|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|