Tuesday

North Loop Trail to Raintree & Mummy Spring

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(Fig. 01)
North Loop Mummy Spring Trail-2
(Fig. 02)
Nort Loop Trailhead
                
North Loop Trailhead: The North Loop Trailhead (Fig. 01), provides access to several trails and routes, including the North Loop Trail (leads to the summit of Mt. Charleston), Raintree, Mummy Springs, and routes up the east side of Mummy Mountain, (e.g., Mummy's Toes, Mummy's Belly). The trail to Mt. Charleston is a strenuous, 10.8-mile one-way hike that starts out at an elevation of 8,440 feet along Deer Creek Road and runs out across hillsides and exposed ridges to the summit of Charleston Peak, elevation 11,918 feet. If one hikes the entire length of this trail to the peak of Mount Charleston, there is a total elevation gain of 2,478 feet. However, for those less inclined, some of the other recognized destinations (North Loop Viewpoint, North Loop Highpoint Ridge, Raintree, and Mummy Spring) that are scattered along the first three miles of the trail can make for some very rewarding hiking views. Even though the elevation gain for this “shortened” hike is a strenuous 1,528 feet, it is still nearly a 1,000 feet less and 7.3 miles shorter than the full Mt. Charleston destination. 

10/08/2013 Trip Notes: Today Harvey and I decided to hike along the North Loop Trail to Raintree and Mummy Spring. The total round trip distance for this hike was 6.10 miles with an elevation gain of 1,528 feet. Below, I have divided pictures and descriptions of this hike into four segments, one for each of the major stopping points along the route.

Viewpoint: At an elevation of 9,331 feet, this location is 1.45 miles from the trailhead along Deer Creek Road (Fig. 02). With absolutely grand views over the Las Vegas Valley, this could make a great destination for hikers without the ability or interest in hiking all the way to the Raintree or Mt. Charleston summits. Nevertheless, we found its 900 foot elevation gain of nearly 900 feet from the T/H to be quite strenuous. The temperature at the T/H was 45-degrees, 15 degrees cooler that Vegas. Except for the exposed tops of a few ridgelines, the fact the entire length of this trail runs through thick forests of Ponderosa Pine and Bristlecone Pine makes it perfect for hiking on warm days. Once you reach the summit of Viewpoint, you will be captivated by the large number of gnarly, old Bristlecone Pines (Pinus longaeva) (Figs. 03-05). The view in (Fig. 06) is looking northeast at the Nevada Test Site, the desert area where the government performed testing of the atom bomb back in the early 50’s.
                           
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(Fig. 03)
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(Fig. 04)
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(Fig. 05)
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(Fig. 06)

Highpoint Ridge: At an elevation of 10,023 feet, this ridge is a total of 2.23 miles from the T/H, with a total elevation gain of 1,528 feet (Fig. 02). Not for the weary! Just a little less than 3/4’s of a mile from Viewpoint, the additional 650 foot elevation gain seemed like it was even more than what we had had to Viewpoint. Before actually reaching the summit of this ridge, there is an opening that offered nice views looking north towards the ‘toe” of Mummy Mountain (Fig. 07). While here we decided to stop and have a bite to eat (Fig. 08). We also found a weathered piece of Bristlecone that was so smooth, colorful and beautiful, that it appeared that it had been sandblasted, stained and polished (Fig. 09). Once we reached the top of Highpoint Ridge we were awarded outstanding views in every direction. The first view was looking northwest towards the “toe” of Mummy Mountain (Fig. 10). Looking south west you were able to see Cathedral Rock, just to the right of the colorful grove of aspens in (Fig. 11). Looking southeast provided views of the city of Las Vegas (Fig. 12). As with all of the ridgelines in this area, it was covered with Bristlecone Pines (Fig. 13). Hiking northwest, this ridge runs downhill a little less than a half mile to a saddle named Raintree, the location of the oldest Bristlecone Pine in the entire Spring Mountain Range.
                               
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(Fig. 07)
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(Fig. 08)
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(Fig. 09)
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(Fig. 10)
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(Fig. 11)
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(Fig. 12)
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(Fig. 13)

Raintree: About 2.70 miles from the T/H, at an elevation of 9,968 feet, this ridge is a little less than a half mile from, and 55 feet below Highpoint Ridge (Fig. 02). Here, the trail runs through a bristlecone forest that is simply awesome!  The trees are gnarled and weathered from the elevation, the fierce winds, and the winter snows. You almost feel like you are walking through a Bristlecone graveyard. At the base of this short hike you are confronted with “Raintree” (Fig. 14)  the fabled old bristlecone pine that is thought to be the largest and oldest (some 3,000 years) tree in the Spring Mountains. Viewed from every direction, (Fig. 15) from the south, its size is staggering. Imagine, this tree started growing 1,000 years before Christ, when Solomon was anointed king of Israel (Fig. 16). Though not as old as “Methuselah” (see below), this old tree has stood here proudly for some 3,000 years and appears to be starting to show signs of human intervention. It’s hard to believe that people can’t understand that climbing, camping and walking to close to it can cause irreparable harm. Think about it; just walking around the tree we are causing dirt around the roots to erode away as well as compacting the soil so that rain water can't infiltrate like it used to.
                              
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(Fig. 14)
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(Fig. 15)
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(Fig. 16)

Mummy Spring: Once you're at Raintree, it's only 1/3 of a mile downhill to the northwest to Mummy Springs (Fig. 02). It is a total of 3.05 miles from the T/H at an elevation of 9,826 feet. This is a short, easy detour off the North Loop Trail to an avalanche chute with a spring located high on the cool, east-facing slope of Mummy Mountain. The "alpine meadow" vegetation here provides a nice, cool destination to relax and enjoy the views. Upon our arrival we were completely surprised to find that the water coming from the spring and flowing over the rocks was completely frozen (Fig. 17). After climbing up a somewhat less used trail that led to the base of the short waterfall, we were able to get some nice close-ups of the iced over areas (Figs. 18-20). We really enjoyed this spot and actually took a moment to sit down and enjoy the view while sucking on some icicle's (Fig. 21). After returning to the T/H we drove down to the Mount Charleston Lodge for “happy hour” where we enjoyed some refreshing drinks, Nachos and Steak Tips.
                       
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(Fig. 17)
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(Fig. 18)
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(Fig. 19)
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(Fig. 20)

Methuselah is a 4845-year-old Great Basin bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) tree growing high in the White Mountains of Inyo County in eastern California. An older tree called Prometheus was killed shortly after it was discovered in 1964. This happened when a geologist searching for evidence of Ice Age glaciers was taking some core samples from several bristlecones. Just as he realized he had found a tree over 4,000 years old, his coring tool broke. Amazingly the U.S. Forest Service gave him permission to cut down the tree. Prometheus turned out to be 4,950 years old. Imagine, it was a 300 year old tree when the pyramids were being built in Egypt. After people heard about this incident, the U.S. Forest Service tightened security around the bristlecones. For many years it was the world's oldest known living non-clonal organism, until superseded by the discovery in 2013 of another bristlecone pine in the same area with an age of 5063 years (germination in 3051 BC). The tree is named after Methuselah, a Biblical figure having the longest mentioned lifespan in the Bible of 969 years The tree grows at 9,500 to 9,800 feet above sea level in the "Methuselah Grove" in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest within the Inyo National Forest. Methuselah's exact location is undisclosed to protect it from vandalism.

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