Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Black & White Sisters - 9/18/18

Archive Photo of Black & White Sisters (2015)

Black Sister as seen from the Ascent

Tough Ascent Wash (Keep Smiling!)
 Eleven hikers drove out Macks Canyon Road to the Sisters Spur Road and parked. (Must remember to start up the road until you reach the correct wash!) At the trail marker placed at a wash junction next to a ponderosa, we turned to the left to hike up a pine cone filled wash. Although this wash is not as steep as the final climb, it is a tough climb. We turned to the right onto a vague trail that follows the approach ridge. Take note of the landmark tree at the end of the ridge before you start the final very steep climb up to the ridge above. Then go and meet Black Sister; White Sister is a small rise next to her. For a more detailed description of the hike, see one of the previous blogs on this site. Great people!

4 miles; 1650 feet elevation gain; 2.5 hours

Hiking the Approach Ridge

At the base of Black Sister

Hikers on Black Sister with a View

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Kyle Canyon Escarpment Loop - 9/15/18

Charleston Peak view from atop the Kyle Canyon Escarpment

View from Escarpment to Resort

Rabbitbrush in Full Bloom

Arriving at the Spring Mountains Gateway Visitor Center
The Spring Mountains Gateway Visitor Center opened in the spring of 2015. At that time, the park service handed out a map of trails. Some of these trails were new to us and the Escarpment Trail was one of them. Looking back at the first time we hiked this trail, it was clear that everything was fresh and new. The landscaping was clean and trimmed behind the visitor center. Now, after an especially monsoon-filled summer, there are several washouts that will have to be repaired. Also, we found a couple of places where the bushes needed trimming along the old golf cart path.

Descent into Kyle Canyon
These places in disrepair didn't bother us but since this is the "gateway" to visitors and tourists from afar, it would probably behoove the park to clean up its act! In their defense, they are already doing a lot of roadwork along the park's paved roads to clean up the mess that the summer storms left us.

Crossing the Kyle Wash
So, twelve hikers hiked through the visitor center amphitheater and on out to the red gravel trail that led down into Kyle Canyon. On the way, a few of us tried the amazing acoustics of the Greek-style theater.

A Junction on the Old Cart Paths

Starting up the Dirt Trail on the Top End of the Escarpment
The Kyle Wash crossing (the active channel of Kyle Creek), at the bottom of the hill, has been washed out for a couple of years. A nice bridge here would give the park a good look. Then there is a circle trail and tree garden laying in what used to be a large golf course pond. This area is so overgrown that you can no longer see the circle. That would be okay except that there are also no signs so guess work is involved for anyone who is not familiar with the trail layout. We know the trail well by now so we knew to turn to the left and then take the next left as well on the red gravel. This put us on one of the asphalt cart paths that climb steeply up the hill.

Zigzagging our Way on Top of the Escarpment
About half way up this paved hill, there is a turn to the left. This is another part of the old golf course. But, the advantage now is that it breaks up the steep climb. It comes out at the original cart path a little higher than where we left it. (See tracks below.)

Harris Peak through Mountain Mahogany
A little more climbing and we came to a right turn onto a dirt trail. There is a post trail sign here that indicates that this is the Escarpment Trail.

Taking our Break at the Bottom End of the Escarpment

View Down Kyle Canyon
We made the right turn and continued climbing up around the top end of the escarpment.

This "escarpment" is made of cemented Kyle Canyon gravel from the canyon's alluvial fan. The cliffs were formed during mudflows of the Pleistocene Epoch or Ice Age. The Bird Spring Formation lies beneath the debris of the mudflows. Older deposits of "Kyle Creek" are heavily cemented with calcium carbonate derived from the limestone rocks forming the bulk of the Spring Mountains. The resulting deposit, called calcrete, is similar to caliche but is formed in the presence of more moisture, such as the bottom of streambeds and lakes that cyclically fill and evaporate. These erosional remnants are held up by cemented, gravel-rich layers that are more resistant to erosion than the sediments that underlie them.*  Geologic Tours in the Las Vegas Area (Expanded Edition with GPS Coordinates), Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Special Publication 16, University of Nevada, Reno, Mackay School of Earth Sciences, 2008, Bear Printing, Sparks, NV; pages 38-39.

Circling around the Bottom End of the Escarpment
One reason that the creeks in the Spring Mountains flow so infrequently is that the limestone and dolomite that compose most of the range are highly fractured and contain numerous cavities formed due to dissolution (dissolving) of the limestone. Hence, most of the drainage is in the subsurface through these interconnected cavities.*  Geologic Tours in the Las Vegas Area (Expanded Edition with GPS Coordinates), Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Special Publication 16, University of Nevada, Reno, Mackay School of Earth Sciences, 2008, Bear Printing, Sparks, NV; page 40.

The Scope
Interesting fact: This relatively open area marks the intersection of at least three faults. The La Madre fault (or Fletcher Canyon) runs all the way down to White Rock Springs in the Red Rock Canyon NCA scenic loop.*  Geologic Tours in the Las Vegas Area (Expanded Edition with GPS Coordinates), Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Special Publication 16, University of Nevada, Reno, Mackay School of Earth Sciences, 2008, Bear Printing, Sparks, NV; page 42.
Hiking next to the Escarpment Wall

Following the Path
Our hike took us to the bottom end of the escarpment where we took our break. From there, the trail descended off of the rock shelf and around to the scope set up to peer through and see the upper elevations, including the top secret 1955 airplane crash site near the peak of Charleston. We continued around and descended that same steep cart path that we had come up; crossed the floor of Kyle Canyon; then, climbed back up to the Visitor Center. It was a beautiful morning and we were sheltered from most of the gusty wind.

4 miles; 700 feet elevation gain; 2.75 hours

Steep Descent on Old Cart Path

Kyle Canyon Floor full of Rabbitbrush

The Greek-style Amphitheater

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Bonanza Peak - 9/11/18

Peak in Front of Bonanza Peak from Switchbacks

Charleston Peak from Bonanza Peak

Three Lakes Valley from Bonanza Saddle

The Runners
 It's not often that I brave a Tuesday hike! But, today, Bonanza Peak was on the schedule and I had only been up there one time a few years ago. So, I got up at the crack of dawn and joined the gang, all of whom are good friends ... just stronger than I! We got into the HCVs and drove out to Cold Creek. Continuing straight on the paved road put us on a dirt/gravel road that took us to the Bonanza Trailhead. Most of the fifteen hikers charged up the trail. Me and a couple of other hikers started out at a pace that I could handle. We kept eyes on the front group for almost a mile. Then they were gone! Don't you just love these extra strong baby boomers?!

Great Views from the Switchbacks
 I led the back group of three or four hikers. Thanks, guys, for allowing me to set the pace!

Happy Hikers
 We climbed and climbed up the 57 ... 55 ... or somewhere around there ... switchbacks.

Window View with changing Aspens

Trail Shadowplay
 At the 33rd switchback, I stepped off the trail to get a photo of the window above. The aspens are changing and it was a beautiful display of fall color. The trail traversed over to a neighboring ridge for more switchbacks. There is a tree lying across the trail on the traverse that is a lot more in shambles now than it was a couple of weeks ago! Soon after that, Mike, the coordinator, came back to check on us. (He's a great coordinator!) He ushered us the rest of the way up to the Bonanza Saddle where there were still a few hikers waiting. They gave us a chance to breathe then we were, again, on our way. This time, Mike led the way. I haven't done this part of the trail but 4 times so I barely noticed the switchbacks for the newish scenery. Pahrump was on the right side of the ridge and the Willow Peak ridge was over our right shoulder. A couple of times, we got a peek at Three Lakes Valley on the left.

Yellow on Bonanza Saddle
 The saddle had been covered with yellow blooms but the trail above here was bare of anything but trees.

Pahrump view from Saddle
 After a few more switchbacks, we arrived at the first large cairn. There are two but this one is differentiated by added sticks coming from its top.

Trail Continues up to the Left

Adding more Switchbacks
 There is a spur trail that begins here on the left and climbs up the ridge in the 11 o'clock direction. We followed Mike and a few of the hikers that had held back. The trail took us up one small peak, around another small peak, then up to Bonanza Peak. On the way, the front group of four hikers passed us on their way down. (Nice hiking with you!) Even though Bonanza Peak doesn't have a "bald" top (just a small limestone outcropping), there are a few views you can gain from it. Charleston Peak and McFarland Peak are two peaks that are seen in the distance.

The First Large Cairn for Peak Spur
 We signed into the log book and sat for a snack. There were eleven hikers at the peak at this time. After the break, five hikers started out first and the remaining six hikers followed. Mike led the back group. Yep, I was there!

View during climb to Peak
We came off the peak on a slightly different route and returned to the main Bonanza Trail at the second large cairn (the one without sticks). Be careful which way you turn on the main trail here because these are switchbacks and they can fool you.

What Trail?

Resting on Bonanza Peak
 When we reached the saddle, three hikers stayed for a readjustment while, knowing I was a slow downhiller, I continued down the switchbacks along with two others. Yes, we, as coordinators, do keep track of where people are even if they are not with the coordinator. We also know when off shoots of the main group are with leaders we can trust to know where they are. It's not as haphazard as it all sounds. I am thankful to the faster hikers to be trusted in their judgements. Regardless, all were well taken care of by Mike and we all made the peak! Switchbacks for days!

9 miles; 2800 feet elevation gain; 5 hours (for the back group!)

Enjoying the Peak

Panorama of the Actual Peak

Descending back down to Bonanza Saddle