Monday, July 29, 2019

Deer Creek / Meadow Loop - 7/29/19

View from North Loop Meadow Area

Top of Wild Horse Ridge

Angel Peak from Wild Horse Ridge

Old Deer Creek Road
 The Deer Creek / Meadow Loop begins at the Deer Creek Picnic Area parking lot. Six hikers arrived here to find the toilets to be so dirty that they were unusable. Granted it was a Monday; the day after a busy weekend. We also found the hill going down to the Deer Creek Canyon to be washed out and the canyon area just below the road was as well. Nevertheless, determined hikers made it down the slippery hill and through the brush around the top end of the wash and finally up onto the remnant of the Old Deer Creek Road that lies below the Mahogany Group Site. With the "worst" of the hike over with, we were on our way!

Old Deer Creek Road
 The road climbs up a small hill and circles around a former dump site. (The old refrigerator is gone!)

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Oven
 Then, we followed the old road down passing by stone benches. This is a nature walk used by the group site users. We also passed by old ovens used by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

CCC Signage Area

Spur Trail to North Loop Trail
 There are information signs in this area that talk about the history of the CCC in the Spring Mountains. From here, we climbed the hill to go up and over at the nearby Cougar Ridge Trailhead. On the other side of the hill, we followed the wash down until the old road led up to the right. Soon, there was a turnoff to the right. This was a spur road leading up to the North Loop Trail. We climbed up the old road and crossed the new paved Deer Creek Road. Here, there is the continuance of the spur trail and, finally, we reached the North Loop Trail. A right turn onto this well worn trail started us on a slow journey up to the Meadow. We stopped once in a while for shade breaks.

Shade Break on North Loop Trail
 As we climbed higher, cool breezes kept us very comfortable. There were a few other hikers about.

North Loop Trail
 We tried to stay together as a group but, as we neared the meadow, one went ahead and one lagged behind.

Mummy's Nose from North Loop Meadow

Taking a Break on the Meadow
 It was all good. We took a cursory snack break on the logs in the shade and had good conversation. When everyone was ready to go again, we hiked up to the top of the meadow and turned right just past the huge old ornate bristlecone. You can see the small trail in the dirt. This is Wild Horse Canyon Trail. We weaved in and out of the trees on the diminutive path then started down on continuous small switchbacks. At the bottom of the switchbacks, there was a T-junction. If you turn right here, you will continue down Wild Horse Canyon, a beautiful shady canyon with a spring and ending with 10'-15' rock walls.

Big Old Bristlecone marks the Junction
However, if you continue straight as we did today, you transfer onto Cactus Jack Trail. This trail was named after a long time Las Vegas hiker who basically created this path.

Wild Horse Canyon Trail
 This trail climbs a little before dropping you off at the top of Wild Horse Ridge, the ridge that runs above Wild Horse Canyon on its west side.

Zigzagging down Wild Horse Canyon Trail

Crossing over on Cactus Jack Trail
 We climbed up onto the limestone / dolomite ridge that presents a cliff on the other side. The ridge, itself, is wide and easy to hike without having to get near the cliff side. There are very nice views from the ridge that reach all the way down to the desert floor. In the other direction, we could see Mummy Mountain, Mummy's Nose and several summer homes that can be reached using Cougar Ridge Trail. We descended the familiar trail on the ridge until reaching the end. Here, there is a little bit of precariousness getting off the ridge under huge Mountain Mahogany branches. The trail continues down the hill to the left.

Large Bristlecone at top of Wild Horse Ridge
 A game trail exists about half way down that travels to the left along the hill. We found it and hiked to a large wash that was easy to descend to the road below.

Atop Wild Horse Ridge
 This was Cougar Ridge Trail and we had one more hill to climb. Down the other side, we turned right to cross an old bent gate to enter into the top portion of the Deer Creek Picnic Area.

Desert View from Wild Horse Ridge

On Wild Horse Ridge with Mummy Mountain Behind
 Deer Creek was flowing steadily. There were a few picnickers. And, there were some children playing in the creek. At the bottom of the picnic area, we noted the pond still had a bit of water in it and the asphalt path that we were walking on had been undercut by erosion. We hiked into the trailhead happy to have gotten some great exercise in the wonderful mountain air. Til next time, have great hikes!

5 miles; 1350 feet elevation gain; 3 hours; average moving speed 1.6 mph

Dropping off End of Wild Horse Ridge

Following Cougar Ridge Trail to Deer Creek Crossing

Deer Creek Pond below Picnic Area

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Upper Bristlecone Trail - 7/27/19

Lee Peak from Upper Bristlecone Trail

South Sister from Upper Bristlecone Trail

Painted Horse next to Lee Canyon Road

Lee Peak, Tall Ponderosa and Ski Slopes at Trailhead
Upper Bristlecone Trail has always been a favorite of the club's and of mine. It is well-maintained, has ample parking and is well-traveled on the weekends if you so desire to do an ill advised solo hike. It is also gorgeous with the limestone / dolomite rock, semi-old growth bristlecones and a large aspen grove to wander through. Today, twenty hikers arrived to do the 5 mile out and back hike from the Upper Bristlecone Trailhead to the Bonanza Trail junction. After the previous four days of rain, the trail was washed and smelled wonderful! The air was still full of humidity but the temperature was deliciously cool and we couldn't stop exclaiming to that effect!

Having Fun with 20 Hikers
We parked above the Ski Lee entrance and below the helipad. The rangers have finally given up trying to convince visitors to not park on the helipad and have roped off the whole circle.

Turn in the Trail
We started up between the fence railings and headed into the aspens. Our pace was slow as we enjoyed our morning out.

Well Maintained Trail

Front Group waiting for Back Group
Every so often, the group stopped to let the last hikers catch up. They weren't far behind and there was plenty of shade to accommodate us in the first mile of the hike. At the 1 mile mark of the hike, we stopped at the junction of No Name Trail that turns off to the left. After a good rest, we continued up to the overlook - a pointed turn on the top of a trailing ridge where there are great views of Mummy Mountain and South Sister. Today's hikers were curious about some of these more difficult hikes. The section after this is, perhaps, the most beautiful of the Bristlecone Trail. Even though the trail becomes more uneven, the beauty abounds!

Gorgeous Terrain
BTW, the Las Vegas Grasshopper Invasion of 2019 has not reached the high elevations of the Spring Mountains. Hopefully, the hoards of little critters will find enough to do on the Las Vegas Strip and not need to go hiking! (We'll see.) 👀

Mummy Mountain from approach to Overlook
The trail wound in and out of the natural terrain of ridges and steep slopes. Finally we connected to the forest road that continues down to the Lower Bristlecone Trailhead.

Watch your Step!

Down the Short Steep Slope
There is a steep slippery hill here but it is short. We carefully made our way down and on to the Bonanza Trail junction. My first observation was that they have placed a new information sign here at the junction. Someone said that it must have been erected just the day before. The sign talks about the Mt. Charleston Blue Butterfly. The butterflies' habitat includes a large amount of acreage around the Bristlecone Trail and the Bonanza Trail. In fact, the fence railings at the start of the Upper Bristlecone were erected around ten years ago to protect the little dime-sized flutterers. We stopped here for our break. There were a few hikers coming down the Bonanza switchbacks while we talked.

Brand New Signage about Mt. Charleston Blue Butterflies
After several minutes, we started back. Gray clouds were growing over Mummy Mountain but they didn't seem like they would become a threat to us.

Finding Shade at the Bonanza Trail Junction
We hiked up the steep short hill then noticed purple thistles on the side of the trail. Large moths were buzzing around them doing a really good impression of hummingbirds! Yes, they were Hummingbird Hawk Moths feeding at Scotch Thistles!

Hummingbird Hawk Moth at Scotch Thistle

Long Line on Return
We hiked the 2.5 miles back down to the cars slowly but with only a couple of breaks. It's mostly downhill! Conversation continued and we passed many other weekend hikers who had traveled up the mountain for a cool respite and, perhaps, to get away from the grasshoppers! A lovely hike on a lovely day with lovely people! Great day, everyone! (And, thanks Ron, for a few extra photos that I missed!)

5 miles; 800 feet elevation gain; 3 hours; average moving speed 1.6 mph

Climbing back up to the High Point

Descending from the Overlook

Back through the Aspens and Fence Railings