Sunday, June 15, 2014

South Sister Saddle Loop CW via Lower Bristlecone Trail - 6/15/14

McFarland Peak from Bonanza Trail

Wildflowers atop Ridge Trail

 There were seven of us this morning; a beautiful morning with cool air and very little wind throughout our 7.5 mile hike. We started at the Lower Bristlecone Trailhead off of Lee Canyon Highway in the Spring Mountains NRA. The first 3 miles of the hike was a gradual ascent up the old forest road. It went by very quickly for all of us as we talked our way up. Hardly noticed it!

Rounding a Curve on Lower Bristlecone Trail
 We reached the Bonanza Trailhead junction at exactly 3 miles and decided to take on the coming switchbacks at our individual paces.

Hiking up the Bonanza Trail Switchbacks

The switchbacks finally got our heart and lungs going and we regathered at the No Name Trail junction where there were 3 other hikers. One hiker was headed off to McFarland Peak. The other 2 hikers wanted to know where No Name Trail junctioned with Bonanza. (Is this a trick question?) We sent them on their way through the bristlecone forest and continued our climb up the Bonanza Trail. Off to our right, we watched South Sister as we had since the trailhead.

McFarland Peak from Bonanza Ridge Shortcut
We soon came to a shortcut trail forking to the right. Never having taken this off chute, we decided to see if we liked it. ... No, it was pretty but not worth the downhill trouble as seen in the photo below.

Descending from Shortcut Ridge

 The ridge to South Sister Saddle that we would soon use came into view as we rounded a high point corner. To the left of the ridge, we could clearly see the smoke hanging above the hills. This smoke is from a wildfire in Bakersfield, CA. To the right of the ridge, South Sister got closer. After a few small switchbacks, we hiked through a beautiful area of light gray stone and old bristlecone trees with a few wildflowers splashing color here and there.

Smoke seen in Valley from Bakersfield Fire
 At right around 4.75 miles into the hike, we came to the trail junction for the ridge trail and turned right.

Six Gentlemen and a Lady (Behind the Camera) on Bonanza Trail

 There is a small trail that leads all the way down a narrow ridge here. The ridge is covered with wildflowers and we have seen wild horses here in the past. Not today. There is a perfect spot for a break with plenty of log seating just at the end of a long steep downhill section. Steve took full advantage of the "furniture!" We took our break then finished hiking along the ridge and down to the saddle where the South Sister trail junctions. If you watch closely, the small trail is present for the entire time.

Steve takes a Snooze!
 Macks Peak can be seen to the left of the ridge; South Sister in front; and Mummy parts and Mt. Charleston are to the right.

Macks Peak from Ridge Trail

 We headed down the steep South Sister Trail and enjoyed the trail through the woods. This trail has become very clear in recent years. After passing the spring and old foundation, we connected with the rock lined Old Mill Trail. We couldn't stay on this trail for long since there is still construction going on for the picnic area. So, we cut across the woods to our right and found the trail that leads up to the manhole cover on the Lower Bristlecone Trail road. Returning to the cars, we felt thoroughly refreshed and relaxed!

7.5 miles; 2200 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours

South Sister Trail

Rock Lined Trail above Old Mill Picnic Area

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