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Desert Waterfalls
posted by John : March 2, 2014

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Wait a minute

Water, water everywhere, but we're in the desert and there's not supposed to be water anywhere!

Sorry. Sorry. Do I sound a little bitter? We were promised blue skies, 70s and 80s. The need for sunscreen, not Gore-Tex. Well, I guess they need the water. And it did give us an opportunity few get. We'd be able to see an actual flowing waterfall in the desert.

We'd heard of White Tank Mountain Regional Parkfrom Nana and Papa, but I relied on local expertise (aka, Twitter star @jestheccc) to find a specific hike. She suggested we follow the creatively named Waterfall Trail.

This trail offered another opportunity to get up close and personal with cactus, see some non-cactus (but still poky) plants, petroglyphs, and of course the eponymous waterfall. Plus, it was close and not likely to kill any of the members of our party. (In the end, it was just me, Amy, Clara, and Henry.)

The park itself is pretty big. Like Lake Pleasant, there was a fee to enter (the same as a Washington State Park). As much as we complain about the Discover Pass ($30 a year) the annual pass for this county park system was $75! It'd be an interesting study to see if that extra revenue would be enough to support our parks system.

But I digress.

Just like the Twin Falls trailhead at home, the Waterfall Trail trailhead was overflowing with cars. They were parked up and down the road. We saw families walking back from the waterfall absolutely soaked. It made me wonder just how much water was flowing through this desert.

The trail was rocky and dry. The creek bed was on our left, but it was bone dry. At home, we can see a few feet ahead until a bend in the trail when trees block the view. Not so here. We could clearly see where we were headed. The trail led to a fold in the cliffs.

About half way along a set of rocks was marked with petroglyphs. Some may be 10,000 years old. Nothing I've ever seen in Western Washington is 10,000 years old. The rocks are colored black from weathering, except where the ancient people scraped it off to tell their stories. Henry wasn't all that interested, but Clara understood how cool it was to see it.

Beyond "Petroglyph Plaza" the trail climbed a bit and became rougher. Still, there were families pushing strollers and wringing the water out of their clothes. We still hadn't seen more than a puddle of brown water, but it must be up there somewhere. We had to wait while others exited the dead-end at the base of the waterfall, but finally found running water. Barely.

Even after the pouring rain the waterfall was only a trickle. It filled a big pool about knee-deep that attracted every kid and more than a few adults. The trail guide indicates there are two bigger pools above the easily accessed pool. Unfortunately, there's no easy route to the upper pools. We saw a couple of women go up, but with the kids it wasn't something we were going to do.

After drying ourselves a bit we retreated to the car, stopping only briefly to admire the petroglyphs again.

Compared to Twin Falls this waterfall was hardly a waterfall at all. There are bigger drops with more water that anonymously feed the river. But they don't hold the charm of a desert waterfall that will only exist for a few days after a downpour.

Getting to experience such a dramatically different environment is exactly why I love hiking when we go on vacation. I'm constantly amazed at all the difference only 1,000 miles can make.

But if I thought this was "different," you can imagine what I'm going to think when we head north to the Grand Canyon, the next stop our our trip.

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