Monday, April 11, 2011

Offroad: Gold Butte - Jumbo Mine, Historic Baylor

This was the fourth ride for the Kokopelli ATV club in the 2010-11 riding season. It seemed like there were more new faces each time we rode and that everyone was getting side-by-sides. Some who rode single rigs last year were trading them in for "double wide" and bringing their wives along.

And this ride was a great place to be. It finished a previous club ride around the lower Gold Butte-Treasure Hawk Mine area which was cut short, due to some mechanical failures that required a bit of towing – yet one more reason not to go alone out on "The Butte." Especially on such a seldom used trail as this.

Almost directly on the other side of the mountain from the historic town of Gold Butte (east), is the historic town site of Baylor. Now only a dusty wide spot in the trail, people once lived there while working the area's mines in. Who knows, for a vacation they might have gone to the "big city," Gold Butte, of a weekend.

Despite all the rains and gully washings this year, the loop down to Jumbo Mine then around through Pierson's Gap and historic Baylor was easy to moderate for ATVs and side-by-sides. The little known and traveled "back way" loop is a pleasant ride into the Pinyon-Juniper biome in the lower riding area, so is a bit cooler. If you are going to take the route, remember your camera… and extra water.   [A free Google Earth file of this route is available at: Offroading Home.]

Jumbo Mine and Historic Baylor Trail

Description: A refreshing change of pace from the usual loop down the Gold Butte Backcountry Byway to Gold Butte. This track does a counter-clockwise loop around Jumbo Mine, through Pierson Gap and back via historic Baylor. An alternate route back is also shown via Bill's Spring. I wish we would have taken it because the spring is quite nice to see.
Location: Lower Gold Butte riding area in the mining area south of the historic town site. Return was east through Pierson Gap before turning north again "behind" the mountain.
Things to see: Gold Butte Scenic Byway; historic grinding wheel at Voight Well; historic Gold Butte; travel through the South Virgin Mountains; side trips to Falls Spring, Treasure Hawk Mine, Grapevine Spring and Jumbo Mine possible; Pinyon-Juniper biome east of Mica Peak and Bills Spring.

Taking the ride

Staging, Byway and Granite Spring:

As pretty much all the trips onto Gold Butte do, this full day ride begins at any of the staging areas in the Whitney Junction area. Then one travels south down the Gold Butte Scenic Byway, bypassing Devil's Throat, past the turnoff into Arizona, past the turnoff down to Cottonwood Wash and Devil's Cove, finally to arrive at Voight's Well (just north of Gold Butte town site).

A quick circle up to the historic Mill Wheel below Granite Spring provides a good rest stop from the long initial ride. Just a short distance through the rocks and into the shrub there is the ancient rock, worn into grooves by years of use grinding ore, which was rumored to have been used by Chinese camp workers to try and extract gold flakes from the rocks in their spare time.

You can tell the area has seen, and still sees, some use from campers; even though there are absolutely NO services of any kind, and it's beginning to show.

Ever since John Lear was forced out of his mining claim by the BLM, garbage has been accumulating in the area. It was John who had his men pick up the trash barrels as they drove in and out of the Butte and now that he's no longer welcome the BLM has yet to pick up the slack. Hikers and campers see the barrels and, in spite of seeing that they are full to overflowing, think someone will be there to pick up after them so leave their refuse.

Us offroaders with rigs can, and do, pick up the odd hunk of crap and give it a ride out of the area; but, usually draw the line at rummaging through a garbage can for something the size we can haul out. [Funny thing, most of us have seen BLM employees with trucks zooming in and out of the Butte never giving the need to "police the area" a second thought! Nor do we see any of the "fiends" or Sierra Clubbers setting up a party to keep it clean – they'd rather just build parking corrals, and whine at offroaders – but, I digress.]

Jumbo Creek Mine:

Continue south on Gold Butte Road past the historic town site with the two graves, into the wash and left-hand turnoff southeast to the mining area. The GPS track shows that we took a couple of side trails into the mountains looking for the Jumbo Creek Mine, at which were were planning to have lunch. We finally found it, a great spot to eat along side the substantial pile of crushed Rose Quartz rock.

Several who hiked around the cliff-side a bit looking for the original mine came back empty handed. If there was a shaft there, it's long gone now. All that remains is the painted post in the ground attesting to it's existence.

Continue eastward on the main trail through Pierson Gap and turn north at a very visible designated trail running on the "back" side of Mica Peak. An alternate route is shown in orange which runs through Bills Spring and onto Gold Butte Road - or continue north to the Cottonwood Wash Road which will connect to the Gold Butte Road and return.

If you are following along with the GPS track, you can see that after lunch we went whizzing on by turnoffs to Grapevine Spring and Treasure Hawk mine. That was because, as the first ride into Pierson Gap this year, it was an "unknown" as to what condition the runoff from the rain had left it. It may have taken us the rest of the day to transverse it – luckily it didn't!

We reserved the side trails until another ride; but, you needn't do so, they are definitely worth seeing. Last year Grapevine spring was completely dry. This year (2011) a subsequent trip showed that it was back to its former self. When still, the water reflects the weathered monzogranite cliffs behind it; which, by the way, contain an exact replica of an elephant. Its head and trunk looks at you interrupting its trip to the watering hole, and its back-side is just to the left with its tail swishing the flies away. See if you can see it!

A discussion of monzogranite needs to be deferred to another time. Sufficeth to say that it's a very unusual occurrence only found in a small number of locations around the earth. It is an extremely hard, volcanic based, conglomerate-like rock with large granite inclusions; but, which is susceptible to erosion into rounded forms which look exactly like "chocolate pudding."

Additionally, you are riding through the only area I know in the entire Gold Butte where the "Mojave Mound" (Echinocereus mojavensis) cactus grows. It is a "Claret Cup" type hedgehog cactus which, over time, grows to form a mound of little "hogs."

What makes them unique is their deep Burgundy color in the spring, the way that they flower in a "wave" across their surface and their very fastidious requirements for growth. They will not survive transplanting, and demand: "hot – but not too hot," "dryness – but not too dry," "sun – but not too much sun," "shade – but not too much" and exactly the right soil pH, mineral and nutrient composition… in short, exactly the climate and environment found around the mine and Grapevine Spring.

I rant, therefore I am.”
Dennis Miller
Treasure Hawk Mine has already been mentioned in the blog, and I'm sure will be again on upcoming rides, but if you are going to even see a little of it you better go quick. The last time we were there, there were a couple of BLM "contractor-types" who were camping down there, ostensibly to put everything back "the way it used to be." That's the rub. Exactly WHEN is "used to be?" When the dinosaurs stomped over it, when Adam and Eve "owned" it, when native American tribes blazed the trails before "the Lake," or when pioneers settled the area? Me, for this small spot of land, I prefer the pioneers. (Again, I digress)

None the less, the BLM sold some of our land in another area for commercial development and needed to "use it or loose it"; so, funded the two to camp out for several weeks and bulldoze the historic mining complex out of existence, in preparation/anticipation of Harry Reid's "wilderness" land grab.

Pierson Gap and Baylor:

Continuing along the trail, you will come to a "pinch" area where there is a side-trail running sharply to the north; that's the trail to Baylor behind the mountain range. It runs between Mica Peak and the Azure Ridge Draw and some of it runs through a wash area.

It is in the Pinyon-Cedar biome so is refreshingly cool and shady. And it is full of wildlife, although any are rarely seen. Down draws, around bends, over ridges and through washes you eventually come to an area where there are low cliffs on the left and your GPS shows a waypoint for Baylor. There is actually nothing left to show that any soul ever spent their life there, except for your GPS units attestation.

You don't have to do much imagining to see why anyone would prefer to live on this side of the mountain range than over by Gold Butte if they had a choice; and frankly, back in the day, I'll bet even old "long and short" came around to the "backside" as often as they could. (William Garrett and partner.)

Return Trip:

There is nothing so bitter-sweet as having to do a return trip, especially the way you came. The trail we've been following will dump you out on the road to Cottonwood Wash, just north of Gold Butte town-site. Turning to the left, west, will shortly have you back on the New Gold Butte Road where you entered the area.

Just north of the intersection, on the mountainside to the east, is "Nada Mine," at least that's what we call it. Riding with Gordon in his side-by-side one time, in the evening when the sun was just right, I made the mistake of asking "is that a mine up there?" Without even a blink, that's where we were lurching; up the impossibly steep ride, straight up the old mine road, to a cliff where a hole had been punched into the side of the mountain about a foot and a half. No mine, not a mine, Nada Mine!

If the sun is still above the horizon and the shadows aren't too long, you may want to stop in at Devil's Throat, which you bypassed on the way in. It is the most frequently visited landmark on The Butte, and is clearly visible even from satellite photos.

Running continually north will soon have you to where you told your trailer to wait patiently anticipating your return, with a back-pack full of memories, a camera full of photos… and possibly a sack full of Butte garbage?

Learn A Little More

If you have followed the blog for any length of time, you will realize that I often use these "learn a little more" segments to showcase some video clip that I have run across in my trips around the Internet. And, that I enjoy reminiscing about both George Burns and John Denver among others.

No one would have dreamed that these two individuals with such disparate talents and generations would form such a bond and long time friendship. And, certainly I would never have guess that I would out live them both! What a loss!

This is part one, the introduction, of a television special that they used to do together about once or twice a year after their movie "Oh, God!" was released and the public clambered to see more. Unfortunately, the quality isn't the best but it was posted on You Tube by a John Denver fan who had recorded the show. I'm glad that they did it so we can at least see it; but, because it was a JD fan they only posted segments with John in them and missed George's solo segments – oh, well.

Here is part one of "Two of a Kind."


Samuel Dodd said...

How can we get the gps coordinates for these places?

D J said...

Use Google Earth

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