Sunday, July 29, 2018

Deer Creek / Meadows Loop - 7/28/18

La Madre Range from North Loop Meadow

Mummy's Nose above Wild Horse Ridge from Cactus Jack Trail

Wild Horse Ridge

Old Deer Creek Road below Mahogany Grove Picnic Area
Nine club members hiked an excellent short distance trek partly off the beaten path today. This hike was researched a couple of years ago and is now used in full or in parts for club hikes in the Spring Mountains NRA. We parked at the Deer Creek Picnic Area parking lot where there are restrooms offered ... albeit stinky ones. It is a large parking lot so there is little chance that it would fill up like the North Loop Trailhead. The beginning of our hike is similar to a back door entrance to the North Loop Trail so this little route gem is good to have in your back pocket in case you find yourself without a parking place at the North Loop Trailhead. Plus, there's a restroom.

Blooming Mountain Mahoganies
The route begins by dropping down into the deep Deer Creek wash at the end of the parking lot near the restrooms. There is a small bushwhack to get around the end of the gully next to the Deer Creek Road above.

Information on the History of the CCC in this Area
Recent rains/floods have improved the bushwhack by dumping a load of rock down from the culvert. Regardless, the object is to get to the old road bed on the other side. The rock wall next to the road bed holds the Mahogany Grove Picnic Area above.

Old Deer Creek Road reclaimed by a Wash

Climbing Old Spur Road
The old road bed is the remains of the Old Deer Creek Road. We followed the road up and around to the right but turned off to the left before reaching the drainage area. This put us on the "nature trail" for the picnic area. Follow this part of the road bed down and jog up to the CCC information display. Along the way, you will see old wood stoves that were used at that time, set up near the trail. Unfortunately, there has been some vandalism done to the old ovens. We read the displays then walked over to a hill that we climbed on the left. The Cougar Ridge Trailhead turnout is at the top of the hill but we continued over the hill and into the wash on the other side. The old road bed continues down this wash for a short distance. At an obvious fork, the road turns up to the right.

Crossing New Deer Creek Road
We climbed the road until we came to an old spur road that turns to the right. We turned here and climbed up to junction with the paved Deer Creek Road. The old spur road continues on the other side of the pavement. (Be careful crossing.)

Climbing North Loop Trail
We followed the road bed all the way up the hill until we junctioned with the North Loop Trail. Tah-dah! We turned right on the North Loop.

Nearing the North Loop Meadow

Arriving at Meadow
At this point, I turned loose the stronger hikers to invite them to climb up to the North Loop meadow at their own pace. A few hikers stayed with me and we climbed a little slower. One hiker was new to the trail and I pointed out different landmarks along the way. There are nice views of the desert in the distance and Angel Peak (with the bubble) is ever-present on this section of the trail. The trail is wooded and, on a hot day, we enjoyed the intermittent shade. Mummy Mountain comes into almost full view as you arrive at the meadow and the trees become scarce.

Taking a Break in the Shade
The front hikers had already set up residence in some shade on the right side of the trail in the meadow. We sat there to enjoy a break with some hilarious joking around.

Beautiful Old Bristlecone marks the Wild Horse Trail
After the break, we headed up toward the huge old bristlecone tree at the far end of the meadow. This is the unsigned Wild Horse Trail junction where we turned to the right.

Waiting at the top of Small Switchbacks

Climbing onto Wild Horse Ridge
The Wild Horse Trail is a small path through the woods making a downward traverse to the top of the next canyon over. At one point, the trail takes a decided turn down using small steep switchbacks. Today, the earth was somewhat damp and the usual slipperiness was less of a problem. Hiking poles are very useful on this path. Then, at the bottom of the switchbacks, there is a choice of unsigned routes. If you turn to the right at a 90 degree angle, you begin a very pleasant cool descent through Wild Horse Canyon. If you continue straight as we did today, this puts you on the Cactus Jack Trail that takes you over to the top of Wild Horse Ridge ... a favorite among our club members.

Descending Wild Horse Ridge
Wild Horse Ridge is a half mile of excellent views from on top a rock ridge likely made up of Mississippian Monte Cristo Limestone; a prominent make-up of the rock in the Spring Mountains.

Fun on Wild Horse Ridge - Mummy Mountain in Background
The gentle down slope of the rock makes the descent very pleasant. The rock is wide so we were safe from the cliff edge. To the left below is the Deer Creek Picnic Area and to the right below is Wild Horse Canyon.

The Trailhead from Wild Horse Ridge

Cougar Ridge Trail
After a short drop off the very end of the rock ridge, we turned to the left. A vague trail took us along the Cougar Ridge Trail road until we dropped onto the dirt road and turned left. The road took us to a right turn where we stepped over a damaged gate. This is where pavement takes you down by the picnic area. There were already a lot of families having fun. The pavement is covered in many places with rock debris that has flooded down from the hill above recently. The forest service will probably clean this up in the fall. The pavement led back to the parking lot and we were done. Very enjoyable morning in the mountains. Hot but no rain. Just blue skies.

5 miles; 1350 feet elevation gain; 2.75 hours

Debris washed down to Picnic Area

Deer Creek

Finishing Hike next to Picnic Area - More Debris from Rains

Friday, July 27, 2018

Cathedral Rock, Etc. - 7/26/18

Charleston Peak from Cathedral Rock Overlook

Rough Angelica on Trail Leaving Little Falls

Cathedral Rock from Echo Trail

Enjoying Echo Trail
The rough angelica, or Charleston Mountain angelica, is having a great year in the Spring Mountains NRA. There are about 60 species of angelica and the Spring Mountains have their very own!

Angelica is a genus of about 60 species of tall biennial and perennial herbs in the family Apiaceae, native to temperate and subarctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere, reaching as far north as Iceland, Lapland and Greenland. They grow to 1–3 m (3 ft 3 in–9 ft 10 in) tall, with large bipinnate leaves and large compound umbels of white or greenish-white flowers. ~ Wikipedia

Bruce hikes through Rough Angelica
Today, eight club members parked at the Echo Trailhead deep in Kyle Canyon and started up the hill. This trail may be considered a "back door" to Little Falls, Cathedral Rock and the South Loop Trail.

Little Falls
After bearing to the right at the rock path, we took a left turn at the fork on the top of the hill. This took us down to a signed junction. We turned to the right to visit Little Falls.

Laurie and Mark leaving Little Falls

Rough Angelica
Hogweed - (
It's a good short climb up to the Little Falls slot cut. As we neared the cliff wall, we dove into a huge patch of rough angelica that lines the trail. Little Falls doesn't usually have much water except for the springtime, but it is a pretty vertical flow of cliffs, rocks and logs. However, it does seem to be a magnate for graffiti. Not sure why. Money, power, sex ... ? (Only one of those is important.) Anyway, if you look past the graffiti you will find a few specimens of Precambrian fossils on the walls. We left the slot to pass through the angelicas again thinking that they were similar to hogweed and possibly poisonous to touch. Not so. The appearance of the two plants are similar but not alike as seen in the photos to the left. What a relief! 😐
After swimming through the plants that had bees (very busy bees) all over them, we went back down the trail to the Echo Trail junction. We passed the junction and continued down, up and over to the Cathedral Rock Trail.

Return to Echo Trail Junction
There is a trail that drops before this if you need to pass by the official Cathedral Rock Trailhead ... (think restrooms).

Hiking up Cathedral Rock Trail
There is another signed junction at the Cathedral Rock Trail and we turned right to start up the long switchbacks up the former avalanche field of Mazie Canyon. This avalanche happened in 2005.

Hiking through the Aspens - Cathedral Rock in Background

Visit to Echo Falls
It is a good climb up the 6 or 7 switchbacks but we took it at a slow steady pace. Every once in a while, we would glance around for the views. And, sometimes, we would glance up to check on the cloud situation. Both set of glances gleaned excellence so onward we went until we reached the switchback corner at Echo Falls junction. (There is a bench at this junction.) We turned left and took the short hike to the base of Echo Falls. It had even less water than Little Falls but, again, it is a pretty display of verticle cliffs, rocks and logs! A couple of the hikers went up the side to check the intermediate pool level of the falls. The wash above leads to the South Loop Trail.

Sunlight on Cathedral Rock - Fletcher Peak in Background
We returned to the Cathedral Rock Trail and continued up. Around another corner and we were finally at the section of trail that is more level. We saw Cathedral Rock rising to our right.

Approaching top of Cathedral Rock
The trail curves around to the right toward the huge rock outcropping. (An abandoned road forks off to the left here.)

Charleston Peak from Cathedral Rock

Kyle Canyon from Cathedral Rock
We passed through a wooded saddle area then started up onto the rock. There are steps involved but the path is safe and recently maintained. At the top, we curved around and arrived at the overlook area for our break. We had at least one newbie today and he was impressed. The light was good for photos up canyon. Down canyon, the morning sun was coming in brightly. Regardless, the whole vista deserved photos as we watched the little tiny clouds grow slightly bigger and darker. Determined not to be rushed, we enjoyed a good break on the top of Cathedral Rock.

Harris Peak, Harris Saddle, South Loop Trail, and The Vatican
To leave the rock, we circled around the back side of the top and caught the trail down. Back at the wooded saddle area, we turned right and connected with the abandoned road.

Kyle Canyon
Although this part of the hike isn't as interesting, it is very pretty and adds a little flat walking to the "interval training" of the hike.

Circling the top of the Rock

The Abandoned Road to Manhole Cover
The road also leads to three points of interest: a manhole cover, a little used very strenuous trail that climbs to the South Loop, and a view of the top of Little Falls. The manhole is/was used for piping in water to the canyon below. You see old piping lying around all over Kyle Canyon and this is part of that system. Then, we returned to the Cathedral Rock Trail, descended and crossed back over to the Echo Trailhead. During that time, we enjoyed views of the canyon and watched the clouds. Just as we reached our cars, we heard a very distant thunder rumble. Good timing. Enjoyed the morning.

6 miles; 1525 feet elevation gain; 3 hours

Manhole used for old Waterworks

Cathedral Rock & Mummy's Toe from Descent

Home Free on Echo Trail