Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Big Falls - 5/3/17

Big Falls

Big Falls Wash

Base of Big Falls

Big Falls / Mary Jane Falls Trailhead
 Every once in a while, nature sends us a special treat! Six hikers went up to the Spring Mountains NRA today wondering if we would get to experience the snow treat at Big Falls. Mais certainment! We drove up Kyle Canyon Road and followed the signs to the Mary Jane Falls Trailhead. Big Falls shares the same trailhead and, in fact, the first one mile of trail. The weather was amazing with temperatures in the 60's and almost no wind. The sky was blue and the snow capped mountaintops were striking.

Starting up the One Mile of Shared Trail
 We started up the trail at a very pleasant pace. This was the first time we had hiked at these elevations since last fall.

This Year's Crop of Mule Deer
 We noticed a hiker staring up the steep hillside on the right. Sure enough! There were almost ten mule deer foraging. Must be the new crop!

Remains of Snow Slide

Meeting the Snow
 To newcomers, this area can be somewhat confusing if you wish to do anything besides hike the switchbacks up to Mary Jane Falls. So, we spent some time orienting the hikers in the group when we reached the switchback junction. The old road that we were on actually continues straight up to Mary Jane Falls (the old route). Our Big Falls Trail veered to the left. There is another old road that heads in that direction and likely led into Avalanche Canyon at one time.

Big Falls Wash
 Avalanche Canyon and the Big Falls wash converge in this area. While Avalanche Canyon continues up to the base of Charleston Peak, Big Falls wash heads south up toward the South Loop ridge.

The only water above Ground
 It is easy to get caught in the wrong wash here. One rule that can be easily followed is to "hug" the wash wall on the east side.

Waltzing over the Top of Obstacle Rock (Archive Photos of Obstacle Rock)

First View of Big Falls
By staying to the left (east), we veered into the Big Falls wash and began climbing. At first, there were only snow patches hanging on the walls of the wash that were easily circumnavigated. As we passed the wash island, the grand view of the wash and the ridge came into focus. Gorgeous! But, pretty soon, we started hiking into the slushy section where the snow was beginning to melt and there were holes opening up underneath the snow. We used our poles and were very careful here. One hiker decided to stay behind.

Climbing the Last Part of the Wash
 After passing this section, the snow became more firm. There were fewer and fewer boulders sticking up through the surface of the snow as we approached the Obstacle Rock narrows.

Arriving at Big Falls
 Obstacle Rock was completely covered with snow. There was no need for the regular "up and around" hike. We just climbed the firm snow.

It gets icy near the falls!

Cory Poses at Base of Big Falls
 Just after this, we could hear the water rushing through holes in the surface and looked up to see Big Falls in the near distance flowing very strongly. We continued climbing the snow with a couple of photographers in front of us. Their dog was having a lot of fun! Finally, we reached the last curve around to the falls. It was a beautiful scene. We climbed up to the base of the falls and saw that the snow was ten to fifteen feet deep in this area. With nowhere to sit, we decided to go back down. A couple of times, the writer intentionally sat and slid down the steeper and more slippery hills. So much fun! Otherwise, the descent was slow and deliberate. ... But, who wanted to rush? Back through the slushy section then down the slippery rocky wash. We took a small break at the bottom and decided to call it a day ... a fantastic day!

4 miles; 1000 feet elevation gain; 2.5 hours

The Slippery Descent

The Slushy Part

Out of the Snow Again

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