friday, August 23, 2019

Bonanza Saddle & Peak - 8/22/19

Spring Mountain Divide from Sawmill Trails (Archive Photo)

Bonanza Saddle to Pahrump, NV

The Bonanza Trail

Heading to the Switchbacks
Generally a popular hike, Bonanza Peak lies in the northern end of the Spring Mountain Divide. Along the divide also lies (N to S) Wheeler Peak, Willow Peak, and McFarland Peak. Bonanza Peak rises as a green, tree-filled peak between McFarland Peak and Willow Peak. Between Bonanza Peak and Willow, there is a large beautiful saddle and a fantastic arch. Today, seven hikers made the drive up to Cold Creek and the Bonanza Trailhead. Straining our eyes to see wild horses that have always lived in this area, or even a rare elk, we saw nothing. The dirt/gravel road leading out of the small residential town was in pretty good condition and was easily negotiated by the two jeeps in our posse.

Early in the 57 Switchbacks to the Saddle
We were familiar with the trail that climbed 57 switchbacks to the Bonanza Saddle. Three hikers remained back as stronger hikers climbed faster.

From the Bonanza Trail to the Desert Below
The trail begins with s curves but after a short traverse, the first two switchbacks begin the train of zigzags.

The Cold Creek Community at the Base of the Divide

McFarland Peak from the Bonanza Trail
Each hiker climbed at their own speed, taking a pause now and then to catch a breath or two. Many of the switchbacks are on gentle slopes but there are several that are more steep. In particular, there is one long traverse that is challenging as you travel from the left side of the mountain to the right. Once at the right side of the climbing ridge, we came upon the Window View switchbacks where you can hike out a little further to see Willow Arch up on the summit rim rocks. This is located in the vicinity of the 33rd (or so) switchback. Since I was one of the last hikers, my stay here was short. Just long enough to get a good photo!

Willow Arch (aka Window in the Cliff) from the Overlook Below
Mike, the hike coordinator, was kind enough to wait for Rita and I every once in a while to check and see that we were okay. Otherwise, we took our time as there really wasn't a choice!

The Low End of the Bonanza Peak
This famous climb continues up from the overlook on a few more switchbacks then begins another long traverse. This traverse is not as steep as the previous one.

Starting the Long Traverse - Saddle to Left of Rock Outcropping

Arriving at the first switchback after the traverse, we had 9 more switchbacks to the saddle. Not too bad! So, up we went arriving at the Bonanza Saddle where we were surprised to see the remaining hikers waiting. We thought they would have continued up to the peak since we had told them we would be taking our time and only reaching the saddle. But, the weather was so cool and breezy on the ridge that they exclaimed that they were in no hurry. As we sat for our snack break, the others (including Mike) began hiking on up to the peak. The Bonanza Trail leads the way up to a cairned junction where more cairns lead on.

End of Traverse (9 more Switchbacks to Go)
The difficult part of Bonanza Peak isn't finding the peak but finding your way back down from the peak to the trail and going in the correct direction. A good GPS will fix this issue.

Arriving at the Bonanza Saddle
It was a bit cool on the saddle and, I heard, it was quite breezy on the peak so our stays were not long. There were many switchbacks to descend.

Trail leading to Bonanza Peak from Saddle

Trail Descending from Bonanza Saddle
Rita and I started down without much ado after taking a few photos of the beautiful, yellow flower filled meadow on the saddle. Knowing the descent was harder on the body than the ascent, we took our time. The switchbacks went by much faster this time and we reached the trailhead 30 minutes before the first of the other hikers trailed in. We sat in the shade waiting while enjoying the absolutely beautiful day in the wilderness. BTW, I caught a fleeting glance of a solitary horse under trees between houses in town as we drove out. He/she appeared healthy. Great day and great to be back from Georgia! I missed y'all!

Bonanza Saddle: 6.5 miles; 2130' elevation gain; 4.25 hours; average moving speed 1.5 mph

Bonanza Peak: 9.5 miles; 2800' elevation gain; 5 hours; average moving speed 2+ mph

McFarland Peak from a Switchback

We made it!

What a Scrappy Bunch!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Mummy's Nose (10,748')

Mummy's Nose (Archive Photo)

Cairns Everywhere!

Summit Shot

Descent Chute
 A lively quintet assembled on the third deck of the Santa Fe this morning, so off we went to visit the Mummy, specifically his nose. Mark Z. had cairned the route for us earlier, so it was really a no-brainer getting to the summit. Just follow the pebbles, a la Hansel & Gretel. The vertiginous climb is still a monster though, slippery and in-your-face. Unrelenting. Newbies outnumbered the salts 3-2, as Xiang Li, Ralph & Bruce all registered first ascents. Crystal clear on top with unobstructed views in all directions. Kodachrome moment.
 As advertised, we visited Rita’s Ridge on our descent route, where four years earlier Rita took a flying leap off a ledge and thumbed her nose at the Grim Reaper. The eponymous ridge let us know she’s still in charge though, as Bruce bled and I slipped at the edge. Damn that ridge!
 Safely back at the bottom, Tim dug into his ice chest and surprised us with cold brews and girl scout cookies. Nice combo, eh? Good day on the Mum.


Vitals: 5 hikers, 4 miles, 2800’ vertical, 4.5 hours. 

Contemplating Rita's Ridge

Negotiating Rita's Ridge

The Nose Knows

Monday, July 29, 2019

Deer Creek / Meadow Loop - 7/29/19

View from North Loop Meadow Area

Top of Wild Horse Ridge

Angel Peak from Wild Horse Ridge

Old Deer Creek Road
 The Deer Creek / Meadow Loop begins at the Deer Creek Picnic Area parking lot. Six hikers arrived here to find the toilets to be so dirty that they were unusable. Granted it was a Monday; the day after a busy weekend. We also found the hill going down to the Deer Creek Canyon to be washed out and the canyon area just below the road was as well. Nevertheless, determined hikers made it down the slippery hill and through the brush around the top end of the wash and finally up onto the remnant of the Old Deer Creek Road that lies below the Mahogany Group Site. With the "worst" of the hike over with, we were on our way!

Old Deer Creek Road
 The road climbs up a small hill and circles around a former dump site. (The old refrigerator is gone!)

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Oven
 Then, we followed the old road down passing by stone benches. This is a nature walk used by the group site users. We also passed by old ovens used by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

CCC Signage Area

Spur Trail to North Loop Trail
 There are information signs in this area that talk about the history of the CCC in the Spring Mountains. From here, we climbed the hill to go up and over at the nearby Cougar Ridge Trailhead. On the other side of the hill, we followed the wash down until the old road led up to the right. Soon, there was a turnoff to the right. This was a spur road leading up to the North Loop Trail. We climbed up the old road and crossed the new paved Deer Creek Road. Here, there is the continuance of the spur trail and, finally, we reached the North Loop Trail. A right turn onto this well worn trail started us on a slow journey up to the Meadow. We stopped once in a while for shade breaks.

Shade Break on North Loop Trail
 As we climbed higher, cool breezes kept us very comfortable. There were a few other hikers about.

North Loop Trail
 We tried to stay together as a group but, as we neared the meadow, one went ahead and one lagged behind.

Mummy's Nose from North Loop Meadow

Taking a Break on the Meadow
 It was all good. We took a cursory snack break on the logs in the shade and had good conversation. When everyone was ready to go again, we hiked up to the top of the meadow and turned right just past the huge old ornate bristlecone. You can see the small trail in the dirt. This is Wild Horse Canyon Trail. We weaved in and out of the trees on the diminutive path then started down on continuous small switchbacks. At the bottom of the switchbacks, there was a T-junction. If you turn right here, you will continue down Wild Horse Canyon, a beautiful shady canyon with a spring and ending with 10'-15' rock walls.

Big Old Bristlecone marks the Junction
However, if you continue straight as we did today, you transfer onto Cactus Jack Trail. This trail was named after a long time Las Vegas hiker who basically created this path.

Wild Horse Canyon Trail
 This trail climbs a little before dropping you off at the top of Wild Horse Ridge, the ridge that runs above Wild Horse Canyon on its west side.

Zigzagging down Wild Horse Canyon Trail

Crossing over on Cactus Jack Trail
 We climbed up onto the limestone / dolomite ridge that presents a cliff on the other side. The ridge, itself, is wide and easy to hike without having to get near the cliff side. There are very nice views from the ridge that reach all the way down to the desert floor. In the other direction, we could see Mummy Mountain, Mummy's Nose and several summer homes that can be reached using Cougar Ridge Trail. We descended the familiar trail on the ridge until reaching the end. Here, there is a little bit of precariousness getting off the ridge under huge Mountain Mahogany branches. The trail continues down the hill to the left.

Large Bristlecone at top of Wild Horse Ridge
 A game trail exists about half way down that travels to the left along the hill. We found it and hiked to a large wash that was easy to descend to the road below.

Atop Wild Horse Ridge
 This was Cougar Ridge Trail and we had one more hill to climb. Down the other side, we turned right to cross an old bent gate to enter into the top portion of the Deer Creek Picnic Area.

Desert View from Wild Horse Ridge

On Wild Horse Ridge with Mummy Mountain Behind
 Deer Creek was flowing steadily. There were a few picnickers. And, there were some children playing in the creek. At the bottom of the picnic area, we noted the pond still had a bit of water in it and the asphalt path that we were walking on had been undercut by erosion. We hiked into the trailhead happy to have gotten some great exercise in the wonderful mountain air. Til next time, have great hikes!

5 miles; 1350 feet elevation gain; 3 hours; average moving speed 1.6 mph

Dropping off End of Wild Horse Ridge

Following Cougar Ridge Trail to Deer Creek Crossing

Deer Creek Pond below Picnic Area