Friday, May 25, 2018

Big Falls / Mary Jane Falls - 5/24/18

Big Falls Wash

Mary Jane Falls from Cave

Cave near Mary Jane Falls

Starting up the Approach Trail
Nineteen hikers thought today would be a fantastic day for a hike! The hike was changed the day before from a lower elevation hike to a double climb from the Mary Jane Falls Trailhead that would include two Spring Mountain favorites, Big Falls and Mary Jane Falls. In the past, we have needed to redirect errant recreational hikers to the this trailhead. To get there, drive up Kyle Canyon Road. Where the road does a switchback to the left, go straight onto Echo. 0.4 miles up the road, veer left onto a dirt road. The trailhead to your right is Trail Canyon. This trail will not get you to the waterfall! (unless you know a thing or two) Continue out the dirt road for a quarter mile. The Mary Jane Falls Trailhead is at the end of the road and the trail continues out from there.

Hiking the Approach Trail
So, nineteen hikers (yes, I want to say it again!) started up the 1 mile approach trail that begins past the restrooms. The cool temperatures put all of us in good spirits.

Split Junction
About half way up the approach, there is a wide area on the trail. It appears like a fork but stay to the right, next to the hillside.

Scrambling Big Falls Wash

Regathering in Big Falls Wash
At the end of the approach, the Mary Jane Falls Trail switchbacks turn off to the right. There is a large log blocking the forward direction. We were headed to Big Falls for our first climb so we stepped over the large log and continued up the old road/trail until it offered a forked choice. Here, we veered to the left to follow a worn trail over to the neighboring wash. The trail drops down into the wash and we followed it up the rocks. At this point, it is somewhat easy to get carried away and end up in the Avalanche Canyon wash. Avalanche Canyon wash flows down from the highest elevations of Charleston Peak.

Big Falls (Well, it was wet!)
To stay in Big Falls wash, continue hiking up the particular wash that keeps the hillside on your left shoulder, ... on your left shoulder! It curves around to the left here. Hug the left hillside! ... Also, look for deer hanging out. Today, we saw 2 or 3 on the drive in.

There are a couple of small trails on the left side of the wash that make for easy hiking ... or you can stay in the wash. Either way, you are now safely in the Big Falls canyon wash!

Obstacle Rock

Big Falls Wash Descent
Over the years, the favorite routes up this wash have changed here and there. There are still a couple of side trails that can be used but, sometimes, these trails take you on very difficult terrain. Our route of choice is to stay within the wash. This, however, has its own dangers. The limestone rocks that get polished every spring by snow melt runoff, are very slippery and care must be taken all the way up. We climbed carefully and slowly with the group strung out from the bottom to the top!

Climbing old Mary Jane Falls Trail/Road
There is only one section that must be taken by an up and around. In years past, a trail on the right was used but this trail has become difficult. Now, we go to the left to get around a very large boulder that is wedged in the middle of a narrow section of the canyon.

Almost There!
To get around Obstacle Rock, climb up to the left side at a place where there is a large log jam and take a trail up the bare rock on the hill. The trail leads up and over the hill to bring you back to the wash. After that, we scrambled some more to get to the top where Big Falls was more like a Big Dribble today! The best time for this waterfall is during the spring snow melt.

Mary Jane Falls from Climb Up

The Shelf Alcove
After a short break at the "falls," we started down. Some of the hikers took the other side of the wash to get past Obstacle Rock. It ended with a cliff negotiation! Anyway, eventually, we got back down to near where we had dropped into the wash in the beginning and climbed out to connect with an old trail that leads to Avalanche Canyon. We took that trail back over to the Mary Jane Falls road/trail and began climbing steeply up the old route to the falls above. It is steep and "in your face!" (a good judge of character ... and we are all great characters!) One by one, we each made it to the top where Mary Jane Falls waterfall was pouring strongly at the top of the cliff.

Taking a Break in the Shade
By the time the water flowed over the rock face, the water was only streaming over a wide area but it was much wetter than Big Falls!

Upper Kyle Canyon from Cave Area
I took a small posse over to see the nearby cave. No one is living there right now. Good sign! But a lot of graffiti graced the walls.

Cave near Mary Jane Falls

The Cave from the Falls
With a smattering of snow still hanging on the cliffs of the South Ridge, the views were gorgeous. After our break, we began descending the switchbacks of the "new" trail that was constructed long ago to the popular waterfall. Our line of, yes, nineteen hikers spread out along the hill and we continued our relaxed pace down the approach trail, too. We passed many recreational hikers, some with kids and dogs, along the way. Fantastic morning! Lots of fun! Great to see everyone!

4.5 miles; 1600 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours

Starting Descent on Switchbacks

One of the Switchbacks

Returning to Trailhead on Approach Trail

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Lone Mountain - 5/22/18

Nope! No climb up South Sister today!

Lone Mountain (Northwest Las Vegas, Nevada)

Climbing the East Side of Lone Mountain

Lone Mountain Peak

“Scott, we could build a couple nice homes down there?"
 The "Big Boys" of Tuesday fame did a double climb of good ol' Lone Mountain today. They opted out of the scheduled South Sister ascent due to obvious reasons. But, it appears that they had a bunch of fun anyway!

Crissin' and a Crossin' Lone Mountain 2X -- Great Fun, Guys!!
  Big boys do it twice! Great shots, Lász! I had a staggering 3.6 miles with just over 1400’ gain.
~ Mike O'Connor

Clouds building over the Spring Mountains

Starting down the South Side

The "Trail" down the South Side

Up East / Down South & Around

Up West / Down West & Aroound

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Robbers Roost Loop - 5/20/18

Robbers Roost from Gypsy Trail

View toward Kyle Canyon from Gypsy Trail

Mummy Mountain from Upper Showgirl Trail

Hiking Upper Showgirl Trail
 Another beautiful day ... as long as you finished your hike before noon! It appears that the monsoons may be starting early!
 The North American monsoon is a pattern of pronounced increase in thunderstorms and rainfall over large areas of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, typically occurring between July and mid September. During the monsoon, thunderstorms are fueled by daytime heating and build up during the afternoon-early evening. Typically, these storms dissipate by late night, and the next day starts out fair, with the cycle repeating daily. The monsoon typically loses its energy by mid-September when drier and cooler conditions are reestablished over the region. ~ Wikipedia
Fletcher Ridge coming into View
 Monsoons play a vital role in managing wildfire threat by providing moisture at higher elevations and feeding desert streams. Heavy monsoon rain can lead to excess winter plant growth, in turn a summer wildfire risk. A lack of monsoon rain can hamper summer seeding, reducing excess winter plant growth but worsening drought. ~ Wikipedia

Hike a Bike Trail
 Flash flooding is a serious danger during the monsoon. Dry washes can become raging rivers in an instant, even when no storms are visible as a storm can cause a flash flood tens of miles away; it is therefore wise to avoid camping in a dry wash during the monsoon. Lightning strikes are also a significant danger. It is dangerous to be caught in the open when these storms suddenly appear. ~ Wikipedia

Hike a Bike Trail

Pixie Trail Bike Ramp
 Regardless of whether the monsoons are already here to stay, thirteen hikers began their hike at the Juniper Trailhead with darkish clouds already in the sky nearby. The Juniper Trailhead is relatively new to the Spring Mountains NRA. To get there, turn onto Angel Peak Place from Deer Creek Road and veer to the right at the fork leading to the Hilltop Campground. The right fork takes you out to the Spring Mountain Youth Camp and on to Angel Peak. However, both of these places are off limits to unauthorized vehicles. That said, there is a trailhead parking lot with a restroom facility about one mile down the road before you go out of bounds. This is the Juniper Trailhead.

Pixie Trail
 The trail that leaves the Juniper Trailhead is the upper portion of the Showgirl Trail. This trail leads into a maze of bike trails that are great fun to hike. As soon as we hiked down the hill and started to cross the first wash, we saw a large group of mule deer running across the wash some distance up. Be careful when driving on Deer Creek Road. The deer are running about.

Robbers Roost Trailhead
 We followed the trail through the shade of the trees passing junipers, pinion and ponderosa pines. Views of Angel Peak and the SMYC can be seen across the neighboring canyons.

Climbing Robbers Roost Trail

Switchback up to Robbers Roost
 Without veering off onto any other trails, we zigzagged our way up and down over to a four-way trail intersection. The Trough Trail goes to the left. An overlook can be reached via the right. We went straight putting us on the Hike a Bike Trail. This is a nice trail that took us across a small bridge and up to junction with the Pixie Trail that leads down to the Robbers Roost Trailhead approach. We passed a few bikers that were taking a small break. This reminded us that it was Sunday and we would likely see a few more bikers before the morning was over. When you are hiking these bike trails, it is necessary to keep sharp vigil for racing two-wheelers. They aren't usually expecting hikers when they come around a corner ... but they should. It should be said that when they do see hikers, they are considerate.

Alcove at Robbers Roost
 The Pixie Trail junctions with the very steep approach trail to the Robbers Roost Trailhead and we climbed up. Whew! After this short distance, we were likely the most out of breath that we were all morning!

Taking a Break with Rock Climbers and Mayhem, the Dog
 (We needed to read the signs and maps on the billboard....) Then, we crossed the road and started up toward Robbers Roost. As the story goes, the caves and alcoves of Robbers Roost were where highway robbers would shelter while waiting for the next mark.

Limestone Crack at Robbers Roost
A Rock Climber starting Up
 We chose the long switchback instead of the rock scramble to reach the top where a very large crack in the limestone provided a great place for a snack break. There were also rock climbers getting set up ... and a great pit bull named Mayhem. We watched as the rock climbers started their climb then headed on back down the hill. At the bottom of the hill, before we crossed the road again, we turned to the left and hiked through a tunnel of mountain mahogany trees. We were now connecting with the Gypsy Trail. There are a few other bike trails that junction in this area. We stayed to the right whenever given a choice. This put us on the old Deer Creek Road circling the edge of the hill as we ascended. There was occasional old asphalt beneath our feet. We passed a few bikers who were practicing their jumps and saw great wide views of Telephone Canyon, Deer Creek Road, Hummingbird Gulch, Fletcher Peak ridge and Robbers Roost. The climb was gentle.

Mountain Mahogany Tunnel
 We passed up all the trail turns and stayed near the outside of the hill ending up at the top of the bike trails area. This was not far below the North Loop Trailhead.

Gypsy Trail passing a Bike Ramp
 We crossed Deer Creek Road one more time and hiked to the right to drop down into a small wash. Watching our footing, we hiked down the wash. There was optional hiking on the hillside.

Junctioning with Deer Creek Road

Next Section of Route
 Again, I forgot to bring a large trash bag. This wash is incredibly trashy. Next time. Anyway, we followed the wash all the way back to the upper Showgirl Trail where we had stopped to watch deer earlier that morning. All that was remaining was the climb back up to the cars. On the way, we saw a large doe bouncing quickly along up the hill from us. What a sight! This trail is a pleasant 6 miler that continuously ascends and descends at gentle rates except for the Robbers Roost section. Great group today!

6 miles; 1000 feet elevation gain; 3 hours

Descent in Small Wash

Rain Clouds rolling In

Returning to Trailhead