Saturday, April 1, 2017

Waterfall Canyon - 4/1/17

Wind hitting the Top of the High Waterfall (Fairy Sparkles!)

Waterfall Canyon

Highest Waterfall Destination

Hiking up Rocky Gap Road
 Waterfall Canyon is located in the La Madre Wilderness of Red Rock Canyon NCA. To reach the small canyon that always has water running through it, twelve hikers began at the Willow Springs Picnic Area Trailhead. When we exited our cars, a cold wind assaulted us. But, very quickly after starting up Rocky Gap Road, the wind disappeared behind the hills and the sun warmed us up. We happily hiked up the rocky high clearance 4WD dirt road with our forgiving two legs and feet for just about 1.6 miles.

Junctioning with Waterfall Canyon to Right
 We passed the red dirt area we affectionately call the Pink Jeep Turnaround.  (named for obvious reasons)

Starting the Slippery Scramble
 Soon after that, we came to a corner in the road that turns to the left. A stream flows shallowly over the road here after coming out from a canyon in the hills of the La Madre Wilderness.

Up and Around a Waterfall

Waterfall Canyon
 That canyon is Waterfall Canyon; a beautiful V-shaped canyon with a spring fed stream running down the middle of it. The canyon is limestone but red orange sandstone peeks out from underneath the waterfalls giving the canyon a distinct look. For the past 3 years, bright green algae has been covering the orange sandstone on most of the waterfalls due to little rain and unusual heat in the summer. However, with the abundance of rain that we experienced this winter, the algae is washed away and the canyon has returned to its original splendor. We turned into the canyon and started up.

Highest Waterfall
 Likely due to a lot of usage by hikers, the limestone within the canyon has become extremely slippery. We made our way up the trail on one side or the other very slowly.

Arriving at the Base of the Last Waterfall
 There were several scrambles where we had to climb over limestone outcroppings. If one side of the canyon was blocked in some way, we checked out the other side.

Landscape above Highest Waterfall

Taking a Break at Top of High Waterfall
 There is one significant place where it is necessary to climb up and around on the right hillside. Other than that, we picked our way in a purposeful slow rate. It seemed very soon when the highest waterfall came into sight. This waterfall is approximately thirty feet high and we hiked right up to the base of it. Then we crossed the stream and began a careful climb up to the top of the small cliff. All twelve of us made it up and took our break enjoying the absolutely gorgeous day!

View down from Top of High Waterfall
 As we sat at the top, the wind blew spray of water at us from the edge of the waterfall. We didn't get too close to the edge ... remember? ... slippery limestone!

Slippery Descent
 When it was time to start back down through the canyon, everyone knew to take it very slow. There was a lot of sitting and sliding going on.

Enjoying the Canyon

Returning to the Road Junction
 The problem is that the once jagged edges on the limestone are no longer there. Many of the jagged edges have been replaced by rounded nubs that may or may not be used as foot holds and hand holds. Regardless, our slow short train of hikers made it down the canyon without a single fall. Next came Rocky Gap Road and we happily talked our way to Willow Springs. There were a few hikers on the hike today that had never been to Waterfall Canyon. The canyon's beauty impressed us all!

4.3 miles; 900 feet elevation gain; 2.75 hours

Rocky Gap Road Descent

Approaching White Rock Hills and Willow Springs

Redbud Tree near Willow Springs

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