Monday, July 1, 2013

Hike 2013.038 -- Mary Jane Falls Trail, Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, NV

Hiked Saturday, June 29. 4 miles. Yeah, I still don't know why my blogspot pictures are posting so different. You need to click on the pictures to get them to display in the same format that I took them. Oh, well.
Spring Mountains National Recreation Area lies to the west and north of Las Vegas. They're adjacent to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, but are in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. Of course, the Humboldt-Toiyabe consists of a series of discontinuous tree-covered ranges that divide the various basin regions of Nevada. The national forest has patches scattered over virtually every end of the state.
From Las Vegas, you'd take US 95 north. At NV-157 (Kyle Canyon Road), about 25 miles north (west) of I-15), turn left. There's a sign for this, and a left turn pocket, which is nice, because the cars are moving fast through here. Then just driving "straight," staying on NV-157 until you basically reach the end. Follow the signs for Mary Jane Falls Trail when you get near the end. It's really hard to miss.
There's a visitor center along the way, but it doesn't open until 9am. And, in southern Nevada, in the summertime, 9am is about two hours later than you want to start your hike, anyway.

I got there around 8am. At that time, there was plenty of parking. And I only passed maybe a dozen people coming in. There were a lot more on the way out, but it was still not hard to get away from it all.
The trail begins at an informational kiosk, with a running-water toilet station. You head on past both those structures, along a nice, flat, obvious trail. It's a mixture of Ponderosa pine, white fir, and aspen, so I image the fall color here must be pretty nice.
To my left, I saw the gibbous moon, setting over a towering limestone cliff. To my right and in front of me, more limestone cliffs. This whole area was once under a shallow sea, and the shells of billions of dead sea creatures have been compressed and cemented into the limestone that dominates the scenery.
After about 1/2 mile of easy going, the actual trail makes a sharp right and begins switchbacking upwards. If you were to continue straight at this split, there's a place called "Big Falls" up that drainage. I explored that way somewhat on the way back, but turned around before reaching where the waterfall might be. I was a little tired and was pretty sure there would be no actual falling water to be found there on this day.
As you gain altitude on the main trail, the views across the canyon get more and more spectacular. The rocks here have been twisted and contorted into crazy shapes, folded over itself repeatedly.
My first view of the falls was underwhelming. I made a switchback, and saw a dark, wet patch along the wall. A few moments later, I could hear the trickle of water (four pictures up).
However, once I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by what I found at the base of the falls: Shooting stars. First, I saw just the one patch. Then I turned around and saw more. And these colorful little bees were busy working those buds.
Mixed in with the shooting stars were columbine. A bit further down the hill were a bunch of thistle, with more shooting stars and columbine mixed in. While the bees preferred the shooting stars, the hummingbird seemed partial to the thistle.
It was a peaceful place, made more so by the relative solitude I could enjoy. There were about five other people in the area, and they were quiet enough that I could concentrate on my attempts to photograph hummingbirds and bumble bees, and enjoy the trickle of the water at my feet. A tiny stream, maybe one foot across and an inch deep, flowed away from the "falls," and soon seeped into the ground.
After about 20 minutes, I headed on down. As I mentioned earlier, I made a detour up the alternate trail. I saw areas where snowslides had felled large pines, and young aspen were filling in the void. These areas also looked like they'd be gorgeous in the fall.
I also had a large and pretty butterfly land nearby. But I only had my 18-55 mm lens on, and, as I expected, when I tried to change lens, it flew away.
The way up the alternate trail is slow, with lots of boulder hopping. I fell once, and didn't have the motivation to keep going for the expected non-payoff at the end. So I turned around after about 1/2 mile of this slow going.
As I got back to near the trailhead, I passed a couple of really large, pyramid-shaped plants. Literally at the start of the trail, I found one starting to bloom. They look like moth mullein.

About four miles for the day. It's about 20 degrees cooler up here than in Las Vegas, by the way. It's a nice place to get away from the Strip, if you're looking for cooler outdoor recreation in the summer in Las Vegas.

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