Burkhart Trail from Devil's Punchbowl, 12 miles RT, 3,038' +/-, April 1, 2018

The Burkhart Trail from Devil’s Punchbowl has been on my bucket list ever since the first time we hiked to Devil’s Chair and the Punchbowl loop.  I wanted to get this one out of my system before the weather got too hot knowing that much of the trail is exposed.  This hike is kind of like two for the price of one.  It has a lot of diversity along the way taking you from the desert floor to the alpine zone.  The first part of this hike drops you down to Cruthers Creek which is lower then the elevation from which you started at the trailhead.  This section is a beautiful trek unto itself, but you have to remember to save some fuel in the tank since you’ll have to hike back up out of the canyon later on.  Next, you cross over Cruthers Creek and from here on out it’s a long, steep haul toward Burkhart Saddle.  Personally, I didn’t find the climb all that difficult.  BUT… what I didn’t expect were the lengthy sections of trail with loose rock on sometimes very narrow and mostly exposed slopes.  This trail has all kinds of terrain to hold your attention from beginning to end.  We encountered soft sand, loose scree, talus, and pine needle covered track.  I really enjoyed hiking through the different plant communities in this unique transition zone.  As we continued onward and upward, there was a nice, cool breeze coming up out of the canyon to keep us comfortable.  The higher we went, the more the temperature cooled and trail seemed to become more and more rocky with very few breaks in between.  At about 6 miles in, just one mile short of the saddle, we hit our turn around time.  We looked over at the saddle which seemed so close, yet so far!  Then we looked at the trail ahead of us...  More rock!  Ugh.  We contemplated making the final push anyway, but we both agreed it would be even more slow going on the way down and decided we should start heading back.  We also still had to make the climb up out of the canyon.  Carefully we negotiated our way down the slope.  My trekking poles came in handy here.  When we arrived back at the creek, I got distracted by all the little Lotus Hairstreak butterflies.  I spent some time chasing them around trying to get a good photo.  (Or maybe I was just procrastinating the climb back up.)  As I tried to focus my camera on the tiny green butterfly who was posing so patiently on a leaf, a hummingbird mistook my bright fuchsia tee shirt for a flower.  He swooped so close I could feel the flutter of his tiny wings.  He swiftly flew away when I looked over my shoulder at him and he realized he was mistaken.  As we began the final climb up out of the canyon a hazy cloud cover kept the sun at bay, and I enjoyed snapping photos of the ever changing scenery on the trek back to the trailhead.  Overall, I really enjoyed this hike and would do it again.  Perhaps next time we’ll start a little earlier now that we know what to expect with the rugged terrain.

 I love the Devil's Punchbowl.  I mean, how often do you get to see geology that looks as crazy as this!

I love the Devil's Punchbowl.  I mean, how often do you get to see geology that looks as crazy as this!

 Heading out on the trail.  I love the contrast of the desert floor with the higher elevations of our mountains.

Heading out on the trail.  I love the contrast of the desert floor with the higher elevations of our mountains.

 A little less then a mile in, you'll reach the split for the Burkhart Trail.  You can also get to the Devil's Chair from here.  That is a lovely hike too.  If you haven't done it, I'd highly recommend it.

A little less then a mile in, you'll reach the split for the Burkhart Trail.  You can also get to the Devil's Chair from here.  That is a lovely hike too.  If you haven't done it, I'd highly recommend it.

 The beginning of the Burkhart Trail starts out by taking you through a pretty shaded section of oak and pine trees.

The beginning of the Burkhart Trail starts out by taking you through a pretty shaded section of oak and pine trees.

 Now the trail goes up and you'll get some nice views of the punchbowl and the mojave.

Now the trail goes up and you'll get some nice views of the punchbowl and the mojave.

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 The trail drops down steeply and reaches Cruthers Creek just past this junction with the windmill.

The trail drops down steeply and reaches Cruthers Creek just past this junction with the windmill.

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 The saddle comes into view with Pallet Mountain on the left and Will Thrall Peak on the right.  

The saddle comes into view with Pallet Mountain on the left and Will Thrall Peak on the right.  

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 Crossing over the creek.

Crossing over the creek.

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 I was very excited to come upon many Lotus Hairstreaks (Callophrys dumetorum).  

I was very excited to come upon many Lotus Hairstreaks (Callophrys dumetorum).  

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 From here on out it was all uphill with no breaks.

From here on out it was all uphill with no breaks.

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 We hiked through the meadow first.  The trail is fully exposed so not something to do in the summer.  This seemed like a never ending switchback that actually leads away from the saddle.  However, there was plenty of wildlife to see to keep us busy; sphinx moths, butterflies, bees.  There was a lot of activity here.

We hiked through the meadow first.  The trail is fully exposed so not something to do in the summer.  This seemed like a never ending switchback that actually leads away from the saddle.  However, there was plenty of wildlife to see to keep us busy; sphinx moths, butterflies, bees.  There was a lot of activity here.

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 The is a nice section to stop and break for a snack.  We had lunch here on the way back.

The is a nice section to stop and break for a snack.  We had lunch here on the way back.

 This is where the trail started dropping hints of what was to come as far as terrain.  Nice here so far, but as we hiked up higher and higher, there was more and more slippery rock.  

This is where the trail started dropping hints of what was to come as far as terrain.  Nice here so far, but as we hiked up higher and higher, there was more and more slippery rock.  

 This is what we'd be negotiating most of the way up.  

This is what we'd be negotiating most of the way up.  

 The trail became very narrow in sections.  We had to stay focused.  This is the view looking down the steep drop into the canyon.  

The trail became very narrow in sections.  We had to stay focused.  This is the view looking down the steep drop into the canyon.  

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 We did get some relief on the few sections where the trail wasn't so rocky.

We did get some relief on the few sections where the trail wasn't so rocky.

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 Stopping for a moment to take in the views.

Stopping for a moment to take in the views.

 As we continued on...  More rocks!

As we continued on...  More rocks!

 Now we started to see more pine trees as we hit the higher elevation.  The breeze was really nice too.

Now we started to see more pine trees as we hit the higher elevation.  The breeze was really nice too.

 And more rocks!

And more rocks!

 At this point we were just about one mile short of the saddle.  We kept looking over at it, but it didn't seem to be getting any closer.  At this point we had hit our turnaround time and decided to start heading back down.  We knew going down would be a lot slower then going up with the slippery sections.

At this point we were just about one mile short of the saddle.  We kept looking over at it, but it didn't seem to be getting any closer.  At this point we had hit our turnaround time and decided to start heading back down.  We knew going down would be a lot slower then going up with the slippery sections.

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 You can see where they've done work on this trail.

You can see where they've done work on this trail.

 Some spots were tricky.

Some spots were tricky.

 Dropping back down in elevation.

Dropping back down in elevation.

 Finally getting back to the meadow and looking back up at the trail.

Finally getting back to the meadow and looking back up at the trail.

 Following along Cruthers Creek to the right.

Following along Cruthers Creek to the right.

 Another creek hop before we started the ascent out of the canyon.

Another creek hop before we started the ascent out of the canyon.

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 This image should give a good idea of how tiny these little Lotus Hairstreaks are.  I spent some time here trying to get a good photo.  Or maybe I was just procrastinating the climb out of the canyon.  :)  Funny story:  As I was fumbling around with my camera, a hummingbird confused my bright fuchsia shirt with a flower.  He was fluttering around my shoulder until I turned my head and looked at him.  He then flew away.

This image should give a good idea of how tiny these little Lotus Hairstreaks are.  I spent some time here trying to get a good photo.  Or maybe I was just procrastinating the climb out of the canyon.  :)  Funny story:  As I was fumbling around with my camera, a hummingbird confused my bright fuchsia shirt with a flower.  He was fluttering around my shoulder until I turned my head and looked at him.  He then flew away.

 Plants starting to bloom.  Hopefully, with the last rain we had it will get things going.

Plants starting to bloom.  Hopefully, with the last rain we had it will get things going.

 The manzanita on this trail was gorgeous and full of buzzing bees.

The manzanita on this trail was gorgeous and full of buzzing bees.

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 Happy little cactus.

Happy little cactus.

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 Pinyon pine.

Pinyon pine.

 My husband ducking under a fallen tree.

My husband ducking under a fallen tree.

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 Getting closer to the punchbowl.

Getting closer to the punchbowl.

 I loved this forested section with all the soft pine needles.

I loved this forested section with all the soft pine needles.

 Going back up.  The grade is nice and easy here.  

Going back up.  The grade is nice and easy here.  

 Views.

Views.

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 Almost back to the start.  It was an enjoyable day!

Almost back to the start.  It was an enjoyable day!