Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Griffith Peak via South Loop - 6/19/12

                   Mt. Charleston from the Third Overlook of the South Loop

 Today's hike was an adventure to the summit of Griffith Peak via the South Loop Trail in the Mt. Charleston Wilderness and the Spring Mountain NRA. Fifteen hikers parked at the Cathedral Rock trailhead to begin the hike. Because of construction and/or an attempt to preserve the natural habitat of the Mt. Charleston Blue Butterfly, the original South Loop trailhead which began in the picnic area at the end of Kyle Canyon Highway, is blocked off. It is posted that there is a fine of $275 per person if anyone dares to cross the plastic orange construction fence.

 We hiked up the Cathedral Rock trail and ignored the new trail that soon headed off to the left. We learned later that we should have taken the left which is a new trail made just for our situation. Instead, we hiked up and connected with the South Loop in the usual way. (Coming back, the new detour was taken and it saved about two tenths of a mile.) There is no signage so, at first, we were worried that we would encroach upon the fine area. However, it appears that the detour is okay to use.

                                Switchback on the South Loop Trail

 The group of hikers quickly got separated into various speeds. The original plan was to regroup at the first overlook but the jack rabbits were given the okay to jump ahead before the stragglers had caught up. Our fearless coordinator, Steve, knew where everyone was and did a great job sweeping the rear of the line with Don. As we ascended the first set of switchbacks, the wildflowers filled the hillside with color.

 The first hikers to bail from the hike stopped at the third overlook. This was four miles into the hike where a switchback took the explorer out to a point where there were great views of Mt. Charleston and Mummy's Toe. We could also see the residential community of Mt. Charleston and the brand new parking lot for Mary Jane Falls. Two hikers stayed here for their break and then hiked back down arriving at the cars only thirty minutes before the first summiters.

                                Las Vegas from Griffith Peak Summit (2011)

 (Because the writer was one of those hikers that stopped at the overlook, the photos from the peak seen here are from last year's hike.) So, after the overlook, the remaining thirteen hikers became even more spread out since it is quite a formidable climb. Not sure where hikers stopped after that point, however, they picked up one hiker at the beginning of the final climb. He had begun his climb two hours earlier, determined to summit the Big G Peak!

 Out of the fifteen hikers, plus one, that began the climb, only nine achieved the peak where many of the rocks contained seabed fossils from many millions of years ago. Views of Kyle Canyon, Mt. Charleston and the Las Vegas Valley welcomed the group. It was a warm day so the hike down would be a scorcher.

                          Mt. Charleston from Griffith Peak Summit (2011)

 The photo to the left shows the trail leading from the bottom of the summit area to the junction of the South Loop Trail. At the junction, the hikers would turn right to head downhill. Hikers who continue straight from there on the South Loop would eventually end up on Mt. Charleston Peak. This ridge area is usually referred to as the "meadow." Most hikers who have experienced the reasonably flat meadow describe it as beautiful and tranquil.

 The junction sign is seen in the photo to the right. From here, it is approximately five miles back down to the cars at the Cathedral Rock trailhead. When the first summiters arrived at the cars, they said that the last hikers were "way back there." Nevertheless, it was a great day for a hike in the mountains.

                                Wildflowers on the South Loop Trail

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