Friday, June 22, 2018

Fletcher Peak via North Loop - 6/21/18

Western View from Fletcher Peak

Fletcher Peak

Desert View from North Loop Meadow

North Loop Trail
Fletcher Peak is a twin peak that rises to an elevation of 10,255 feet. Its twin rises only to 10,245 feet and this is the point where we have traditionally stopped. This small wooded and rocky peak is said to be the easiest peak to reach in the Spring Mountains NRA. It is located in the vicinity of Mummy's Toe and Raintree. Fletcher Canyon is found just below these twin peaks. The lesser of the peaks has a wide fantastic view over Kyle Canyon from Harris Peak to Charleston Peak on one end of its rocky outcrop. From the other end of the limestone, the view ranges from Mummy's Nose, through the distant desert, over to Angel Peak and on toward La Madre Peak. Parts of Deer Creek Road can also be seen below.

Old Bristlecone Trees
It was a hot day in the alluvial fan called Las Vegas. 119 degrees was witnessed by my husband as he drove across the valley near the Strip around 4pm. (Road heat, maybe.)

Mummy's Nose from North Loop Meadow
However, seventeen hikers found Fletcher Peak to be ... well, ... actually almost cool! Almost.

La Madre Peak from North Loop Meadow

Digging in for the Switchbacks
We converged on the North Loop Trailhead parking lot which was relatively empty at the early hour of 8am. About half of the group jumped out in front early on. We were to meet up at the North Loop Meadow. We climbed steadily up the trail at our personal comfortable pace without stopping per Brian D.'s advice. If you find the right pace, this works very well. Here, it is important to be able to find the pace that works best for you ... personally. This is often difficult to do in a group hike setting but, today, it was encouraged.

High Point Corner Gathering
As we climbed higher, the views around us became more and more beautiful. There were a few flowers along the trail. Mostly bushy phlox, lupine, paintbrush and AZ firecracker.

Mummy's Toe Beckons above North Loop Trail
When the last of the hikers reached the meadow, they found the rest of the hikers in the shade on the right side of the trail.

Dropping down to Saddle on Fletcher Peak Trail

Fletcher Peak Trail among Limestone
This is a very photogenic location so we took a few pics. Afterwards, we all headed up the switchbacks. Our next gathering point would be the High Point Corner so we again naturally separated according to our pace. There are twelve switchbacks as you climb the hill and approach the 10,025 foot elevation at this locale's high point. A few hikers were still acclimating to higher elevations and felt that "drag" kick in somewhere along these switchbacks. But, perseverance is the name of the game sometimes and we all made it up to the gathering point where we got our first look at the target peak across Hummingbird Gulch. Of the twin peaks, our 10 foot lower peak is seen on the right in the second photo from the top of this entry. It is the one with the limestone "scar" down the side.

Charleston Peak from Fletcher Ridge
Knowing that the front hikers are very familiar with the route, our third and final gathering point would be the summit.

Trail up into the Bristlecones
Those that were not familiar with the route were welcome to stick around me as I showed them the left turn junction between the two large logs.

Griffith Peak

Limestone Outcropping Scar
Sorry to say, there is no signage here to say "Fletcher Peak this way!" And, the trail is not obvious since it takes a U-turn and steps up over a log where it disappears to those on the North Loop Trail. Over the years, we have come across a handful of hikers looking for this junction ... or, not even aware that the junction exists. This results in "wandering hikers" that don't really know their way around. (A recipe for a lost hiker.) Signage is not really a strong point here in the wildernesses surrounding Las Vegas. This encourages the development of a large number of hiking groups so that the trails and routes are handed down from hiker to hiker. (A blog or two helps, too!)

Hikers on Northeastern End of Fletcher Peak
If you want mileage stats (and keep in mind that all GPS instruments are different): the junction is ~0.35 mile from the High Point Corner and ~0.15 mile from Raintree.

Northeastern View from Fletcher Peak
We ushered everyone through the logs and up the increasingly large step onto the Fletcher Peak Trail. As you make your way to the other side of the hill, the views open up.

Hikers on Southwestern End of Fletcher Peak

Fletcher's Sister Peak
Behind you is Mummy's Toe. Very impressive. The trail takes you steeply down to the Fletcher Saddle. Hummingbird Gulch comes up on the left side to junction with the Fletcher Peak Trail at this saddle. The Fletcher Peak Trail continues forward as it leads along the right side of the Fletcher Ridge. The views don't quit! Kyle Canyon mountains are seen to the right and the old bristlecone trees plus limestone make the views forward and to the left just as magnificent. Eventually, the limestone scar can be seen on the left from the trail.

Returning down Fletcher Peak Trail
Finally, we made it up to the top! Fletcher Peak is like an old friend that we like to visit a few times every summer. There are at least three good routes to get to that log junction.

Mummy's Toe among the Bristlecones from Descent
We signed into the book and noticed that the elevation posted on the book is different than what is posted on Bird and GPS's are often different.

Back through the Bristlecones

Rounding a Corner of one of the False Peaks
We enjoyed the cool breeze on the peak then proceeded to descend at a careful but quicker pace. We stopped at the North Loop/Fletcher Peak Trails junction. Next, we stopped at the North Loop Meadow. Then, it was on down to the Trailhead. Most of the descent was done as a group. And, what a great group it is! In the past few months, we have added such great hikers as Charlie M., Ralph T., Mark H. and, just today, Randy G. Welcome to the party ... uh ... workout being held every Thursday on the trails! "Parties" are also being held on every other day as well!

6.5 miles; 2300 feet elevation gain; 4.25 hours

Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you've got
Taking a break from all your worries
Sure would help a lot
Wouldn't you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And, they're always glad you came 
... You wanna be where everybody knows your name.

Gary Portnoy (won an emmy nomination in 1983)

Dropping to the Ridge Saddle

Shade Huddle at the North Loop Meadow

Nearing the North Loop Trailhead

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Mummy's Nose - 6/20/18

Archive Photo of the Nose from Rocky Peak near Deer Creek Road

Heading up the Steep Wash

Nearing Final Scramble above Saddle

Summit Photo
  It’s one of the toughest ascents in the Spring Mountains—the grueling, two-mile, 2800’ scramble to Mummy’s Nose (10,748’). Yes, it’s tougher than Trail Canyon. This morning’s climb resembled a drunken fire brigade as hikers spread out all over the mountain. Precarious perches, frequent rockfall, disintegrating limestone—we had it all. Not real pretty. The descent wasn’t much better. More like an organized free fall. 
  But true to form, as we rolled back into the Santa Fe in the early afternoon, the agony of the morning was but a distant memory. ~ MOC

Descending off Mummy's Nose Summit

Scrambling Down
  Not being content with the regular route, five of us unintentionally made Mummy’s Nose even harder by going up a different canyon, then crossing a few more. But looking at the raw tracks, the routes were not that different. Yellow is my track from 2015, blue is today. Needless to say there are reception problems in the canyons, but we were only about 250ft off at worst…but a lifetime in difficulty…for me at least! So much so, I stopped at the saddle and didn’t do the last quarter of a mile.
 Anyway we got some very steep gradient training and no-one fell…and it was a lovely day.
~ Brian D

Vitals: 9 trekkers; 4 miles; 2800 vertical feet; less than 4 hours
The Third Class Section

Dealing with the Steep Wash Descent

Sigh of Relief nearing the Trailhead

Archive Track
Today's Hike in Blue Above

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Mummy Springs Loop (up Deer Creek & down Wild Horse Ridge) - 6/16/18

Mummy Springs


Wild Horse Ridge (Angel Peak in Distance)

Starting up Cougar Ridge Trail
Mummy Springs Loop is a nice 5 mile loop that includes the springs that emanate from Mummy Mountain, Raintree, Deer Creek and, in this case, Wild Horse Ridge. The loop can be hiked clockwise or counter-clockwise. Today, thirteen hikers did the more strenuous direction of counter-clockwise; ascending on the Deer Creek side and descending via Wild Horse Ridge. We parked off of Deer Creek Road in the Spring Mountains NRA. There is a large turnout on the right side of the road after the North Loop Trailhead. Right across the road from there is a dirt road that leads up to several summer homes. This dirt road is called Cougar Ridge Trail.

Deer Creek and Columbines
The hike begins by hiking up Cougar Ridge Trail until the road takes a 90 degree turn to the right. The road runs by the Deer Creek Picnic Area and a sometimes strongly flowing Deer Creek.

Following Deer Creek Trail through the Old Dam
As we walked along Deer Creek, we saw very little water. Near the turn, we saw columbines growing along a very small stream. Not unusual for this time of year.

The Shelter on Deer Creek Trail

Climbing onto Deer Creek Ridge
The group gathered at the 90 degree turn. This is where the route changes to trail, the Deer Creek Trail. We kept straight through some dumped brush onto a trail that runs up beside the dry creek. More columbines lined the creek bed. We hiked through a basin that used to be an old dammed pond. This pond was likely used for the sawmill whose ruins lie nearby. Next, we passed the kids' log shelter/lean-to that appears to be still maintained. A semi-cairned trail led us all the way to a large craggy boulder on the left side of the trail. This is a good landmark for where the route should climb up to the neighboring ridge to the right. ... to Deer Creek Ridge.

Climbing onto Deer Creek Ridge
Deer Creek Ridge is ... hmm ... legendary! It is a steep bugger! Therefore, labeled strenuous.

View from bottom of Deer Creek Ridge
We climbed up through the light scree on a trail to the lower terminus of the ridge. The view we saw from this point is seen in the photo above.

Mummy's Toe seen from Deer Creek Ridge

Climbing Deer Creek Ridge
The group separated since they needed to tackle this monster at their personal pace. It is a beautiful ridge if you take a glance at it between the huffing and puffing. Bristlecones line the apparent trail and Mummy's Toe rises up ahead and to the left. The trail balances nicely on the top of the ridge all the way up to where it T's into the Mummy's Toe Trail. As is usually the case, the front hikers had a long wait at the top as the back hikers trickled up. (Hmm, can you "trickle up?") Anyway, we all made it and turned to the left on the Mummy's Toe Trail. Soon, we were at the base of Mummy Springs. The rocks on the hillside to the right were damp, as seen in the first photo of this entry.

Mike at Mummy Springs
Usually, we take a trip up the hill to take a close up look at the spring area. Today, we decided to view it from afar.

Hiking from Mummy Springs to Raintree
Some of us had gotten a little chilly after our sweaty ascent so we continued up the trail to Raintree for our break.

Taking a Break at Raintree

Arriving at High Point Corner
Immediately, we noticed a man sitting on the roots of Raintree. There's just not a real polite way to tell a person to stop sitting on the roots but I tried and he just glared at me. Anyway, we took our break sitting on the logs surrounding the tree where we could admire the old landmark. Then, we continued along the North Loop Trail to the High Point Corner. From there we descended the twelve North Loop switchbacks passing several other Saturday hikers. We gathered again at the Wild Horse Trail junction under another grand old bristlecone. We had three choices for our descent: down the North Loop Trail, down Wild Horse Canyon, or down Wild Horse Ridge. First, we turned left onto the Wild Horse Trail.

Descending the North Loop Switchbacks
 On the way out this small quiet trail, we decided to take the old Wild Horse Ridge Trail down instead of the newer Cactus Jack crossover. So, just when the trail took a decided drop down into small switchbacks, we stepped over some debris and went straight.

Arriving at the North Loop Meadow
There is still somewhat of a trail and we followed it just fine. (There isn't much danger in passing the correct ridge since a steep drop comes right after the trail turns down to the right) Soon, we ended up at the top of Wild Horse Ridge. There were a few young people sitting here enjoying the day.

Wild Horse Landmark Tree

Mummy's Nose from Wild Horse Trail
Wild Horse Ridge is certainly one of the Spring Mountains' best attributes. It is a half mile of a wide solid rock with drop offs on both sides. You can hike it easily from top to bottom where you have a short drop down to the hillside. Here, you can go right to enter Wild Horse Canyon or you can go straight to drop down to Deer Creek Road. We took a third option and turned left to drop down to Cougar Ridge Trail. On the dirt road, we turned to the right and returned to the cars. Fantastic day. Fantastic bunch of hikers! Lots of laughs!

5 miles; 1700 feet elevation gain; 3.25 hours

Starting down Wild Horse Ridge

Descending Wild Horse Ridge (Mummy Mountain Behind)

Mummy's Nose from Wild Horse Ridge

This track shows the difference between the Old Wild Horse Ridge Trail and the newer Cactus Jack Trail.