Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Big Falls - 6/24/15

Big Falls

Big Falls Canyon

Big Falls from the Canyon

 Big Falls is located on the south side of the upper regions of Kyle Canyon in the Spring Mountains NRA. It shares the same trailhead as Mary Jane Falls which is located across from it on the north side. Today, ten hikers decided to add a little distance to the short hike by beginning their hike at the Trail Canyon trailhead. This simply required walking the dirt road a short distance between the two trailheads. After passing the second trailhead, we walked up the mile to the Mary Jane Falls Trail junction with fresh legs.

Goofy Smiles at the Mary Jane Falls Trail Junction
 At the trail junction, we took a short rest on an inviting log in the shade. Afterwards, we stepped over the log and continued heading in the straight direction.

Crossing Over to the Big Falls Wash
 Shortly, we forked off to the left onto a nice trail that brought us over to the wash. A cairn suggested that we drop down into the wash on a gravel ramp.

Starting Up the Big Falls Canyon Wash

 There are two limestone washes that come together in this vicinity. The Big Falls Canyon wash is best accessed by staying up next to the wall on the left as you are ascending. After rounding the corner, the hike continues up the wash that you have found yourself in. Care must be taken on the polished limestone rock underfoot. It must always be assumed that the rock you are stepping on is very slippery. Along with the limestone challenge, the wash is filled with rotting trees and limbs that have washed down from the top of the falls in years past.

Turn Left Here to go Up and Around
 As hikers approach the narrowing of the canyon, a trail that leads up and around on the left (east) side must be found to make your way past the obstacle rock. The image above shows the area just before this trail leaves the wash.

Obstacle Rock from Approach
 In years past, a trail on the other side of the wash had been utilized for either the ascent or descent. Now, the footing on this trail is perilous as many hikers resort to sliding down it on their gluteus maximus and the very steep trail is wiped clean of any sort of stepping stones.

Obstacle Rock - Trust this Apparatus?

 A rope ladder is hanging over the obstacle rock that is wedged in the narrowed canyon. Although it appears to be tied in pretty well at the top, the ladder steps are all askew and appear to be precariously hanging in a way that is inconducive to climbing. We were fine taking the up and around on the left side. Back in the wash above, we soon found ourselves being lured up onto a trail on the right side. This was a mistake. Stay in the wash and scramble. It's safer!

A Little Scrambling

 Finally up past the scrambling, we climbed up into the bowl created at the bottom of the Big Falls spout. The waterfall was completely dry today but, during the ice melt in the spring, Big Falls can be quite the spectacle. Snow is also a common sight in the canyon during the winter months. Sometimes the snow completely covers Obstacle Rock and there is no indication where the narrowing of the canyon occurs!

Arriving at the Big Falls "Bowl"
 We hiked into the bowl marveling at the high cliff above. Then, on the back wall, we scrambled up to the overlook on the left side.

Starting Up the 3rd Class Section to Reach the Top of the Falls
 Next, most of the group did what they had come to do - climb the 3rd class wall up to the meadow lying above the falls.

3rd Class Scramble

 Two remaining hikers watched as the group tackled the challenges one after another. Since the writer had stayed behind, she can report that according to some of the hikers, the climb up was very exciting. Then they found the meadow and sat for their break. An easier route was used to make their descent and fun was had by all. The writer didn't wait for their return and started down the wash on her own taking time to study the canyon terrain and routes.

View Down Canyon from Bottom of 3rd Class Climb
 It was a beautiful day with a nice amount of wind under the warm sun.

Top of Wash
 Having done this canyon twice in the past 3 days, and studying a couple of alternatives to the descent, the writer found that the east side up and around is the best choice for ascent and descent. Otherwise, stay in the wash. Just be careful of your footing.

Jumbled Debris in the Wash

 The image to the left shows where hikers should resist taking an obvious trail on the west side of the canyon. This will only lead to that treacherous sliding route. Again, stay in the wash! There are also many fossils in the limestone of the canyon wash. And, a shout out to a long-time-no-see club member that the writer saw at the Mary Jane Falls trail junction. The John Chang sighting! Big Falls is in a category of its own in the Spring Mountains.

5 miles; 1500 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours

Some of Many Fossils in Big Falls Canyon

Mary Jane Falls / Big Falls Trail Junction

Chang and Son Sighting (and a photo bomber)

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