Sunday, May 31, 2020

Black & White Sisters via The Elks Club Wash - 5/30/20

Black Sister on Sisters (Approach) Ridge

Mike & Rita on White Sister (Black Sister in Background)

North Sister from Sisters Ridge

Starting up The Elks Club Wash
Normally, our club climbs to Black & White Sisters by using the Sisters Spur Road. This road turns to the left after driving up Macks Canyon Road for 2 miles. Our hike would begin there. That route presents the least amount of elevation gain and is a little less than 4 miles. On Saturday, three club members continued an exploratory to find a route up to the rocky sisters directly from Lee Canyon Road. Especially in the time of COVID-19, we won't always be able to pile into high clearance cars to negotiate the sometimes rough Macks Canyon Road. There were only two caveats that we knew. One was that the climb would have 300' more elevation gain. The other was that we would be dealing with brushier terrain inside the rarely used washes.

Merging with Nutans Road

Two days prior, we had checked out a wash that we named The Elks Club Wash. This wash is a direct route up to the final steep climb to the Sisters Ridge whereon Black Sister reigns. It is a nice wash that appears to be used by horses and elk. (Thus, the name!)

Continuation of The Elks Club Wash

Part of the wash is also accentuated by a small mining road called Nutans Road. There is a small spur off the wash that leads up to an area of old mine artifacts about half a mile from the trailhead located on Lee Canyon Road just after its junction with Deer Creek Road.

Mountain Lion Dinner Dishes

Nearing Top of The Elks Club Wash
There is a cow grate in the road here and you park on the left side as you are driving up. The Elks Club Wash is almost directly across the road from the turnout and this is where the hike begins. A little way up the wash, you start to parallel Nutans Road. We visited the mine artifacts and returned to the wash to continue climbing. The wash curves to the left further up and this is where it gets more brushy. Our pace was measured in order to save ourselves for the final climb that we knew was coming. It was a very windy day and when the wash curved, we began really feeling it. The constant roar of the wind above us was deafening to a point! Onward and upward! 

Resting Saddle

Finally, we reached the top of the wash that came out exactly at the Resting Saddle before the steep climb to the top.

Starting Steep Climb up to Sister Ridge

We did rest. Discussed. And, decided to continue up regardless of the wind. Perhaps a little risky but we were strong experienced hikers and we were determined, Black Sister or BUST!

Deadwood Landmark at end of Sister Ridge

Mike makes last Approach to Black Sister
   We took on the steep climb slowly and methodically and made it to the trailing ridge, the Sisters Ridge. From there, we turned to the right, climbed the ridge to Black Sister where Mike and Rita scrambled up. Then we made our visit over to White Sister. There were several times where we had to just stop in our tracks and face into the wind for fear of being pushed over by the 30-40 mph gusts! One time, a small branch fell very close to Mike. Yikes! Our visit atop was short and sweet. We got our photos then started back down to the Resting Saddle area. As we descended, we moved over toward the top of our descent wash, Deadwood Wash. Rita wanted to name the wash Lotta Dead Trees Wash! (Love it!) There were several trees that had come crashing down in the recent past crossing over the wash. However, it is a wide wash and there is plenty of room to go around the mounds of brush that seem to appear every 50' or so. We knew that this wash was used sometimes by other hiking groups and it was just about as "trailed" as The Elks Club Wash. In my humble opinion, The Elks Club Wash was better for the ascent since there were fewer places where hikers had to "go up and around" the brush.

Rita scrambles Up

We descended the wash picking our way down following the occasional vague trails and bulldozing through the deadwood. We "hugged" the hillside on the left as the wash curved around.

Mike on White Sister

There is a wash fork in this area so we were careful to ignore the wash heading to the right. Sometimes, our wash was wide and brushy leaving us to find the wash in the trees ahead.

Starting down Deadwood Wash

Hiking Yoga

       Keeping true to the left curving direction, the wash  became more spread out and brushier but staying the course proved to be a good plan when we saw the green roof of the house on Canyon Eye Road not far below. We stayed in the wash all the way to the dirt road and crossed it right where there is a sign on the tree warning of a dog somewhere in the area! This put us in the pine straw meadow that pleasantly led us directly back to the trailhead. The steep climbs were quite a workout and the wind never got the better of us! So, this is one way to get to Black Sister from Lee Canyon Road!
Stats: 3.5 miles; 1900' gain; 3.5 hours

Deadwood Wash

Nearing bottom of Deadwood Wash

Pinestraw Meadow

Friday, May 29, 2020

Horse Peak Loop Exploratory - 5/28/20

Horse Peak (Black Sister in Distance)

Mining Sled at Ada and Edith's Mine

Mummy's Nose, Chin & Forehead (and Lee Peak) from Horse Peak

Starting up the end of Horse Canyon
Necessary tools for an exploratory of terrain that the group has no previous knowledge of:
1) a group of people that love exploring
2) a group of people that are ready for almost anything
3) at least 1 person who has studied the "to be explored" terrain v. Google Earth
4) at least 1 person who has a topography map is highly useful
5) a group of people who just enjoy a day on the mountain with no real agendas
6) GPSs, for sure

On Thursday, five friends began searching for a good, not so steep route to Black Sister without the necessity of driving out Macks Canyon Road. Other purposes were to learn more about Horse Canyon Road (a 4WD road that spurs off of Macks Canyon Road) and to get a feel for the Ada & Edith Mine on Nutans Road (a small mine found not too far up into the mountain above Lee Canyon Road.

Rita with Horse Canyon in the Background

We parked at the junction of Lee Canyon Road and Macks Canyon Road to begin our hike out Macks Canyon Road for almost a half mile. Here, we turned left to begin a gentle climb of Horse Canyon Road.

Approaching the Summit of Horse Peak

Horse Canyon Road is a very nice but narrow high clearance 4WD road that has several primitive campsites. We didn't see anyone camping in these sites so we had the canyon to ourselves.

Horse Peak to Black Sister, McFarland Peak and Macks Peak

Mike on Horse Peak
The road petered out after about a mile but a trail continued up the wash at that point. When we reached the box canyon fork of 3 washes, we discussed the routes. To the right, there is a wash that is more gentle in slope but it is longer to the peak in front of us (Horse Peak). The left wash is shorter and steeper. Another wash presents a difficult scree slope as seen on Google Earth. Not seeing much difference in the left wash and the ridge climb in front of us, we chose to just go straight up. Up, up, and up, we struggled for around a third of a mile. Regardless of the effort, we enjoyed ourselves and the gorgeous views that started appearing about half way up. We decided to name the peak "Horse Peak" simply because it rose at the end of Horse Canyon! We had seen evidence of wild horses and elk along the way ... and probably a deer or two. Finally, at the top, we could appreciate Horse Peak in its entirety. We had only hiked 2.1 miles but we had a 360 degree view of Mummy's Nose, Forehead, and Chin, and Black Sister, McFarland Peak, and Macks Peak.

Starting down into The Elks Club Wash

We also had a clear disheartening view of the route we faced to continue up to Black Sister! First, we would have to lose about 150 elevation feet then begin again with the climbing ... topping it off with that really mean last climb to Black Sister.

Just my Size
Losing all that hard-earned gain was just too much for any of us to swallow right then so, after a unanimous vote, we decided to begin a loop down from there to try and find Nutans Road and the nearby mine. (It was a hot day anyhow!)

Starting up Nutans Road to the Mine

Tailings and Sled/Trolley Run
We circled around a small peak in front of us on a game trail then dropped down to the saddle junction above the Sisters Spur Road. (Familiar territory.) Then, we turned to the left and began a fairly steep drop in a wash that connected to another wash we affectionately called The Elks Club Wash! Lots of elk evidence here. This wash was easy to negotiate. (You just never know about washes until you try them.) I guess the animals use it often. Another half mile and we noticed a small trail up the left side of the wash that led us to junction with Nutans Road where it switchbacked up the hill. We only hiked up the small mine trail about 100' to find a few mine artifacts. At that point, we decided to come back some other day and explore the mine area more thoroughly. The mine trail is supposed to continue around the next ridge. Next, we descended Nutans Road to Lee Canyon Road and finally, hiked back to the cars for a mile along the pavement. ... (not our original plan!) Nevertheless, it was a successful exploration with a lot of possibilities for a future hike or two. It's amazing what you can find in these mountains!

Stats: 4.4 miles; 1300' gain; 3.25 hours

Old Mine Floom or Flue?

Descending Nutans Road

One Mile on Lee Canyon Road

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

AtBF Post Isolation Project Clean-Up - 5/27/20

AtBFers at Lone Mountain
 Richard James, Candice, Steve & Becky A. and I have sort of adopted Lone Mountain. Occasionally we have others that join us. Since March we’ve have brought down 142 thirty gallon trash bags off the slopes of the mountain. Besides the “normal” trash we have collected dozens of golf balls, tennis balls, and footballs. Also a lot of construction material. Largest item was the tailgate from a Nissan pickup that was just below the ridge line. ~ Steve Allen

Yea!!! 🎉    AtBF Doin' the Dirty Work

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

AtBF Post Isolation Project Clean-Up - 5/26/20

Mike and I picked up 3 bags of trash along 2.5 miles of the Acastus Trail today! We also had a great time doing it. The rangers that saw us were very appreciative. In this post shut down period, we want to encourage all hikers to bring a bag with you and help pick up. The rangers have a lot of other things to repair before the parks' reopening. We can all be part of the solution! Thanks!

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Angel Peak - 5/20/20

Angel Peak Dome

Intrepid Hikers in a Teeny Tiny Sleet Storm

Angel Peak from Juniper Trailhead

Starting Out from Juniper TH (notice SD!)
Warily stepping out from the safety of my home, I began hiking with a few friends a week ago after socially isolating because of COVID-19 for two months. We have, thus far, done four hikes meeting high winds, sleet and wonderful weather alike. We keep our social distancing (SD) and wear masks when we feel uncomfortable. We also know the Spring Mountains NRA pretty well and find great hikes to do that are much less travelled. Rita, Cheryl and Jerry T. and I have a lot of fun together as we can all be pretty silly when we want to! And, I have to say, my first hike back out of isolation was absolutely freeing and beautiful. It was as if I was seeing Windy Peak for the first time all over again!

Still SD-ing! Getting into the First Wash

Good Landmark - Mushroom Rock Wall

Cheryl Swings on a Branch - (We don't take ourselves too seriously!)

Nearing the Angel Canyon Confluence
So, Wednesday, the three of us wanted to climb Angel Peak! (Well, mostly me!) This was my third ascent of the ridiculously difficult-to-reach peak. I am honing my route to become as straight forward as possible. And, this round became extremely brushy as we explored a neighboring ridge for the ascent to Wooden Pole Powerline Road then negotiated the brushy wash (shortest route) for our descent. Also, we accidentally explored a different wash below the trailhead on the way back. (It had to be done!) At the end, we came to the conclusion that the shortest route out and back is the best with the option of the initial descent to the First Wash be done in the explored wash.

Kay at the Angel Canyon Confluence (View down Canyon)

Rita in the Wide Brushy reaches of Angel Canyon

Exploring a Ridge next to the Connecting Ascent Brushy Wash

Cheryl presents the Wooden Pole Powerline Road
We began dropping down on the Showgirl Trail, then entered the First Wash. Although it is a little confusing, the wash is found by just continuing your descent fairly close to the left embankment. We passed a couple of reassuring landmarks like the Rotted Trees and the Mushroom Rock Wall. Before we realized it, we were at the confluence of the First Wash and Angel Canyon. The best thing to do here is go upstream staying in the trench-like wash. But, we went ahead and crossed the very brushy wide area of Upper Angel Canyon. We found an entry up onto the ridge just before the Brushy Wash to the saddle and began our steep brushy climb. We knew that staying on the trailing ridge would require us to gain more elevation, but we were willing to see if the going was less brushy on  the ridge than the previously taken route on the side of the ridge above the Brushy Wash. Comprenez?

Rita and Kay slowly climbing the Steep Slope

Views from Angel Peak Place (paved road)

Circling the Angel Peak Dome

Approaching the Summit!
Nope! Very, very brushy. We were bulldozing, again and again, through the dead wood with a clear space appearing only once in a while. And, we decided that the extra elevation gain was not worth the effort. On the Wooden Pole Powerline Road, we followed the steepness all the way up to the paved road, Angel Peak Place. Gorgeous views with a large dark cloud that was lightly dropping tiny sleet balls on us as we worked. More fantastic views could be seen from the paved road as it curved around and up to the peak. Most interesting was the view of Lucky Strike Canyon and the small peaks that lined its road. Jerry and Cheryl had climbed those peaks only a few weeks before.

Taking a Break on the Summit

Well Worn Guard Rail on Angel Peak Place

Starting down the Treacherously Steep Dirt Road

Rita makes her way through the Brushy Wash
Finally at the top, we enjoyed our rest and started back down through the increasing teeny tiny sleet storm. Down the treacherously rocky dirt road and into Brushy Wash. After some wishy washy decision-making, we barged down the center of the wash. Yep! A lot of brush but passable. Definitely better than the ridge. At the bottom, we crossed to the wash that flows down Angel Canyon in a small trench and junctioned with the mouth of First Wash. On the way up this wash, I took a "wrong" turn and ended up climbing the wash that goes directly up to the cars. It's steep but the route is, indeed, shorter. Absolutely fun day! Maybe I'll see you around out there ... or not!

Stats for the recommended route: 7 miles; 2100' gain; 5-6 hours

Small Dry Fall in Brushy Wash

Happy Hikers reaching Angel Canyon Again

Return in First Wash

Previous Hike Elevation Graph

Recommended Route

Recommended Route

Recommended Route

Recommended Route