Saturday, September 30, 2017

Deer Creek / Catch Pen Loop CCW (aka Orange Trail) - 9/30/17

Mummy's Toe from Descent

Catch Pen & Spring

Mummy Mountain from Ascent

Starting Down
 The Orange Trail (aka Deer Creek / Catch Pen Loop) is one of our many equestrian trails in the Spring Mountains NRA. This particular trail is rarely traveled, especially by hikers. The trailhead is found near the north end of Deer Creek Road 1/3 mile south of the Desert View Overlook turnout. If you are coming from the south, travel north on Deer Creek Road one mile past Archery Range Road, a dirt road on the left. The Orange Trailhead is found at a turnout on the east side of the road. There are two ways to hike from the trailhead. The right turn leads to the ridge descent while the left turn leads to the wash descent.

Orange Trail Ridge Descent
 Today, four hikers hiked the Orange Loop (aka Deer Creek / Catch Pen Loop) in a counter-clockwise direction. Therefore, we began with a right turn to find the ridge.

View Back to Mummy's Nose
 Right away, the trail presented itself very well. Wide and clear of superfluous rock.

Old Mountain Mahogany Trees on Trail

Sherry on Top of the Double Arch
 We headed out through the forest for a while, zigzagging our way down and over to the ridge that runs parallel to Deer Creek Canyon. We could not see the canyon until we were almost all the way down to the Middle Deer Creek Canyon Trail junction since it was over the next ridge. However, we were really enjoying the cool weather of the morning and were happy campers! Eventually, we popped out of the big pine forest trees and entered into the pinyon pine / juniper / mountain mahogany elevation level. The warmer temperatures were obvious.

Deer Creek Canyon view from Trail
 Several times, we turned around to take in the view of Mummy Mountain. In front of us, the view of the desert playas was breathtaking.

Descending to Catch Pen Junction
 This part of the trail was filled with loose rocks and the terrain steepened. But, the trail was very easy to follow.

Catch Pen & Spring (Buckets for Horses)

View to Lower Elevations
 We noted some fresh evidence of elk and burros so we turned on our radars. They have been seen in this vicinity before but not today. After passing the very old Deer Creek Loop sign propped up in the bush, we came to the Catch Pen & Spring. Someone has done some work on piping in the spring water so that buckets can be filled for the horses. We took the first of two breaks here in the shade and noted several game trails leading to the spring. Next, we turned left at the junction. This is the Middle Deer Creek Canyon Trail and it took us over to the Orange Loop junction. The trail sign is still in the bush where we placed it last year as seen in the next photo. Someone else weighted it down with some rocks.

Orange Trail Loop Junction
 We took a sharp turn to the left to find the ascent wash trail. We were still in desert terrain and didn't want to spend much more time in the heat.

Starting the Ascent
 So, methodically, we started climbing the trail that afforded great views of the whole of Mummy Mountain. Eventually, the trail dropped into a canyon wash where the trees provided a little more shade.

Some Fall Color

Cairns Mark Wash Crossings
 We climbed up through this wash until the trail led up and over the ridge to our left. It dropped us into the next wash and we followed the trail up through this canyon. The trail was easy to follow with the exception of only a couple of places. Minimal searching did the trick! After another break, we continued up through the wash on the trail until we reached the trailhead just after passing the Desert View Overlook high up on our right side. Although the weather was fairly nice, the effort did overheat one hiker. Be sure that you are prepared for desert hiking and don't attempt this trail in the summer. We had a great time on this interesting and adventurous endeavor!

8.5 miles; 1800 feet elevation gain; 4.75 hours

Various Views of Trail for the Ascent

Climbing up the Last Mile

Almost to the Orange Trailhead

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Stepladder Peak Loop - 9/28/17

View from descent off of Stepladder Peak

Griffith Peak above Kyle Canyon from Stepladder Peak Ascent

Shady Hollow Trail

Starting Out in Bright Morning Sun
Stepladder Peak is a low elevation peak climb in the Spring Mountains NRA. To get the full benefit of the hike, a six mile loop hike among forested bike trails is a prelude to a small climb to a peak with unique views of the Deer Creek Road area. Six hikers came out for the hike and parked at the Stepladder Trailhead located across from the new Visitor Center on Kyle Canyon Road. We started up the trail at the far end of the parking lot and turned right at the junction onto the Shady Hollow Trail.

Sardine Can in Tin Can Alley
The Shady Hollow Trail circled around the hill to our left and afforded the third photo above.

Climbing up to the Fork
The Shady Hollow Trail melds into the Tin Can Alley Trail; so called because of the several rusted tin cans that the bikers have hung on trees.

Hiking the Upper Return Portion of the Route

Old Deer Creek Road
The trail runs alongside the Telephone Canyon Road as we felt the elevation rise under our feet. The trail turns up to the left after passing the junction with the Trough Trail coming out across Telephone Canyon Road. Eventually, this trail comes to a junction that presents a fork turn that switchbacks to the left. We took the turn and, just before running out of shade, we took a snack break on the hillside. After climbing so long in the forest on bike trails, this new section of trail seemed much more interesting.

Rabbitbrush along Trail
There were parts of the trail that followed along the Old Deer Creek Road. And, there were parts that hung precariously on the side of the hill.

Stepladder Peak from approach Trail
In the near distance, we could see Stepladder Peak rising ahead of us. The paved Deer Creek Road could be heard up to our right.

Starting Climb up to Stepladder Peak

Minimal Scrambling on way Up
We reached a saddle where there are a few other trails junctioning. Our peak climb started straight ahead. There is an old trail leading up along the ridge that is fairly easy to follow even though one must watch carefully. When making the final climb to the highest point, there are just a few places where a minimal amount of scrambling is required. On the peak, we had a 360 degree view of the low elevations near the Visitor Center. The view also extended on up the canyon to Griffith Peak and some of the South Loop ridge.

View of La Madre Mountain from Stepladder Peak
Yellow aspens showed golden on the hillside below Harris Peak which is seen just before Griffith Peak.

The Group on the Peak
After a short rest on the peak, we began the bushwhacking portion of the route continuing along the ridge in the same direction.

Northwest View from Peak

Bushwhack Descent
Continuing, the terrain started on a fairly steep downhill littered with stabilized scree. On our right, there was a rock ledge. We headed straight for the saddle below. Once there, we continued straight until we found a decent place to drop down on the right. Wherever you drop down, you will run right into the Stepladder Trail as we did. Next, we turned to the left and followed the trail back to the junction with the Shady Hollow Trail. One more turn to the right and we headed back to the cars. Fun outing! Fun group! Beautiful day!

6.5 miles; 1500 feet elevation gain; 3.75 hours

Minimal Scrambling

The Last Saddle

Descent View going down to Stepladder Trail

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

4.3 Mile Cliff Overlook - 9/25/17

Carpet of Yellow Aspens leading to Charleston Peak

Mummy Mountain with a Robe of Yellow and Gold

Enlightened Sentries

Starting up Trail Canyon
 Most of our hikers have relaxed on the "training" part of the year but one more trip up to the North Loop ridge is almost required during the changing of the aspens to autumn colors of yellow and gold. (Very few reds.) The coordinator with four handsome hikers drove up to a chilly Trail Canyon Trailhead in the Spring Mountains NRA to take a slow and steady stroll up the mountain to enjoy a colorful photo fest among the aspens. The temperature was 43 degrees when we exited the cars but quickly dipped upon entering the shady beginnings of Trail Canyon Trail. We were all appropriately temperate prepared!

Four Handsome Hikers on Trail Canyon
 Depending on how you view it, we were either just on time for the color or a tad late.

A Look Back on Trail Canyon
 The aspen leaves at the trailhead were in the midst of turning and, as it turned out, the leaves at the top of the route were starting to dry up and fall off the trees.

Starting up North Loop

From Green to Gold
 As soon as we started up the Trail Canyon Trail, we got the fourth photo of this entry. Already into it! The aspens in Trail Canyon were some of the best color of the morning. We immediately felt surrounded by yellow! Later, on the way down here, the folks that we passed had huge smiles on their faces ... yes, in Trail Canyon! That's probably what we looked like on the way up! Unusually, we took several photos on this well beaten path. Admittedly, this took a large toll on our timing. Right away, we knew that this hike might take a while but, when we finally got back to the cars, we were quite surprised at the long five hour time of the trek! It didn't seem that long.

Partially Frozen Wooden Trough
 So, we paused at the Trail Canyon / North Loop saddle then turned left onto the North Loop.

Cockscomb Peak framed in Gold
 Slowly, we made our way up to Cave Springs. There were more and more photos to be taken.

Aspen Tunnel

Climbing the Long Switchback amid Aspens
 The aspens were all yellow and gold here. This coloring lasted until well past Cave Springs. When we reached the horse trough at Cave Springs, we found the water to be frozen on its two ends. There was a small steady stream of spring water flowing into the middle where there was no ice. After another short pause, we started up through the aspen tunnel on the following long switchback. Every few feet there was another photo to be taken by one of us. We were having such a great time! These are the views we will remember until next spring when we return to the Spring Mountains for our hikes.

Enjoying the Day
 The slow steady pace kept us from getting too winded. And, the numerous photo stops helped, too.

Someone has done some work where the horse fell.
 The open views of aspens below us were a sight to behold!

Carpet of Aspens from Mummy Junction to Cockscomb Peak

North Loop Trail
 We passed Mummy Junction as the aspens were beginning to lose their yellowed / browned leaves. Nevertheless, we entered into a level of Wax Currant bushes that were also yellowing for the fall ... so, the color continued. As we approached the rocked hill where the horse slipped off last summer, we saw that there has been a lot of work done on the trail. This also explains several other places on the trail where we had noted small changes. Perhaps, the trail is being prepared for horse travel. Note: The trail is still very narrow and hangs on the side of cliffs all along the ridge. I would be scared for my horse ... just sayin'.

Wax Currants Yellowing on the Cliffs
 The exact place where the horse fell is still the same ... just sayin' again.

Are we there yet Ms. Coordinator?
 At this point, the trail becomes less steep and we felt we were able to reap our rewards for the climb.

A Little more Cliff Beauty

And, we are there! The 4.3 Mile Overlook!
 We were above the aspens but we could still see them below us. It was a clear day and the temps had risen to "perfect." Just after a very small switchback, there is an overlook with log seating. This was our destination and we sat for a spell with the beauty laid out before us. Our view included the whole of Trail Canyon below us but Charleston Peak was still around the corner to the west. We had a grand view of the Mummy Toe to Waist and Fletcher Peak to the east. And, this included the aspen field. We could also see the entire Cockscomb Ridge from Mummy's Waist to the small community of Echo in Kyle Canyon.

Overlook view into Trail Canyon
 As we took our break, two ladies clad in purple hiked up behind us with their brown standard poodle named Coffee. (We got our puppy fix.)

South Loop Ridge Beyond
 Thinking we better start down, we set out. The plan was to go almost as slow as we came up.

Taking our Time on the Descent

Negotiating the Horse Trap
 Taking a slow pace on the descent protects the knees and feet somewhat. As we passed the horse trap, we discussed the difference between horses and mules on trails such as this. (I wonder if there are street horses and trail horses ... like bikes.😕) The aspens were no less gorgeous on the way down ... all the way to the trailhead. Conversations were in depth. Yep. 5 hours. We know. That's a lot. But, what a great day!

8.5 miles; 2800 feet elevation gain; 5 hours

Aspen Tunnel at 3 Mile Log

Griffith Peak above all Kinds of Yellow Aspens

Resting the Knees and Feet at Cave Spring (Ice Melted)