Monday, March 14, 2016

Willow Canyon - Death Valley National Park - Day Two - 3/12/16

Willow Canyon Waterfall

Our Accommodations

Pit Stop at Badwater Basin

Rounding Corner at Willow Canyon Wash
 Willow Canyon is found near mile marker 31 on Badwater Road in Death Valley NP. It shares the trailhead parking with Sidewinder Canyon. To get to the canyon entrance, hikers must use an on-again, off-again trail leaving from the parking lot on the left (north side). The route circles around the hills to the right and starts up a long wide wash. Twenty-one hikers started up the wash enjoying the distraction of the wildflowers along the way. The gravel made the going tough but we were fresh.

Long Gravel Hike up Willow Canyon Wash
 Later, on the descent, we found that there is somewhat of a trail near the south wall of the wash. We ascended right up through the middle of the gravel.

Many Flowers to Distract Us
 We searched for different types of flowers while we hiked. The wash was full of little colorful goodies!

The Mouth of Willow Canyon

Starting into the Narrows
 As the walls started closing in, the sun started to warm up. Still, there was a small cool breeze leftover from the little bit of rain that the park got the night before. We were very comfortable and gathered again in the shade along the south wall. In front of us was the canyon and it appeared that there was actually no canyon at all! With hopes that we were not hopelessly lost, we persevered and found that the canyon narrowed down so fast (to a few meters across) that the twist and turn at the entrance "disappeared" from afar.

First Small Waterfall
 The canyon was filled with limestone rocks and boulders. It was easily climbed on a gentle slope. There were a few chances to scramble when the water appeared.

Mild to Moderate Scrambling
 We wondered if the water was always there or if last night's rain contributed to this unexpected surprise.

Willow Canyon Waterfall Appears

Everyone Arrives at Waterfall
 The running water went underground for a short while then, after climbing a particular high step up, we turned a corner to find a gorgeous waterfall sliding down a tall wall in the near distance. This was when we nicknamed the canyon "Wow Canyon." The spectacle is so unexpected that many of the hikers could not help but exclaim, "Wow!" when they came within view. A long photo session ensued. There were many individual photos plus a large group photo.

Taking Turns for the Photo Op
 Then we had a leisurely snack break in the large room at the base of the falls listening to the water and canyon birds.

The Group Shot
 There were a couple of scary looking possibilities of getting up to the top of the falls and continuing in this beautiful canyon. We resisted.

Fall / Slide / Fall

Down We Go!
 After our rest, we returned back the way we came down the narrow canyon and back down the wide wash. It was a lot faster and easier to go down the wide wash. During our return, one hiker found a shortcut that cut off the corner at the bottom of the wash as indicated on a map below. When we returned to the cars, we had a tailgate picnic lunch. Afterwards, a few hikers opted out of the second scheduled hike of Sidewinder Canyon. Willow Canyon was a beautiful surprise. Very nice!

5.5 miles; 800 feet elevation gain; 3 hours

Gorgeous Canyon Narrows

Willow Canyon

Exiting the Narrows

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