Saturday, August 5, 2017

Escarpment / Acastus Trail / Eagle's Nest Loop - 8/5/17

Charleston Peak from Kyle Escarpment

Cathedral Rock from Erbar Road

Loop Junction at Eagle's Nest

Starting out at the Spring Mountains Gateway Visitor Center
 The expected rain storms finally did their thing yesterday and both Kyle and Lee Canyons were flooded in the Spring Mountains NRA. Lee Canyon Road was closed today while workers cleaned up the mess. A ranger at the visitor center told us that some of the side (wash) bridges had been ... well ... washed out. Kyle Canyon also had a gully washer and there was mud in many of the dips of the trails. But the road seemed to be in good shape so five hikers researched the weather forecasts carefully then made their way up into the mountains.

Flooded Out Wash Crossing
 We parked in the Spring Mountains Gateway Visitor Center lot and crossed through to drop into the old golf course area. Right away, we had to cross through a mess of rocks and mud since the red path goes through the Kyle Canyon Wash.

Climbing up to the Escarpment Rim
 On the other side, we found our way over to the old paved golf cart path on the left side of the facing hill and began a very steep climb up to the sign that talks about an airplane crash that happened back in the '50s.

Morning View down Kyle Canyon

Escarpment Trail
 Retracing our steps about 50 feet, we turned onto the signed Escarpment Trail. The trail winds in and out and around the lower end of the rock cliffs above us. Eventually, we made a sharp turn to the right. At this point, we were on top of the escarpment and making our way around to the canyon side where the rock cliffs were high and we had a great view up canyon to Charleston Peak. By now, all residual rain clouds had dissipated and the air was cool and fresh. A beautiful morning in the mountains! Not wanting to rush, we hiked above the escarpment taking in the views and various plants on the sides of the trail.

Pinion Pine, Gnarly Tree, Golf Course Remnant, Manzanita Berries
 Below us, we saw the Mt. Charleston Hotel and the Visitor Center. A motorcycle club was enjoying the morning with a ride over Deer Creek Road. (Later, they had to come back since Lee Canyon Road was closed!)

Grand View with Mt. Charleston Hotel
 At the other end of the escarpment, we made a gradual descent until we hit the old golf cart path. Then the descent got decidedly steeper and down, we went!

Hiking Escarpment Trail

Escarpment from Below
Down, down, down until we were able to make a left turn. This turn brought us to the red path again. Another left turn and we junctioned with the Acastus Trail, named for the Acastus Checkerspot Butterfly found only in this locale. We passed a few information signs that the trail is known for then came to a long part of the trail that was covered in mud from yesterday's flooding. Trying to step lightly, we still got mud all over our shoes since there was very little space to walk around it. Finally, the mud ended when we reached the picnic area / campground. We hiked through the always empty picnic area and crossed the Kyle Wash that had gotten deeper from the deluge.

Charleston Peak with Innocent Cloud Hat
 Another bridge crossing brought us to the Fletcher Canyon Trailhead where we took a short pit stop. (Guys! Lock the door, please!)

Down Steep Paved Path
 We crossed Kyle Canyon Road and started up the Fletcher Canyon Trail. Soon, we reached the Eagle's Nest Loop junction.

Starting out Acastus Trail

Fletcher Canyon Trailhead
 The Eagle's Nest Loop is a relatively new loop trail that takes hikers up to the shelf on the right. It circles around where high views of Kyle Canyon are seen then drops back down. Today, we climbed the hill, turned to the right, passed the loop sign seen in the third photo and turned right again then stopped in some shade and took our break. We were already at 5.5 miles into our 7.75 mile hike. At this point, we pondered on the cacophony of cleared brush paths that were made by an obviously deranged bulldozer driver. Even after an inquiry at the visitor center, we can only guess that the brush was cleared for the purpose of fire safety. (We were assured that they were not in any way shape or form crop circles.)

Cleared Brush within Eagle's Nest Loop
 Continuing, we made another turn to the right. This one took us off of the Eagle's Nest Loop and into the cleared brush on an old road called Erbar Road.

Weather Anemometer Apparatus

View into Fletcher Canyon from Shelf
 Erbar Road has been recently revived and climbs up here from Kyle Canyon Road. They used it to bring up two weather anemometer apparatuses which we passed as we circled around the shelf to where the road starts a switchback down. A great view of Cathedral Rock is seen as you descend. At the bottom, we crossed Kyle Canyon Road and decided to use Kyle Wash instead of the muddy Acastus Trail to return. When we tired of dodging rocks, we returned to the trail and made our way back up to the visitor center and cars. It was a fun cool morning exploring new stuff.

8 miles; 1250 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours

Descending Erbar Road

Hiking Kyle Wash

Recently Flooded out Kyle Wash

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