Actually, this ride had several purposes. One, to check out a "new closure" which people had been reporting to us and see if it was true and if there was a work-around. Two, to check on several of the most complained about (for closures) trails in the Upper GB riding area. And, of course, three just to see our favorite "100 acre woods."
[A fourth goal was to check further on the Mud Wash Petroglyphs – which I promised I would report on in a future posting.]
You see, there are only two or three of the BLMs closures which… account for the greatest amount of impact (and angst) among the area's large senior population. So we set out to "quantify," in map form, the cause of so much angst against the BLM and the out-of-area, ultra-political conservation lobby who seem to have their ear.
Staging at Whitney Junction, it is only a short distance down the Gold Butte Road to the once useful "DD5"! We've slowly come to understand that pretty much whenever the BLM gives in and actually names a trail in this area — it is not long for this world — especially a "sterile" name like "DD5." I guess it's sort of like a farmer naming a chicken – once the "kids" give it a name, it better just be used for eggs.
The good ol' "DD5" is pretty much on the "top 5" list of all the anger going on over the latest "closures" on the Butte. It was the best, and ONLY loop trail in the Upper GB riding area, and one of historical significance to the senior population — long earlier than the 1998 line in the sand for "grandfathering" a trail. [Note: in this map I have, for the first time, included "closed" trails, in red, so you can better see what the issues are.]
When angry, count to four; when very angry, swear.”
It was a fairly undemanding trail (rest its soul) through magnificent red rocks, got you close enough for an easy walk into the 21-Goats Petroglyphs or Natural Cistern, connected with the Petroglyph Trail for other experiences, could be taken in an enclosed vehicle if needed and allowed a leisurely pace with still enough time to be off the butte by dusk. Pretty much the best ride for novice off-roaders and no wonder it has been historically used by seniors for years.
For the life of us, even after meticulously reviewing all our photos and personal reconnaissance on the loop, it failed to reveal any legitimate rationale for closing it (although it was probably the first one closed last year). The wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly and perhaps it simply got caught up in either the huge belt of land that Gore wanted to close across American, or when the administration thought they could "cut expenses" by erasing part of their "inventory."
Most likely it was to prohibit access to the 21-goat petroglyphs; which, unfortunately could have been accomplished in a much less draconian manner.
Down the road and around the Mud Wash, I'm sorry to say that we DID find yet another closure at "the Narrows." A pole and wire fence spans the narrow neck, blocking the entire wash. And, unfortunately, the "committee to close it down" didn't seem to consider signage which would actually "help" visitors. Perhaps they think a traveler is going to travel 20 miles across the desert, only to find a door closed, and just magically disappear!
Fortunately, there is another route around to the ONLY trail left up and out of the wash on the west end! Unfortunately, it does create a five-mile detour up through the already talked about bluff to Kurt's Grotto! [See the above map]
Five miles south then north again will get you back to, as I said, the ONLY trail out of the wash on its west end — mere yards "downstream" from the wire blockade! It looks like yet another example of the BLM "rehabilitating" million year old washes by throwing desert debris and metal junk in them.
Finally up out of the wash the trail does go over to one of many washes which run down to the river. It then turns back east again to eventually drop into the wash running to Khota Circus Petroglyphs – where irony of "Richter scale" magnitude awaited us.
At the trailhead we ran up the hill a bit only to find yet another brand new "parking lot" filled with a group of people, who on closer inspection ranged from age 70 - 90 all dressed in hiking gear (all except one who looked a bit out of place, and who in comparison was just a mere "kid.")
During a very pleasant discussion we discovered that they must have been extremely hard-core hikers for most of their long lives, and were still going at it. Pleasant talk is hard not to include trail closures these days, and one of the ladies, with a decidedly German accent, tipped her hand that she was clearly a "tree-hugger" of "black belt" status and flailed her arms at seeing motor-homes (up at the campsites). I thanked her for being so concerned about us (what would us mere "locals" be able to do without her), but clearly her "threshold" of "upsetting things" is set quite a bit lower than most.
She claimed that they were all from different states in the union and had been "coming here for years." "We even knew the crazy-old cowboy Ed who kept people away with a shotgun," she said. She also bragged that she personally had set with (dropped many names of 'official' people) and had helped them "draw on maps" and things!!!
About that time, the 'kid' of the group, who had been downplaying that the group were just "friends," felt it time to hand me his card, assuming that I wouldn't be happy with it. I asked, "oh you don't work for Obama do you?" "No," he said, "but someone you probably won't like," handing me his: Mike Bybee, Sierra Club legislative "representative" for public lands, parks and wilderness ID card.
I don't know why he would be hesitant to make it public that the legislative representative over WILDERNESS would bring a bunch of Sierra Club hikers, who claim to know God well enough to "draw on maps" with him, to an area where the mayor and her buddies are trying to convert the whole area into WILDERNESS so they might get the airport they want!
I mean, REALLY, all of us incompetents should be grovel-on-the-ground grateful that they should take over our issues and solve them for us… and so willingly at that!
Lest you think the irony ends there - about this time the group was now realizing that they were missing one of their members who had been left back up on the mountain! You could tell that they DID know their responsibility was to go mount a "rescue" but were fatigued. Mike offered to go back up the mountain. While the German sounding lady still had my ear, Gordon offered to take someone up the hill in his RZR.
After they had been gone for awhile, another good-Samaritan RZR owner came UP the trail, from the complete opposite direction, with their "lost" hiker. He had found the man lost in the desert completely down another wash and brought him back.
Then, of course there was now the matter of the "rescue party" who we could see with binoculars had climbed quite a ways back up the mountain beyond earshot. A quick scan of the group's faces made it obvious that, again, they knew their duty but were not looking forward to another climb.
And frankly, I knew my duty as well; so, without even thinking about it, rode my rig up the trail to bring them back…
… after all I didn't want these people wandering all over MY mountain creating new trails! I'm sure that with all his experience, he understands how to identify and keep off of the cryptobiotic soil in the area (an assessment which nobody seems to want to reciprocate to us "non"-hikers.)
Both of us were glad to help, and did so without even thinking about it, that's what our generation does (and it really makes a good story to tell the grand kids). I'm just glad that the BLM, the mayor, "fiends" (and others) still allow us to be there so we could help prevent someone from becoming another "lizard pillow."
Mike was unfortunately still up on the mountain so I didn't get a chance to say goodbye.