Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Burro Mesa Pour-off

On the maps, Burro Mesa trail has a line drawn thru it at one point with an arrow and a note telling you that although the trail appears from the map to be continuous, in fact on one side of the line it is a hundred feet above the other with a sheer drop in between -- what mathematicians call a discontinuity.

We took the low road, approaching that discontinuity from the desert plain. It wasn't a long hike, although the scrunchy gravel of the creek bed made walking a bit of a chore.

Along the way there were a few diversions: the sculpted cliffs of chalky-orange remnants of a long-ago pyroclastic flow, a scrubby tree in the middle of the dry creek abloom in magenta and abuzz with bees, another one to the side with spring-green leaves and little white blossom-balls, two couples who listened with interest to the fair and industrious Trudy as she shared with them the geology lesson she had prepared for us.

Around a bend, the creek came to a sudden stop. It didn't narrow gradually or split into rivulets. It just came to a stop against the pale rock in a grotto of sorts where the cliff wall was hollowed out.

This is the pour-off. If you look up, you see where the water comes from — from that other part of the trail on the map somewhere a hundred feet overhead. The water comes running down the hills thru a narrow ravine and comes to approximately this spot on the map and then falls down a round pipe carved from the cliffrock.

And the water, when it comes, doesn't cast itself over the edge of a flat-faced cliff like most waterfalls. It doesn't cascade in intervals down the cliff. No, it drops vertically downward thru this pipe, widening it a bit each time, smoothing out the rock.

And when that water comes, I don't think you want to be standing here looking up.

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