Thursday, July 30, 2009

South Sister - 7/30/09

This view of South Sister is as seen from the Bristlecone Trail. Today, 12 of the Around the Bend Friends climbed this prominent mountain starting at the Old Mill Campground and Picnic Area off of Lee Canyon Road. The climb of around 2400 feet develops in four phases.

PHASE 1, The Warm-Up: The hike begins on a paved road which leads through the picnic area. The trail exits to the right off the road and onto a rock-lined trail. Soon, the trail becomes a barely discernable path which takes the hike past a usable spring and a foundation of an old homestead. The path leads up the wash becoming steeper and steeper. At last, the blue sky ahead tells you that the saddle is within reach.

PHASE 2, The Test: After arriving at the saddle and catching our breath, we turned right to head up to the ridge. This part of the climb does not have a trail that we saw. We climbed up through the wooded hillside covered in rock and wildflowers on a fairly steep slope. The group of us were spread over the area; each of us steadily choosing our path at a slow gait. At the top of the hill, we arrived at the ridge where our target, South Sister, appeared. At first up close view, the mountain appeared much larger than it does from a distance. And, the blogger might add, much more daunting.

PHASE 3, The Respite: At the ridge, we took a clear trail on the ridge which crossed over a small summit and down to the foot of the target itself. This gentle phase of the climb was just what we needed to catch our breath and take in the beautiful views of the Bristlecone Trail and Mt. Charleston which were seen to the right of the trail.

PHASE 4, The REAL Thing: The final climb was what we all came for ... a real challenge with real results. Above us, we could see the limestone crown which was, perhaps, the length of a football field from side to side. We were climbing up a rock-strewn slope which was offered toward the left side. The angle of the climb could have been 45 to 60 degrees and sometimes more.

It took most of our concen- tration to not slide backwards and most of our strength to gain any purchase in front of us. One by one, the twelve of us completed the climb which brought us to the bristlecones clustered in the middle of South Sister's crown. We left our hiking sticks here and turned to climb the 20 foot scramble to the top of the north end of the peak.

This is the view of the North Sister from the top of the scramble.

Although there is a small amount of exposure at this point of the hike, the views from the top were absolutely tremen- dous, making the hanging out over a 30 foot drop and crossing a narrow peak from end to end worth it. The 360 degree views were of Mt. Charleston, Lee Canyon, the Spring Mtn. Divide Ridgeline, the North Sister and the desert and mountains beyond. The group gathered at the end of the peak to rest and sign the log.

The hikers climbed back down the scramble refreshed and ready to tackle the steep downhill facing them. The picture to the left shows the line of hikers from the top of the scramble to the waiting bristlecones. We gathered our hiking sticks and turned to descend.

Again, each hiker chose their path. If going up this section took most of our concen- tration, going down took every last ounce of it as we negotiated the loose rock, dirt and roots underfoot. We made it down without incident here as well as the rest of the descent. Part of the way down, three energetic hikers took a turn to the left to hike down the wash which turned out to be a somewhat shorter version. The hike was around 5 miles long, lasted a little over 4 hours and the weather was perfect.

A view from the peak shows Bonanza Peak (the one that is mostly green.) Two weeks from today, we will be hiking to this mountain.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Mary Jane Falls - 7/25/09

The Around the Bend Friends hiked the Mary Jane Falls Trail again today. The trail is around 3 miles with 900 feet of vertical elevation gain. For more information on the character of the trail, look for the June 13th entry of this year.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Rainbow Loop - 7/23/09

"CLEAR FOR LANDING!!! Yum! Yum! The Queen will really like this stuff!" said one bee to another as several bees chowed down on graceful blooms along the Rainbow Loop Trail below Mt. Charleston.

Fifteen hikers were brave enough to stare down the rain clouds this morning to hike the 5.65 mile loop hike which travels around the Rainbow community, up 1170 feet of elevation to the South Loop Trail and down through the residential area. With the exception of a few scattered sprinkles, we were successful in temporarily holding back the raindrops. After leaving the trail around noon, however, we looked back to see a thunderstorm enveloping the recreation area of Kyle Canyon where we spent our morning.

At the peak of our hike, at 8270 feet, we stopped to take a break where we were able to overlook Kyle Canyon and see Mt. Charleston past the wildflowers on the hillside.

Fire Rangers and young men from the nearby youth camp were out in force around the area working to thin the forest and keep the trails maintained. And, what fine looking and hard working young men they were!

We took a nice wooded trail down the mountain and ended up at the summer cabins located above Rainbow. The cabin to the left is, perhaps, one of the oldest. Old, yet well-kept. After passing the cabins, we hiked down through the more modern summer homes. As you will see in the GPS waypoint/GoogleEarth picture, we arrived at the confluence of the loop at the bottom of the hill then hiked back to the cars which were parked across from the Fletcher Canyon Trailhead.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Raintree & Mummy Springs - 7/16/09

The Raintree hike was on the schedule today. We had done the hike only one month ago so for more details on the hike, go to that entry on this website. For specific information on this hike ... well, there were 8 hikers and the weather was perfect! Although the many wildflowers were on their way out below the meadow, above the meadow was a different story.

On the way up the mountain on the North Loop Trail, several interesting birds were observed. We saw two humming- birds, a yellow and black bird (maybe a Yellowbreast) and the one in the picture to the left.(Double-click on the picture for a better view.) I believe it could be a nuthatch. Let me know if it isn't. The birds were singing all around us. They were probably trying to protect their nests from the intruders ... us.

After arriving at the official Raintree, as opposed to all of the other trees we passed during a very long steep climb, it was suggested that we continue for another 1/3 mile down to Mummy Springs. Six of us took on the side trip. The springs were still flowing with a strong trickle from snowmelt and there were many flowers growing on the hillside below them.

Some of the flowers growing below the springs were columbine as seen in the picture to the left. There was also an abundance of moss growing on the rock behind the little waterfalls. We were all introduced to the cold water when Don decided we each needed a little of it on the back of our neck! Very refreshing!

After frolicking at Mummy Springs, we returned to Raintree whose "foot" sprawled about the base of its huge circumference. The return continued in climbing mode from the springs to the 10,000 foot summit. Then we began the downhill hike back to the cars. The entire hike was almost six miles with an elevation gain of around 1500 feet.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Mack's Canyon Road Trail 7/11/09

Mack's Canyon Road is a 4 mile dirt road leading northwest off of Lee Canyon Road just south of the Sawmill Picnic Area. There are several secluded campsites on the road and a few were occupied.

Thirty-five hikers attended the walk out the road this morning. Many of us made it an out and back hike of 4 miles. A few hikers decided to go all the way to the end of the road making it an 8 mile hike! It was just one of those easy mornings that the trail was clear and, as long as a member had a buddy or two nearby, you had your choice of challenge.

The pinyon pine, which grows in the southwestern U.S. and in Mexico, produce edible pinyon nuts widely eaten all over the world. According to Wikipedia, these nuts were a staple of the Native Americans. Their name originates from the Spanish explorers of the 1500s who named the tree "pino pinonero," or "nut-bearing pine." The fragrance of the wood is unmistakable.

Also according to Wikipedia, the juniper berry is actually a seed cone. These cones are used as an Apache and European spice from a handful of juniper species. They are also used to give gin its distinguishing flavor.

The view to the north from Mack's Canyon Road was visible for much of the hike. The clouds overhead were sprinkling rain for much of the time, however, the play of light on the distant desert playas and mountains was a feast for the eyes.

Coin- cidentally, exactly at the two mile mark, there was a campsite off the road which provided two long log seats for the hikers who decided to take their break at this point. Happily, we sat and talked and ate and laughed carefully checking for ants and other critters before staking our claim.

We returned to the cars in the same manner we hiked out ... in our own time. The cool sprinkle of rain was none other than refreshing and welcome. The road was smooth hard dirt with little rock in the tracks to hurt our feet. Besides, there was plenty of time to spend on waiting for those more ambitious hikers who took on the whole length of the road.

The mountains which make up the chin and head of Mummy Mtn. overlooked the parking area off of Lee Canyon Road. At this point, they don't resemble a head at all!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

No Name Trail - 7/9/09

"Krumholtz" Bristlecone is translated from German roughly as "crooked wood."

Eleven hikers started at the Bristlecone Trail trailhead this beautiful morning. We hiked up the trail until it took a sharp right turn up the hill. At this point, the No Name Trail begins turning off to the left. We headed up a wash which is known to be fierce in the early spring and climbed up to around 9800 feet in elevation. To the left is a photo of the summit we were straining to reach.

This is a pretty tough climb for reason of the high altitude. We had two Thursday newcomers on the hike today and both did a great job at conquering the summit. To the left, we see one of the rookies with veteran hiker Marg. Both were happy to make the ridge but were asked to continue on immediately as we were not ready for our main break.

Many wildflowers were in bloom.

The hike continued leading through an old growth bristlecone forest filled with "krumholtz" bristlecone trees. This section of the hike is the reason we came. The forest is fantastic. (But not quite as fantastic as the forest on the way to Raintree.) Nevertheless, we enjoyed the scenery. Several of us took many pictures.

Arriving at the junction with the Bonanza Trail, we took a break and posed for the camera. The Bonanza Trail leads to Bonanza Peak and, beyond that, to Cold Creek. We opted for the right turn onto the trail which lead us back to the Bristlecone Trail at a point two miles up from its trailhead. Below, the photo shows the nature of the Bonanza Trail as we hiked down to the Bristlecone. From there, we hiked back to the cars on this beautiful trail filled with bristlecones, limestone, and colorful arrays of wildflowers. The hike was a total of six miles.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Wild Horse Loop - 7/4/09

On this July 4th holiday, twenty- seven hikers came together to hike the Wild Horse Loop, a 3.5 mile journey with around 900 feet in elevation gain. The weather was beautiful and not too hot. The Spring Mtn. Recreation Area was filling with people fast and we got the last parking places available to begin the hike at the North Loop trailhead. We always try to reduce the numbers of cars in the parking areas by carpooling from a central location.

We hiked up from the trailhead to the meadow where we found wildflowers of every color scattered throughout the old growth of bristlecones. As 27 hikers tend to do, we arrived at the top at different times. We stayed there until the last hikers arrived; eating our snacks and talking while we waited.

The meadow offered views of the desert below in one direction, the northern part of the Las Vegas valley in another and Mummy's Chin above. Some people decided to take the opportunity to relax as far as they could go. This is the life!

This view of the desert in the distance is the area where the government tested the first nuclear bombs. Back then, people actually came out with a picnic lunch to view the amazing attraction. I just wonder how many of those people survived to see the turn of the century. Just a thought!

After our rest, we began the hike down to finish the loop. We hiked out along the side of the hill and then split into two groups. Eleven of us chose to hike the Wild Horse Ridge and the other sixteen went down through Wild Horse Canyon, a picturesque walk accented with a marshy spring and a small limestone canyon.

The hike along the ridge was equally interesting. We descended to the rock ridge outcropping above the Deer Creek picnic area. The views covered about 250 degrees of direction. Looking back, there was a great up-close view of almost the entire Mummy Mtn.

We dropped off the ridge where the fire fighters had thinned out much of the woody growth and headed up the road to the cars. The group who had made their way slowly down through Wild Horse Canyon arrived about 10 minutes later. (Their delay was due to a reported barbeque party with bingo and raffles in the middle of their descent!) ... Just kidding.