Friday, May 25, 2018

Big Falls / Mary Jane Falls - 5/24/18

Big Falls Wash

Mary Jane Falls from Cave

Cave near Mary Jane Falls

Starting up the Approach Trail
Nineteen hikers thought today would be a fantastic day for a hike! The hike was changed the day before from a lower elevation hike to a double climb from the Mary Jane Falls Trailhead that would include two Spring Mountain favorites, Big Falls and Mary Jane Falls. In the past, we have needed to redirect errant recreational hikers to the this trailhead. To get there, drive up Kyle Canyon Road. Where the road does a switchback to the left, go straight onto Echo. 0.4 miles up the road, veer left onto a dirt road. The trailhead to your right is Trail Canyon. This trail will not get you to the waterfall! (unless you know a thing or two) Continue out the dirt road for a quarter mile. The Mary Jane Falls Trailhead is at the end of the road and the trail continues out from there.

Hiking the Approach Trail
So, nineteen hikers (yes, I want to say it again!) started up the 1 mile approach trail that begins past the restrooms. The cool temperatures put all of us in good spirits.

Split Junction
About half way up the approach, there is a wide area on the trail. It appears like a fork but stay to the right, next to the hillside.

Scrambling Big Falls Wash

Regathering in Big Falls Wash
At the end of the approach, the Mary Jane Falls Trail switchbacks turn off to the right. There is a large log blocking the forward direction. We were headed to Big Falls for our first climb so we stepped over the large log and continued up the old road/trail until it offered a forked choice. Here, we veered to the left to follow a worn trail over to the neighboring wash. The trail drops down into the wash and we followed it up the rocks. At this point, it is somewhat easy to get carried away and end up in the Avalanche Canyon wash. Avalanche Canyon wash flows down from the highest elevations of Charleston Peak.

Big Falls (Well, it was wet!)
To stay in Big Falls wash, continue hiking up the particular wash that keeps the hillside on your left shoulder, ... on your left shoulder! It curves around to the left here. Hug the left hillside! ... Also, look for deer hanging out. Today, we saw 2 or 3 on the drive in.

There are a couple of small trails on the left side of the wash that make for easy hiking ... or you can stay in the wash. Either way, you are now safely in the Big Falls canyon wash!

Obstacle Rock

Big Falls Wash Descent
Over the years, the favorite routes up this wash have changed here and there. There are still a couple of side trails that can be used but, sometimes, these trails take you on very difficult terrain. Our route of choice is to stay within the wash. This, however, has its own dangers. The limestone rocks that get polished every spring by snow melt runoff, are very slippery and care must be taken all the way up. We climbed carefully and slowly with the group strung out from the bottom to the top!

Climbing old Mary Jane Falls Trail/Road
There is only one section that must be taken by an up and around. In years past, a trail on the right was used but this trail has become difficult. Now, we go to the left to get around a very large boulder that is wedged in the middle of a narrow section of the canyon.

Almost There!
To get around Obstacle Rock, climb up to the left side at a place where there is a large log jam and take a trail up the bare rock on the hill. The trail leads up and over the hill to bring you back to the wash. After that, we scrambled some more to get to the top where Big Falls was more like a Big Dribble today! The best time for this waterfall is during the spring snow melt.

Mary Jane Falls from Climb Up

The Shelf Alcove
After a short break at the "falls," we started down. Some of the hikers took the other side of the wash to get past Obstacle Rock. It ended with a cliff negotiation! Anyway, eventually, we got back down to near where we had dropped into the wash in the beginning and climbed out to connect with an old trail that leads to Avalanche Canyon. We took that trail back over to the Mary Jane Falls road/trail and began climbing steeply up the old route to the falls above. It is steep and "in your face!" (a good judge of character ... and we are all great characters!) One by one, we each made it to the top where Mary Jane Falls waterfall was pouring strongly at the top of the cliff.

Taking a Break in the Shade
By the time the water flowed over the rock face, the water was only streaming over a wide area but it was much wetter than Big Falls!

Upper Kyle Canyon from Cave Area
I took a small posse over to see the nearby cave. No one is living there right now. Good sign! But a lot of graffiti graced the walls.

Cave near Mary Jane Falls

The Cave from the Falls
With a smattering of snow still hanging on the cliffs of the South Ridge, the views were gorgeous. After our break, we began descending the switchbacks of the "new" trail that was constructed long ago to the popular waterfall. Our line of, yes, nineteen hikers spread out along the hill and we continued our relaxed pace down the approach trail, too. We passed many recreational hikers, some with kids and dogs, along the way. Fantastic morning! Lots of fun! Great to see everyone!

4.5 miles; 1600 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours

Starting Descent on Switchbacks

One of the Switchbacks

Returning to Trailhead on Approach Trail

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