Sunday, August 23, 2015

South Sister Saddle Loop via Lower Bristlecone CW - 8/23/15

South Sister from Ridge Trail

Mummy Mountain from Ridge Trail

Wild Horse on Lower Bristlecone Trail

The Coordinator Waits
 Fifteen hikers participated on an 8 mile South Sister Saddle Loop this morning. The hike started and ended at the Lower Bristlecone Trailhead in the Spring Mountains NRA off of Lee Canyon Road. Hiking in a clockwise direction, we started up the forest road that makes Lower Bristlecone Trail. This gentle climb up to the Bonanza Trail junction lasts for around three miles. The air was coolish and the smoke from western forest fires had somewhat dissipated. At least we could now see nearby mountains surrounding Las Vegas as we headed out of town.

Corner on Lower Bristlecone Trail

Rabbitbrush Coming Alive

Wild Horse and Lee Peak
 As we rounded a curve on the forest road, we saw a wild horse munching just off the trail. As we got closer, we could see her mate a few feet below. The background scenery was perfect for photos. Now, if we could only have been able to get both horses to look up at the same time! After the photo session, we continued up to the Bonanza junction where the faster hikers were waiting. We turned to the right and headed up the Bonanza Trail switchbacks. Our next stopping point was the No Name Trail junction, aka the Wilderness sign, aka the logs.

Starting Up Bonanza Switchbacks

Starting Up Bonanza Steps

Hiking the Bonanza Trail
 Done with most of the ascent, we still had a couple more hills. We started with the Bonanza Trail steps section. Then we were able to relax for a bit as the beautiful Bonanza Trail floated up and down ... and, thankfully flat sometimes ... as it balanced on the ridge known as the Spring Mountains Divide. Scenery from this trail is endless. We got great views of the canyons leading toward Pahrump, McFarland Peak and, when we looked behind us, Charleston Peak. We climbed the small switchbacks that brought us up and over a small peak then swooped for a final climb up to the high point of the hike.

View Toward Pahrump

Back of Charleston Peak

McFarland Peak
 Soon, the right turn junction for the ridge trail followed. Look for the rock that sits precariously atop a three foot stump on the left side of the trail. Again, the faster hikers were waiting and we started a steep descent onto a ridge that would connect us with the South Sister Saddle. Midway down the ridge, we stopped at the regular picnic place for our official break. The large group enjoyed each other's company in the pleasant surroundings. Then, after the break, we continued down the ridge trail until we dropped down to the namesake saddle.

Diving Down Steep Part of Ridge Trail

Ridge Trail

Hiking Toward South Sister Saddle
 We peered down the South Sister Trail and warned each other about the steepness and slipperiness to come. Then, down we went. Sticks are very helpful here but they are no guarantee. Luckily, we all stayed on our feet and made it down to the more beautiful part of the trail in the shady wash. At the bottom of the hill, we junctioned with the Old Mill Trail then crossed over to the other side of the large area to our right. Here, we found a small game trail that climbed up on a long traverse to the Lower Bristlecone Trail above. From there, we finished the hike on the forest road. Beautiful morning and a good workout.

7.5 miles; 2200 feet elevation gain; 3.75 hours

Starting Down South Sister Trail

Spring next to South Sister Trail

The Pink Girls!

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