Monday, July 31, 2017

Pine Cone Ridge Balloon - 7/31/17

Pine Cone Ridge

Washed Out Lower Bristlecone Trail

McFarland Peak from Rocky Peak Overlook

Hiking Lower Bristlecone Trail
 A couple of years ago, the club discovered the connection between the Lower Bristlecone Trail in the Spring Mountains NRA and the Bonanza Trail. This connection is a steep canyon we named Pine Cone Canyon. Next to this small pine cone filled ravine is a hike-able ridge that we named Pine Cone Ridge. Both are steep but they offer new routes to add variety to a few hikes. Eleven hikers drove up Lee Canyon Road to the Lower Bristlecone Trailhead and parked. We began our hike slow as we made our way up the forest road for 2 miles.

Lee Canyon and South Sister from Lower Bristlecone
 At 2 miles, we came to an overlook where we took a rest. Ahead of us, we could see that the forest road was more washed out than before.

Overlook at 2 Miles
 The third mile was done at a little faster pace and we came to the Bonanza Trail junction where we turned to our right.

Bonanza Trail Junction at 3 Miles

Bonanza Switchbacks
 Bonanza Trail's 4 southern switchbacks, (there are 57 switchbacks on the northern end), came next and we made our way up. The group spread out here as the trail grew steeper. We passed by the No Name Trail junction where the wilderness sign is located and continued slowly up the steps. At the top, we waited for further instructions. When the coordinator arrived, we followed her up the clear side trail that forks off to the right. This took us up to a small rocky peak with a great overlook. There is a campsite here as well and we stopped here for our break.

Arriving at No Name Junction
 There were a couple of logs and rocks to sit on and shade if you preferred.

At the Top of Steps with Charleston Peak in Distance
 After the break, we continued following the small trail that led along the ridge and dropped down to meet the Bonanza Trail.

Leaving Rocky Peak Break

Following Small Trail along Rocky Ridge
 A little further and we were passing the Pine Cone Canyon junction which, at this time, is decorated with a stick held up by a cairn. Just a little further and we veered to the right to traverse over to the apex of the next ridge. This was Pine Cone Ridge. Our traverse brought us to the descent. There was a lot of hill covered with hardened scree and there was also some softer dirt that we could dig our heels into. It was obvious that the wild horses use this area occasionally because of organic evidence and a few skid marks.

Passing Pine Cone Canyon Junction on Bonanza Trail
 The steepest part of the ridge lasted for around 2/3 of the descent. After that, it was less steep.

Descending Steep Pine Cone Ridge
 Here, we came to a "saddle" area that flattened for a brief distance. This is probably used as another campsite. After this, the slope became easier.

Pine Cone Ridge

Lee Canyon from Pine Cone Ridge
 Pine Cone Canyon dropped down to our right but we balanced the ridge all the way down until the end. When we stopped, we were just around the corner from the weather station. Following the washed out Pine Cone Canyon Trail, we easily dropped down to the Lower Bristlecone Trail junction. From here, we followed the forest road back to our cars. Very nice hike with a good group of hikers who handled the steep ridge like pros!

6 miles; 1200 feet elevation gain; 3.25 hours

Pine Cone Ridge meets Pine Cone Canyon

Weather Station Junction

Pine Cone Canyon Trail to Lower Bristlecone Trail

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