Thursday, July 28, 2016

Pine Cone Canyon Loop - 7/28/16

Pine Cone Canyon

Bonanza Trail at Junction of Pine Cone Canyon

Bonanza Trail at Junction of No Name Trail

Lower Bristlecone Trail
 Eight hikers drove up Lee Canyon Road to arrive at the Lower Bristlecone Trailhead just past the meadow on the right in the Spring Mountains NRA. It was a beautiful morning here while the Las Vegas valley was expecting a day with record high temperatures. We felt lucky! Our trail would take us up the Lower Bristlecone Trail to the hairpin turn where there is an old road/trail turning off to the right. This trail leads to Pine Cone Canyon. We hiked up the forest road at a moderately strenuous pace and took a small break at that junction.

Into Woods of Pine Cone Canyon
 The Pine Cone Canyon Trail starts out innocently as it passes the weather station on the right. There is also a shelter built here and a campsite on the left.

Relentlessly Steep Pine Cone Canyon

Arriving at Bonanza Trail
 As soon as the terrain changed to the steepness that would persist all the way up to the ridge, the group separated. The front hikers detoured up on the ridge to the right while the slower hikers stayed in the canyon. We took several stops as we trudged up through the pine cones. It was a very good workout. And, it would be the only really difficult part of the morning so we enjoyed every minute of it! Finally, we arrived at the top of the ridge where the front hikers were waiting for us on the Bonanza Trail.

Bonanza Trail with Charleston Peak in Background
 We needed a longer short rest here! Then we turned to the left and started up another little hill on the Bonanza Trail. We had to circle around one of the trail's many small peaks before we reached the wilderness junction where No Name turns off to the right. We sat here for our snack break.

Bonanza Trail at Junction of No Name Trail

Descending Bonanza Trail Switchbacks
 The skies were getting cloudy but we did not expect monsoons since we thought wrong that there was only a 20% chance. So, we kept our reasonable pace and descended the Bonanza switchbacks. At the junction with the Bristlecone Trail, we turned to the right onto the Upper Bristlecone. The temperatures were really nice since the clouds were covering the sun. The group stayed together as we hiked smoothly down the trail. We had just left the lower No Name Trail junction when we heard a thunder clap and just about jumped out of our skin!

Arriving at Junction of Bristlecone Trail
 The pace immediately sped up to a slow run! First it was a light sprinkle that spoke, "I'll be done in a minute." Then the rain increased. Rain jackets (those who had them) were donned and the thunder continued. We did not see the lightening so it was possible that that danger was not too too close by.

Starting Up Upper Bristlecone Trail

Cloudy on Upper Bristlecone
   The rain increased again ... and it began to hail little tiny icelets. (New word.) Most of us had shorts on so it was a little cold. At any rate, we arrived at the Upper Bristlecone Trailhead intending to continue down to our cars when a pair of helpful hikers offered our drivers a ride down to the Lower Bristlecone Trailhead to retrieve the cars. We had reached 5.5 miles so our 6 mile day was done. Fun! Fun! Fun! (BTW, it was 54 degrees when we left the trailhead and 106 degrees when we reached I-95 at the bottom of Lee Canyon Road.)

5.5 miles; 1400 feet elevation gain; 2.75 hours

Nice Old Roots

Switchback Overlook

Upper Bristlecone Trail

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Mary Jane Falls - 7/26/16

Mary Jane Falls Cave

Mary Jane Falls

Mary Jane Falls

Climbing the Approach Trail
 Mary Jane Falls is one of the Spring Mountains NRA official recreational trails. Every day, hikers with kids, tourist hikers, hikers with dogs and a continuous assortment are found on the short trail that leads up to an area where there are three water slides coming down from the cliffs above. The seven moderate hikers participating today became part of that assortment. We parked at the Mary Jane Falls trailhead located a little further past the Trail Canyon trailhead and started hiking up the 0.75 mile approach trail.

Circling around Fallen Trees on Old Road Trail
 The approach trail isn't real steep but it does wake you up! It is a very wide trail that glides up through an aspen grove.

A Short Rest on the Steep Old Road
 To the left of the trail, the Kyle Canyon wash runs wide through the forest. For a harder workout, use the wash for the climb up.

Another Log

The Difficult Last Climb
 The Mary Jane Falls trail turns to the right as indicated by logs crossing the path straight ahead. This is the newer trail that uses switchbacks to climb the steep hill. Five of the seven hikers, today, went straight over the logs and veered to the right on an old road that barely looks like a road anymore. There are many trees that have fallen to block the way. We circled around the trees when necessary but our route stayed true as we huffed and puffed our way up. Some sections of the old road were so steep that we had to watch our steps if we didn't want to slide backwards!

Mary Jane Falls from the Last Climb Up
 The road narrowed into a trail near the end and the short scree climb turned out to be the most difficult part. Nevertheless, we made it to the top and found one of the other two switchback hikers already there.

Lettie Climbs to the Shelf
 Mary Jane Falls was flowing and when hikers stood under it, they got a pretty good shower. Two hikers climbed up to the shelf that runs along under the cliff above.

Sitting at Mary Jane Falls

View out from Mary Jane Falls
 When the last hiker arrived, five of the seven decided to hike over to the cave to take their break. The trail to the cave runs against the wall to the left as you are facing the falls. Over the past few years, this trail has become very clear. We settled into the cave that is filled with graffiti at this time. But, the view out from the cave is the attraction as seen in the photo at the top of this entry. (Graffiti has been photoshopped out of these photos.) The view from the cave is down Kyle Canyon.

Trail to Cave
 We took our break on the rocks inside the cave of approximately 30 feet square then returned to the falls area where the two hikers were waiting.

Another View out from Cave
 All together, we started down the switchbacks for our return. There are several rock steps on this top section of the trail that runs along the wall.

The Cave

Starting Down the Switchback Trail
 The small group of hikers seemed to enjoy the downhill most of all. There was no dilly dallying! As the coordinator swept the line, she had to come out of her slow mood! We switchbacked down on the trail that is no longer as wooded as it used to be. Careless hikers have also cut the switchbacks so badly that the erosion is terrible. One of the most used trails in the Spring Mountains is in need of an update ... again. Nevertheless, we got back to the cars without stopping and were very happy to have the rest of the day to enjoy.

3 miles; 900 feet elevation gain; 2 hours

Hiking along the Rock Wall


The Approach Trail

Sunday, July 24, 2016

5 Mile Campsite - 7/24/16

Smokey 5 Mile Campsite on North Loop Trail

Desert Paintbrush in Bloom

Water Trough at Cave Spring

Starting Up Trail Canyon
 The new fast and furious fire in the hills north of Los Angeles did a number on our playground today. The smoke was heavy all over the Spring Mountains NRA. Nine hikers hiked anyway. Our goal for this training hike was the large campsite located five miles up the Trail Canyon / North Loop Trails. Once again, we would climb the hardest section of the Mt. Charleston Peak hike with the exception, of course, of the high altitude switchbacks located on the prominent peak itself.

The Beginning of the Steep Part
 Our plan was optional for the participants. We would climb Trail Canyon individually and regather at the saddle. Then there would be scheduled stops along the way.

Smoke Fades the View
 The smoke was heavy in the air and there was no escape. Our lack of breathing capabilities ate into our times from the trailhead to the saddle.

Cockscomb Peak from Trail Canyon Trail

Mummy's Toe behind the Saddle
 Nevertheless, we all made it within 1 hour and 7 minutes. A little water and we were off again turning left onto the North Loop Trail. The climbing continued but the steepness was slightly reduced. Our first stop would be Cave Spring but the front half of the group had indicated that they would continue from there without stopping. They left clear instructions to find them at the Big Falls Overlook at 4.5 miles. Hey, less hikers to count! The coordinator enjoyed the slower pace of the back half of the line of hikers.

The Group heads to Cave Spring
 Slowly, the front hikers pulled away into the distance melding in with the many other recreationers on the mountain today. There were trail runners and backpackers as well as normal hikers like us.

Taking a Short Rest at Cave Spring
 Four hikers stopped at Cave Spring for a sip of water. The next stop would be the Wall Corner. This next section of trail isn't long but it is taxing.

Scarce Shade on the North Loop

Trail hanging on in Scree
 We gathered again at the Wall Corner then headed up the trail passing Mummy Junction. Our next scheduled stop would be the 4.25 Mile Cliff Overlook. The pace was steady all the way up. Some say that it is best to keep the same pace no matter the terrain when climbing. If you go too fast, you lose your breath too easily. If you go too slow, you never get anywhere! Pacing and breathing are two important things to train for when preparing for any difficult hike like Charleston Peak.

Above the Cliffs but not the Smoke
 We climbed up the rock obstacle. This obstacle is getting more and more smooth making it very difficult and a little dangerous to climb up or down. A new trail below it is beginning to form.

Rule #1: Stay on the Trail
 We were now above the cliffs and the trail leads along with many beautiful overlooks. However, this is also the beginning of the danger zone!

View from 4.25 Mile Overlook Cliff

A Favorite Little Tree
 The number one rule from here on is "Stay on the Trail!" Be very careful of your footing. The scree is unforgiving and then there are those cliffs that were mentioned. Upon reaching the 4.25 Mile Cliff Overlook, it was already occupied. But those hikers were ready to leave and we moved in to take a short rest on the convenient log. We were moving along very well and expected our next stop to be at the Big Falls Overlook where the front hikers would be waiting.

Group at Big Falls Overlook (Lee Peak in Distance)
Sure enough! They were there and we took a fun group shot seen above. We were very happy to know that the final half mile coming up was relatively flat.

Fun Half Mile to Campsite
 We made quick work of this half mile passing the first campsite then approaching the second and larger campsite at mile marker 5. A nice break was taken here while looking over into an even smokier Lee Canyon on the other side of the ridge saddle.

Rita takes a break in the Sun at Campsite

Starting the Return
  We started down together but were soon separated again. Our plan was to stop 2 or 3 times during the 5 mile descent. Since there was little shade to stop in otherwise, we stopped under trees the first time, at Cave Spring the second time and at the Trail Canyon Saddle the third time. Next came the downhill slalom ... Trail Canyon. We arrived at the trailhead within around 5 minutes of each other. It was a great day in spite of the smoke. A lot of nice people on the trail today.

10 miles; 2900 feet elevation gain; 5.25 hours

Approaching the Rock Obstacle

Dropping back to Cave Spring

Just above Trail Canyon Saddle