|Hiking||8.64 Miles|| 5 Hrs 30 Mns ||2.11 mph|
|2,329 ft AEG|| 1 Hour 24 Mns Break|
|With record heat at the lower elevations, we headed for higher elevations again this weekend. We hiked Hell's Hole two weeks ago and went a little farther north along Highway 288 this time to check out McFadden Horse Trail and Elephant Rock. The first two miles were a consistent uphill climb, a combination of jeep road and then a switchbacking trail beyond the intersection with Cienega Trail #145. |
It was a humid morning with very still air, and the flies were relentless, which made the early part of the hike a little less enjoyable. The views got better and better as we gained elevation, but it was hard to fully appreciate the surroundings with the swarming bugs...the soundtrack of the hike was a concert of buzzing at different volumes and pitches from the various sizes and types of flies constantly in our faces. Luckily, things got a little better once the trail leveled off on top of McFadden Horse Mountain...fewer flies, and there was more shade among the ponderosas once we were out of the burn area.
We took a short detour over to the McFadden Horse high point at 7,510'. It was only 500 feet off the trail but is a fairly anticlimactic "peak"...it essentially a gentle ridge that was barely discernable as the high point, though it did offer a nice view of Four Peaks between the trees. Back on the trail, the stretch along the east rim of the mountain offered the best views of the day, overlooking the Cherry Creek area with the classic Sierra Ancha red cliffs and the gray spires and formations below. Some scattered thunderheads in the distance added a nice touch to the landscape.
Elephant Rock Fortress is an impressive overlook with incredible views, and the ruins on the island of white rock are intriguing. I couldn't see any land bridge connecting the ridge and the island...either something has eroded since the natives built structures there, or they were very courageous and skilled climbers. Given the location, it was probably a Salado lookout...I can't help but wonder how long it's been since someone has set foot set foot on top of that rock and gotten a close look at the structures.
[ youtube video ]
After some scrambling around on the rocks and a short break at the overlook, we started back, and the flies got more aggressive on the way out. On the flat stretches among the pine trees, the swarms were worse than ever and the flies were starting to bite...for a mile or two, it seemed like I had 5-10 around my face most of the time. Fortunately, they let up a little once we got out of the forest and started descending the last two miles. Near the Cienega #145 intersection, we noticed a lot of nice examples of stromatolites that we'd missed on the way in.
We didn't see anyone during the hike, and it was a warm but comfortable day aside from the morning humidity...and very enjoyable other than the aggressive flies. We had a little extra time after McFadden and drove further up 288 and hiked part of the Elephant Rock Arch route but didn't have time to get all the way there, so we'll have to come back and finish that one off another day.