Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Extra Ride 3 - Gold Butte Byway

In a previous post I mentioned a friend who went riding with us. He is from the Monte Cristo area and rides a fully loaded side-by-side.   [No map file available for this ride: see ride 11]

We arranged to spend the day exploring Gold Butte and probably the best initial exposure is to follow the Gold Butte Backcountry Byway. He brought a friend as well and we all trailer'd to the Whitney Junction trailhead.

The road, which had been paved (well almost) up to the junction, now becomes only graded dirt, but is still quite nice. SUVs, Jeeps and ATVs all share the road.

Shortly after the first cattle guard is the fairly large Mud Wash which leads into the Middle Gold Butte ATV area, past the Mud Wash petroglyphs, through the "narrows" and out onto the flats above Lake Mead.

I mention that just for "bearings" because the byway continues South to the crossroads at Devil's Throat. This is the beginning of a loop around a mountain range; and, although we will presently continue South we will end up right back here.

A sign informs about the 2005 Tramp and Fork fire which took out this whole area to the West of the road. Reportedly started by lightening but they are blaming "non-native" grasses for keeping it going (huh?). It seems to me that fire doesn't have a clue about its fuel's ethnicity.

Even four years hasn't begun to re-establish the area. The contrast between the unburned area on the left and the burned area on the right speaks volumes for the beneficial effect of firebreaks - thank heavens the fiends of Gold Butte hadn't closed and obliterated the road.

The road, although un-maintained dirt, rides "fast," but who wants to? The vistas are incredible! As you get closer to the old Gold Butte town site, the rocks become very unusual. They are globular, and round. Up close it is clear that they are chips of granite like rock, conglomerated into a "cement like" matrix.

A few old pieces of mining equipment reveal that you have arrived. There are also the grave markers of William H. Garrett and Arthur S. Coleman, two early settlers who lived and died in the area. Garrett was a relative of lawman Pat Garrett.

Remember you are over the edge of the wild now, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go.”
J.R.R. Tolkien

The road continues South down Scanlon Ferry road, or splits to the Northwest around the byway. It becomes a lot smaller and even less maintained but goes through several canyons with incredible red cliffs - especially in the morning or evening when the light is right.

If you're lucky you might see a jackrabbit; but in my experience the fauna hear the bikes coming a long way off. The trail passes the Lime Canyon Wilderness area open only for hiking.

Near the end of the wash the trail runs up to the top of a mesa and crosses the trail to Kurt's Grotto before it goes down the other side into Mud Wash running back East.

After passing the corral in the wash (visible from Google Earth), and the petroglyphs, the byway splits to the right and Devil's Throat. The area seems to have several sink holes which are a great reason NOT to travel willy-nilly cross country.

Devil's Throat is an "institutionalized" sink hole so deep that the only way you can see the bottom is on Google Earth. The fence keeps you back far enough to prevent seeing the bottom - which is just as well.


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