Thursday, June 30, 2022

Charleston Peak (11,916') - Spring Mountains NRA - Photo Essay - 6/28/22

Above the Tree Line with Charleston Peak in the Shadow of the Clouds

Charleston Peak Summit

North Loop Trail among the Cliffs of Charleston Peak

Starting up the South Loop Trail
At 5:30am, four happy hikers started their climb up to Charleston Peak 2022! It would be the second time for Ralyn, the fifth for Charlie, the seventh for moi, and probably the umpteenth time for Ralph. The planned route was up the South Loop and down the North Loop, a new one for Ralyn. It is my preferred route but it requires two cars; one at Trail Canyon Trailhead and one at the South Loop Trailhead. That is, unless you want to close the loop by hiking between trailheads at the end. I did that once ... once. This time, we had two cars at each trailhead and, at about 5:15am, we were preparing for a climb up the South Loop. Yep, needed more coffee! I planned to write an entry for the day, however, I kept the photos at a minimum under the 10,000' elevation.

Sunrise on the Echo Cliffs

Sunrise on Charleston Peak

Sunrise on Mummy's Toe and Echo Cliffs

Switchback lined with Flowers

Two Thirds of the way to Saddle

Nice Break at the Saddle
The sun rose just as we were leaving the cars. What a spectacular display as the sun streamed in from the bottom of Kyle Canyon which lies to the east of Charleston Peak. We found a steady slow pace and continued up only stopping for a short water pause or catching of the breath. We passed a hiker, a runner and a Doberman who were on their way down before we reached the saddle. There are not many people up there this early in the morning! Our excitement spurred us on as we passed the First, Second, Third and Griffith Overlooks. The weight of the extra water in our packs was reduced naturally as we sipped and sipped our way up. At the saddle, we stopped for a morning snack break.

South Loop Trail up to the Meadow

Charleston Peak from South Loop Overlook

Bennie and the Jets

Meadow to Burned Bristlecones

Cleared Trail through Burned Forest

Flowers cover the Scorched Ground

Ralyn arrives at the Corner
I didn't have my GPS but I am estimating that we arrived at the saddle around 8am. After a nice replenishing break, we turned to the right on the South Loop Trail and headed up to the meadow. The meadow is a wide open space on the back slope of the South Loop Ridge filled with grasses and flowers. If it was touched by the Carpenter One Fire of 2013, it doesn't show it. The next 3.5 miles included the meadow and a steadily climbing path up through a burned bristlecone forest. The hiking was very pleasant. It was not at all hard on the lungs or legs. Before 2013, this was a forest not unlike the fantasy forest in Lord of the Rings. Now, it is more like the forest portrayed in the aftermath of a battlefield.

High Elevation Flowers

Trails above the Tree Line - Most hikers take the lower trail.

Three Happy Hikers
Regardless of the sad loss of trees that may never return, the ground is covered with yellow Coopers Rubberweed flowers speckled by blue flax. The trail through the trees has been cleared since the last time I hiked through here. In only one instance did we need to either climb over a log or go around. And, one time we ducked under a fallen tree making an arch. We rested while hiking this stretch then climbed up to what I refer to as the "Corner." The Corner is where the trail bends to the right on a trailing ridge that leads out to the left. We were above the tree line here. Around the corner, we had our first close view of Charleston Peak and it was being overshadowed by a large darkish cloud. The weather forecast had predicted a very small chance of rain.

Charleston Peak Slope from Airplane Crash Site

1955 Airplane Crash Site

Lone Hiker descends from Charleston Peak

Final Ascent to Peak

Four Happy Hikers on Charleston Peak Summit

Mummy Mountain from Wind Shelter on Charleston Peak Summit

Starting down the North Loop Switchbacks

Four Happy Hikers on Charleston's East Face
Taking note of the beautiful high altitude flowers spread in the treeless scree, we hiked over to take the lower trail (a better choice) on around to the peak's west face. The scree filled slope was steep but the trail felt safe. A short detour around to see the 1955 plane crash remnants put us back on the trail. Then, we watched as huge ravens partied on the slope further down. There was one happy hiker that passed us as he came down. The western view showed mountains, canyons and Pahrump! We turned the top corner and arrived at the peak. A new large instrument box has recently been placed on this juncture. The sign in box still stands but another log book has been placed in the wind shelter on the south end of the peak.

Light Rain falling beyond Lee Canyon

North Loop Trail (bottom left) to Lee Peak

Kitchen Inspection
We took photos of the flag and sat comfortably in the wind break for our lunch. It was around 11am. With the peak to ourselves, we took the time to eat a sandwich and look around then, we were ready to descend. We headed over to the new utility box and started down the six switchbacks on the east face. The trail sits flat in the scree with only a couple of protruding rock obstacles. By the time we reached the sixth switchback, we were already below the tree line again as we passed rugged and stalwart bristlecone trees that have weathered at least a thousand years here on the eighth most prominent peak in the continental United States. The trail led us to the Kitchen corner where there used to be a fireplace oven at the campsite.

The Kitchen Balcony

Bristlecone and Limestone

Down and Up or Under
After the Kitchen, we hiked along the top of the cliffs with amazing views as we headed toward Lee Peak. There was one tree down across the trail that presented an obstacle. This section of the trail is the most enchanting as we made our way over to the Devil's Thumbnail. Next, we passed the Lee Peak junction saddle, another cliff section and on up to the 5 Mile Campsite where we took a short break. The next landmark was Big Falls Overlook where the trail takes a decided turn for descent. 

North Loop Trail at a Cliff Corner

Devil's Thumbnail

Nearing Lee Peak Junction

Charleston Peak from Lee Peak Junction

Cliffs above Kyle Canyon

Ralyn leading the Way
Down past the Four Mile Overlook and into the aspens. We found that nest that we couldn't locate before and it had two baby American Grey Flycatchers huddled inside. Past the Mummy Tree. Past Cave Springs. A small break at the Trail Canyon Saddle. Then down those last two excruciating miles of Trail Canyon. Yep. I won't lie. It hurt! But, at the same time, we were all ecstatic to have conquered Charleston Peak once again. A great day in the mountains for Four Happy Hikers! (It thundered once and sprinkled for half a second.)

Stats: 16.5 miles; 4800' gain; 10 hours

Arriving at the Aspen Forest

                                            America Grey Flycatchers almost ready to Fledge

Down through the Aspens

Nearing the Trail Canyon Saddle

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Mummy's Toe - 6/25/22

Charleston Peak as seen from Mummy's Toe

Mummy's Toe Summit Tree

Mummy's Toe from Deer Creek Ridge

Deer Creek Trail junction with Cougar Ridge Trail
Rising to 10,928', Mummy's Toe is the fifth highest commonly climbed peak in the Spring Mountains NRA. It is located on the southeastern terminus of the entire shape of the Mummy, Mummy Mountain. The slope to the tip of the toes from the beginning of Deer Creek Ridge Trail averages around 45 degrees. Many sections of the trail are even steeper. Nonetheless, we make our pilgrimage to the Toe every year testing our condition and endurance. This year, a Fab Four, tackled the monstrous behemoth on a slow pace, yet still managed to complete the hike in good time. 😅

Climbing up Deer Creek Ridge

Ralyn tries to add a Stick to the Top

Ground Nest - Common Poorwill on Nest when we Returned (Can you see her?)

Climbing the Seven Switchbacks
We started from the Cougar Ridge Trailhead and woke up as we climbed the road to the cabins where the road took a right angle turn to the right. Our route continued straight where there is a lined trail inviting hikers to not continue through the cabin resort! This is the Deer Creek Trail. It leads up through columbines and shooting stars that grow in the small and usually dry picturesque wash. The trail crosses the wash a couple of times and it is necessary to follow it closely. There are about 3 trails that will take you to the same place but it is important to not get led away to an earlier ridge. There is a landmark craggy mossy boulder where the trail will take you up to the correct Deer Creek Ridge Trail on the right. Continuing straight will take you up in the adjacent canyon. The trail up to the spine of the ridge is steep and starts hikers on a continuous but doable climb to the Mummy's Toe cross trail that appears just past a large make shift campsite. On the way up, we were startled by a bird that flew quickly from some low lying brush. Searching the brush, we found two eggs lying in a small dirt bowl on the ground.

Crossing above Mummy Springs

Starting the really Steep Stuff

Scrambling up the Chute

Taking the Middle Trail
We turned to the right at the cross trail and began a somewhat easier climb up seven switchbacks. The last switchback sent us on a long traverse across the area above Mummy Springs. There are a few newly fallen trees from here on out. The trail then begins a very steep ascent zigging and zagging up to a cliff band where there is a chute to scramble up. At the top of the chute, the most worn trail will take you to Mummy's Knee then over to the Toe. However, it you wish to go directly to the Toe like us, you turn to the left at the top of the chute and find your way through some fallen debris where there is a trail that goes either down a notch or up by a large tree. We climbed up by the tree where the trail is a sloping climb up towards the Toe.

The Final Ascent to the Peak

Eastern View from near Summit

A Wave from the Peak

Taking a Break on Mummy's Toe
This trail forks into the Mummy's Knee Trail and continues up a very steep final ascent to the peak. The climb is arduous but the descent later on is precarious at best. We reached the peak climbing around a very old bristlecone tree that has seen centuries of harsh weather. Our visit to the peak was relaxing as we enjoyed the surrounding views and took photos. Mummy's Tummy and the remaining parts of the Mummy rose prominently in our 2 o'clock direction. Charleston Peak rose commandingly at the noon hour. Finally, we reluctantly decided to begin the total concentration of descent. 

Ralyn prefers the Eastern View

A Fab Four

Northeastern View from Summit

We did well with only one or two minor slips all the way down to the Deer Creek Ridge Trail. There, we watched for the nest again hoping that the bird would be covering the eggs. She was and we almost couldn't see her! She blended in very well in the dirt. After some help from a few friends, we learned that it was a Common Poorwill, a rare sight. It was amazing how well she was camouflaged. We returned to the cars the same way we had come and were pleased with our time even though we thought we were going very slowly. Maybe it was another story like the tortoise and the hare. Just keep going ... however slowly. Fantastic day!

Stats: 5.2 miles; 2470' gain; 4.5 hours

Still Concentrating as we neared the Switchbacks

Deer Creek Trail

Cougar Ridge Trail