Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Fletcher Peak via Hummingbird Gulch - 7/19/16

Hummingbird Gulch Overlook

Fletcher Peak Trail view to South Loop Trail

Fletcher Peak view to Griffith Peak

Trailhead: Note Low Concrete Barriers
 The Hummingbird Gulch Trailhead in the Spring Mountains NRA is located on Deer Creek Road 0.4 miles south (below) the well-marked Robbers' Roost Trailhead. The small parking turnout amounts to an old blocked off (with small concrete pillars) dirt road. Today, we managed to get three cars with fourteen hikers into the small parking space. An option for parking is the Robbers' Roost Trailhead where a walk down the dirt road found not far up the Robbers' Roost Trail can be taken.

Starting Up from the Old Road
 It has been a long time since the blogger actually accompanied the famous Around the Bend Friends Tuesday group so the blog might be a tad lengthy.

Gaining Elevation Quickly
 So happy were they that the blogger was there to work that the pace may have been slightly slower than on a usual Tuesday! They modestly said the pace was the same as always.

Snail Fossil and Sea Creature Fossil

Up through the Scree
 The hike began up the old dirt road then very soon turned to the left at a large cairn. The trail started out at a decent slope but as soon as we left the woods and entered the gulch, the slope steepened. Someone has built many cairns on the trail but, for the most part, the trail was easy to follow. Most of the time, we were climbing along the northern (right) slope of the gulch. The scree was much easier to climb than it was to descend later in the morning.

A Quick Look Back
 As we began to scramble, the smell of death permeated our nostrils. The wind carried the smell from down canyon. Something was dead in the thick brush of the wash.

Zigzagging Up
 There was quite a bit of scrambling from here up to the spring in the narrows. Scree, brush, stinging nettles and logs hindered our progress up the limestone steps.

Nearing the Gulch Narrows

View Back to Narrows
 Finally, we reached the narrows of the gulch. There is a particularly difficult scree climb just before this. Watch for falling rocks dislodged by fellow hikers. This fine tuned group of hikers were well aware of this danger and everyone made it through the narrows without a scratch. The spring that begins in this area was flowing well and we had to step over the water a couple of times to stay on the trail. Next, five of the fourteen hikers decided to take a small side trip up to the right to take in the overlook view as seen in the first photo.

Spring Area in Narrows
 After the short respite at the overlook, we turned to continue up the ravine. The other hikers had already started up.

A Short Visit to the Overlook
 The trail through the ravine was very well cairned which was nice since the trail was not clear here and there.

Down to Gulch from Overlook

One of Many Log Crossings
 We had to cross several logs that were across the trail. The ravine was not as steep as the gulch but it was still a hard climb through the woods. Several times we thought we saw the blue sky of the saddle. This terrain fools you. At last, we not only saw the saddle's blue sky but we also saw the front hikers waiting at the top where we would junction with the Fletcher Peak Trail a short way up from the Fletcher Saddle. Again, the jovial bunch allowed the blogger time to recover and we turned to the left to start up to the peak.

Cairned Trail Up through Ravine
 Surprisingly, the peak climb felt easy after all that steepness!

Front Runners await on the Fletcher Peak Trail
 Most of the hikers went on up while the blogger and one other hiker enjoyed the familiar trail at the end of the line.

Starting Up the Fletcher Peak Trail from Junction

Rock Outcroppings near Summit
 Upon arriving at the peak, the gang was all there and they handed the last two hikers the sign in log book. Although there is another peak that rises two feet higher past the rocky peak that we always go to, that peak has trees on top and there are no views. We always stop here satisfied that we made the climb. While we rested, an unknown hiker came up after having hiked the second peak. So, a pleasant long break was enjoyed on a beautiful day with a slight breeze on our rocky peak.

Charleston Peak from Fletcher Peak
 We were not in any particular hurry to start down. We all knew the work that would be!

Pleasantly Long Break on the Peak
 Our descent off of Fletcher Peak was executed as a group.

Charleston Peak & Kyle Canyon from Fletcher Peak

Down Fletcher Peak Trail
Hiking down the familiar trail was relaxing. We almost took a turn down the wrong ravine but quickly corrected ourselves and went around the last small false peak. Then, there it was. A large cairn marked the proper descent ravine and down we went. Here is where the group began to spread out a little. The blogger was leading the last small group down and watching for those cairns very carefully. So much concentration was used that no photos were taken until we reached the spring area where the other hikers were waiting.

Vogue in the Gulch
 It was smart for the group to begin the scrambling together.

Dropping Down Hummingbird Gulch at Spring Area
 The pace was quick but everyone was definitely being careful as we negotiated the scree filled gulch.

Going through the Narrows

Losing Elevation Quickly
 As we got through the worst of the scrambling, the group began to spread out again. Back to watching for cairns, the blogger was being tailed by two other hikers. Skills were used. Knees hung in there. A few photos were taken. The cars were a wonderful yet melancholy sight! The blogger wanted to do it again ... just maybe not today! Nice morning.

5 miles; 2400 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

Trail on Scree Hillside

A Treacherous Drop Here

Common Mullein along the Hummingbird Gulch Trail nearing the Trailhead

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