Thursday, August 5, 2010

South Loop (3rd Overlook) - 8/5/10

Scenery abounds on the South Loop hike in the Spring Mountains where sixteen club members climbed the 2000 feet in elevation for a view at the third overlook. From the beginning to the end, the South Loop offers views of Kyle Canyon (north and south), Mummy's Toe, and Mt. Charleston in all their grandeur.

We parked at the Cathedral Rock trailhead and followed the road up to the South Loop trailhead located within the Cathedral Rock Picnic Area which requires $8 fee to drive into. Workers were hard at work around the beginning of the trail but after we got to the Rainbow Loop trail junctions, we had the trail to ourselves. We tackled the following switchbacks with gusto staying within contact of each other from the leader to the sweep.

It was a challenging climb so it was necessary to allow the hikers to go their own speed as long as we regrouped at appointed places during the ascent. As we slowly passed the drainage to our left, we enjoyed the purple flowers adorning the springs and heard waterfalls when we stopped to listen. Higher up in this drainage, snow tenaciously clung to the ground.

At the first overlook, we stopped for a short break while the hikers regrouped. Here, we could see the mouth of Kyle Canyon and Mummy's Toe across the way. We were high on a cliff.

After the first overlook, another set of switchbacks soon began. These switchbacks were decorated with gray limestone and ponderosas with a few bristlecones thrown in for good measure as we neared our destination. The photo below shows one view from the second overlook. One by one, each hiker stepped out on this overlook before turning to climb the final switchback. One more "out and back" brought us to the third overlook.

The scenery did not only include distant beauty. Bees were busy on the rough angelica along the trail on the first set of switchbacks. Rabbitbrush is beginning to bloom. Also, the blue lupine and Indian paintbrush are still abundant. However, the lavender thistles have gone past their prime.

Another interesting aside on the South Loop Trail is the "fish fossil" rock. It is located in the first set of switchbacks at one of the hairpin turns to the left when you are going up. The low flat rock is found on the inside of the turn and the best way to see the fossils is to pour a little water over the rock surface. These fossils are very unusual as they show a tube-like creature which lived on the sea bed at one time in the very distant past.

When we reached the third overlook, we discussed different trails and routes that club members had done in Kyle Canyon. Our view was even better than Google Earth! We could see the ridge above us which leads to Mt. Charleston Peak. Through the trees, we could make out Griffith Peak. Below us, the source of Kyle Canyon opened wide to show us every detail.

Finally, we had to descend. Again, there were a variety of paces but after 4.25 hours, all the hikers had made it up and back over the total of seven miles.

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