Friday, August 30, 2019

Stanley B / Fletcher Canyon Loop - 8/29/19

Stanley B Saddle (Mummy's Toe in Background)

Small Slot of Upper Fletcher Canyon

Mt. Charleston Angelicas in Lower Fletcher Canyon

Starting along the Kyle Drainage Trail
 It's the dog days of summer and six hikers showed up for a mostly pleasant cool loop hike that began and ended at the Fletcher Canyon Trailhead. At the high point of the hike, Stanley B saddle, the air was so fresh that we spoke of sitting there for the rest of the day. Then, as we followed the maze down through Fletcher Canyon later, we felt the most amazing cool breezes angling up between the walls. Yes, considering the unrelenting heat in the alluvial fan of Las Vegas, today's hike in the Spring Mountains was not only beautiful but cool as well. We started the loop by crossing the bridge over Kyle Canyon wash and starting up the drainage trail.

Deer in Campground
We followed the trail for about one mile next to the drainage up past the entrance to the Rainbow community then turned right to climb up over the paved road and into the Stanley B Trailhead.

Climbing the Beautiful Stanley B Wash
 The first 1.5 miles of the Stanley B Trail is considered an easy moderate hike out and back. Using the canyon wash and an old mining road, the trail leads up to a mine entrance and piped spring.

Stanley B Wash

Trail to the Stanley B Mine
 The rocky canyon wash is pretty then we crossed paths with the mining road. This took us up the hill with Kyle Canyon views to the short cut path on the left. Up the path, we junctioned again with the same mining road that led us to the Leroy Mining sign high up on a big old tree. Since we had a few newbies in our group today, we explored the piped spring and the air hole on the left side of this fork. Afterwards, we continued up the right fork to see the main mine. BTW, the bees are back in the area here. After a pause and a look-see, we headed on up the wash which is a lot easier said than done! What a brushy mess! My guess is that not many hikers have been through here this year.

Stanley B Mine Points of Interest (L-R)
Old Mining Road, Small Waterfall below Spring, Leroy Mining Sign,
 Main Mine Entrance, Air Hole of Main Mine, Piped Spring
 Hand clippers would help a lot but there are also a few trees making the way through here very difficult in the first 50 yards or so.

Climbing Stanley B Canyon
 As we ventured further through our morning, it was very clear that the use trails along the route had not been trod much at all this summer. Probably due to the late snow pack.

One of Three Dry Falls in Canyon

Under the Windmill Tree
 Getting through the initial brush, the route through the wash opened up and we followed it easily. It is a somewhat challenging route that includes three dry falls, fallen trees and steep scree-filled short climbs. Important directions are to take the left fork at the clearing then take the right fork at a sharp limestone outcropping. Duck under the windmill tree at one point! Next, the climb to the saddle becomes steep and final! As mentioned, we took our break here while enjoying great views of Kyle Canyon on one side and Mummy's Toe on the other. Reluctant to leave the cool saddle, we rose for the "fun" part of the hike and headed toward the landmark tree with a U-shaped branch.

Above Last Right Fork
 This is the first place that was missing a worn trail. In the past, there has been a trail that angled past the tree and down to the wash below. Pretty much gone, we made our way down anyway.

Kyle Canyon View from Stanley B Saddle
 Then the "trail" down the first ravine was non-existent. We found our way anyway. Drifting to the left after the big rocky descent, we found the trail over to the next ravine still in tact ... vaguely.

Taking a Well-Deserved Break at the Saddle

Making our Way down the Rocky Descent of 1st Ravine
 Down ravine #2, I must urge myself to stay in the wash as long as possible ... only leaving the wash when the way is blocked ... until the top of the cliff dry fall is in view below. A large fallen tree is in this section where we balanced carefully since the tree is approaching total decay. At this point, the trail to the left is not clear until you get up to the top of the small ridge. From there, it is imperative that you find the trail that angles down left to Upper Fletcher Canyon. A false lead here could put you at the top, or the bottom, of a cliff whose base borders Fletcher Canyon. We don't want that! Finally, we dropped down to the sound of flowing of water at a familiar place but without the assurance of previous footsteps.

Precarious Up and Around Ponderosa Waterfall
 The route down Upper Fletcher Canyon is, at best, a maze that reappears every year. However, this year, the harsh winter snow has offered a few more fallen trees.

Ponderosa Waterfall
 The tree that you usually go under near the campsite broke likely due to weight of snow. There is a new tree in the Upper Narrows which does not impede progress. It did a header into the gap. And, one open section of the canyon seems more convoluted due to ... I don't know ... brush(?), fallen trees(?), or just lack of hikers. Need clippers here to clip away the thorny wild rose bushes. Ouch!

The Water still flows deep into Fletcher Canyon

Almost down to the Upper Narrows
 Some of the trail is unchanged so we made good progress. Quickly, the first obstacle is going up and around the Ponderosa Waterfall. All is still in tact here except for a new log in the waterfall cove. The small slot seems clearer at the top (see 2nd photo) than in the past. The secret passage is still good with a cute small cairn marking the way. We showed the newbies how to get down to the small slot from below. The log that we had to start balancing a few years ago is broken and it is difficult to get around at this time. The large shelter has returned to a broken mess of logs among more thorny rose bushes! Clippers? Then water in the canyon makes getting through certain sections difficult.

Entering Upper Narrows
 Finally, we roamed into the Upper Narrows. Gorgeous as usual. Lots and lots of butterflies fluttering about drawn by the smell of a possible decaying animal caught in the jaws of the narrow opening. (Okay, so I'm a frustrated mystery writer. 😕)

Narrowing Down
 The narrows led us down to the top of Obstacle Rock, that same rock where we end our hike from the bottom up. Next, the dance of the infamous Rabbit Hole!

Inside Fletcher Narrows just above Obstacle Rock

Through the Slippery Rabbit Hole and Under the Rock
 The state of the Rabbit Hole has also changed with the spring flooding and other hikers making attempts at facilitating the climb and descent with logs. We made it through the mangled mess under the large rock after slipping through the narrow opening and said "hello" to hikers at the base, one hiker was the cutest little toddler ... a future Around the Bender! The last mile of the canyon exit got warmer and warmer but was offset by the intermittent cool breeze that persisted. An absolutely lovely day in the mountains on a hike that survives on its wonder and beauty.

6 miles; 1800 feet elevation gain; 4.5 hours; average moving speed 1.5 mph

Hiking through the Lower Narrows

Nearing the Bottom of Fletcher Canyon Narrows

New White Pedestrian Crossing Lines!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Echo Cliffs / South Loop 1st Overlook - 8/26/19

View from Top of Echo Cliffs

Echo Cliffs

Harris Peak from Echo Cliffs

First set of Steps on South Loop
The South Loop Trail begins at the Cathedral Rock / South Loop Trail Trailhead and continues up and around the base of the Echo Cliffs. It passes a place we call Rainbow Junction where a connecting trail led over to the upper parts of the Rainbow community. Since the wildfire of 2013, this trail has been closed and hikers are not allowed inside the community ... a loss for the hiking community. Now, the old road / trail that connects with the South Loop at this point leads only around the small adjacent hilltop and back to Rainbow Junction. Next, the South Loop climbs several steps, a dreaded section of the hike.

Warm Morning
Seven hikers headed up the steps determined to take their time in the warm morning temperatures. There hadn't been a lot of shade up to this point but, after the steps, we did hike into some shade.

Mummy's Toe from South Loop Trail
The next landmark is the large Griffith Peak drainage crossing. I had not seen this crossing since all the snow melted. It appeared quite different.

Grabbing some Shade

Approaching the Switchbacks
The South Loop's first large group of switchbacks came next. Fourteen switchbacks climbed the hill below the 1st Overlook and next to the upper reaches of the drainage we just crossed. We could hear water running but it was difficult to see where the water flowed above ground about 100 feet up the hillside. Half of the switchbacks were in shade and the other half were in warm sun. We persevered slowly while taking necessary (and unnecessary) breaks observing a hummingbird feeding at the thistles and the famous fossil rock. Today's hike was far from a forced march. We ambled along enjoying what nature has to offer in the higher temperatures of late August.

Looking for the Running Water
The last traverse of the switchbacks was in the sun so we were happy to reach the Echo Cliffs Overlook where we took our break in the shade with a grandiose view at the top of the cliffs.

Hummingbird & Thistle
I took my first walk out onto the peninsula for the first photo of this entry. I was extremely careful! I found a wider view of Mummy Mountain and lower Kyle Canyon. Plus the cliffs on the other side of the chasm below Griffith Peak. (see third photo)

Fossil Rock

Echo Cliffs to Kyle Canyon
After the break, we started back down passing several other hikers on their way up. We were very glad that we got an early start since we saw the signs of heat related fatigue in some of the others. We also passed friends from one of the Henderson hiking clubs who were doing just fine! Experience helps! Returning to the trailhead, we were all happy and healthy having had a nice easy-paced moderate hike to start our day. Looking forward to cooler temperatures.

4.3 miles; 1300 feet elevation gain; 2.75 hours; average moving speed 1.5 mph

Enjoying a Break at the Overlook

Descending the Switchbacks

Echo Cliffs and Charleston Peak