Tuesday, August 5, 2014

McFarland Approach - 8/5/14

McFarland Peak from the Bonanza Trail

Bonanza Trail

 McFarland Peak is located about half way between the Upper Bristlecone Trailhead and the northern Bonanza Trailhead on the Spring Mountain Divide. Although the approach hike is lengthy, it offers beautiful views near and far. Fourteen hikers arrived this morning for that beauty on the kind of fantastic day that can only be created by previous rain, and lots of it! On the way to the Upper Bristlecone trailhead, we saw for ourselves the aftermath of the flood that happened on I-95 near the Lee Canyon Road turn off yesterday. The road had been cleaned up and we zipped right through.

Hiking the Upper Bristlecone Trail
 We started up the trail with conversation centering around what a great day it was! Blue skies, crisp cool air and lower humidity. Not to mention, a soft palette of damp earth to walk on.

Nearing the Saddle on No Name Trail

 About a mile up the trail, we gathered at the No Name Trail junction. The climb would start here. So, we stepped over the logs and began our trek up to the No Name Saddle. At the top, we sat for a short rest. We were not in a hurry. The day was too nice to rush through a hike. Next, we hiked through the old bristlecone forest and junctioned with the Bonanza Trail ... where we again stepped over a bunch of logs. Another short rest.

Bonanza Trail
 The Bonanza Trail "steps" were next. We turned to our left and began climbing a series of terraced steps. The morning light plays on this section of the trail creating long shadows.

Bonanza Trail

The first familiar spot we passed was the junction with the route up Pine Cone Canyon from below. Next, we met with the small switchbacks that lead up to the local high point of the Bonanza Trail. Looking back, we saw Mt. Charleston rising above everything around it. It's backside appearing daunting and unforgiving. We stayed together for the most part as we hiked out.

Bonanza Trail
 The next small section of trail is filled with limestone and bare bristlecone trees. We were traveling near the ridge up to our right. McFarland was in clear view ahead of us.

View West from Bonanza Trail

 To our left, we had intermittent views of the Pahrump Valley in the distance. The old twisted bristlecones kept coming and the trail climbed and fell several times. We passed the trail junction for the ridge that drops down to South Sister Saddle. Then, at this point, the trail was falling more than climbing and as we neared McFarland, we began a long descent that was only shortly interrupted by small ascents. This last mile of the trek to the McFarland Peak Trail lost almost 500 feet in elevation. (Something to remember about the return hike.)

Bonanza Trail
 For five hikers, today, our plan was simple. Cut our losses and stop at the clearing where the trail starts to circumvent McFarland.

Approaching McFarland

 The clearing was one half mile and around 250 feet above the McFarland Peak Trail junction. The remaining hikers took on the extra half mile with enthusiasm. The only disadvantage of stopping at the clearing, that we saw, was that the chilly wind blowing across the saddle made it uncomfortable for us to stay there very long. The five of us had to take our break then start the return hike before the remaining nine hikers got back up the hill from their pilgrimage to the peak trail. Before we left, we checked out the large camp shelter nearby.

Large Camp Shelter near Clearing Saddle
 We hiked back to the Bonanza / No Name Trail junction in four groups. Although the groups were spread out along the trail, we've hiked together long enough to know what's probably ... most likely ... going on with everyone else. We are also sure to take care of the newbies any time circumstances warrant it.

Returning on the Bonanza Trail

 At the junction, we gathered again. Turns out, we weren't separated by much. Another rest and we started down the Bonanza Trail switchbacks toward the Bristlecone Trail junction. There, we turned right and did the last 2 miles back to the cars on the Upper Bristlecone Trail. Great day! Great people! Great hike!

10.5 to 11.5 miles (depending on stopping point at McFarland); 2500 to 2800 feet elevation gain; 5 hours

Gathering at the Bonanza / No Name Junction

Hiking Back on the Bristlecone Trail

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