Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Offroad: Gold Butte - Devil's Cove, Horse Springs

The 2011 winter offroad riding season in southeastern Nevada, well at least the Mesquite area, has been an unusually - read frustratingly - wet time especially for all our ATVs held hostage under tarps and in garages. Don't get me wrong, we're happy for the all the citizen locals who are out dancing in the street for the dust-quenching moisture. Just sayin' …

Gordon and I braved the dark clouds in the morning, perhaps believing that: "if you go it will stop" or some such erudite sapience, and saddled up the CanAm and Yamaha to head for "The Butte." After all, one needs to ride it as often as one can before the Reid/Holecheck coalition closes it all off to seniors.

After weeks of longing, we trailered to Whitney Pockets and pointed our rigs south down Old Gold Butte Road toward the lake. We bypassed the nearly obligatory visit to Devil's Throat thinking: "We'll catch that on the way back" without realizing the adventure which was in store for us.
[A free Google Earth file of this route is available at: Google Earth Trail FileOffroading Home.]

And when we got to the next "wide-spot-in-the-road," the junction toward Arizona, and the former home of good old Copper City, we kept to the right – for our sights were firmly set on seeing the lake. Devil's Cove here we come! Down the road to Valatier Wash and up the photogenic incline. Past the "Nada" and "S'nada" mines on the left to the turnoff to Cottonwood Wash road.

I've written about it before, once you turn left and round the point of the cliffs at Willow Spring the air becomes noticeably more humid, calm and fresher; and the temperature begins to drop appreciably as you enter an obviously different biome with cedar and some pinion trees.

After a short jaunt east, Cottonwood Wash turns south again and the mountains start springing up on both sides of you. With all the rain, we though we might see mud, but didn't – lots of evidence of flooding in the washes but that sand seems to drain well. Riding after a rain storm is one of the best times to do it, not only for the attenuated desert temperature but – NO DUST! It was great.

You know that you are approaching the wash to Cottonwood Spring when you spot "Lady Bug Rock" on the right, a giant rose quartz boulder that makes you just want to stop and take a picture. It's only about 2 more miles to Cottonwood Spring wash where Harry Reid (Dem NV) grabbed his wilderness area in a deceptive manner which hit the press hard after the deed was done.

The BLM post and cable blockade that you can see spanning across the wash is the eastern most edge of his wilderness, which has a tiny corner of it either deliberately or incompetently drawn across a mere 0.5 mi of a beautiful 10 mile stretch which was the only connection between Gold Butte wash and Cottonwood Wash through Pierson Gap.

The remaining three miles down to Devil's Cove has taken some damage from this years flooding; but, as in the past, you come around a corner and set before you is a grand vista of the lake – the cove in the center, Hell's Kitchen on the right and the cliffs of the Parashant Grand Canyon on the far left.

One would have thought that the level of the lake would have come up at least a few inches from last year with the significant flooding this year. Nope, it was still down below the dead stumps of tamarisk and way, way below all the developed area for camping and craft docking that was made where the lake used to be. California has taken more than a substantial amount of the water out of Lake Mead. I'd be surprised if it ever returned.

The thicket was too thick to hike thorough all the way to the water, so an ATV-side lunch was all we could muster. However, it was peaceful and cool and a good place to eat.

Running back up the wash isn't as grand as coming down but we were soon passing Nada Mine with an hour or so to spare before it got dark. We hadn't been to Horse Spring in a long time so we decided to go see how it had fared in all the rain – and we wanted to see historic Bauer, another old mining camp wich was, at one time, to have rivaled Gold Butte.

The turn off isn't marked and you need to watch carefully for it; but, it jogs a bit northeast before Gold Butte road reaches the Valatier bench. The pond was completely full and the frogs were in their milieu. It still makes my back ache when I think of the massive amount of work it took to stack all those 12" rocks, six feet high clear across the gap and up the hillside!

Our next stop was trying to find Bauer, north up the obvious trail. We never actually saw anything that would tip us off to former habitation; although we did keep looking quite intently until we looked up and saw that we had been following a wash and the trail didn't seem to be in sight. Thank heavens for GPS except that mine was broken and Gordon's had run out of battery.

Once all the power charging cables were affixed to his unit, we could tell that we were in the wash but it was farther to go back than to continue. Eventually, and a bit shaken up from the ride, our GPS showed that we were on the road to Arizona except that there was no road! A little way further along the wash we realized that we had been running down in a gully paralleling the road not 6 feet away.

However, knowing where the road was didn't tell us how to get there and it took almost another mile before we could extracate ourselves from the gully to solid dirt road. By the time we reached Devil's Throat the sky was already darkening so we could only throw it a wave and a promise to pay it homage another day.

Learn A Little More

A few posts back I told you about a series of television specials George Burns and John Denver did following their unlikely pairing in the movie Oh God and amidst the public demand to see more of the duo.

In many ways "Two of a Kind" really was a suitable moniker for the seemingly disparate comedian and musician. They were not only both afterthought movie actors but were both thought of as a highly popular icon of their generation. Separate they were stars, together real gold.

In this part, John sing's a different arrangement of his hit "Dancin' With the Mountains."

George and John: Two of a Kind, part 4

[[ Sorry, apparently YouTube capitulated to someone claiming rights to the low quality, off public airwaves, recording that I linked to and it's no longer available. Here is the full version posted by someone else - we'll see how long that lasts.]]


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