Sunday, August 30, 2020

Horse Peak Loop Exploration #2 - 8/29/20

Dead Tree Photo on Horse Peak
Today's hike was the second exploration of an intended loop that includes Horse Peak, the peak that rises at the top of Horse Canyon off of Macks Canyon Road. The simple loop is one that climbs to the peak then descends down through the already familiar Sisters Spur Road and wash. This leads back to Macks Canyon Road and out. Rita and I will do a series of explorations that will give us knowledge of the canyons and ridges that lie between the two 4WD roads. Then we hope to make a loop hike that will challenge and entertain hikers using some of the routes we have discovered. On today's route, we discovered a few game trails that would be very useful. There seems to many of these in this area. Until next exploration, happy hiking!

Stats: 6.1 miles; 1650' gain; 4 hours

Friday, August 28, 2020

Foxtail Ridge - 8/27/20

Bristlecone Snag on Foxtail Ridge - View to North Loop Ridge

View down Canyon & Mummy Mountain from Foxtail Ridge

Five on the Line ... Ridge Line

First Mile from Trailhead
 There were five on the ridge line today as our small pod of club members climbed Foxtail Ridge. This rugged and steep ridge had been explored by Jerry and Cheryl on previous dates and declared strenuously steep in the upper regions. Today, our modestly strenuous hikers intended to go to only a certain point on the ridge and then return. The ridge promised a new perspective of the upper part of Lee Canyon. It also promised a good workout with fantastic views. The five of us parked at what we are now calling "The Pay Phone Trailhead!" This TH is located across Lee Canyon Road from Old Mill Picnic Area immediately below the Lee Canyon Road traffic circle. The old pay phone can almost be seen up the Old Mill Road in front of the fire station house. (And, yes, it still works!)

Pioneer Rock (L of C) from Foxtail Ridge
 The Girl Scouts' Camp Foxtail and a Group Picnic Area is found to the left of the traffic circle as you are going up canyon. Most of the time, the gate is closed to this area as it was today.

Climbing Ridge through Pines
 When the gate is closed, cars are not allowed in. But, hikers are free to roam as this area is included in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area. (However, not suggested when the girl scout camp is in session.)

View back to the Sisters Ridge

Enjoying the Beautiful Ridge Area
 We, however, crossed over to the hillside that rises directly from the gate area. This is the beginning of Foxtail Ridge. Right away, we woke up our hearts and lungs to get to a level area at the top of the hill. There is an old abandoned forest road here that we followed for around a mile up to the Lee Canyon Water Tank. (On the way, we noticed a skinny tall tree leaning on some telephone(?) wires.) Up at the water tank, we continued straight up the ridge and found ourselves on a vague trail. This trail continues off and on all the way up the ridge. The places that it was not very clear were usually the "go arounds" needed for passing cliff bands. The trail was fairly strong on top of the ridge itself.

Pause for Photo
 There was a lot of evidence that wild horses sometimes frequent this ridge and they seem to prefer the lower or "go around" trails.

A Mountaineer!
 Reaching the Monte Cristo Limestone that makes up the cliffs of the ridge, we fell in awe of the beauty. Many photos! This is where we saw a big white rock outcropping near the base of Mummy Mountain. Checking with our topos, we learned that this rock is named Pioneer Rock.

One of the "Go Arounds"

Rita returns to the Ridge
Moving up along the ridge trail, we passed Pioneer Rock and the cliff views continued. The view back revealed the entire Sisters Ridge to one side and Mummy Mountain to the other. A little further up, we looked directly down on the Upper Bristlecone Trailhead and the Lee Canyon Ski Resort and ski slopes. Approaching the first of a series of cliff bands, we had to choose a route around. At each "go around" we started by leveling off on a "trail" down from the ridge. But, to return to the ridge, there was some very steep climbing to be done. This is somewhat tiring and a little frustrating since you had to keep re-attaining elevation. But, hey, you are hiking!

A Slightly exciting Place!
 The most beautiful and satisfying section of this hike for me is what I will call the "Beautiful Ridge Area." But, I concede, if you are satisfyingly sated with scrambles of class 2, 3 and 4, the best is yet to come!

The Group with Cheryl behind the Camera
 With the "Beautiful Ridge Area" coming to an end, we reached the first of the scrambles; a short class 3 wall. Very "sticky" and lots to hold onto. Fun!

Another Mountaineer!

Women climbing a Wall!
 After this, we had to go around a long wall that ran along the cliff. There is brush to contend with then a very steep climb back up to the ridge that had not stopped ascending. This happened a couple of times before the King Wall of them all, appeared ahead. (See second photo down.) I cried "Uncle" and we decided to stop about 0.4 mile before our target. It had been an amazing climb and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Suffice it to say, Jerry and Cheryl said that the 0.4 mile remaining "just gets worse." We retreated to a fire ring we had recently passed and sat for our break after destroying it ... the second fire ring destruction of the day!

View back from top of That Wall
We wondered where the ridge connected with the North Loop Trail at the top. Research tells us that Foxtail Ridge connects with the North Loop at the 5 Mile Campsite.

Our Turnaround Point - ~2.10 miles Up from Trailhead
 The descent was difficult at times but retreating down the Beautiful Ridge Area was magnificent! The go arounds were easier since there wasn't a need to return to ridge as soon as possible. Our descent ended at the water tank where a log-lined trail headed down the hill into Camp Foxtail.

 Second Fire Ring Destruction of the Day - (Rita just threw a rock!)

View down to the Upper Bristlecone Trailhead
 Instead of following the forest road back as we had come, we dropped down into the camp area. There was no one around and we quietly turned to the left and started hiking down the access road. Eventually, we came to the group picnic area. The signs here named each group site as a desert animal with the native word for the animal on the sign as well. Interesting! We had fun trying to pronounce the unfamiliar words and probably butchered them in the process. This was an interesting new strenuous hike that should be repeated as a four miler for the mainstream club members. It could also be incorporated into an easier hike with further exploration in the Foxtail Canyon.

Stats: 4.2 miles; 1400' gain; 4 hours

Descending Beautiful Ridge Area

Passing through Camp Foxtail & Group Picnic Area

Down the Access Road

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Overlook Ridge Loop - 8/25/20

Five off Trail on the Dead Photo Tree

South Sister and Mummy Mountain from the Upper Bristlecone Trail

Lee Peak (L) and Charleston Peak (R) from above Wallace Saddle

Bristlecone Trail nearing No Name Junction
Today, we had five of the pod of six starting out from the Upper Bristlecone Trailhead. It would be a new route for the group in the category of a strong moderately strenuous level. This route utilized an assortment of previously club-hiked trails that have been in use by the club for the last few years. Since this hike is a conglomeration of various hiking and game trails, I strongly urge you to research the hike before heading out. Use a GPS that will allow you to retrace your steps if necessary. The hike begins by hiking up the Upper Bristlecone Trail to the No Name Trail junction one mile up. It was a beautiful cool morning with the sunlight just making its way through the aspens and pines.

Morning from Wallace Trail
We turned left onto the No Name Trail then left again on the Wallace Trail a little further up.

Climbing Wallace Trail - "Wake up Heart and Lungs!"
The Wallace Trail has been blocked off by limbs to deter those who do not know where they are going. We turned left here and started waking up our hearts and lungs on the steep short climb.

Climbing up from Wallace Saddle

Respite on the Ascent
 At the top of the steepness, the trail turns to the right and traverses on a gentle slope over to the Wallace Saddle. The wind was blowing pretty hard on the saddle since Wallace Canyon opens out in a southwestern direction. With a brief pause here, we turned to the right and faced the music. This is a formidable ascent up to a ridge peak. There is a trail that follows or parallels the steep ridge line. In the three weeks prior to today, we had used this ridge for a descent. The consensus from the group held that the ridge is better as an ascent than a descent so when we reached the top, we were all pretty happy that it wasn't as challenging as we had anticipated.

Slope of the Ascent (Charleston Peak in Background)
There was a small intermediary peak then a flattish saddle type section then the trail heads around the top peak on its right side.

Mt. Reagan (L), Mt. Clinton (C) and Wallace Canyon (R)
After you follow the trail to the other side of the peak, the route continues around to the left until it turns to the right and leads down the remaining ridge. The vague path is a bit unclear.

Still Climbing

First small peak on Ascent
Nearing the saddle below, we took note of the two cairns placed in the middle of a trail fork. The other side of the fork leads back to the other side of the "hill." We kept straight for a short way to take in the magnificent view of Wallace Canyon, the back of Charleston Peak, Mt. Reagan, Mt Clinton and Pahrump in the distance. On a shorter hike, this would be a great snack place! After a few photos, we turned around to follow the trail back to the fork. This time, we took the trail leading around the other side of the mountain. (now left of the cairns) The trail slowly starts descending into a steep shortish route down to the No Name Saddle.

Highest Ridge Ascent Peak Ahead
As we stood at the saddle, we discussed Clark Canyon which laid out to our left. We have heard that there is some privately owned land down there. Where are the boundaries? Inquiring minds want to know.

View of Wallace Canyon and Pahrump from Overlook Ridge
We turned to the left and followed the No Name Trail around the head of the canyon then climbed up to the Photo Tree and a campsite on the ridge above the trail.

Small rest at the Overlook

Important Double Cairn
Must have a photo at the Photo Tree! The tree is dead so, climbing onto the strong branches, we posed for a shot. Next, we walked over to the campsite and destroyed the fire ring among the trees. Think again folks. The next part of our route took us along that ridge paralleling the No Name Trail below and to our left. At the end of the ridge, there is a nice climb up to a peak among the old trees. Here lies an old fort structure built many years ago with deadwood limbs. There is a fire ring inside it as well but we didn't climb in to do our destruction. From there, the trail continues down the hill to the No Name/Bonanza junction. Since the junction was busy with other hikers, we sat on a log about 50 yards up and took our break.

Steep Descent Trail to No Name Saddle
At the junction, we turned to the right and headed downhill on the four long Bonanza switchbacks ending up at the Bonanza/Bristlecone junction.

Hiking the Ridge above the No Name Trail
This part of the Bristlecone Trail is in the sun so we didn't stay long at the junction. We turned to the right and started up the Upper Bristlecone Trail.

Proud Bristlecone on Ridge - This one is alive!

Starting down from Fort Structure to No Name/Bonanza Junction
We hiked around the familiar trail taking in the absolute beauty of the bristlecones, limestone and surrounding mountains. We passed a small group of hikers recognizing one of them as being no other than Linda O'Leary. We almost always see someone we know! When we reached the one switchback on the trail, Jerry and Cheryl took the extra elevation gain up to the overlook. Next, we parted from the Bristlecone Trail and continued straight out the ridge from the point of the switchback. We'll call this a game trail even though there is plenty of evidence that hikers use it, too! The trail follows the ridge line out to a dipped saddle.

Fort Structure
At the saddle, there is a trail that leads down and around the hill in front of you. We followed that trail ending up at the top of a very steep hill that passes through a pine glade.

Approaching the Bristlecone Trail Junction from Switchbacks
Down. Down. Down. We ended up at a small trail that leads to the Bristlecone Trail where we turned left and started back to the trailhead.

South Sister and Mummy Mountain from Bristlecone Trail

Starting out Game Trail Ridge
As an option, I separated from the group and took the wash down to just past the tiny switchback further down. It is a shortcut and there is a vague trail. All of this last part is pretty intuitive starting with the pine glade. Again, it is a no brainer if you have a GPS that tells you where you are! This hike is a keeper! Expect it on the schedule next year!

Stats: 6 miles; 1700' gain; 4.25 hours

A Bird? A Plane? No, it's a low-flying helicopter!

Lee Peak from Game Trail Ridge

Steep Drop back to Bristlecone Trail