Alternate Post Title: Holy Crap, This Post Is Long!!
On Friday, the group's mission was to explore Mooney Falls (1 mile from camp) and Beaver Falls (3 miles). Mooney Falls is at the far end of the campground. At the end of the campground you descend some natural stairs that leads into a little cave. This picture cracks me up because we are in this cool little cave, but Aimee, Christy and I are all more interested in our cameras.
Outside the cave, you come to a 200 foot cliff that overlooks the falls. Looking down...a very long way down.
Mooney Falls.And the only way to the falls is straight down. Let me rephrase that. It is Straight. Down. It starts with a tunnel entrance (I hope you're not claustrophobic) and a sign telling you that what you are doing is pretty stupid, but they know you are going to do it anyway, so you'd better be careful!
When you emerge from the tunnel, you're on a narrow ledge on the side of the cliff. And then, another tunnel and more Straight. Down. There are rebar hand-holds and chains to grab onto.
But, seriously, the descent is Straight. Down. At the end there is a ladder.It was super-fun!
Some of our group jumped directly into the pool surrounding the falls to cool down. The rest of us headed down the river to Beaver Falls, planning to swim at Mooney on the return trip.
The hike down the river was the absolute coolest hike I have ever done. There were many, many little waterfalls that mandated many, many river crossings to keep progressing. Some parts of the river were shallow and easy.
Other parts were deeper and faster and required lots of balance.
This looks like Christy and Aimee are playing hide 'n seek. :)
In some places there were a few different options to maneuver around the falls. This time Jess and Chris had the right idea, while the other seven of us took a more difficult route.
Posing with our new friends, Rob and Monica.
Rob was our "tall guy" that we'd send ahead on all river crosses to gauge how deep the water was.
We stopped at this waterfall/pool for lunch. There was a little cliff on the canyon wall where we sat to eat. While we were eating, the rest of our group caught up to us and we all swam and played in the waterfalls for a while.
After lunch we continued down the river. It seemed as if we had gone way past the two additional miles that Beaver Falls was advertised to be. The river was getting harder to cross. A lot of people had fallen in, getting cuts and scrapes, but no major injuries yet. Dark clouds were coming in, indicating a potential monsoon (or an isolated thunderstorm, Aimee!). There was some debate as to whether Beaver Falls still exists after last year's flood. Most of the group decided to turn around and return to camp.
Six of us continued on - me, Christy, David, Iren, Co-worker Nick and the lone non-Arizonan, Tom.
We kept going for an additional forever. It was beautiful.
Eventually we ran into some people coming up the river. We asked if we were getting near Beaver Falls. Their answer was yes and they let us know to cross the river one more time and then look for a palm tree. "Go under the palm tree and then you have to go up a rope." He looked us over and deemed us all in good enough shape to continue. He wished us luck.
We didn't cross the river soon enough and our "trail" went up, up, up and then we reached this dead-end on a cliff.
We went back down and crossed the river - this time it was at a pretty high, fast moving waterfall. I was a little nervous, but we all made it. And there was the palm tree! The only one in the canyon. And we went under it...and there was the rope.
Up the rope we went. I felt like we were making Goonies II. After the rope we went up this steep incline.
We traveled along the top of the canyon wall for a ways and finally saw this:
Beaver Falls!! It was still there, though more like 4 miles from the campground! It took us some scouting to find a safe way down the canyon wall, but eventually we got there.
We climbed on and in the falls and swam in the pools for awhile. It was awesome! We were very proud to have made it.
It was getting late in the day and though the sky seemed less threatening, you just never know during monsoon season in Arizona...so we left the falls and headed back to camp.
Back up the canyon wall...
Back down the rope...
We decided to take the trail rather than the river back.
We saw these...ummm...critters...?? across the river. I should really know what kind of animal this is, but I don't!
Parts of the trail were very tropical.
Seriously tall foliage.
The trail crossed the river a few times and was sometimes difficult to find again. At one point on the river we came to this waterfall. We knew the trail was at the top of the waterfall from our outbound trip. The most direct way back to the trail was to climb up the waterfall:
We finally made it back to Mooney Falls. It was too late for any more swimming, but we did get one last photo.