Friday, June 16, 2017

South Loop 3rd Overlook - 6/15/17

Charleston Peak from 3rd Overlook of South Loop Trail

View from First Set of Switchbacks on South Loop

Mummy's Toe from 2nd Overlook of South Loop Trail

Gentle Beginning of South Loop
The South Loop Trail provides the southern approach to Charleston Peak, the highest mountain in the Spring Mountains NRA and southern Nevada.The trail climbs up to the South Loop ridge then travels along the ridge to get to the final climb of the peak. Today, sixteen hikers climbed from the trailhead up to the 3rd Overlook on the South Loop Trail which is located 3.25 miles up. It was the first time for several of the veteran hikers to be on the South Loop since they began hiking in this area after the Carpenter One Fire of 2013.

Burned Forest of 2013 - Bush Phlox lining the Trail
We arrived at the trailhead with more excitement than usual! New stuff!

Hiking Up through Burned Forest of 2013
The trailhead is shared with the Cathedral Rock Trailhead and is reached by taking Kyle Canyon Road all the way up to the lodge area then veer to the right. You will not see a "South Loop" sign. Instead, look for the "Mt. Charleston Trailhead." Or, go in the direction of the Cathedral Rock Picnic Area and park near the first restrooms on the left.

Bright Green Baby Aspens filling the Void

Blue Lupin, Steps Section and 1st Overlook Above
Find the actual trailhead behind the dumpsters on the right. Climb the hill  and turn left. The Cathedral Rock Trail is signed on the right very soon. The South Loop Trail continues straight and begins to wind through a burnt forest area as it climbs past and around baby aspen trees that are filling the void created by the fire. A couple of small switchbacks bring hikers to the top junction of the Rainbow Loop route which has yet to be explored since the fire. The right turn, here, is where the "steps" begin. This is where our group made its first official stop.

View from Bottom of First Set of Switchbacks
Until now, we were all warming up our legs and staying behind the coordinator. At this point, the group was encouraged to begin the hard climb to come at their own pace. (It is always easier to climb at your own pace.)

Blue Lupin and Remaining Snow
Our next stop would be the 1st Overlook. This is the first place you get to where there are cliffs all around and a nice view of Mummy's Toe can be seen. Between the steps and this overlook, there are 12ish switchbacks. It's a good workout.

Fossil Rock on Switchback Seven

The Slow and Steady Group
We gathered at the 1st Overlook waiting for the last hikers to arrive. Not a bad place to spend a couple of minutes! Then, we proceeded out the continuation of the trail where just a month ago, snow covered the terrain. No snow on the trail today ... only in the canyon washes that we passed. Again, the group separated and spread over the whole length of the trail with the next stop being the 2nd Overlook. After crossing a steep open canyon wash, there were another six long switchbacks before this next overlook.

Starting Up trail from 1st Overlook
Those hikers near the back of the line were treated to a close encounter with a large mule deer doe. The doe didn't stick around for photos!

One of Many Switchbacks
We gathered at the large 2nd Overlook area surrounded by cliffs; took some photos; then proceeded up one more switchback to the 3rd and final overlook.

Canyon Wash Crossing

Snow in Ravine Further Up Canyon
This overlook is also surrounded by cliffs, has ample room for a tent or two, and a nice long log to sit on for a break. The weather? Well, perfect, of course! A little on the warm side but nothing that shade and an occasional breeze couldn't help. Although, you have probably heard the rumor that this coming week is going to be a very hot one. Suggestion: start your hikes very early ... even into the higher elevations ... and bring plenty of water and electrolytes. Dehydration can happen to anyone.

3rd Overlook View of Charleston Peak
The 3rd Overlook is an excellent perch to take photos of Charlie. BTW, does everyone know that Nuvant is the name used by the Southern Paiutes of what we now call Mt. Charleston. Puha (power) trails were used by the Paiutes throughout the Spring Mountains, aka Snow Mountains. (Research by Tony Fountain.)

Enjoying a Well-Deserved Break
Our great group of hikers rested for several minutes then began the trek down. We stayed pretty close together on the way back even though we still set two stops: the 1st Overlook and the bottom of the "steps."

Starting down the Switchbacks

And, the Next Set of Switchbacks
Those steps are hard on the knees so this separated the group a bit. (The bird's nest was nowhere to be found.) After gathering at the top junction of Rainbow Loop, we continued down to the cars with conversation running. We passed four other hikers that we knew on the way down and said "hi." High fives all around! Good day of training.

6.5 miles; 2100 feet elevation gain; 3.75 hours

David's Close-Ups

Gathering at the Top Rainbow Loop Junction

Hiking the Home Stretch

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