Sunday, July 10, 2016

North Loop / Raintree / Fletcher Canyon - 7/10/16

Fletcher Canyon - Upper Narrows


North Loop Meadow

Hiking the North Loop
 A favorite hike in the Spring Mountains NRA can only be done if you have more than one car! It is a point to point hike that begins at the North Loop Trailhead on Deer Creek Road and ends at the Fletcher Canyon Trailhead on Kyle Canyon Road. With eight hikers today, we took three cars up the mountain leaving one at the Fletcher Canyon Trailhead then driving up the road to the North Loop Trailhead. Since this was a continuation of the training hikes, we each did the climb up to the meadow without stopping.

North Loop Desert View
 We passed a few hikers on the way up. In fact, a shout out should be given to Cory G. (one of the hikers we passed) and Happy Birthday, too!

Worth the Climb
 As the last two hikers came to a halt at the meadow tree, the weather was very nice. A little warm but nice. The predicted wind never materialized.

First Gathering - North Loop Meadow

Lupine on the North Loop Switchbacks
We took a photo of the group and decided to make the next leg of the hike go all the way to Raintree where we would have our break. We started up the twelve switchbacks keeping pace with a group of younger hikers. "Props" to everyone! The switchbacks didn't go by as fast as we would have liked but strength doesn't come easy. When the writer reached the High Point Corner, a happy feeling set in and the next half mile to Raintree was very enjoyable while taking in the views of Fletcher Peak, Mummy's Toe and Griffith Peak.

Griffith Peak
 The last two hikers arrived at Raintree where several other hikers and our group were settled in on a log in the shade. No root sitters today!

Arriving at the Raintree Snack Break
 We saw our friend, George, again. He's usually around this area every Sunday. Great place to spend the day.

Fletcher Peak from North Loop

Hiking North Loop to Trail Canyon
 We recovered from our strong climb then started out again passing Raintree on the North Loop Trail. We were headed toward Trail Canyon saddle. This section of trail is a beautiful area as it circles around the top of the Fletcher Canyon bowl. Cockscomb Ridge can be seen in the near distance. Charleston Peak is seen in the far distance. And, Mummy Mountain rises steeply up above our heads to the right. Most of this section is downhill but every once in a while we had to climb up a little.

View of the Fletcher Canyon Bowl
 The first rocky wash that crosses the trail is not the best one to take down into the canyon.
Cockscomb Ridge from North Loop
 So, we crossed the first wash, climbed around a ridge as seen in the photo above, then descended down to the second wash crossing. This is the one.

Starting Down the Upper Fletcher Canyon Wash

Rocky and Unstable Wash
 With a staunch warning about the slippery and unstable rocks in the seldom tread wash, we turned down to our left and began a long descent with a lot of concentration. This wash can be negotiated all the way down even though you might see a side trail on the right or left once in a while. Be prepared to do a lot of "sit-hiking." Poles are very useful here. About half way down to the canyon, water started flowing out from the ground. A lot of water. But, it didn't hinder our progress in the middle of the wash.

Mummy Mountain rises above Fletcher Canyon
 Near the bottom of the wash where the flow starts bending to the right, there is a trail on the left side of the wash. From there, it crosses the rocks again and heads straight over to a large boulder that sits all by its lonesome. This is the Big Boulder Landmark.

The Big Boulder Landmark
 No matter where you drop into the top of Fletcher Canyon, this boulder will tell you where you are.

Fresh Water for the Hat

Starting Down from Big Boulder Landmark
 Just below the boulder, we dropped into the wash again where the water flows over a reddish log as seen in the photo above. Just downstream from this, another log crosses the wash about six feet up. We ducked under this log and found a small trail leading up the other side. This is the beginning of the Fletcher Canyon Trail ... at the top. This trail continues all the way down the canyon but, sometimes, it is difficult to find. A good rule of thumb is: When in doubt, stay in the wash. This is THE Fletcher Canyon wash!

Following the Trail
 Along the wash, there are many columbine flowers. Brush comes and goes with the floods and seasons. Every year is a slightly new experience.

Up and Around the Ponderosa Waterfall
 The photo above shows the up and around used for the Ponderosa Waterfall. Be careful here.

Small Slot

Large Makeshift Shelter
 A little further down you find yourself squeezing through a narrow portion of the wash and ending up at the top of a small slot lying ten feet down. Look to your right, here, for the trail hidden behind the brush. Then, after passing above the slot, there is a small trail you can use to visit the slot down to the left. Then, return to the trail. The next landmark is a campsite where someone has built quite a large shelter of limbs.

Easy Does It on the Slippery Log
 A new obstacle is this balancing log (seen above). It is a bit slippery but there isn't really another way around it.

Starting into the Upper Narrows
 Finally, we dropped into the Upper Narrows. The coolness between the walls helped to give a mysterious feeling.

Exiting the Rabbit Hole

Descending the Lower Narrows
Too soon, we reached the top of the famous rabbit hole at Obstacle Rock. Instructions were given to the newbies and down we slid, one by one. As we dropped, crawled and carried packs, we communicated instructions, warnings, and laughter. Finally, we were all on the lower side of the boulders. We briefly regathered, then off we went, quickly down the Fletcher Canyon Trail (the lower end). These two miles were accomplished at lightening speed! The drivers zoomed ahead while the remaining five hikers moved along passing many other recreational hikers and dogs. As we neared the trailhead - and the bottom of Kyle Canyon - the temperatures heated up. At the Fletcher Canyon Trailhead, the five hikers waited only about fifteen minutes until the drivers returned from the North Loop Trailhead. Great hike! Great day! A favorite.

8 miles; +1600 feet elevation gain & -3000 feet elevation loss; 4.5 hours

Rough Angelica blooming in Fletcher Canyon

Trail through the Woods

Fletcher Canyon Trailhead

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