Sunday, June 30, 2013

South Sister Saddle Loop CW via Pine Cone Canyon - 6/30/13

McFarland Peak from Bonanza Trail near Ridge Junction

Ridge Line Scenery

Once again, as seventeen members of the AtBF rode toward the trailhead, they saw wild horses. One was feeding off of Lee Canyon Highway and a family of three were feeding at the Sawmill Picnic Area. We love to see the horses!

Today's hike was another variation of the new South Sister Saddle Loop. This time, we would travel in a reverse direction and take a different approach from the Lower Bristlecone Trail.

 We parked at the Lower Bristlecone Trailhead parking lot and started up the forest road for half a mile where the road takes a U-ey to the left. Just at the point of the hairpin turn, there is a trail that leads up a wide wash. We have decided to call this wash trail, Pine Cone Canyon. ... (just so we know what we are referring to!) Pine Cone Canyon starts out fairly non-threatening. However, as the trail bears off to the right wash, the trail becomes very steep and is filled with many pine cones.

Climbing Pine Cone Canyon

Pine Cone Canyon Slope

Did I mention how hot it was today? Well, let me tell you! The Las Vegas valley was expected to reach 115 degrees and, in the Spring Mountains, it was around 90. Anywho, this very steep climb up the wash required a few stops and a lot of water. Finally, all seventeen of us reached the ridge line where the Bonanza Trail lay. The junction area is seen in the photo to the left facing south. We took a few breaths and turned north on the Bonanza Trail.

 Enjoying every minute of the beautiful Bonanza Trail, we traveled around three quarters of a mile. The ridge trail comes into the Bonanza Trail at a perpendicular angle to the right. Wandering slightly as we searched for the ridge trail turn off (look for a log with a rock on top of it), we found it and began a somewhat steep descent for a hundred yards. The trail is small but fairly clear. Wild horses are most likely the trail blazers.

Starting Down Ridge Line Trail

Following Ridge Line Trail Toward South Sister

 The ridge trail leveled out a little then dropped again off to the right. We continued down until we reached a great place for a picnic! Plenty of log seating. Here, we noticed that a large gray cloud had appeared overhead. The monsoons have arrived, right on time! The heat creates rain clouds out of nowhere right around noon.

 We were very happy to see the change in weather as the sun went away. Everyone finally reached the chosen snack spot and we had a very leisurely break. There were views of mountains all around. Mt. Charleston, South Sister, Mack's Peak and Mummy Mountain could be seen from the bristleconed ridge. And, it was obvious that this was a favorite hang out of wild horses and even a few elk or large deer.

Great Snack Spot!

The Horses Missed These!

 After the break, we finished our hike across the ridge line trail and dropped down to the South Sister Saddle. While we took a small break here, a few (very few) raindrops began falling. This was not a problem! Now, at our own pace, we started down the South Sister Trail. At first, it is very steep but levels out quick enough.

 The bottom of the hill brought a walk through the forest, past the spring and a small old home foundation. We connected with the rock lined path that comes up from the Old Mill Picnic Area and after a few more yards we turned off to the right to crossover to the forest road where we would finish the hike back to the cars. This was a 5 mile hike with 2000 feet of elevation gain that took us almost 5 hours to accomplish today.

Starting Down South Sister Trail from Saddle

Finishing Hike on Forest Road

The first half mile of forest road is omitted.

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