Monday, May 25, 2015

Mud Springs - 5/24/15

Mud Springs and Meadow

Mud Springs Trail

 Mud Springs Trail is an approximately 20 mile loop that begins and ends at the Sawmill Trailhead. Last week and this week, we explored two sections of this newly maintained equestrian and hiking trail. We began on Macks Canyon Road, today, where we left off last week; around 2.5 miles out the high clearance road at a large campsite area. Physically and mentally prepared for rain (which never came), we set out bushwhacking toward the northwest direction. With the previous week's route still fresh in mind, we hiked directly to the Mud Springs trail junction saddle without a hitch.

Mud Springs Trail Junction from Bushwhacking
 The saddle hangs high above a wide wash and we proceeded down the trail. As we crossed the wash at the bottom, we passed the alternate approach trail coming in from Macks Canyon Road much lower down. It's trailhead is located almost at the end of the dirt road.

Which peak is under which cloud?

Mud Springs Trail
 The coordinator of today's hike had only been out this trail one time several years ago but it was obvious to her that the trail had been rerouted to lead around on a higher contour. To get to the top of the first two springs, we would have had to transfer to the non-maintained old trail and drop down. We decided to enjoy the good trail and stayed up high missing the first two springs. The trail undulated quite a bit and provided a good workout in a medium altitude of just under 8000 feet. The new trail also proved to be longer than the old one as it was almost three miles before we began dropping down to Mud Springs.

Following the Good Trail
 Dropping into familiar forest, we passed by the springs junction since the trail seemed to be strong straight ahead. We should have turned to the right onto this trail that headed down into the wash.

Horse or Burro?

Cut Log for Easy Stepping
 Our trail soon started petering out. We began following trail flags and a very vague small trail leading away from the springs area. This part of today's hike is not reflected on the maps below. We only got about a quarter of a mile before we decided to turn back and figure things out. We ended up dropping back down to the old Mud Springs Road just below the meadow area but we didn't know it yet! Knowing this was the dirt road we were looking for, we hiked down the road. Yep, down. A quarter mile later, we found the Mud Springs Road trailhead sign and gate. Laughing, we pointed at the big sign and declared that we had found Mud Springs!

Big Ponderosa and Little Maria
 Four miles into a seven mile hike,... we were at our halfway point so we rested and took our break.

Mud Springs Sign at Mud Springs Road Trailhead

Mud Springs Road Approach to Trailhead
 Okay. So, we knew the springs must be back up the road. Essentially, we unknowingly had circled around the whole spring meadow area. We hiked back up the road and found Mud Springs. Yea! We could see behind the fence that the springs were flowing. We chose not to hike through the meadow and stayed on the outside of the barbed wire fence. At the top end, there was an easy access point and two hikers went a little way in to snap a photo as seen at the top of this entry. Our group was in a very jovial mood so any elk in the area were long gone!

Road Trailhead and Signs
Next, we followed the trail back to the junction that we had previously missed. Hoping to help future hikers, we placed a cairn at the junction. We turned to our left and began the return to the cars.

Building a Cairn at the Junction We Missed

Quick Paced Return
Not wanting to push our luck with the rain and wishing to get hikers back for Memorial Day festivities, we laid it all out on the trail back. After climbing back up to the main elevation contour, the hiking went smoothly and pleasantly. Finally at the trail junction saddle, we began our bushwhacking back to the campsites and the cars. We found out the importance of sticking close together while bushwhacking but all's well that ends well.

7.5 miles; 1500 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

Gorgeous View from Trail

Rain Clouds in the Area - View from Campsites

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Present State of the Trail Canyon Saddle - 5/23/15

Trail Canyon Saddle Today

Four Burros Loop - 5/23/15

Morning Light on Escarpment from Rubber Ducky Trail

Three Burros Plus One Behind Joshua Tree on Left

Present State of Rubber Ducky Yucca

 When stormy weather comes into southern Nevada, the club has to be flexible and creative. The originally scheduled hike in the mountains was transferred to the desert below and eighteen hikers started at the Late Night Trailhead on Highway 160. Looking for a new route on the many bike trails of Cottonwood Valley, we started out the Late Night Trail to the east of the parking lot. After about a third of a mile, we crossed the Black Velvet Road and started on the Mustang Trail.

Give Steve a Rock to Climb On
 Soon, we turned right onto the Rubber Ducky Trail. Last time we saw the Rubber Ducky Yucca (Joshua Tree), the BLM people had removed the many rubber ducks adorning its branches. Today, several rubber ducks had returned to hang in the desert.

Good Pace

 We followed the Rubber Ducky Trail all the way around the hill to the right and hiked up and over the corner. This dropped us down onto the other end of the Mustang Trail that would soon junction with the Landmine Loop to the right. Before we reached the Landmine Loop, we turned to the right again and began a gentle ascent up to the top of the hill we were hugging throughout the hike.

Break in Limestone Wash
 At the top of Ascent #1, we turned left onto the Wounded Knee Trail; a trail that crosses the length of the hill. Just before we began a long descent, we were gifted a gorgeous overlook toward the east.

Break Entertainment
 Halfway down the switchbacking trail, we stopped at the limestone wash for our break. The wash is part of the trail and, while we were resting, along came four bikers from below. They showed us their prowess on the tough limestone trail and we applauded.

Bottom of Wounded Knee Trail

 As we were finishing the descent off of the hill, we spotted four burros nearby. They seemed to be young and lean and very energetic. Curious about us, they stopped their foraging to watch us then they ran on down the hill kicking up dust a few times. Besides them, we saw bunches of jackrabbits and cottontails. Wildlife was out and about!

Next, we dead ended at a cross trail and turned right. This brought us to the Old Spanish Trail. Turning right, we circled around the rocky point of the hill.

Hiking Around the Point on the Old Spanish Trail
 Leaving the well worn trail, we hiked up the wash on vague trails of old. Staying next to the hill, we finally found the trail junction we were looking for; marked by an old lawn mower as seen in one of the photos above.

Top of Ascent #2

 This trail zigzagged up the hill for Ascent #2. At the top, we junctioned again with the Wounded Knee Trail and turned left. A highish peak rose up to the left of the trail as we circled around a wash and dropped down to junction with the Rubber Ducky Trail from earlier. A left turn; a zigzag jog up to the right; a return on the Mustang and Late Night Trails - all took us back to the cars. Excellent workout at the quick pace we exhibited today.

6.5 miles; 800 feet elevation gain; 2.75 hours

Black Pool of Cloud Shadow

Returning on the Rubber Ducky Trail

Mustang Trail with Stormy Weather Coming In

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Snow in May - 5/19/15

Approaching the Mummy's Tummy Scree Field on the North Loop

Three inches of snow in the middle of May.
Let’s save the Tummy for another day.
Yep. Maybe not.

Fletcher Peak Area Frozen Hiker - 5/16/15

Frozen Hiker
Steve and Becky hiked Fletcher Peak via Hummingbird Gulch on Saturday and "found" this guy!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Mud Mack Loop - 5/17/15

Mack's Peak from Break Spot

Happy Explorers

Mummy's Nose & Forehead
 The weather in the Spring Mountains was magnificent today! Cool, low to no breeze, and cloud cover. Fourteen hikers arrived at the Sawmill Trailhead off of Lee Canyon Road for another exploratory hike. This time, the hike was guaranteed to have trail for all but about half a mile. (This half mile was crucial for next week's exploration.) So, down we went into the woods on Sawmill's Yellow Trail. We followed the familiar trail taking the red trail left turn. A nice view of the snow dusted Mummy's Nose and Forehead was seen from the gentle climb.

Mud Springs Trail
  Just as we reached the ridge, the Mud Springs Trail junction turned to the left at 1.1 mile. (Someone had placed a limb across the trail to ward off wayward tourists.) The Mud Springs Trail was new to all of us and we headed down the trail with eyes and ears open! Right away, we saw that the trail had recently been maintained. It was a wide clear equestrian trail complete with fresh hoof prints!

Bonanza Peak Through Trail Foliage
 The trail zigzags in and out of the numerous small washes flowing down from the Sisters Ridge above. There was never any question as to where the trail was located.

Hiking the Mud Springs Trail
 Occasionally, a wide view of Macks Peak opened up to our left heading. Further left, we saw Black and North Sisters rising up. Past Macks Peak, we saw Bonanza Peak. McFarland Peak was hiding from us until we reached the Break Point.

Mud Springs Trail

Wash Crossing
 At approximately 3.5 miles from the trailhead, the trail turned southerly and put us into a deep loose gravel wash. Ugh. The hoof prints led the way and the trail traveled up wash for three quarters of a mile. This is when we decided that, in the future, we should probably hike this loop in the other direction! Of course, this would mean that the dirt road and the "good" trail would both be ascents. Hmmm. Maybe it wasn't that bad.

A good trail makes us smile!
 About five times, a short trail took us around brushy wash obstacles. We wondered if the horses disliked the gravel as much as we did.

However, hiking up the gravel wash section was tough!
 At the end of the last short around trail, a cairn notified us that the Mud Springs Trail would now head across the gravel wash and up the hill on a path as seen below. This photo was taken above the crossing.

Gravel Wash / Trail Junction (Top End)

Taking Our Break
 The trail quickly led us to the top of a ridge looking down on a wide wash about 50 elevation feet below. This was our stopping point for the Mud Springs Trail that continued down into the wash. We took our break here at 4.3 miles. Encouragingly, a small trail turned off to the left in the direction we wished to go. After the break, we followed that trail down to our favorite gravel wash. From there, the trail either went up the wash or disappeared. Not wanting to go in the wash direction, we began bushwhacking up the hill through light foliage.

Sisters Spur Road Junction
 We tried to stay on a southeasterly direction to find a particular curve in the nearby Macks Canyon Road. Soon, we saw the road and kept working toward the goal. The trail map below does not reflect our path exactly but close. We found the campsite we sought then turned left on Macks Canyon Road. Just 2 miles left on the dirt road would bring us back to a vague crossover trail where we would connect again with the Sawmill Yellow Trail. Our cars were waiting! Great day in the mountains!

7 miles; 1500 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours

Hiking Macks Canyon Road

The Worst Section of the Road on an Incline