Sunday, August 16, 2015

North Loop / Raintree / Fletcher Canyon - 8/16/15

First Trickles of Water in Fletcher Canyon Wash

Water Flow at the Big Boulder Landmark

First Waterfall from Top of Fletcher Canyon

Hiking Up the North Loop Trail
 Today's point to point hike began at the North Loop Trailhead on Deer Creek Road and ended at the Fletcher Canyon Trailhead on Kyle Canyon Road. Therefore, the seven participating hikers took 3 cars up to the Spring Mountains NRA and left 1 at Fletcher Canyon, piled in 2 cars and drove up to the North Loop. Already, the hikers of Las Vegas were swarming the trailheads this Sunday morning. Temperatures in the valley would reach almost 110 degrees later and the mountains would only offer 20 degrees of difference at the hot time of the day. So, it appeared that hikers made it up to the trailhead early ... before we did. This rarely happens!

Meet Rocky and His Rider
 Nevertheless, we found our parking spots and started up the North Loop Trail. About half way up to the meadow, we made a four legged acquaintance. Rocky, the horse.

Rocky comes to say Hello at the Meadow
 We rarely see horse and riders on the North Loop Trail and Rocky's dad said the trail was kind of stressful for the big animals. We noted that Rocky and dad were in no hurry to get up the mountain and we passed each other several times. At the meadow, Barb U. offered the horse her apple. Rocky said, "Don't mind if I do."

Rocky Eats Barb's Apple

Mummy's Toe from High Point Corner
 We also came across Doyle at the meadow. He was hiking with a few old friends ... hmm ... three young ladies. Anyway, we headed on up the switchbacks and gathered again at Raintree where we took our break. While we enjoyed a nice break, Rocky came along. Yea, Rocky! You made it! After Rocky, Doyle and his ladies arrived. We commented that this was one of the only times that we were warm at Raintree! Usually, the Raintree saddle has a cold wind sweeping across and we have to dig for our jackets.

Wildflowers near Raintree
 Yellow wildflowers still cover some hillsides in the upper elevations.

Rocky Arrives at Raintree
 Rocky got tied up on the hill above Raintree while we conversed. At the end of the break, we were happy to be heading downhill.

Griffith Peak from North Loop Trail

Charleston Peak from North Loop Trail
This hike is unusual because only 1/4 of the hike is ascent. The remaining 3/4 of the hike is a descent with several variations of terrain. The descent starts out on a section of the North Loop Trail that offers many wide views of the surrounding mountains. The trail circles around the top of the large system of washes that funnel down into Fletcher Canyon. The easy trail down afforded us time to do a lot of talking. We noted that there is a lot of erosion crossing the trail in several places. Probably from the hard rains we had a few days ago.

The Team on North Loop Trail
 The first large limestone wash was trenched about 2 to 3 feet deep from recent water flow. We crossed the wash where others had begun stamping the trail again.

Starting Down the Fletcher Canyon Wash
 The second large limestone wash, our wash, fared much better. It was still trenched and rearranged in a few places but the scramble down seemed to be similar to previous hikes.

Obstacles and Slippery Rocks

Nearing the Bottom of the Limestone Wash
 We dropped down the wash being extremely careful on the slippery limestone. These rocks are also likely to move underfoot if you are not careful so this part of the descent warranted a slower pace. Three of the hikers took the parallel wash on the left side and it seemed to be easier but ... probably not as fun! Eventually, both sets of the team had to converge and we carefully made our way down to where the wash curved to the right. Over to our right, we saw the Big Boulder Landmark that sits in the middle of the woods like it doesn't belong there.

Finding the Big Boulder Landmark
 We took a short water break at the boulder then ducked down to the trail next to the running water of Fletcher Canyon.

The Up & Around for the First Waterfall
 The trick to hiking down Fletcher Canyon is simple. Stay in or near the wash. There is a trail that weaves in and out of the wash but as long as you have the wash at your side, you should be good.

Up & Around for the Small Slot

Small Slot
 Most of us knew the obstacles well. The first waterfall that you come to has to be circumnavigated to the left. The second obstacle, the small slot, has a hidden trail that goes up and around on the right. There were two campsites that we passed and otherwise, our minds were kept busy finding our way through the eroded wash. Finally, we reached the narrows above Obstacle Rock. We had passed three hiker guys that informed us of the newly built up rocks at the bottom of the rabbit hole so we were not worried about our passage. At the Rock, the seven of us worked as a cohesive team as we passed the packs and poles down and helped each other through the very slippery hole. There was not anyone at the bottom to provide an audience but we sure deserved applause! We took another short water break at the bottom of the obstacle then took off for the last two miles of the hike. We knew it would be hot so we didn't want to dilly dally. The next stop was the car at the Fletcher Canyon Trailhead. The drivers rode back up to the North Loop Trailhead and brought the two cars back down to get the remaining hikers. This is a fun hike with a lot of variety!

7.5 miles; 2053 feet elevation gain; 5 hours

Hiking Down through the Narrows above Obstacle Rock

Obstacle Rock (L) and Rabbit Hole Area

Small Break after Rabbit Hole and before the Familiar Last 2 Miles

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