Wednesday, July 3, 2013

McFarland Approach - 7/3/13

View of Pahrump Valley from McFarland Peak Trailhead

Bonanza Trail

This summer, as last summer, there have been training hikes for those newbies who want to summit Mt. Charleston. The hikes started at the beginning of June so today's hike was at a point in training where distance is becoming a real factor. Fifteen hikers arrived at the Bristlecone Trailhead on Lee Canyon Highway to do a 12 mile hike on the Bonanza Trail. When it was all said and done, 2600 feet of total elevation gain had been tackled by the determined group of hikers.

 Our guest hike coordinator today was Brian Dodd. He began the outing with a short talk on proper hiking techniques. Anxious to learn all we could about our hobby, we were happy for the advice and began our hike up Bristlecone Trail at a very reasonable pace. Although the day was expected to be quite warm, the morning was very pleasant as we followed Brian up to the No Name Trail junction.

Lloyd Climbs No Name Trail

Climbing to No Name Saddle

 At the junction, Brian challenged us to climb up to the saddle, (a gain of 1000 feet in a distance of one mile), without stopping. He said it didn't matter if you slowed down to adjust your breathing. We took the challenge and many of the hikers succeeded. At the saddle, we waited for everyone to arrive then proceeded out the trail through the old bristlecone forest toward the Bonanza Trail junction.

 At the junction, we took another breather where two of the hikers took their leave down the switchbacks to the Upper Bristlecone Trail. We continued northward on the Bonanza Trail where the scenery never stopped. Up on the ridge of the Spring Mountain Divide, mountain peaks, summer wildflowers and limestone rock outcroppings could be seen all along the trail. We passed Pine Cone Canyon and climbed up to the high point of the day. After that, we passed the South Sister Saddle ridge trail going off to the right.

Coming Down from Bonanza Trail High Point

McFarland Peak in View

 With awesome McFarland Peak in view, we watched the mountain's limestone walls get closer and closer. To the left, we watched the upper reaches of Carpenter Canyon go by. There was supposed to be a wildfire in Carpenter Canyon today but all we saw was a smokey haze covering our distant views until we turned around and looked toward the back side of Mt. Charleston.

 There was a large wildfire burning between Charlie and Pahrump. A photo of this scene can be found near the end of this entry. We were comforted to know that there were no fires nearby. As we marched past one last meadow, McFarland Peak loomed large. We descended a few hundred feet until the trail began switchbacks down and we stopped for our break. There was a side trail leading up toward a rocky canyon on the peak. We sat for our break secretly happy that we weren't doing the peak today!

Approaching McFarland Peak

Descending to Turn Around Point

 After enjoying the shade and eating a snack, it soon became time to return. We left the area in small groups. The hike back would be a difficult one in the mounting heat. We had descended a lot more than it seemed on the way and now, we had to go up ... after hiking 5.5 miles to the turn around point. Nevertheless, the scenery was still magnificent and many photos were still to be taken. Up, up, flat, up, flat, up, down, up ... well, we get the picture.

 We regrouped at the Bonanza Trail / No Name Trail junction then continued down the switchbacks of Bonanza. When we junctioned with the Bristlecone Trail, we turned right and finished the hike. It was hot and our bodies were beaten up but it was still a great hike! Until next year ....

Mt. Charleston and Forest Fire from Bonanza Trail

Bonanza Trail

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