Friday, January 6, 2017

Cholla Forest via Seven Falls - 1/5/17

Cholla Forest

Fortification Hill from Canyon Saddle

Colorful Vein in Seven Falls Canyon

Approaching Trail Junction
It was a cold and blustery morning on the shores of Lake Mead at Boulder Basin. Well, it wasn't that bad but it sounded poetic. Anyway, the forecast had predicted partly cloudy skies and when thirteen hikers left the water tank on the hill, we were headed right into a big dark cloud. Undaunted, we trudged up the gravel wash for half a mile until we reached the canyon junction of Seven Falls Canyon and Bacon Canyon. We took the right and headed straight into the first dry fall. Welcome to the hike!

First Dry Fall
This first dry fall is steep but easily climbed by everyone. This one and all the remaining dry falls of the hike are getting to be slippery from use. The foot holds are still there but we really had to dig in.

Second Dry Fall (Rabbit Hole)
The second dry fall came up immediately after that. This is a great rabbit hole climb and we took several minutes getting up since a few of the hikers were new to the experience.

Colorful Vein

Following Paul Up Seven Falls Canyon
There is a vein of colorful rock that runs through this area and it appeared after this second dry fall. We trudged up the gravel and small wash climbs for another half mile enjoying the absolute beauty of this canyon. The walls of the canyon were filled with holes like Swiss cheese. We could tell that this area had received a lot of rain since it was slightly damp and there were a few small puddles. The workout was a complete full body challenge as we weaved our way among the wash to find the step ups.

Third Dry Fall
The third dry fall proved to be too much for one hiker and he was led on a wide "go around." This dry fall requires stability as you climb up to a ledge and walk around the corner about ten feet up as the rest of the group, in unison, provide jovial direction.

Up Canyon Again
From there, we continued up the canyon and some of the small "step ups" became bigger. We wondered what the difference between a "step up" and a dry fall was and how the dry falls were counted since, at this point, they were all a bit of a challenge.

Fourth Dry Fall

Sixth Dry Fall
Dry Falls Four, Five and Six came in close sequence. Four and Five are fairly easy to climb on slippery knobs of foot and hand holds but Six can only be climbed by the most adventurous. However, the optional climb is not much less challenging. Appearing to the right of Six, this is a third class climb requiring hands as well as, ... well ..., your feet. We spent another few minutes here waiting for the last hikers to crest. Number Seven is a mystery. Although, there are a few more dry falls, none of them stand out enough to be THE Seven.

Arriving at Canyon Saddle
We reached a four way stop (canyon speak) and turned to the left. Usually, there is a cairn here to tell you that your choice is correct. After climbing a couple of small dry falls, we followed the canyon up and around to the right until we reached the canyon saddle.

Crossing the Powerline Wash
We turned around to wait for the end of the line and saw a beautiful view of Lake Mead and Fortification Hill (next week's challenge). From here, we found a small trail that led down the hill on the other side.

Arriving at Cholla Forest

Hole in Rock at Cholla Forest
We crossed the very wide powerline wash/valley and hiked into the canyon on the other side. Not far up, we came to the Cholla Forest, a beautiful anomaly. Taking our break here, we were able to explore the forest as much as we dared. The small balls of cholla on the ground were actually rooting this year. Very healthy grove. We even saw a wonderful example of a cactus wren's nest on a cholla near the trail. The usual photo of Mt. Wilson, seen down canyon, was obliterated by low hanging clouds.

Cactus Wren's Nest in Cholla
After the break, there is another climb as we continued up the two track trail. It isn't the last climb but it IS the least enjoyed. After dropping over a saddle, we turned to the right and started down this canyon.

Staring Down the First Dry Fall Descent
There is a very interesting dry fall that we came to pretty soon. Everyone who wanted to try the drop made it but not without group instruction! (We are very helpful!)

Following Small Trail to Bacon Canyon

Lake Mead from Small Trail
This canyon continues down and joins with the wide powerline wash. We passed the place we dropped into it completing the upper loop of the figure 8. Further down the wide wash, we found our left turn. Hike straight up over two small hills, then turn to the right and connect with a small game trail. This trail took us around and over the next ridge ending above the upper regions of Bacon Canyon. Dropping down a fairly gentle slope, we entered the canyon wash to start a long drop over small and large dry falls.

Interesting Drop in Bacon Canyon
One particularly interesting dry fall required a faith filled turn to the right then an easy drop down the side of the rock. Another large drop required a scary slide to the right at the same time you are letting yourself down. Talent.

Long Bacon Canyon Descent
We passed the Mountain Lion Rock then the sun suddenly came out in full force. We had only experienced a couple of raindrops all morning but we had enjoyed the cloud cover. As we neared the wide colorful vein of Bacon Canyon, we looked up to our left to see the arch sitting on the ridge.

Suddenly Sun!

Janet B. starts down through Bacon
The last set of dry falls in Bacon Canyon are not only colorful but also fun to negotiate. A good rule of thumb here is to always go to the left side of the canyon if the path is not immediately clear. By this time, the group was pretty spread out in the winding canyon since many of the veteran hikers had gone on ahead a little. The newbies were being taken care of in the back and the coordinator was holding up the middle of the string. What a workout! A bit of a long day but a great hike!

6.5 miles; 1400' elevation gain; 4.5 hours

Janet L. descends a Dry Fall in Bacon Canyon

David G. in Bacon Canyon

Last Half Mile to Trailhead

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