Wednesday, July 4, 2018

McFarland Approach - 7/3/18

McFarland Peak

Bonanza Trail

Approaching McFarland Peak

Starting up the Upper Bristlecone Trail
One of the Spring Mountains NRA gems is the Bonanza Trail. To travel between Lee Canyon and Cold Creek on the Bonanza Trail requires 15.2 miles of hiking. Today, however, thirteen hikers did only 5.75 of those miles from Lee Canyon to the McFarland Peak Trail junction. With the return trip, we hiked a total of 11.5 miles on a beautiful mostly cool and breezy day. Perfect! We passed the baby burro and the male painted horse on the way up Lee Canyon Road and parked at the Upper Bristlecone Trailhead. (That baby burro is sooo cute!)

No Name Saddle
Being the coordinator, I told the group that I would be regulating my pace and they were welcome to go their own pace stopping at the appointed stops.

No Name Trail
To my delight, the group stayed with me for the entire 11.5 miles! I enjoyed the company!

Steps on Bonanza Trail (Charleston Peak in Background)

Bonanza Trail
The first 1.5 miles of the hike includes 1 mile on the Upper Bristlecone and half a mile on No Name. This is all a climb in elevation of almost 1000 feet. We did this at a slow steady pace with only 1 or 2 stops. It was a familiar climb and it was early. We were just waking up. Our reward of more palatable slopes rested on the top of the ridge of the Spring Mountain Divide (i.e. the Bonanza Trail). We took a nice pause break on the No Name Saddle then proceeded out to junction with the Bonanza Trail and turned left. At the top of the steps, we took another small pause in the shade.

Steps Project by BCHNV & GBI (suspended indefinitely)
We took note of Pine Cone Canyon junction when we passed and headed on out toward the next small switchbacks bypassing a small intermittent peak.

Bonanza Trail
For the past two years, the Back Country Horsemen of Nevada and the Great Basin Institute have been installing steps on the switchbacks that used to be a small rock climbing effort.

Clark Canyon below Bonanza Trail

(L-R) Black Sister, North Sister & South Sister
The work that these two non-profit organizations have done here is top notch. Unfortunately, as of June 25th, the project has been suspended indefinitely due to the new forest service ecologist, Katy Gulley, declaring the work to be a danger to the Mt. Charleston Blue Butterflies that are starting their flight season at this critical time in the area of the log cutting. At least, to our advantage, the steps that have been completed will ease our climb up and around this little peak tremendously. I hope that the horses feel the same way!

Bonanza Trail
Larry Dunn, a long time member of the Around the Bend Friends and who is very involved in this effort, gave me this information about the project and he explained to me who these volunteer organizations are.

Happy Group of Hikers
GBI is Great Basin Institute, an IRS Sec. 501(c) non-profit, that manages the Nevada Conservation Corp, another 501(c) that's affiliated with Americor. Together, they do contract trail work throughout Nevada. They employ young people who want to "give back" by working for the public good. You've probably seen their crews working on trails in the Spring Mountains or Red Rock (Turtlehead).

Approaching McFarland Peak

Yellow Flower Saddle
BCH is Back Country Horsemen of Nevada. We're another 501(c) whose mission is to preserve equestrian access to trails on public lands and to help maintain those trails. We hired a GBI/NCC trail crew to help us repair the switchbacks on the Bonanza Trail so they are horse-friendly. (The funding comes from a grant from the Mt. Charleston License Plate Fund.) BCH partners with Friends of Red Rock, Friends of Nevada Wilderness, etc. on stewardship projects. Our role is often to pack in tools and supplies on pack horses and mules. Visit our website ( and/or our Facebook page for more! ~ Larry Dunn

McFarland Ridge Outcrop
The hikers of the Around the Bend Friends would like to extend a warm "thank you" for all the work that these volunteers do. We surely appreciate it!

Setsuko taking her Break
Not long after the project area, we hit today's high point of around 9900'. Although the route has a lot of ups and downs, we would now be mostly going down. Next, we passed the South Sister Ridge junction.

View up toward McFarland Trail Scree Field

Continuance of Bonanza Trail from McFarland Trail Junction
It's a little disheartening to lose all that elevation but the views were nonetheless amazing. To our right, we saw all the Sisters Ridge and Macks Peak. To our left, we continued along Clark Canyon below and the Pahrump Overlook Ridge across from us. A large waning gibbous hung above the ridge. Behind us, Charleston Peak was omnipresent. The enjoyment of the hike was palpable. After the Yellow Flower Saddle (an open area just before dropping down to pass the huge rock called McFarland Peak) we passed between the rocky outcrops of the McFarland Ridge. At the point of the next switchback, we stopped for our break at a trail junction.

Starting Long Climb Out
The trail that continues straight is the McFarland Peak Trail. It is a trail until it reaches a treacherous scree field "up." Rumor has it that it is a very difficult and dangerous climb.

The Big Shelter near Yellow Flower Saddle
We enjoyed a lengthened break then started our return back up the trail. ("Up" is the keyword here.) We took the long climb out at a slow and steady pace. Doable for all involved.

Spring Mountain Divide Ridge

Reaching the Bristlecone Trail Junction
On the relatively flat and "down" sections of the trail, we kept a decently quick pace. (A small celebration was held as we climbed over the high point again!) Pauses were short. We descended down the Bonanza Trail switchbacks that lead to the Bristlecone Trail and turned right. Our final tour of the day took us down the Upper Bristlecone and back to our cars. On the way, a few of us learned some Japanese with Setsuko's help! Wonderful hike, wonderful day and, most of all, wonderful people!

11.5 miles; 2800 feet elevation gain; 5.75 hours

Last Hill (Upper Bristlecone Trail)

Mummy Mountain from Bristlecone Trail

Lee Peak from Bristlecone Trail

No comments: