Thursday, June 5, 2014

Trail Canyon / Fletcher Canyon - 6/5/14

Fletcher Canyon near Landmark Rock

Mt. Charleston from Trail Canyon

 The hike up Trail Canyon is either dreaded or simply a necessity to many of us. Eleven hikers set off at the trailhead in the Spring Mountains NRA. The photo to the left is the only photo taken while the group was together. (Notice the water tank in the pic!) No worries. The coordinator said, "At your own speed and wait at the saddle." So off we went up, up and away! The trail leads from the small community of Echo to the junction with the North Loop at the "saddle." It is 2.25 miles long and 1500 feet in elevation gain. It IS a bugger!

Large Jack Rabbit on Trail Canyon
 In fact, one newbie on the hike, today, never made it to the saddle. Another hiker forfeited his complete hike today to return with the newbie back down to the trailhead. But, ... did they see the huge rabbit??? That's what's important!

Trail Canyon Trail with Mt. Charleston in Distance

 At any rate, the nine remaining hikers finally gathered at the saddle and proceeded over it onto the North Loop Trail ... for, oh, about fifty feet! Somewhere right in this area, there is a very small trail that leads down to the right. We found it and followed the path for a short way. Be careful. Don't follow the path too far. Turn down to your right when the coast is clear and you see another even smaller trail heading straight down the steep but soft terrain. Down, down, down. Finally, when you can't go down any further, you have reached the huge landmark rock and the top of Fletcher Canyon. The photo to the right shows what the hidden trail looks like when you arrive.

Arriving Below Landmark Rock
 Five hikers in our group took the option of continuing down that first small trail and arrived a couple of minutes after the other four hikers who opted to go straight down.

Starting Down Fletcher Canyon

 All together again, we ducked under that long log over the stream bed and found the soft trail on the other side. So began the hike down a trail that requires open eyes. It is the maze of Fletcher Canyon! The trail continues all the way down the canyon even though sometimes it is a little shy. There are also a few new fallen trees from the winter snows. But, nevertheless, we followed the trail through the columbines, over logs, over small scrambles and through intermittent water flow. Soon, we were passing the trail junction of the Stanley B / Fletcher Canyon hike.

Up and Around Segment at Ponderosa Pine Waterfall
 There are only two places that might be perplexing to a rookie hiker. Let's call the first one, the up and around of Ponderosa Pine Waterfall as seen in the photo above and below.

Ponderosa Pine Waterfall

 After the waterfall, we weaved our way down through an interesting campsite. Rocks and sticks were all prepared for a tarp to be flung over. Adjacent to the site, there is a rope hanging from a tree. Perhaps it is there to hang food from so that the animals don't get to it at night. (The rope can be seen in the photo to the right in front of yellow shirted Steve, if you look very closely.) Next is the other slightly perplexing place in the canyon. The arrival to said place is seen in the photo below.

Canyon at Secret Trail Turnoff
 From this place, the "secret" trail is hidden at the end of the rock to the right. Brush by the bush and find the trail leading above the small slot canyon seen in the photo below.

Small Slot

 After the small slot, more trail finding ensued. The closer we got to Obstacle Rock, the more familiar the trail became. There were a couple of spots that seemed even more slippery than last year. Not sure how much "winter" Fletcher Canyon saw this year but there has been some erosion along with the newly fallen trees. Finally, we began dropping into the narrows above Obstacle Rock. A small bird, fresh out of the nest, sat waiting for us inside the narrows. It learned to fly very quickly when we arrived!

Entering the Narrows above Obstacle Rock
 The rabbit hole that slides down next to Obstacle Rock seemed more slippery than ever! Also, the pile of rocks down below were a bit shorter. With a little team work, we managed to get everyone through the hole and down to the bottom where we took our break.

The Narrows above Obstacle Rock

 The remaining two miles of the hike follow the familiar recreational trail through and out of Fletcher Canyon's bottom portion; an easy hike with little elevation change. We hiked out quickly while noticing that the weather was much warmer in these lower elevations. The two hikers that escaped the hike early on were waiting for us and only one car full had to be shuttled back to the Trail Canyon trailhead. All found this to be a very pleasant and interesting hike.

6 miles; 1900 feet elevation gain; 2800 feet elevation loss; 3.5 hours

The Narrows below Obstacle Rock

Tree Along the Woodland Trail

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