Monday, July 26, 2010

On The Butte With 'Desert Walker': A Gold Butte Summer

One of the advantages of posting a blog such as Offroading Home is the opportunity to meet some interesting 'characters.' I was at Kurt's Grotto just after the "fiends of Gold Butte" and BLM idiocy which closed it off, and struck up a conversation with two riders who looked like they knew what they were doing.

When I started to tell them about the maps available on the blog, they already knew all about it and showed me that they had been using them a lot. Since then the two, who use the moniker of 'Desert Walker,' have assisted in verifying tracks and waypoints and every so often send a photo of something they've seen.

When I began receiving photos of the Gold Butte rides they were taking in the middle of the summer, and heard about the 'unique' modifications they've made to their rigs, I then knew that they were indeed characters so decided to 'interview' them via Email, which went pretty much like this:

ORH: You seem to be about the only ones who can tell us about what the Gold Butte/Mesquite riding area looks like in the heat of the summer – the only one that I know – when were you last on the Butte?
Desert Walker: Around the first part of July. We love to ride the Butte any time of the year and have learned how to do it without too much trouble.

ORH: When you were there last, what did you find?
Desert Walker: Well, we went to the Lollipop trail first and walked in to find the “nodule star” petroglyph. We were there looking for it – because we read about it on your blog [See Lollipops Hike]. We saw the shady little canyon and the spectacular weathered sand stone with black veins in marvelous shapes. A gorgeous hawk swore at us a bit before leaving.

Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.” Albert Einstein
That day we also went into Devil's Fire and found that the BLM post and cable barricade had been removed [Editors note: as it should have been after being placed illegally.] We rode to the far end, where you can walk up to the top, and met up with a humongous range bull, who started to strike the ground with his front hoof, so we hightailed it back to the trail.

We did Nickle Creek the day before and found the waterfall dry, where there had been water only a month before. We climbed up above the falls, but were stopped at the third level by hundreds of bees which were trying to drink the last of the water oozing from the walls.

We stopped at the mine with the Cottonwood tree [Key West Mine] and the tunnel full of water – Quail, Chukkars, Road Runner, many rabbits. Where there is water – there is life.

And on the way back we came upon a rather pretty Coach Whip snake. Dark pink with stripes and a cream tail. About 4 foot plus.

Nickle Creek falls, has a little waterfall which runs most of the winter and spring run off time. There is a “monument” to someone embedded in a boulder, covered with an acrylic case and secured with cement. Cattle are ruining it. I know they need the water but it could be piped out for them, and then closed off.

ORH: Wow! Some of my favorite television programs are on that channel which claims: "Characters Welcome" and you just might fit in that category, judging from what you said and the photos I've seen – real characters.
Desert Walker: We like to ride at all times of the year. We have been known to ride in winter parkas, our friends in snow mobile suits. We have tested the ice in Buffington Pockets, and been chilled to the bone in Gold Butte. Spring and Fall are always nice, but Summer, for us, is fun too. A relative, who is 15 years older than I, was with us on the Butte a few years back. She was suffering from the heat and we had to douse her with water to bring her temp down a bit. Some people can take the hot more than others. I must have lizard blood.

ORH: When did you discover that you enjoyed Offroading, and especially so much that you do it… well… in "unconventional" conditions?
Desert Walker: We have been riding since 1985, and still own our original "Big Red" three wheel ATV's, though they are used less often now. Our first experiences with desert riding were in Utah, around Delle. We loved the salt flats of the Great Salt Lake. We found that even in this harsh environment, wildlife can flourish. We also enjoyed trail riding near Little Sahara, rather than the dune riding. When we found the first rock petroglyphs, by Whitney Pockets, we were ecstatic. Since then, we have been out there in all climates. Every trip, we are surprised at how much more there is to see.

ORH: I've really enjoyed the photo's you've sent from your rides on Gold Butte. What are some of your favorite rides on the Butte? And do you go to different places in the different seasons?
Desert Walker: We like to re-visit places we have seen, and explore new areas. We have really enjoyed the opportunity to use the maps you have made available. With those, we have visited places we had no idea existed out there, such as Kohta Circus, and Devil's Fire. I think that Devil's Fire is a favorite place, just for the sheer beauty of it. That is definitely one you want to do in the early morning in summer.

We do like to go into the mountains, and the Grand Canyon Parashant in the summer, until they are blocked for fire danger. Buffington Pockets is a good one too. Beaver Dam Wash area is fun, and the ride up to the towers. Beautiful views! Nampaweap, Toroweap, and the over look into the Grand Canyon is a trip for the jeeps, but worth it.

ORH: You have been a help with verifying some of the trails and waypoints on Offroading Home maps, do you find the rides of others helpful or do you mainly just "explore"?
Desert Walker: We do use the maps, and talk to other people about their rides. We had occasion recently to be guided by a long time resident, and took trails up the side of mountains which I would never have considered on my own. All the pictures we took can never do the views justice. Our own explorations are some of our best rides. We find places, then bring back our friends to show them.

We followed the dry stream bed that goes under the freeway near Mesquite one summer, and went on forever. That was a trip we used the umbrellas on. It was 120 that day, and we didn't get off the desert till 2 pm. I think even the lizards were hiding. The only wildlife we saw that day were bats hanging in the tunnel pipes under the freeway.

ORH: Going up the sides of mountains sounds like you were riding with Gordon. I know that you ride the Gold Butte and some around the Mesquite area; but, are there other places, Nevada, Utah or other, that you like to ride?
Desert Walker: We have been on the Bountiful Skyline ride in the fall - something you don't want to miss. Moab, is also a favorite in the fall, for the leaves changing color against the red sandstone.

For summer rides, we still like the Mesquite area best. Overton Trails, Buffington Pockets, Gold Butte, Whitney Pockets, Nickle Creek, and on and on.

ORH: You've sent photos of places you've hiked to. What are your favorite rides on the Butte? And your favorite hikes?
Desert Walker: The hikes I like best are the ones we take at any stop. I like to walk where no one else has been, and try my best to stay off places that would be damaged by walking. (Though cattle have usually been there first.)

The walk to Kohta Circus is something we have enjoyed several times now. It is such a beautiful area, and the large water pocket gives you an idea of why the ancient people chose to stay there.

Kurt's Grotto is another one we like, once we get down the slippery hill. You can walk to several sites in the nearby area to see petroglyphs and sandstone formations.

Now that Falling Man is closed, a little more walking is required, but not too bad. We were able to show our grandchidren the site, and hope they will remember it. They had fun peeking through the cave window, and spotting lizards. That is one thing I hope to do for all my children and grandchildren - to introduce them to these areas so they can see them and appreciate the beauty and historical and anthopological value of them.

ORH: Have you ever had any close calls while riding the Butte - perhaps that others can learn from?
Desert Walker: My own close calls were from nearly stepping on rattlesnakes. One at Buffington Pockets area, climbing up and seeing the last 6 inches of tail with rattle disappearing into the rocks, and one by the Stone Cabins, again with a rattler sunning itself on the rocks. I now know first hand what the rattle sounds like! Other close calls have been with people we ride with - a little too fast up a hill and a near turn over on the ATV.

My advice: Use a snake stick or hiking stick when you can't see where your feet are landing. Thump it on the rocks and the snakes will feel the vibration and hopefully leave. Know your limitations on the rides.

ORH: What is your advice to others who want to brave the summer riding of the Butte.
Desert Walker: To beat the heat, we always leave early, at sunrise. We plan to be off the desert and in the air-conditioned truck by noon. Summer riding requires a little more planning.

Go over your maps and make sure you will have time to go out and back before the noon deadline. Tell your friends where you plan to go, and when you will return.

Pack your gear the night before. Freeze bottles of water. They melt quickly on the trail for drinking. Take twice as much water as you think you will need. The medical kit is a must for any ride. Jerky, canned fruit, and trail mix are taken, but hardly ever used. Make sure all your equipment is in good working order. Tools and such, we always have on board. There are fewer riders out in the heat of summer. If you need help, it will be longer in coming, so be prepared to help yourself.

ORH: Tell us a little about how you've 'modified' your rigs for the summer.
Desert Walker: We have fitted our ATV's with a home-made umbrella holder, made from sprinkler pipes, attached to our gear boxes. We take golf umbrellas strapped to the back of the ATV's with our Snake Sticks, using velcro.

If we are in a position that we need shade, the umbrellas are fitted into the sprinkler pipe holders and cover the seat of our ATV's with ample shade. We have used these several times and are grateful for the shade they provided. A white towel on the seat while you are hiking will make it a bit easier to sit on when you return.

We make sure to rest often and drink as much water as we need, while hiking. We use sunblocker, and wide brimmed sun hats. It's a good idea to bring a long sleeved cotton shirt to block the sun also. We pour cold water inside our hats to cool off quicker. Feels good!

Many animals are active earlier in the morning. Rabbits, Quail and Chukkars, Road Runners and Hawks. Snakes are also out, so watch your step.

Make sure you are also aware of the fire danger, and of any closures.


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