Thursday, August 18, 2016

Big Falls / Mary Jane Falls - 8/18/16

Big Falls from Mary Jane Falls

Mary Jane Falls from Big Falls Canyon

Kyle Canyon from Mary Jane Falls

Climbing the One Mile Approach
 Ten moderately strenuous hikers showed up for a double climb to the falls on each side of upper Kyle Canyon in the Spring Mountains NRA. After waiting for tree workers to load some humongous logs on Kyle Canyon Road, we drove up to the Mary Jane Falls Trailhead. Since it was not a weekend day, the parking lot had plenty of spaces to offer. Prepared and ready, we began hiking up the one mile approach trail straight past the restrooms. Common mullein grew abundantly on each side of the trail.

Big Falls Left - Mary Jane Falls Right (No signs)
 We hiked without a break until we reached the junction fork. The switchbacked trail to Mary Jane Falls forked to the right while the trail to Big Falls Canyon crossed the log and veered to the left.

Aspen Sapling changing Color in Big Falls Canyon
 Today's two-part hike began with a stair-stepping scramble up through Big Falls Canyon where the rocks are all quite slippery. It is best to go "low and slow" to avoid an unscheduled slide.

Stair-Stepping Big Falls Canyon

Up and Around Obstacle Rock
 So our trail dumped us into the canyon wash and we curved around to the left to climb the canyon rocks. Don't be tempted by the side trails! Most of them are more treacherous than the wash itself. The only necessary side trail is the one up to the left when approaching Obstacle Rock. The rope ladder hanging over Obstacle Rock is not to be trusted. However, it still hangs there from last year. We hiked up and down the hill and dropped back into the scrambling wash using logs and rocks to take us to the next levels.

Nearing the Top
 As you near the top, it may be necessary to use another scary trail on the right side but, it is still prudent to stay close to the bottom and not get too high.

Big Falls Alcove
 The Big Falls alcove appears around the corner to the left as you climb the last few steps. Two shelters have been built inside. We took a short break here taking in the scenery of the dry cliff falls.

Nine AtBF Hikers almost in Teepee Shelter

Half a Break at Big Falls
After the break, we tried to squeeze into the teepee shelter but only three of us would fit! (That's Paul with the hand in front of his face!) The fun continued as we descended the canyon with even more care than we used on the way up. After climbing up and around Obstacle Rock again, we went up canyon a few feet to inspect the rope ladder. Jim tested it and the first rung held his weight. Okay. That's enough! Back down the canyon, we went carefully. Our route down took a slightly different turn using the other side of the "island" debris at the bottom.

Daring Climb up One Rung of Rope at Obstacle Rock
 The weather was cool in the shade. And, most of the hike was in the shade. The 30% chance of rain never threatened the hike.

Descending Big Falls Canyon
 At the bottom of the canyon, we climbed back up the trail and headed over to the steep old road that used to be used as the Mary Jane Falls trail. Looking for a good workout, we climbed the steep trail with only a couple of breaks to make sure everyone was keeping up.

Nearing the Bottom of Big Falls Canyon

Climbing Steep Old Road
 The last 50 feet of the climb is always the most difficult with the loose gravel to contend with but we all made it up to Mary Jane Falls and took a nice longer break. We rested then started down the switchbacked trail. On our way down, we saw several of the culprits abusing the trails by cutting the switchbacks. How do you stop such behavior? Anyway, we still had a very enjoyable hike.

5 miles; 1700 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours

Top of Mary Jane Falls

Descending the Switchbacks

Leaving as We Came (Add a Workout)

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