Thursday, July 24, 2014

North Loop / Raintree / Fletcher Canyon - 7/24/14


Fletcher Canyon's Obstacle Rock Area

 After all was said and done at the meeting place, eleven hikers decided to do the point to point hike from the North Loop trailhead to the Fletcher Canyon trailhead. The hike was a first for the club and so was the fact that we ended up with four coordinators! Sharing our time in the lead, the four coordinators managed to figure out the car arithmetic and get all eleven hikers up to Raintree via the North Loop Trail and find our way down to the Fletcher Canyon trailhead where we had sufficient cars to get everyone where they needed to go!

Climbing the North Loop Trail
Our hike up the North Loop was set at a moderately strenuous pace. Most of the group stayed together for most of the time. Everyone stopped at the meadow to wait as the last hikers hiked in.

North Loop Eye Candy

 The North Loop switchbacks came next. Again, the pace was accommodating everyone although we did seem to get more separated for this leg of the hike. No one was left behind and, one by one, we reached the high point corner of the North Loop. This corner lies at an elevation just over 10,000 feet. It is also the high point of this hike. From this corner, we knew that it was all downhill ... no, really!

Climbing the North Loop Switchbacks
 We had gained our 2000 feet and were now looking at a descent of 3000 feet, or thereabouts. We began dropping and quickly reached Raintree where we had our first break of the day.

Raintree and Signage for Mt. Charleston Peak

 We enjoyed the cool air while we sat under the 3000 year old tree. The weather was great up there in the higher elevations and the sky was blue, blue, blue. After the last bite and the last photo, we continued our trek past Raintree on the North Loop heading toward the Trail Canyon saddle junction. This section of the trail has views of Fletcher Peak and Cockscomb Ridge. These are the topographical landmarks that are boundaries for Fletcher Canyon, our target that lies between.

Hiking Down the North Loop Trail Toward Trail Canyon
 This is probably the easiest part of the hike and we stayed together as a group very well.

Cockscomb Ridge and Mt. Charleston Peak

 Unfortunately, being grouped together raised concern when we met with a horse and rider head on on a very narrow trail. The rider gave us direction to pass by the horse on its downhill side very close to the large beautiful animal. The horse was very polite and didn't kick anyone! Just after this, we reached the wash junction where we needed to turn left. We started down the wash and realized quickly that there would be some scrambling involved. We warned each other that the limestone was likely slippery and proceeded cautiously.

Starting Down the Wash Toward Fletcher Canyon
 Every once in a while we could decipher a semblance of a trail. This wash is not used a lot but we were not the first.

The wash requires some scrambling!

 We carefully dropped down through the wash and found trails on either side of it from time to time. Unless more hikers use the wash, the wishy washy wash will remain an exploration! However, we knew we were in the correct wash and eventually, we spied the big boulder landmark through the woods on our right. This is the huge boulder sitting at the bottom of the hill just above the beginning of the real Upper Fletcher Canyon trail. We ducked under the fallen tree hanging over the stream and started down a clear trail right here just after water started flowing from a spring.

Dropping into Upper Fletcher Canyon
 Following the trail includes following several different trodden routes. All the routes are in or beside the stream bed.

Up and Around a Waterfall

 There was a decent amount of water flowing in the upper part of the canyon. We followed the easiest routes we could find. There are a couple of spots that need to be known. The first is an up and around a waterfall. A photo of the around and down part is above. The second is a trail that is covered with brush that leads up the hill to the right. This enables hikers to avoid having to drop into a small slot canyon. Other than these two spots, well, just stay in or near the wash!

Entering the Vicinity of Obstacle Rock
 The walls start getting higher and narrower as you get into the area above Obstacle Rock.

Above Obstacle Rock

 Today, our excitement grew as we stepped up to the top of Obstacle Rock. We had several newbies with us that had never dropped through the rabbit hole before. We cautioned them about how slippery the hole had become over the years and talked about exactly how to slide through. Yet, after the instructions, they were on their own and everyone proved to be fabulous rabbit hole dancers.

We took another small break at the bottom then hiked out the last 2 miles in hot sun.

The Rabbit Hole Dance
 7.5 miles; 2128 feet elevation gain; 3018 feet elevation loss; 5 hours; 11 hikers; 5 cars

Hiking Out Lower Fletcher Canyon

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