Thursday, April 1, 2010

Ride 29: Doing "Whitney"

Pretty much everything on the Gold Butte can begin at Whitney Pockets (Junction). For one thing, it's at the end of the pavement! For another, roads go in all directions. And… it's a great place for a picnic.   [For a free Google Earth file of this route see: Ride 29: Picnic at Whitney]

Actually, if you want to be a purist (and who doesn't) the pavement ends at… Whitney Junction. Whitney Pockets is just around the corner to the east. Whitney is the surname of an original landowner, "Pockets" is due to the pocket of red Aztec Formation sandstone exposed through erosion into the Virgin Mountains.

Whitney Pass is a mere 4.5 miles along the road and the Ranch a half-mile beyond that. There is a pioneer type graveyard along the road as well. In Mesquite we just call the road "the Whitney Pockets Road" but the GPS map calls it "Nay's Ranch Road" and in Arizona they call it "County Road 101." Either way it runs into the Parashant arm of the Grand Canyon which is a neat place to take visitors to see.

"The Pockets" are a fine place for a picnic. The rule is that you must bring a porta-potty if you camp there. On holiday weekends you more than a little know that it's a popular place.

A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.”
George Bernard Shaw

While you are there, the kids and others will probably want to "take a ride" on the rigs; so, there are several less-than-5-mile-away destinations and views close by:

Whitney Junction – has an ancient fire pit hidden in the rocks. It is also probably the most popular staging area for offroad riding down Gold Butte.

First Rock – is just a short ride to the west down Petroglyph Trail. You need to get off your bike and walk 10 or so yards if you want to see more than just red rocks. This year you could have seen a Red-Tailed Hawk pair in their nest. Next year, with any luck, you won't - they were crapping all over the petroglyphs!

CCC construction – The area was the object of several projects of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the mid-1930's. While Obama's approach is to just give money away, FDR (Roosevelt) took the more sound approach of creating jobs for unemployed men which would actually benefit the country!

There is a small cave in the rock on the south side of the road which the CCCs rocked off into a Rock Storage Cave. On the north side of the road is a rock water trough for animals which is fed from a cistern created behind the Rock Dam they constructed in a large crack between the rocks.

Whitney Pockets – In addition to the camping and picnic'ing mentioned, there is a trail which circumnavigates the pockets. In the spring the valley may be filled with wildflowers. Additionally, there are two panels of petroglyphs within yards walking distance from the campground.

Quail Point is about 2 miles east from the junction. A trail runs to the southeast at it's base. A side trail up the Quail Narrows has been closed to vehicles but is a nice hike, although a bit rough. To continue along the trail will take you to toward Billy Goat Peak but we didn't take it so I'm not sure where it ends up.

The Virgin Peak trail – is just past Quail Point on the left (north). On it, you will pass some pioneer artifacts like a corral and water tank then come to a fork. To the right is the Virgin Peak and the Natural Area. To the left is back around to an overlook above Whitney Pocket, which is where we went. You will know that you are at the overlook when you see the BLM "Protect Our Heritage" flipper sign – a sure sign that there is something around they aren't telling you about but don't want to fuss with.

Whitney Pass – is about 4 miles from the junction. It is a graded dirt road so can be reached by a vehicle with good shocks and which you don't mind getting dusty. It is a great photo spot and destination for those in your party who don't normally ride offroad.

Nay's Ranch and Cemetery – At 5.1 miles from the junction there is the Nay's Ranch. To the left at the fork the road continues into the Parashant area. To the right is the road to Pakoon Springs. The cemetery is a short distance on that road.

Parashant – is a bit further along. Past the ranch house there is a protected desert area populated with old growth Joshua Trees.

Oh, so much to see… so little time!


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