Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Lower Rocky Gorge Loop - 5/27/19

Rocky Gorge Pinnacle

Overlook from near High Point of Hike

Desert Sage in Front of Misty View

Twelve Bundled Up Hikers
The forecast and the radar predicted opposing views of this morning's weather. I went with the radar that showed clear skies over the mid-Lee Canyon Road area after around 10am. Twelve hikers got up to the trailhead about 10.5 miles from Hwy 95 on Lee Canyon Road around 9:30am. There was still about 30 to 45 minutes of cold sleety mist to endure before the sun started appearing. The view, nonetheless, was magical as the mountains were half shrouded by a low ceiling of clouds. We parked at the lower Blue Tree parking lot and found the trail leading down a small wash on the lower side of the trailhead. Dressed for the weather, we exclaimed how cold it was!

Starting up the Long Switchback
The small wash has a trail that runs down its length. Since it is an equestrian trail, there are side trails to circle around low hanging trees.

Points of Interest
We took note of some of the flowers nearby. The Spring Mountains are just starting to bloom out in the lower elevations.

Almost to Top of Long Switchback

Hiking across to the Rocky Gorge Wash
The weather in the Spring Mountains this year has been overwhelmingly weird! Today was Memorial Day! And, the high where we were hiking was around 47 degrees. Hmm. Well, Red Rock Canyon was a "no go." Holidays are a very bad time to hike there. In fact, the Scenic Loop at Red Rock was closed around noon today due to reaching capacity. Kyle Canyon was socked in! So, the best bet for us was the lower elevation hikes found on Lee Canyon Road. Lower Rocky Gorge Loop fit the bill and we steeled ourselves for the first mile and a half in the cold, misty, sleety, breeze. Soon we were climbing the large switchback that can be seen from the road. The trail climbs up to the ridge and follows the ridge down for a distance.

Starting into Rocky Gorge
Usually, we have a grand view of Charleston Peak and surrounding peaks from this ridge. Today, all we saw from here were clouds and the bottom half of snow patched mountains.

More Rocky Gorge
Finally, we dropped down to the small canyon in which lies Rocky Gorge. On the way down, we found an antler ... wow! (I always lose the trail here but today, I found it about half way down.)

Break Time on a Log

Mummy's Nose from Wash/Trail
As we gathered in the canyon, the sun started coming out and outer layers of clothes were shed. The route then starts climbing up the gentle slope of the canyon wash. Soon, we entered the area called Rocky Gorge. A gorge is defined as "a narrow valley between hills or mountains, typically with steep rocky walls and a stream running through it. Some of its synonyms include ravine, canyon, gully, pass, defile, couloir, and deep narrow valley." I guess Rocky Gorge passes this criteria albeit tiny in comparison to more famous gorges like Royal Gorge in Colorado. Regardless, it is a somewhat unusual occurrence in this immediate area and pretty to hike through.

Junction where Trail turns and goes over Ridge
The sun was out and we enjoyed following the trail up the wash with opening views of Mummy's Nose and, later, the Spring Mountain Divide. We took a break then continued a little further to find the log-lined junction that takes the trail up and over the small ridge to the right.

Bushwhacking atop that Ridge
At the top of the ridge, we turned left and bushwhacked on a vague trail all the way up to where it junctions with the No Mads Trail/Road. Views were beautiful from this part of the route.

Willow Peak in Distance on the Spring Mountain Divide

Hiking the Ridge toward Mummy's Nose
A left turn on the road, halfway down the steep hill, we turned left onto a cross trail marked with cairns. This trail takes you down toward Blue Tree Campground but a left fork soon takes hikers on a nice detour around the area. Next, take a right fork down to an old road and follow it straight back to the cars with one dip across a wash. Today's ending weather was a 180 flip from today's starting weather and we felt great to get back on the trail! So nice to see everyone again!

6 miles; 1100 feet elevation gain; 3 hours; average moving speed 1.9 mph

No Mads Trail/Road

Starting Trail down above Blue Tree Campground

Hiking above Blue Tree Area

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Griffith Peak in Snow (with the Thomases) - 5/25/19

Cheryl and Jerry on Griffith Peak

On South Loop Trail with Poles and Micro Spikes

Trail- Fuh get about it!

Over Bump and up Couloir
Jerry and Cheryl hiked up Griffith Peak on Saturday. Cheryl tells us their story as follows:

 We had originally planned to go to Charleston via the South Loop trail not knowing at what point we’d hit snow. But we quickly ran into snow shortly up South Loop. We then put on microspikes. Very soon we realized that we could go up the couloir which leads right to Griffith and put on our crampons, put away the poles and used our ice axes. It was steep and great snow overall. At several spots it was soft and deep and harder going. We eventually got to a ridge to the right of the peak, traversed it and right onto Griffith. It was cold and windy especially on the ridge. There it was very windy and freezing cold.  Blowing snow and ice hurt our faces and I had to pull my hood low. 

Kyle Canyon far Below
 At the peak we quickly took two photos of each other. No pic of us together as there was nowhere to setup the phone. We glissaded down most of the way. Super fun!  There were a few people going up too but they had poles and micro spikes. Be tough going that way. Coming down was very slick and steep. One couple behind us had poles and she fell, didn’t know how to arrest (hard with poles anyway) and slid. She set off a mini avalanche!  There was a river of snow probably about 50 yards long!  Luckily it was slow wasn’t deep!  We went down the entire couloir and met up with the trail where we took off our crampons. Absolutely terrific! ~ Cheryl

Heading to Ridge to Right of Griffith Peak

Almost to the Peak

On Griffith Peak - WooHooooooo

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Trail Canyon (In Snow) - 5/21/19

Fletcher Canyon below Trail Canyon Overlook

Charleston Peak from Trail Canyon Overlook

Cockscomb Peak and South Loop Ridge from Trail Canyon Trail

Climbing Trail Canyon
At an early hour this morning, two club members headed into the wilderness from the Trail Canyon Trailhead where we were the only car in a big parking lot. It was chilly so we layered our fleeces, scarves and coats. Knit hats and gloves finished our couture du froit. The first hike up Trail Canyon of the year is always a big deal. So, we started at a very slow and comfortable pace. Yesterday and the day before, more snow was added to the mountainside. How far could we go? It wasn't long before we noticed that there was at least one hiker and at least one really big dog that had placed their footprints in the snow before us. We started celebrating each landmark!

Trail Canyon Trail
The water tank, the wilderness sign, the wash crossing .... It didn't take long before the large snow patches became a solid hillside of snow.

Rita on Trail Canyon
As we hiked, we watched the hiker's footsteps and those huge paw prints. The wilderness engulfed us with shadows.

Small Bush and its Shadow

Trail to Right
The low morning sun created long tree shadows that decorated the snowy trail like a GOBO lens covering for stage lights. When we arrived at the "Halfway" point where the trail veers to the right and big rocks are spread on the left of the corner, the snow was a consistent covering of around one inch. This is also where the previous hiker's tracks stopped abruptly and turned around. Ahead of us was a clean trackless trail. By now, after so many years of hiking in this area, both of us could probably do Trail Canyon with our eyes closed! So following the snow-covered trail was no problem as we imagined every footstep on bare ground.

Snowy Landscape
The camera kept jumping into my hands for the incredibly beautiful winter wonderland landscape. The snow beneath our feet was on the crunchy side and very easy to navigate.

Trail Canyon Trail
Although the beginning of the hike was laboring in the higher altitude ... higher than Red Rock Canyon and Lake Mead areas ... once we got up past 8500' or so, the thinner air was not noticed.

Morning Sun on Trail Canyon Trail

Kay in Trail Canyon
Due to our slow pace, we were actually having fun, on Trail Canyon! Lots of photos. Investigating a lot of bunny tracks, bird tracks, ground squirrel tracks, and possibly a deer. Taking each other's pics, being silly ... and other girl stuff. Even though this was the longest it ever took either one of us to get up to the saddle, the hike up seemed very short. Next thing we knew, we were hiking into the saddle area. Still, there were no human tracks around. We laid our packs on the saddle resting log and hiked up to the overlook to the right for a few photos. (See the first two photos of this entry.) This was our target for today's hike and we were quite satisfied!

Saddle Approach
Charleston Peak and Griffith Peak were both snow capped; resting under their blanket before the onslaught of summer hikers make their assaults.

Fallen Tree just below Saddle
The sign on the saddle asking hikers to beware of undetonated snow bombs is still there.

Mummy's Toe from Saddle

Kay at Overlook pointing at Rainbow Canyon Saddle
We sat for just a couple of minutes before we lightened our couture a little and started down. Right away, we noticed that the snow had started to melt. We were so glad we had started up early and experienced the pristine white blanket on the trail. By the time we got down to the "Halfway" point, the trail was almost clear. We passed only two pairs of hikers on the way down. Great way to start your day!

4 miles; 1550 feet elevation gain

Rita at Overlook

Tree Shadow