Thursday, June 18, 2009

Raintree - 6/18/09

The Raintree Trail is a beautiful walk through old bristlecone pine trees. The Raintree, itself, is a 3000 year old bristlecone situated on the North Loop Trail which eventually leads to the summit of Mt. Charleston. To hike to the old tree involves 2.9 miles with an elevation gain of 1500 feet then a descent of around 100 feet. The return that we took today went down via the Wild Horse Canyon Trail which may have cut off almost three quarters of a mile compared to descending the North Loop Trail to the parking lot.

There were nine hikers which began the outing. We climbed fairly steeply approxi- mately 850 feet to arrive at "The Meadow" where there was a small family camping. Probably not a very private place to camp! We took a small break there while taking pictures of the gorgeous surroundings. Mummy's Chin lorded over the meadow and, in the corner, there was an old bristlecone pointing the way.

Scattered heavily throughout the meadow were small clumps of wildflowers such as the ones to the left. Yellow Monkey Flowers, perhaps? Two hikers cut the hike short by taking the Wild Horse Loop, found just past the old tree, on the ascent. Then there were seven. We began the real climb, at this point, switchbacking our way up to the ridge.

At the top of the ridge, we took a sharp hairpin turn to the right and were faced with this tremendous view of Mummy's Toe among the old bristlecone forest that crowns the ridge. From this point, the cliff faced mountain and the twisting old trees seemed to show off their beauty from every angle. This blogger fell behind as she tried to capture the scene in the lens.

At the hairpin turn, we were over 10,000 feet in elevation. It was the highest point of the hike. We started a short gradual descent through the old forest and arrived soon at the Raintree. Why is it called the Raintree? That's a good question. Perhaps this question was addressed when the reporter fell behind. And, perhaps someone would care to explain in a comment below. At any rate, the tree appeared extremely substantial and there wasn't much question how it survived all of this time with the protection of the nearby cliff face and the flat saddle on which it planted itself.

We sat at the base of the tree for snacks and discussion. The air was very cold up there in the 10,000 foot range. One hiker carried a thermometer and it read 45 degrees F. Brrr! We didn't linger long as those black clouds were hovering again so we began our descent ... which began upward and around the hairpin ... then downward!

When we reached "The Meadow" again, we took a left turn onto the Wild Horse Canyon Trail in order to sweep behind the two hikers that had gone down that trail earlier. We were pleased to be met by a nice small wooded and soft-earthed trail which lead steeply down into a small canyon. A small amount of water came from a spring and fed the plants (maybe lilies or irises) shown in the picture below.

Raintree is an excellent aerobic hike!

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