Thursday, September 17, 2009

Big Falls / Mary Jane Falls - 9/17/09

We found Waldo at Big Falls!

There were eighteen hikers today to do the double header of Big Falls and Mary Jane Falls. After parking at the Mary Jane Falls parking lot at the end of Kyle Canyon below Mt. Charleston, we proceeded to hike up the Mary Jane Falls trail. When the trail heads off to the right, we continued straight and curved around to the left where we began an ascent along the side of the washed out wash.

Eventually, the trail dipped down into what was then a very rocky wash and we climbed our way up skipping from boulder to boulder, stepping over logs and finding our way around "obstacle rock." After working at this for a seemingly short amount of time in the cool mountain air, we arrived at the huge cliff inlet which is Big Falls during the spring snow melt. Today, however, is was bone dry! (In spite of efforts of fellow hikers to provide some small waterfall with their supply of bottled water!)

Several hikers climbed up to the perch above the floor of the dry falls providing a nice silhouette for the photog. Others stayed down below where they took a break and had the first of two small snacks. At this point, we had only hike around two miles and climbed around 800 feet of elevation. It was here that we discovered Waldo. Although the painted rock was a nice effort given by an obvious artist, it still ranked in the category of graffitti in most of our books.

Going back down the wash offered a slightly different route around the obstacle rock leading the group to a small trail found on the opposite side of the wash from where we came up. Although this trail was treacherous, our group is usually "game" for anything doable. You can see on their faces what kind of fun the challenge presented.

Arriving almost all the way back to where we left the Mary Jane Falls trail, we turned left and began the climb on the old Mary Jane Falls trail. The old trail had no need nor desire for switchbacks, the civilized answer to a steep ascent. No, the old trail goes straight ... and I mean straight ... up to the falls. The only relief we were given was when the trail had to make slight detours around fallen trees! Most of us stopped for several breathers. From Big Falls to Mary Jane Falls by this route is almost a mile.

We arrived at the top just under the falls. The final ascent, completing the second 800 foot climb, was made in two different places; one was on the gravel slope below the water run and one headed directly to the trail entrance to the Mary Jane Falls area. After climbing the steep route, there were no takers on the famous cave excursion. We readily sat for our second snack break and talked to other hikers who had made the climb the usual way.

We enjoyed viewing the falls coming over the cliff. They had more water than they would normally at this time of year due to heavy rains in the area last weekend.

According to Wikipedia, Common Mullein, or verbascum thapsus, is a hairy biennial plant that can grow to 2 m or more tall. Its small yellow flowers are densely grouped on a tall stem, which bolts from a large rosette of leaves. It grows in a wide variety of habitats, but prefers well-lit disturbed soils, where it can appear soon after the ground receives light, from long-lived seeds that persist in the soil seed bank. It is a common weedy plant that spreads by prolifically producing seeds, but rarely becomes aggressively invasive, since its seed require open ground to germinate. It also hosts many insects, some of which can be harmful to other plants.

We completed the double header hike by going back to the parking lot via the new trail with switchbacks adding another mile and a half to the total. At the finish, we had done a rough and tumble 4.25 miles with two 800 foot ascents.

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