Saturday, November 29, 2008

Extra Ride 2 - North Valley-Mine's-Powerline

The second ride of Thanksgiving vaction '08 took in a lot of territory. [Google Earth file here --> North Valley/Mine's/Powerline]

The gate across the "water tower road" trailhead was open for some reason today, so we didn't need to wander around the desert to the trail. It's a fairly straight shot up across the East Bunkerville Flats to North Valley; so, I "inflicted" some desert lore on the boys.

At Keyhole Rock they were ready to climb (both are part mountain goat), so both took different routes to the top of the ridge. Eagle's Nest, had sticks in it but no active "nest" - perhaps the desert puma's got 'em. There were several other "keyholes" that weren't obvious from the valley floor below.

Hanging Cave was indeed a cave, albeit shallow. There was evidence of others having been there before and possibly a fire ring of sorts. The rock was very loose and the drop-offs substantial, but they made it back down and were glad to sit on their ATVs for awhile more.

Of course I pointed out Aztec Rock, Gunsight Pass and Knife Edge Cliffs to them before we went down that incline which has become my nemesis. I say that because my Kodiak's weight overcomes the resistance on the loose soil so the brakes don't hold and there is NO stopping.

Last spring we occasionally saw a road-runner traversing the valley but haven't this year. Exiting the valley there is a trail which runs to the left and around to Hidden Canyon. It's hidden because it's a dead-end box canyon until you get to within 10 feet of its end and find another canyon at right angles. It's steep, washes out with every storm and often needs a bit of 'housekeeping' in order to make it over the rocks.

It, however, is the only way to get up into South Valley and the Abandoned Mine area without going back down Nickle Creek Ravine and back up the other side. We took one of several trails to the right, toward the lake, and found ourselves shortly at an old turquoise mine (none left).

With still some riding time left, we went along to Great Eastern Mine. Not much is there anymore, except the shaft which is flooded. There is some shade and an opportunity to look out over the Virgin River Valley and Bunkerville.

Unless you go back down Hidden Canyon you must go back through West Bunkerville Flats until you can cross Nickle Creek Ravine. You know you are to where you can cross when you see giant, rusty-red, pipes from an old graphite plant at the ravine's mouth - and then it's ... Powerline!

Powerline has an interesting bunch of trails. You travel as great a distance vertically as you do horizontally. Although the trail was once graded, for access to the powerlines, there is A LOT of up and downs! And to many of us snowbirder's - requires Dramamine!

The kids like it though because it's one of the rare places in the area which lets you think that you're going free range. You're not really, cause you still have to stay on the trails, but it looks like you are.

Too soon were were back at the trailer and home. After this long ride, however, I was ready for some left over turkey and cranberry's, yum!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Extra Ride - Devil's Fire and Kirk's Grotto

What is the son of the son of a mother's sister's daughter? Well, that's who came down to ride, and brought his dad. The GoogleEarth file is here -->   Devil's Fire/Kirk's Grotto. Click on it... go ahead.   And you can see the whole area at -->   Offroading Home Website

It was a great day to ride, even if we needed hats, gloves and jackets. Neither of them had been down to Gold Butte before (despite the fact that their mother/granny has moved down here). Even the 45min ride to the trailhead was enjoyable.

Parking in the mouth of the Mud Wash on Gold Butte Road, we rode down to where I had met the two "sink hole loggers" and walked over to the hole. It was still there, still deep and still full of desert puma's (probably). I tell you, that's one of the best reasons not to ride/hike in the desert at night!

Of course, in order to get to Devil's Fire or Kurt's Grotto you need to pass the Mud Wash Petroglyphs. They are probably the most accessible site in the whole area, and the least disturbed. Almost pristine - throwing a whole barrel full of water on the Fiends of Gold Butte's arguments about closing down all the sites.

Shortly before the corral we turned up onto the bluff and around to Kurt's Grotto. It was still as beautiful as last year. A chasim in the rock, hidden by a tree, leads to a grotto. A great place to eat a lunch - so we did. I found a small stalactite on the canyon wall, which must have taken hundred's of years to form. There are ancient petroglyphs on the canyon wall at the entrance, and a little way inside. The boys did some hiking in the hills and found two other sites with petroglyphs.

The grotto has nice spots to eat lunch - so we did; then, rode down into Gold Butte Wash and took the "cross-country byway" around the bluff and back into Mud Wash. Up a side wash, around the corner and across some flats there are palm trees at the base of a cliff - an Oasis. A refreshing site, and no wonder the migrating indians frequented it.

On the cliffs above are the sandstone formations of Devil's Fire. It's a beautiful site that can be enjoyed by simply looking up without the need to do any climbing. A couple of "geological looking types" pointed to where some petroglyphs are and the boys went to see them. Max sat and sketched a few of them for a school class.

I probably should tell you that several of the pictures that I took here last year, have already been accepted by "Panoramio," Google Earth's method of linking to photos, and are already available on the program when you zoom close to this area on the globe. And, of course you must have the "panoramio" box checked in the "Geographic Web" folder of the "layers" tab. [Bottom left-hand corner of the screen]

In the past there has been a "tussle" so-to-speak over who "found" the area and should be able to name it. Who do you think found it? The indians did; but, we no longer know what they called it - (I wish we could read petroglyphs better). At least a few early settlers to this area called it "Devil's Fire" in an old diary that I found at the museum - SO, that's good enough for me! [Besides, "Little Finland" or "Hobgoblins" makes no bloomin' sense! Go down and look. See what YOU think.]

It was getting a bit dark by the time we wound up this long trek and were back to the trailer. Oh well, there's always tomorrow.

A Snowbird Thanksgiving

Well, it's Thanksgiving 2008 in the desert. It's getting cold... it's snowed in the mountains around snowbird headquarters... and Christmas decorations have been up all around town since October!

You can tell its winter in the desert cause the desert tortoises are all hidden in their den... the barrel cactii are turning red... and all of the locals have been wearing thermals since September!

I get to play host to a nephew and his offspring for the next couple of days... and they brought their ATVs! (It doesn't take much to excite a desert rat)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ride 3 - Mud Wash and Devil's Fire

This was the first time this year we ventured "down on the Butte," as the locals call it. It is almost an hours drive to the trailhead, but the "rides" are out of this world - or at least they were.

I should mention that ATVers are not thought highly of by the leading "tree hugging" group in the Vegas area: "the Fiends of Gold Butte." This group does get out once in awhile for photo ops picking up old tires etc. but much of their "work" is through "special political connections," back door agreements and paid lobbyists.

They, along with a misguided attempt to procure a land swap for Mesquite city by the mayor, have suceeded in closing nearly all of the "destinations" on the butte to anyone but hikers. Under the guise of "protecting the rocks" no one is allowed to see the glyphs or formations except those healthy and fit enough to hike several miles in rough terrain - the most insidious form of age descrimination being practiced by the BLM. But don't get me started!

I only mention that because nearly everyone we meet is extremly angry over the debacle. Over 80% of people we met in 30 or so trips to the butte last winter were retired, the leading (and nearly only growing) segment of the population down here. Snowbirds and retiree's are the norm - no small thanks to Dell Webb.

Todays ride began at the Mud Wash trailhead and followed the often rocky trail down the wash. We met a couple of guys hiking in the wash and stopped to chat. Eventually they confided that they traveled around logging desert sink holes and showed us a new one that they had found. From there we continued in the wash to the Lollipops hike trailhead. This trail was closed off several years ago so we've never been there personally.

Just around the corner is the Mud Wash Petroglyphs in an alcove above your head. They are the most accessible glyphs on The Butte and nearly in pristine condition.

From there we rode into one of our favorite spots: the Oasis at Devil's Fire. The palm trees and small seepage is the Oasis, the formations above on the cliff are Devil's Fire. Fragile and "devilish" formations which look like flames of fire.

After a bite to eat we decided to go back around into the wash and take the trail up on the bluff. That took us around the bluff and to the cliff above Kurt's Grotto. We decided not to descend the steep cliff this trip and instead go down into the wash and take the Backcountry Byway around the bluff and back to the trailer.

A full GoogleEarth file for this trip is available at --> 3rd Day - Devil's Fire

AND please visit the companion web site: for more descriptions, photos and a complete trailset map of the Mesquuite-Bunkerville-Beaver Dam-Logandale area.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ride 2 - North Valley

Last year we "accidented" upon the beautiful North Valley in the mountains South of Mesquite Nevada. Certainly no one, including the local ATV club president knew of the area so we felt like we had "discovered it."

So, we were anxious, this year, to go see what had happened to "our valley" while we had been gone. We trailheaded at "water tower road" just off of Riverside Rd in Bunkerville. Circumventing "no-no land" where the city doesn't want you to ride, we eventually found the trail up toward the mountains.

It's a little used but fairly graded (at one time) dirt road a bit wider than an ATV and goes fairly straight up across East Bunkerville Flats toward the mountains. Creosote bushes abound with a scattering of the once ubiquitous Mesquite trees for which the town was named. Occasional Joshua trees, Mojave Yucca and Banana Yucca dot the landscape.

You know you are getting close when you come to an abandoned and rusted steam engine once used as a watering device. To the East is Hen Springs Ravine which is fairly impassable and must be circumnavigated if you want to go to Cabin Canyon.

But we want to continue South until the trail abruptly turns West into the valley. The cliffs to the right contain many landmarks. The most visible is Keyhole Rock, a fairly large window in the cliff which looks like ... a keyhole. It is large enough to stand in and watch the valley below from within the shade.

On the mountain side adjacent to Keyhole Rock is Ray's Cactus Garden, a nook in the rock full of barrel cactus which looks like it has been planted there and cared for. Many of the surrounding rocks contain Petro-Droppings, petrified ooze from the once bottom of a lake or ocean.

This year the trail appears a lot more traveled. The formations are still there and intact, and we found several other oddities: Skyline Arch, Hanging Cave and Eagles Nest - all of which are self-explanatory.

Continuing down the trail you come to a significant drop off over a cliff. Even with brakes an ATV still slides down enough to be uncomfortable, but better than trying to go up it. On the right is a singular outcropping of the brilliant red Aztec Formation, the same as down on Gold Butte and in Valley of Fire.

In the valley below are over-your-head Joshua Trees, Gunsight Pass and Knife Edge Cliffs; again, extremely obvious as you travel. The color is grand, the air cooler and and the Joshua Tree-blooming-smell in the spring, extremely fragrant.

We traversed through North Valley and back out onto East Bunkerville Flats then scouted the trail which went up through Hidden Canyon; but, saved that trip for another day. As the sun sets early in the winter, we traveled back across the flats, down to the Powerline Trail area and along the whop-de-do's back to the trailer.

By the way, a full .kml file for use in GoogleEarth is available for this trip at: 2nd Day.kmz; and the full map of all the trails around Mesquite-Bunkerville is available at the companion web site: .

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ride 1 - Lime Kiln Canyon

We took the tarps off the trailer and went for our first ride of the '08-09 snowbird season today.

Lime Kiln Canyon is just Southeast across the flats from Mesquite. Cross the Riverside Rd bridge (they're fixing it cause it nearly washed out) and immediately turn left toward Scenic Arizona. Up the road, instead of turning left to Scenic, continue on straight toward the mountains until you come to a cattle guard and a fork in the road. The road on the right goes up to Cabin Canyon and the one on the left to Lime Kiln Canyon.

Today we parked just short of the main trailhead at the first corral. We then rode the ATVs up to the second corral (the main trailhead) to check on the fish. There is a large round stock tank that someone had put goldfish in and they love it. The fish are still there and living under the thin coat of ice.

We rode up the canyon, through the narrows, and onto the top. The "reveal," as they say in the movie industry, is magnificent. At the top you can look out into the Parashant Grand Canyon.

We decided to try and find Red Pocket Tanks, and we did with little search. There was another stock tank, corral and -- a couple of bulls that didn't take their eyes off us the whole time we were there. The rocks looked like they might have petroglyphs on them but we didn't find any - at least those made by ancient indians.

We then rode over to the abandoned Lime Kiln mine and looked around. We didn't have a flashlight so didn't go in too far because it got too dark to see any shafts - or pumas.

We followed another trail to see where it would lead and worried that we would never be able to get across the chasm to where we knew the main trail to be. Finally it wound around through the pines and out onto the main trail. We returned back down the same dirt road to the trailer and were home before it got dark - about 4:30 here in this time zone.

I did figure out how to put our trails on to Google Earth and todays trip is located right here -->Day 1 - Lime Kiln Canyon - at least I hope it is. Obviously, you first need to have Google Earth installed on your computer then click the link with your mouse and it will download the small track file and open "Earth" with it already to go.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Finding GoogleEarth

About the slickest thing they've come up with since snail-spit is the spinning Earth globe on the internet they call Google Earth.

Being free for the asking, Google Earth takes a bit to download (on our dialup modem) but not much effort to get used to. Use your forefinger to push the mouse button and set that sucker a spinnin'. Then press that other button and take a dive down through the clouds to where you can see better. The roads are on there, as well as the standard political and geographic boundaries.

They must have had those fella's in the space station busy taking all the pictures, cause you can see real good. I can even see my car parked in the driveway - no kiddin' - I just wish they had waited till we had cut the grass.

I see where people have pasted their pictures on the globe and there's descriptions of places to see and of what is happening to the earth. I'm going to have to figure out how to get the trips we take down here put on that thing as well.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Perpetual Snowbird

Right next to "what do I want to do when I grow up?" it seems is: "Where am I today?"

We've been here before, but it seems that this year we're earlier - at least we've missed the snow storms up north in Salt Lake completely, unlike last year. The threats of contracting "snow blindness" ever present in our minds, we loaded up what we didn't want to have to buy all over again and fled southward.

Friends in Beaver Dam drew us to the "warm"; but, unless you own (or camp), there isn't anywhere to stay in Beaver Dam. So, spittin' distance down the road, just past the sign saying "Welcome to Arizona" on one side and "Leaving Arizona" on the other, is Mesquite where there are apartments to rent. There's a Burger King a Kentucky Fried Chicken and two McDonalds.

Mesquite seems like it's the same it was when we "put it away" last spring - but, with my memory the way it is, I'm just glad to be able to remember where I left it.