Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cholla Forest via Seven Falls - 2/3/11

On this frozen morning, thirteen hikers gathered down near Lake Mead for a hike up the Seven Falls wash and over to Cholla Forest with a return down another wash with more dry waterfalls. This was another hike lead by Chuck and Joan who know the hikes at Lake Mead very well. As the hike progressed, the weather warmed up to the mid-40's and we were all quite comfortable with our layered clothing.

We parked at the large water tank sitting at the base of the mountains above the lake just past the fee booth at the Railroad Tunnels and closed Visitor's Center. We took a look at an old gunnery bunker ... not sure why it was there ... passed rusty old large digging equipment and headed into the canyon wash where there are at least seven large dry waterfalls to climb.

The first two waterfalls came quickly and they were both around twenty to twenty- five feet in height. The second waterfall ended with a "rabbit hole" through which we helped each other climb.

The scrambling angle of the hike was a pleasant surprise to many of us and we enjoyed our hike through the canyon, counting the waterfalls as we went. In addition to the large falls, there were many "half falls" that we climbed quickly barely noticing the obstacle. We began perspiring in the cold air as we worked almost every muscle in our body!

The morning light filtered through the creosote bushes. Every time we passed a creosote, we thought of last night's talk that J. Boone gave at the club meeting. He said that there are long- tailed lizards that reside in the creosote bushes and as a hiker passes by, the lizard circles the stem while hiding from prying eyes. We peered with amusement but never did find one of the critters.

Each waterfall had a different challenge. Kay found this waterfall to be especially fun as she hugged around the rock on the side of the wash. One by one, we found our foot and hand holds so that we didn't fall down the ten feet below us before reaching the top of the falls. Perhaps this was a favorite challenge.

As we approached the cholla forest, part of the group of hikers flushed a large jack rabbit from the road to a small side trail on which this writer was standing while taking photos with the auto focus off. The rabbit came straight for me, looked up at me about fifteen feet away, did an about face and ran back to the road and out of sight. Would have been nice to have the auto focus on, huh?

After reaching the top of the wash, following a sheep trail, traversing some desert and climbing a short distance on a dirt road, we found the destination of the hike, the "Cholla Forest." Sure enough, there was a cluster of large and healthy teddy bear chollas on the hillside. Photogs scrambled around looking for angles and one found more than he bargained for as seen in the photo to the left.

We sat at the forest for our snack break then continued up the dirt road to the high point of the hike. Descending over the saddle, we found another wash with the most difficult dry waterfall of the day as seen to the left. There were several methods of negotiation depending on the length one's legs but, at any rate, it required a free drop of around two feet at the end. A couple of hikers stood at the bottom filling the roles of spotters.

At the end of this short section of wash, we crossed over to a parallel dirt road and quickly hiked down the road for about half a mile. Then, we crossed over the desert to a wash where we climbed up and found another sheep trail. We took the trail for only a short distance then dropped down into the final wash of the day.

This wash was picturesque with small and medium waterfalls to drop over. There were views of Lake Mead at times and we passed by a miniature delicate arch sitting up on the ridge to the left. The fun hike continued as we faced each of the continuous obstacles with quick decisions on how to go over, around or through them.

The finale dry waterfall lays in bright red rock as seen to the right. It was described as the "bacon" of the hike ... perhaps because of its coloring. As soon as we were through this last obstacle, we came to the junction of the Seven Falls wash. From here on out, we reversed the first half mile of wash and road. We hiked into the parking lot with six miles and 1150 feet of elevation gain under our boots.

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