Saturday, August 28, 2010

Fletcher Canyon - 8/28/10

The hike for today was Fletcher Canyon. Luci and Carl, the fearless coordinators of this hike offered this report of the morning.

Today's hike was Fletcher Canyon joined by 30 happy hikers, with a couple of new faces, who thoroughly enjoyed the cooler breezes in the forecast. Early on, up the trailhead, Guy pointed out a dead tree we hadn't noticed on previous trips. The gusty winds earned our respect as we cautiously went by this towering tree hoping today was not the day it would decide to drop any branches. Today's photographer could not resist taking the photo below. The scenery was beautiful as ever and the conditions were perfect for this outing.

Once inside the slot canyon, everyone enjoyed the patches of sunshine as the temperatures continued to drop making our way up to Obstacle Rock. We had a few adventuresome folks who challenged the Rabbit Hole and succeeded to the top. They appeared on top of Obstacle Rock as if they were the King of the Hill. The return trip was most pleasant accompanied by lots of chatter and laughter.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Trail Canyon (not to Raintree!) - 8/26/10

As sixteen hikers gathered to hike today, the mugginess in the air and the 40% chance of rain in the mountains set the tone for a hike that might not be what we had planned! When we arrived at the Trail Canyon trailhead in the Echo community of Kyle Canyon, the sky was blue, however, this is the way the monsoon season acts. The rain clouds have a tendency to come rolling over the ridge out of nowhere.

We climbed Trail Canyon making good time with several stops along the way to re-gather the group. This way, the hikers could climb at their own pace yet stay within shouting distance of all the other hikers. For safety purposes, we try to stay together.

About two-thirds of the way up to the saddle, we noticed a large cave up to the right located just under Cockscomb Ridge. Two hikers decided to investigate and Carl got the following picture of the twenty foot deep cave that held someone's sleeping mat inside it.

From the cave, the two hikers decided to hike directly up the mountain and meet us as we hiked the switchbacks to that point. From there, we could see two interesting things: one, Mt. Charleston appeared in full view beyond the surrounding trees with a backdrop of beautiful blue sky, and, two, from the opposite direction, black clouds were beginning to make their appearance.

We continued our methodical climb and reached the saddle for a break. The saddle is a junction of Cockscomb Ridge Trail, Trail Canyon and the North Loop Trail. Our original plan was to continue on the North Loop Trail until we got to Raintree where we would be making our approach from the south. However, the black clouds were not stalling.

As the group rested at the saddle, the blogger hiked up the Cockscomb Ridge Trail for just fifty feet for some photos of the amazing distant views around us. Fletcher Canyon could be seen below on one side and Mt. Charleston could be seen on the other.

Suddenly, CRASH BOOM BANG !!! Thunder had arrived. And, yes, this meant that so did lightening. As the blogger took her last photo of Cockscomb Ridge as seen above, she hurried down off of the overlook. Votes were already being taken to abort the intended hike because of the open exposure we would have been experiencing next on the North Loop.

It was almost unanimous (Don wanted to continue!) to abort and we soon began heading back down the mountain. Small droplets of rain began to fall, however, this was the extent of the wet stuff that we experienced. The thunder and lightening continued with more frequency and we made very good time getting off of the mountain! When we arrived at the bottom (photo below), the road was wet. When we got back to Highway 95 and looked behind us, Kyle Canyon was engulfed in rain. We enjoyed our little climb up Trail Canyon and were, also, thankful that we had escaped the deluge.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

South Loop (1st Overlook) - 8/21/10

Chris offered this report on Saturday's hike up the South Loop. Thanks Chris!

Forty hikers showed up this morning for a trek up the South Loop Trail and another chance to experience the beauty of the pine and aspen forest in the Spring Mountains. As has been the norm this summer, the weather was beautiful and there wasn't the slightest chance of the monsoon spoiling our day.

The Spring Mountain trails have been very popular this year and the Cathedral Rock parking area we use for this hike was already full, so we were forced to park along the road and in the lower Cathedral pull-off. The pit toilet at the Cathedral Rock trail head was kept busy for nearly fifteen minutes before we could head out on the trail. Seniors need their morning coffee, you know. Finally, we organized the entire group and headed for the Cathedral Rock Picnic Area and the start of the South Loop Trail.

At the South Loop trail head, we divided into two equal sized groups. Ann took her group on a slightly longer route through lower Echo Canyon using social trails that weren't quite as steep and the rest headed up South Loop toward the overlook. The group with Ann did not intend to climb all the way to the overlook but had as their target a picturesque spring in Echo Canyon a few hundred feet lower than the overlook. For the rest of the hike the two groups remained separated but, as they were hiking in the same canyon, could see each other from time to time and kept in radio contact.

The last part of the climb to the overlook is over a series of 14 switchbacks. At the seventh switchback is Fossil Rock, a two-foot slab that contains a host of ancient seabed fossils. We were fortunate to have a geologist along who could tell us what each kind of fossil was and also tell us about the time frame when the rock was formed. Continuing on, we soon reached the overlook ledge where we were treated to a spectacular view of Kyle Canyon spread below us. Surprisingly, about half of the group had never been to that magnificent spot before.

Below us, the other group was having a snack near the spring where some water was cascading down an 8-foot cliff waterfall, providing a great backdrop for their break. Above the small cliff was a large patch of late blooming purple flowers that also contributed to the setting. Many of our hikers, including Guy, had never been to that spot, so the day was turning out to be one of first experiences for many.

Finally the time came to pack our things and head back down the trail. With such a beautiful day we could have spent hours soaking up the surroundings, but duties called us back to Las Vegas. Everyone returned safely and had another memory of a wonderful jaunt in the Spring Mountains.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Club Members' Travels

Kay K. has travelled so much in the last couple of weeks and posted so many pictures on her website that we needed to dedicate a blog entry just for her! Although her path of travel is unsure to us, she has certainly hit many hot springs and petroglyph sites.

In these first pictures, Kay makes us envious as she frolicks in various hot springs of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. The top photo is from Fillmore Hot Springs in Montana. The second photo is from Lava Hot Springs in Idaho. And, this third photo is from Granite Creek Hot Springs in Wyoming.

This fourth photo is from Sulphur Hot Springs in Montana. It appears to be more wild and natural. The fifth photo is White Sulphur Hot Springs in Montana where it looks more commercialized. (These were not all the hot springs Kay visited!)

The next large photo is from Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake of Utah. Doesn't Kay just look like she hasn't a care in the world?

The following photo is from Pictograph Cave State Park in Montana. It was actually taken of an informational sign at the site. The cave pictographs, themselves, are very faded by now but the sign shows what the pictographs originally looked like.

The photo above is of the Heart Mountain Relocation Camp used during World War II for Japanese immigrants. This was a sad place for Kay, however, celebrating Kay's presence in the United States, we are happy that history has been corrected.

The next photo was taken in Nevada City, Montana. Wow! We're talking cowboy times! She also visited Virginia City, Montana (seen in the photo to the left) where times were quite different. Can you imagine what went on here in the upstairs of this building? Yeah, times were different. Love them or hate them.

Kay must have travelled through Idaho Falls, Idaho (photo of the falls above) to get to the Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming. It is most unusual to see a bull moose lounging in the river of the Grand Tetons so she was in the right place at the right time. He seems to be saying, "Don't come any closer!" The grandeur of the Tetons never disappoint.

From there, Kay travelled up through Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. These images are familiar to those who have visited the grand old park, our very first national park. From Old Faithful geyser (seen in the last photo) to Mammoth Hot Springs and Yellowstone's Grand Canyon, the scenery in this expansive corner of Wyoming never ends. There seems to be more natural wonders concentrated in this many square miles than any where else in the United States.

A trip to Yellowstone isn't complete without the bison experience. These massive creatures must get a thrill out of stopping traffic on the narrow two lane roads that wind through the park. They are always there and, yes, they get the right of way! Safe journey, Kay.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Bonanza Trail - 8/19/10

Well, a long beautiful hike deserves a long blog so I hope the reader has coffee cup in hand!

Approach to McFarland Peak
Bright and early on Thursday morning, nine hikers watched the sun come up over Sunrise Mountain from the third deck of the Santa Fe garage. Today was a quest for "bragging rights." The Bonanza Trail is a 15 mile endeavor which runs from the ski resort at the end of Lee Canyon Road to the Cold Creek community. It is also known as the Spring Mountain Divide Trail and is a grueling hike which contains two challenging ascents and descents. But, among the enjoyment and/or chores of hiking, the trail offers gorgeous displays of scenery including distant views, budding rabbitbrush, bristlecone trees galore and fabulous rock formations and outcroppings.

The nine hikers divided into two small groups of four and five, just enough for two cars. They exchanged keys and drove respective cars to the two termini of the trail. This blogger was included in the group of five who began the hike at the ski resort. At around 7:25am, we began hiking up the Bristlecone Trail, turned left at the No Name Trail and reached No Name Saddle (a climb of 1100 feet) with only two short breaks. After taking a somewhat longer break at this point then junctioning with the Bonanza Trail proper, we settled into hiking through the old bristlecone trees on a much friendlier rolling-type ridge.

It was around 9:00am when we hit the Bonanza Trail and the sun cast long warm shadows around us. The morning chill was extremely pleasant and we were hiking at a pretty decent clip. Our goal was to meet the other group of hikers at the 7.5 mile point which was roughly located at the low point of the hike. We didn't want to be late and the morning was fresh. This blogger did her best to capture the scenery on the fly with her Canon. She could have spent a good two hours just photographing the scenery around her.

The white and gray limestone rock brightened the ridge. Small "bushlets" of rabbitbrush were sprouting all about. Yellow flowers danced atop the sprouts and squirrelly orange and brown bristlecone trees completed the scene. Add morning shadows, warm light and blue skies and one has a recipe for good photography. Oh yeah, time is important, too!

We passed familiar mountains located to our right from the trail. The Sisters and Mack's Peak could be seen from several viewpoints. See Mack's Peak in the photo to the left. These mountains appeared very different from this angle than they do from the familiar locations we have seen them before.

When McFarland Peak came into view, it rose like a humongous rock from the ridge on which we hiked. As we got closer and closer, the huge rock got even bigger! The mountain stood dauntingly or, perhaps I should say tauntingly, like a test ... more like a final exam! Our trail skirted around the mountain to the left and would pass right by the spur trail which takes the brave-hearted to its summit.

Skirting McFarland Peak

Approach to Bonanza Peak
After passing McFarland Peak, it wasn't long before we reached a switchback in the trail which represented the beginning of the descent to the low point. From this viewpoint, we had our first view of Bonanza Peak (seen in the photo to the left), our next challenge. Between our location and the peak lay a trail which would take us down around 1800 feet in elevation then take us up around 2000 feet. Where is a zip line when you need it?

The descent was merciful. The grade was not steep for the most part. We hiked quickly still thinking that we would meet the other group at the bottom where we could take that long needed lunch break. In the interest of not being late, our water breaks had been few and short. Grumpiness could soon set in!

At the bottom of the descent, the other group was no where to be found. So, we kept hiking. Going up felt good after the previous descent and after climbing around 200 feet in elevation, we saw four familiar faces coming at us from the other direction. The five of us sat in the shade and ate lunch. The other group of hikers had already taken their break and looked a bit more refreshed!

Climbing Bonanza Peak

We talked and ate and, oh by the way, exchanged keys. (Good thing we remem- bered!) We were both facing a good climb going in opposite directions so, after about twenty minutes, we stood on stiff legs and got them moving again. At this point, this blogger should say that, for a majority of the hikers in the two groups, this hike was not as big a challenge as for the others (i.e. me). We have several extremely strong hikers among our ranks. However, to increase the number of strong hikers, we must allow first-timers to come along and enjoy their marvelling! First timers view it as a right of passage. And, so it is.

The following climb was tough but doable. We had had our nurishment and rested our legs. There were only a couple of places where the steepness seemed excessive. Otherwise, the climb was on graduated switchbacks and filled with scenery. From this part of the trail, we could look back and see McFarland Peak as a whole and the back side of Mt. Charleston (seen in the large photo below) further out. In a more forward direction, we began seeing the valley which holds the small town of Pahrump.

As we neared the peak, the trail became flatter and we passed the spur trail which leads to the summit. This spur trail is flanked by two large cairns which could be mistaken for two rock piles. This segment of the hike took us to our high point. Just under Bonanza Peak, we almost reached 10,300 feet in elevation.

The Descent

We passed Bonanza Peak and began a very long descent of around 2700 feet in elevation over four and three quarters miles. There are twelve gradual switchbacks coming off of the peak ending at the saddle. During this segment, the views were of Carpenter Canyon and the Pahrump valley below. We stopped at the saddle for a last big break before facing the three and three quarters miles descent to the Cold Creek parking lot.

The Bonanza Saddle is somewhat of a trail junction. We were coming down off of Bonanza Peak from the south. However, if you continue along the ridge from the saddle to the north, you will reach the Window in the Cliff after about half a mile of serious scrambling and scree. Seeing the saddle as we approached gave us a feeling of reaching a familiar and safe place. The beauty of the saddle didn't disappoint.

The last segment of the hike was, of course, the toughest. Almost four miles of downhill hiking over fifty-seven switchbacks can be quite challenging. As we "smelled the barn," we became more and more spread out. Understandably, the mountain had to be met individually. When we finally reached the bottom, we drove out of the parking lot at 3:52pm. It was an eight and a half hour hike. We were tired but we got our bragging rights!

Elevation graph created by the blogger. General.

Elevation graph created by the GPS. This GPS is unreliable for accurate distance in mountain terrain. It was indeed a 15 mile hike.