Friday, January 30, 2009

Ride 14 - Northside Flats

One of the most goofy rides we've ever taken happened today. Dad's friend Ralph lives in Beaver Dam and has said that there is a way to travel between Mesquite and his house. [For a free Google Earth map of this route see: Ride 14 - Northside Flats]

It is simply amazing what a little water can do to the desert! The Virgin River (and others) have carved a meandering path over the hundreds of years since the mountains were formed. There are Mesa's and Mesa's within Mesa's. Bluffs and cliffs leading to Bluffs.

We trailer'd to the Mesa Avenue trailhead and set out down off the bluff toward Beaver Dam. At first the trail was well worn into washboards. There were the usual scrawny looking cattle and water tanks, then we went down into our first wash.

A massive culvert crossed under the freeway within a 100 yards, or so, of the paved road turnoff to Scenic Arizona. We went back into the wash and found a fairly steep trail to climb out of it.

From the top we could look across the valley and see smoke from a fire. From there we cross over and down into another more substantial wash. This time there were two tunnels under the freeway. And we have passed over them hundreds of times without even recognizing they were there.

A substantial climb and we were yet again on the top of the mesa ready to slide downward into still another. There was indeed a navigable culvert, but the interest had worn off. Our GPS still showed us a significant ways from Ralph's and we begun to worry about the time.

Back on top of the mesa it was a bit harder to find a route with a reasonable incline down into the next wash. We drove to the edge of the canyon in several places before we found a way down.

The next canyon convinced us to try and go "inland" trying to circumvent it entirely. That did work, to an extent, and put us on a fairly well used trail. When that led down into yet another "canyon" our GPS told us that we had come only over half way to Beaver Dam and had several other canyons to "ford."

We backtracked to a trail that was marked on the GPS and found nothing. We headed in the direction that it laid out for us and eventually began noticing small ruts, which grew deeper and then ran through someones old dump for worn out tires. They seemed to be laid out on both sides of the path like an old road.

Is it time to go home yet? I keep clicking these damn shoes, but nothing happens”
Robin Hecht

We eventually came upon a trail that we had been on before and followed it back West to the fence marking the Nevada/Arizona border. Knowing that the trailhead was almost directly South of where we were, we tried to navigate right along the fence until stopped by a cliff too steep for us.

Backtracking we cross through the gate in the fence - marked with "geo-cached" beer cans and a "troll doll". The trail off the bluff and down into the wash was much easier and we followed the wash until we came to a building marked as the Mesquite Police firing range. That led to a graded road around the dump and onto a paved road.

There didn't seem to be any other route around the bluffs and back to the trailer so we went down the road, eventually becoming "Turtleback." At Pioneer Blvd we could look across the valley and see our truck but wasn't allowed to ride on Pioneer. As even if we crossed the road there wasn't a route through the houses that we could use -- so... we called for a ride back to the car!!!!

I waited at the intersection while dad went to retrieve the trailer. At least 4 people made a cell phone call when they saw me and you guessed it shortly a constable pulled over and asked where I was going to go with the bikes!

All in all it was an interesting ride - but I'm not anxious to do it again - ever!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Kokopelli 3 - 3 Corners

As you know I nearly beg people to send me GPS track logs of the trails they take in order to expand the files I have on the "official" web site:

In order to "prime the pump" so to speak I rode, under invitation, with the Kokopelli ATV club to the "3-corners" and showed them how to use the GPS and set waypoints. [For a free Google Earth map of this route see: Kokopelli 3 - 3 Corners]

Planned in advance, we felt a bit of pressure to ride - even though the sky was threatening to spit at us all day. We trailer'd to the Mormon Wagon Trail Trailhead. It's a bit tight on parking space.

A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.”
Tim Cahill

Even though our friend Paul had taken us there before it was a neat ride for me because this time I found an answer to a long time question I had about Joshua Tree "baby's"; namely, "where were they."

Remember me telling you that in all of our rides so far, it is clear that there were only old plants everywhere. The trail we followed was through a great "forest" of the plants, AND there were plants of all ages - especially young ones! So now the question - why here and not there?

You know you are getting close when you cross under the power lines. Entering the wash through the trees, you need to pick your way through the willows and find the "trail" that people are currently using. It is a wash after all and the channel keeps changing.

However, there is enough interest that there is always a good trail to follow. Going north if you run into the fence that goes across the wash, you are at the Utah/Nevada border and just across the fence is the lowest point in Utah. If you've gone that far, you need to retreat back down the wash but follow the Western cliffs until you come to the fairly substantial Sandy Wash, running West.

This is the really fun part. You sort of feel like a gerbil running a maze. The serpentiginous, high walled trail is guaranteed to make you seasick if you take it too fast.

When you come out of the maze, you cross through a gate in a fence and turn North up the hill. Follow the fence line North and you will shortly come to the flag and red cement marker for 3-corners.

There is an ammo box wrapped in plastic which contains a "log" of entries from visitors from many years worth of travelers.

There are several ways out of the area, but the thing about ATVs is it's nearly always a round trip back to the start. This trail requires going back down Sandy Wash into Beaver Dam Wash.

On the way back we went North a bit to see the Apex Mine trailhead. A great ride - and many thanks to the club. [If you have a track we can use on the site, send an email or leave a comment]

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ride 13 - Pinnacle of Gold Butte

We rode by "the Pinnacle" probably 20 times before we even noticed it. [A free Google Earth map of this route available at:  Pinnacle of Gold Butte]

Now, once we have, we cannot NOT notice it! It sticks up against the skyline "bigger'n yer thumb." And, of course, we had to go try and find it. That task became right up there with "we've got to find a way down to the Virgin River." [Neither of which, by the way, we have yet accomplished.]

We trailer'd down the "new" Gold Butte Road (according to the map), past Little Canyonlands and parked were we could see the thing. The problem was that the flats, unlike others we had seen, had no trails, except one lone cow trail.

We headed off following the cow toward the cliffs. The cow turned out to be a goat, jumped a couple of crevasses, and ended in a dead end. We came back around and took another shot at it, but the canyon that we were following turned in the wrong direction and we ended up behind it... sort of.

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

As they say, "the third time's the charm" so we made yet another stab at it. This time along the break line under the cliffs, but needed to break trail. The drainage ditches became, cracks, then crevasses then chasm's... which seemed to take all the fun out of it.

So, we went to "plan B": find the Virgin river. We did have a good time riding along the power line, finding old campsites, going through bushes, and looking at the river from the top of the cliff's; but, never found a way down which didn't involve carabiners and pitons.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Ride 12 - Devil's Fire Hike

This is a "goddado" hike from a previous frustrating experience. A friend told me that there were more petroglyphs at Devil's Fire than what I had tought there were, and I just had to go see.  [A free Google Earth file of this ride can be had at: Devil's Fire Hike]

Unfortunately, when we got here last week, the BLM had done what they seem to do best: close the seniors, and anyone who doesn't hike, out - we're such a destructive lot! As we knew it to be a fairly level "hike" we decided to come back to our once favorite place.

Trailheading at the Mud Wash Trailhead, we rode down Mud Wash, past the petroglyphs, past the corral and into Red Pocket Springs wash. Around the corner to the right there was the blockade.

The walk is a bit difficult through sand up to your ankles. The Oasis was as we had left it 3 or 4 weeks previously. We walked up to the cliff wall and to the right (South), looking for a "wall and stairs."

We found some seeps and more palm trees around corners so they aren't readily seen. Continuing walking we came to a fence which needed climbing (no gate). Past that further, and almost giving up, we came upon an old crumbling rock wall. How it came to be there, I can't even conjecture.

Then, looking for the "stairs," was unsuccessful. However there was a sort of, less vertical area with a few handholds which would possibly lead to the top of the butte. We might have turned back had we been there on our bikes; but, having vested all that work and knowing we're not going to come back, we weren't about to give up.

I scrambled, literally, to the top. After a bit of searching I found a couple of glyphs on a wall behind me. Then scrambling up to the top of a very large rock I had nearly stomped on some more before I realized that the glyphs were on horizontal surfaces.

In all there were four such flat topped, very large rocks with glyphs on them. All of obvious antiquity compared with others in the area. They are grand and one wonders if we ever are able to interpret them fully, they might have anything to do with the ethereal quality of the rock formations all around. They truly do look like they have something to do with the underworld.

Travel for the young is a part of education, for the old, a part of experience.”
Francis Bacon

Getting down was more difficult than getting up, but was eventually accomplished. We both were bushed, but needed to walk the 3/4 mile back to the blockade. It was late afternoon and shadows were stretching - it gets dark early in the winter desert.

It's too bad to realize that it was the last time we would see what had become our favorite place. To me that's also a kind of desecration, we can be glad we risked our lives to keep our land free so the fiends of Gold Butte and the BLM can tell us we can't see it.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ride 11 - Gold Butte Back Country Byway

This was an unexpectedly different ride. I say "unexpected" because we didn't end up where we intended. [For full Google Earth map see here: Gold Butte Back Country Byway]

Not all those who wander are lost.”
J. R. R. Tolkien

We intended to return to the Oasis in the middle Gold Butte area and ended up down at Gold Butte (the ghost town) on the back country byway. The reason: yet another BLM closure (with the help of the fiends of gold butte).

Trailheading at the Mud Wash we rode Southwest around the wash, past the petroglyphs, and up Red Rock Springs wash toward the Oasis. Not more than a quarter mile up the wash a brand new railroad tie and cable BLM blockaid had sprung up since we were last here [And we had thought they were through]. This left a 0.6 mile hike for which we hadn't come prepared.

It is crystal clear that seniors have absolutely no place on the fiends of gold butte's agenda; nor, apparently, the BLM who seems to use the group as it's only consultant. An incredibly insidious form of age descrimination. But, I digress.

Only one good thing. While we were taking a time out for "fuming," I spotted a single specimen of "strawberry hedghog" cactus (Echinocereus engelmannii) that we hadn't previously seen in our many trips past this very spot.

We went back around the bend to the other BLM blockaid near Red Rock Springs to recognoiter, and decided to take the wash around into Gold Butte Road Wash.

It was one of those things where we had too much time to just go home, but were on a bit of a time schedule because of prior committments. We had never taken the "byway" route down to the ghost town, so we did.

It went fairly easily through a beautiful valley. Many Joshua Trees, Mojave Yucca, Barrel Cactus dotted the hillside, as well as several corrals, water tanks and a guzzler.

It was a treat to find a few specimens of "mojave" or "grizzly bear" Prickly Pear cactus (Opuntia erinacea). We've only seen three areas now where this species has grown.

The trail, although fairly easy, was longer than we had expected so we needed to run faster than we would have liked. The ghost town of Gold Butte was exactly the same as we had seen it last year. The two graves at the site witness just how much attraction the area can exert on people.

On ATVs the Old Gold Butte Road goes fairly quickly. There is some washboarding and a lot of dust but the scenery is quite varied.

The view as you crest the top of the grade at Valatier Wash is really grand! What an area.

We didn't have time to swing around Devil's Throat but were able to load up and make it back to Snowbird Headquarters in time for our activity.

We've talked before about Google Earth and I've been attaching map files of the rides we've been taking. This week I recieved a new program from an acquaintance in France [more on that later] and I've added some photos attached to the track file.

Be sure and click on the link to see this route in Google Earth: Gold Butte Back Country Byway. (If you don't already have Google Earth you'll need to install that first.)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ride 10 - Lime and Cabin Canyon's

Our Saturday ride turned out to be a bit more than we had initially planned because... there's "them thar mountains to explore." [For a complete Google Earth file of this trip see: Lime/Cabin Canyons]

We realized that we wanted to explore East Bunkerville Flats between Lime Kiln and Cabin Canyon roads. So, we trailer'd to the fork in the road.

Our first stop was up Lime Kiln road to see the fish. Those in the large tank at the trailhead were "glad to see us" to break up their lonely day under the ice. We found a trail behind the tank leading up the mountain toward Virgin Peak and took it. A fairly nice trail, steep but nice, petered out in the trees.

We backtracked back around and checked on the upper tank, which was still empty. Don't have a clue what happened to the fish.

On the way back down we took a trail down into the gulch (to find a hat that had blown off the ride previous). There was a fire ring, bench and mounds of clay "sheet shards." The jokers could have at least burned all their carton refuse in the fire ring.

In that one spot there were good examples of all the different trees within eyesight: Mesquite, Oak, Juniper, Pinyon Pine and Mountain Mahogany. We continued in the gulch until it rejoined the Lime Kiln road.

We went across East Flats, past the trail up to Middle Canyon, and onto Cabin Canyon Road. That is a great area through an all-too-infrequent old growth forest of Joshua Trees.

Up at the trailhead to Cabin Canyon we met three men who were taking pictures and reconnoitering the area. One said that he was bringing the other two because they hadn't ever seen the area. It turned out that one was one of the big wigs of the "palm" company who had just been at the electronics show in Vegas.

He showed me the phone that they had exhibited and I told him that one of my ambitions since college days was to be able to someday afford a "Palm Pilot." It hasn't happened yet; but, I offered to guide him to all the secret areas I've found when he came back, if he'd bring me a Palm Pilot. He didn't seem to jump on the offer... but you never know!

Shortly above the trailhead is a right-angled detour up the back entrance into South Valley. You can tell you're there by the "Budweiser Fence." A fence that through the years has accumulated "geocache's" of empty beer cans.

The trail isn't too tough, but narrow and steep in places. This time it was crusted in a bit of snow.

We returned back down Cabin Canyon road as planned and called it a (long) day.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Ride 9 - Logandale Trails

What a great place to ride! Just outside of Logandale the state's trail system has been a bit neglected the past few years but has the beauty of Valley of Fire along with designated trails, markers, campgrounds and sites to see. [For a full Google Earth map file see: Ride 9 - Logandale Trails]

There are many trails marked to ride. The most used, and least problematic for off road vehicles, is "Trail A," which is the one we took - sort of. From the Logandale Trails trailhead, we rode down the canyon into the valley.

Trail A is shaped like a "boot" and can be taken in either the clock- or counter-clockwise direction. We chose to branch initially to the right (counter-clockwise) along the trail.

Magnificent cliffs to the left and desert to the right gave an interesting ride. There were restrooms at Basset Campground but we saw no campers. More than half-way down to the heel of the "boot" we took a trail leading into the desert and mountains to the right (West).

We thought that it would circle around and rejoin the trail but it didn't. Instead it led to the cliffs and up a canyon which turned out to be a dead-end. We retraced and took a less used trail back across the desert and came upon what looked like markers for an old archaeological dig. The GPS map was labeled "Silver City." It would be interesting to know what the town was like.

A unique aspect of the stop was that we saw a seldom seen cactus - the Cottontop Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus polycephalus). Named because of the ring of cotton where the blooms once were. These seem to grow where there is a bit more moisture and not necessarily on hill sides like the barrel.

Back on the "A-Trail" we were looking for the "H-Trail" but must have missed the marker. At the heel of the boot we attempted to take the H-Trail in reverse but again missed a turn and ended up in a box ravine which seemed to have more archaeological markers.

Back on the "A-Trail" and half-way down the "sole" a trail ran to the north and we took it into some high red cliffs. Finally it ended in a box canyon filled deep with fine sand dunes.

Back on the "A-Trail" we nearly missed the marker to turn North; but, we didn't. It took some fairly intense navigation to negotiate the steep climb up and over some boulders. Then it was cross desert, North, on fairly washboard, sandy trail.

At the "toe" markers said "L-Trail was straight ahead so we needed to surmise that this was the tip of the boot and we needed to turn West again. It wasn't long before we met the first of three marked petroglyph areas, and found them by the side of the road. They looked quite ancient and worn.

Further along the "buckle" was obvious because of the Park Service markers and barriers. This was the hiking trailhead. Just across the barrier was the second petroglyph which looked quite a bit less worn.

It was a fairly easy hike up over slickrock and boulders to a small dam which, in times of wet, created a holding pond. It was dry now but you could tell it had done its job and the foliage was lush. Continuing up to the end, we were rewarded by the third group of petroglyphs which were extensive and more pristine than all the others before.

Another small stone dam created a watering hole from the seepage in the rocks. The petroglyphs were as good as we've seen, but requires a bit of hiking.

Back on the "A-Trail" we shortly came upon the most difficult stretch of the trail. It was quite steep and required some side to side negotiation which made us glad we chose to go counter-clockwise and could go down instead of up.

The remainder of the trail back to the trailer was uneventful back up through some high, red-walled canyons to the beginning.

This one was a "do-over."

Friday, January 2, 2009

Ride 8 - "Three Corners"

What a great ride today! Parts of it almost felt like when Luke Skywalker flew his x-wing down the trench of the Death Star! [For a complete Google Earth File see here: Three Corners]

We trailer'd from Snowbird Headquarters over to Beaver Dam, the home of Ralph, Dad's friend. He is an "old timer" in the Overton/Beaver Dam corridor and has hundreds, if not thousands, of hours logged on ATVs in his "life log" of rides.

The ride he wanted to share with us was up Beaver Dam Wash to 3-Corners (Utah, Nevada, Arizona). We dropped off the bluff from his house into the wash and headed Northwest. The actual stream bed changes a bit with nearly every storm, but you can tell the trails have seen lots of use.

Along, multi-colored gravel washed down from areas miles away, through willows taller than your head, by the side of cliff's and embankments and up to the "trees" near where the power-line crosses the wash.

From the clump of trees, containing a "farm-house" of sorts, a trail goes to the East over to old Highway-91. That's the Mormon Wagon Trail that settlers used to use going from Salt Lake to California and points in between.

Directly up the wash, at the Utah/Nevada border is the "lowest point" in Washington County, in fact all of Utah. On this trip, however we didn't get up that far, because just shortly before that the wash splits. Beaver Dam Wash goes straight, Sand Hollow Wash turns to the Northwest.

That's when the ride got really fun. The wash walls got red and steep and over the rig. The trail began winding serpentigenously through the countryside. At some points you didn't know which direction you were going. Not difficult, but very unique.

Eventually, the trail came up on top of the bluff and you could see the desert ahead. A cattle fence needed to be crossed at the gate (close behind you). The area is obviously popular to the type of people who must ride to the top of every hill they see. The true trail runs to the right, along the fence, to the top of the hill.

Once on top, the fence was the guideline through an example of the kind of Joshua Tree forest that used to mark this whole area along Hwy-91. Travelers from Utah to California all saw it before they built the freeway system (I-15) through the gorge. Much of it was burned many years ago and hasn't grown back, even yet.

Cross another fence line were Joshua Trees which still had the seed pods on them from last year. A sight that is very uncommon over in the Mesquite-Bunkerville-Gold Butte area. And then 3-corners.

A cement post marks the spot, and there is the usual USGS survey marker. There had been an ammo box with a log at the site for years, and it was interesting to read the many years worth of visitors.

Sometime this last year, Ralph told us, someone has brought a pole and flag to the site which now stands attached to the fence. Additionally, the ammo box has been covered with a piece of plastic which should be returned after your visit.

After lunch, we explored another trail which went perpendicular, to the West. Our GPS showed that it would eventually lead to a cross roads which would take us South back home, or North up to Lytle Ranch Road running along the foothills.

We saved that for another ride and turned South back to the trailhead. The Joshua tree forest eventually gave way to lower flora: Buckhorn Cholla, Golden Cholla, Creosote, Mesquite and Prickly Pear Cactus.

This was one ride we felt that we didn't finish.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Ride 7 - Abandoned Mine Area

To begin the new year we wanted to see what had happened to the Abandoned Mine Area which we had not visited as yet. [For a complete Google Earth file of this day see: Abandoned Mine Area]

It was a great winter ride which took all day. That's because there is so much to explore. We trailer'd from snowbird headquarters, down Gold Butte road, to the Clive's Landing trailhead.

The trail toward the lake is to Clive's Landing at Lake Mead. Across the road, several trails lead toward the mountains. The most obvious one is the most direct way and is the route we took. There is a fork in the road and we kept right, stopping first at Key West Mine.

I'm not sure what exactly the mine was set up as; but, "there's copper in them thar hills," amongst other things. Several old settling ponds and tailings piles make interesting hiking.

We went up the trail a ways and found it to be an interesting ride up to where it connects to yet another trail. Because we didn't know exactly where that would end up we opted to return down the trail and around to Great Eastern Mine by the route we knew we had GPS tracking for.

However, by the time we got close to the mine we recognized the area and found the connecting trail which will make subsequent visits much easier.

The Great Eastern Mine is also a great place to be. Quiet, cool, beautiful vistas over the Virgin River valley and full of history. The mine shaft is flooded and quite dangerous.

Back down the trail we kept to the right, toward South Valley, and rode to the Turquoise Mine. Well, that's what we call it even though it's not on any map we can find.

Colleen Gillings showed us the mine last year. There is obvious Turquoise colored rock all around but no true stone left.

Still around the trail, we passed one of the "Guzzlers" which serve as watering holes for the small animals. It is basically a commercially available covered cistern which is protected from use by larger animals (cows etc).

We took the Radio Tower Road to see if we could get to the top. One of us, ahem, braved the bit of slush and made it almost to the top. Within sight of the tower, the road became so deep in snow that it was impassable. I don't know how the gasoline truck (which comes up every other week) is going to make it up.

We returned by the "lower" route which drops you off on Gold Butte Road a bit further North than the trailhead.

All in all, a good day's work... a... ride.