Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Fletcher Peak (Up Wild Horse Ridge / Down Wild Horse Canyon) - 8/4/15

Fletcher Peak

Charleston Peak from Fletcher Peak

Lower End of Wild Horse Ridge

Gaining Wild Horse Ridge
 It was 7:30 this morning when sixteen hikers arrived at the parking turnout across Deer Creek Road from the beginning of Cougar Ridge Trail dirt road in the Spring Mountains NRA. We piled out of the cars and made our preparations. The creative route du jour to Fletcher Peak included an ascent on Wild Horse Ridge and descent in Wild Horse Canyon. We crossed the road and began hiking up the dirt road. Soon, we came to the big rock landmark up on the hill to the left. This was our queue to turn left and find the trail that leads up to the very end of Wild Horse Ridge.

Kay Photographs Mummy's Nose from Wild Horse Ridge
 We climbed up the limestone ridge on morning legs and were immediately surrounded by beautiful scenery. In front of us, a waning gibbous crowned Mummy Mountain.

Hiking Up Wild Horse Ridge
 The narrow limestone ridge dropped precipitously down to Deer Creek and the open expanse afforded us wide views to the north.

Deer Creek Canyon from Wild Horse Cross Trail

Desert View from North Loop Meadow
 We climbed up the length of the ridge then started up the steep hill at the end. We found the small trail that leads up but the effort separated us. We were all looking for the cross trail junction, however, only the four hikers in the back (which included the coordinator) found the junction which is not immediately apparent. The twelve hikers in the front kept climbing as the four in the back turned to their left and followed the much easier cross trail over to the North Loop meadow. This situation would only be allowed to happen on a Tuesday. Knowing that all twelve of the hikers that were taking the "optional trail" knew the terrain very well, the four hikers were not worried that the others would get lost. It was only a matter of how to meet up with them again. ... Or, not.

Four Loyalists (Including Photographer)
 We decided that the twelve renegades would not come back down since this would involve losing precious elevation that was very hard earned. So, after a couple of minutes at the meadow, we continued our hike up the North Loop switchbacks.

Finding the Twelve Renegades on the Ridge

All Sixteen back in Line
The four of us hiked up the twelve switchbacks talking and laughing at the whole scenario. We thought it was possible that we wouldn't even see the rest of the group until the peak! But, lo and behold, we found them at the top of the twelfth switchback where the trail meets the ridge. The renegade group had just kept climbing on the same ridge and ended up at the top. They got there about ten minutes before we did! Note the "optional route" indicated on the maps below. There was a lot of laughing and teasing going on before we got started again.

Descending to the Saddle on Fletcher Peak Trail
 Quickly separating again, we hiked up around the high point corner and down to the Fletcher Peak Trail junction. The coordinator made sure that everyone made the left turn as they arrived.

Fletcher Peak Saddle (Kyle Canyon to Right)

Fletcher Peak Trail
 The Fletcher Peak Trail circles back around the side of the hill we had just passed on the North Loop Trail, then dives down to an open saddle area. The drop to the right of the saddle is part of the large funnel that drains into Fletcher Canyon. The drop to the left is called Hummingbird Gulch. Sometimes we hike up to Fletcher Peak via this steep canyon. Our route today took us across the very windy saddle and along a long, view filled, undulating ridgeline. The limestone trail is in very good condition and can be followed without trouble. Just be prepared for the steep climb through the bristlecones at the end!

Mummy's Toe from Fletcher Peak Trail
 The line of hikers spread out along the approach. The coordinator scooped up the back of the line while everyone else enjoyed their pace.

Three Handsome Men - One is taken.

West View from Fletcher Peak
 Arriving on Fletcher Peak, the views opened out again. Although the sister peak which is seen ahead is a couple of feet higher than our regular stopping point, it is covered with trees and does not put on quite the show! We looked around and guess who was there waiting for us! Tim! His first hike back, he wanted to take his time up the North Loop Trail. Welcome back, Tim! So, we signed the log book and took our break. Seventeen hikers all talking up a storm at 10, 274 feet.

Summit Party
 For most of the hikers, Fletcher Peak is done several times every summer.

Seventeen on Top (Including Tim)

Northeast View from Fletcher Peak
 We do Fletcher Peak up the North Loop, up Deer Creek, up Wild Horse Ridge and Canyon, up Hummingbird Gulch and up from Trail Canyon! Since the South Loop is closed and will be for a couple more years (likely), we have probably found just about every way to hike this peak. It's kind of like cooking with chicken. How many ways are there to make chicken taste good? Anyway, we finished our break and started down. The group stayed together a little better on the descent regathering at the Fletcher Trail/North Loop Trail junction and the North Loop Trail/Wild Horse cross trail junction.

Rainbow Canyon Saddle from Fletcher Peak
 We were in no hurry. It's just the speed at which we hike. Nobody had an appointment and nobody needed to catch a bus.

Starting Down off of the Peak
 Joking and laughing all the way, conversations never ceased.

Climbing Up from the Saddle

Arriving at the North Loop Meadow
 Following the coordinator along the cross trail and down the Wild Horse Canyon trail, we stayed together. There were many many columbines within the canyon and the trail was well maintained. As we hiked through the narrows at the bottom, we joked that it was a good place for a mountain lion ambush! However, with our group today, those mountain lions were most likely three counties away! Excellent morning.

7 miles; 2300 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

Passing a Columbine Field in Wild Horse Canyon

Wild Horse Canyon Trail

"Mountain Lion Ambush Area!"

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