Monday, June 20, 2011

Offroad: Mesquite - CCC Cabins

A bit stir-crazy from all the rain and snow, Gordon and I took our rigs up to Toquop Wash for the first time this season. There are many nice things to see up the wash, and several areas which are quite challanging; but, as rides go, much of is a bit nondescript so sort of falls down the priority list a bit.

Beginning up at the water-tank road trailhead, will take you to Toquop by a trip up and over Flat Top Mesa. You'll need to negotiate opening and closing heavy gates on an incline on both sides of the Mesa; so, unless the Mesa is an actual destination, most riders prefer a little easier access to the wash.

There is a sort-of "unpublished" exit off I-15 at the southwest border of Mesquite which locals know as the "gravel piles" trailhead. You can only get to it from the west-bound lane of the freeway, so that's where we headed.   [A free Google Earth file of this route is available at: Google Earth Trail FileOffroading Home: 11-CCC Cabins.]

One needs to really look carefully for the exit to the right immediately after rounding the bluff leaving Mesquite. You can see the wash and the city's gravel piles just beyond the gate – which you shouldn't forget to close after you.

The first time I took this ride several years ago I was overwhelmed with the botanical nature of the trail. There are examples of nearly every cactus and desert plant we have in this whole area, right along the trailside. It's amazing that they're all here in one place.

Additionally, the wash has sections of serpentiginous, high-banked switchbacks which can be fun, unless you're in a hurry. And even several pure-sand embankments that Gordon can climb in his CanAm.

BUT, most unforgetable (even if you try) are the miles and miles of Yamaha-swallowing washboards which loosen every bolt and most of your fillings. Every time we go over them we cuss that someone hasn't brought a length of chain which riders could drag behind them, first one direction and then the other, in order to knock those suckers down a bit. We swear that we are going to do it – but haven't remembered yet.

After about 13 miles you finally come to the massive powerlines which, under the right conditions, make a humm in your ears. Several yards beyond, a trail takes off to the left (west) which will take you toward the mountains – take it. About now, those mountains look mighty appealing.

The trail now sort of parallels the powerlines and the pipeline for a ways. In fact that's how you can tell that you are still on the right trail. Shortly after climbing up onto the mesa there is an area where they have set up a climate monitoring system that they needed to in order do the environmental studies for the proposed power plant.

Just beyond that, the trail takes a dive over a cliff, down into another ravine and back up the other side. The astute rider will, about now, be wondering "where did the pipeline go? How does it cross this ravine?" It does the same thing that you just did. If you look carefully in the bottom of the wash you can see where it took a dive underground and climbs back up the other side – all out of site. Some feat!

If this is your first time on the trail and you don't have a GPS point, mark the odometer when you get to the top out of this wash. About 2.6 miles further down the trail there will be another trail that forks off to the right along the mountains. If you don't see it, there will another more obvious trail a bit further on, but this one is shorter.

If you look at our GPS track on the map, you can see that we missed it too and took the "scenic" route to end up at the main trail running along the mountains. At the junction, to the left is back down to the freeway, near the truck stop. To the right is up to the gap in the moutains at South Toquop Wash where thar be petroglyphs!

Turning north at the junction, in .8 miles you will pass the side trail which winds west and around up to the peak where the radio towers are. We've been there before so we continued on.

I should tell you that the ride so far had been more nondescript than usual. For some reason (probably all the rain) there were no washboards. Additionally, probably because of the grey winter weather, we weren't even aware of any cacti.

The trip along the foothills however, suddenly became very "descript." Massive amounts of run-off had nearly completely altered the trail. Portions were absent and people had begun circumventing large boulders and holes. Both us and our machines took a beating.

By the time we got up to Pete Spring and the CCC Cabins we were more than ready to disembark and hit the snacks. The cabins are the same as I've remembered them for the past 4 years. Cement slabs, three-man-rock walls quarried from the local geology and absent roofs.

By the time we had finished lunch our backsides (and memories) seem to have forgotten the ordeal thus far so decided to continue on to see the petroglyphs – not to happen. By the time we made it to the guzzler all our bruises were reintroducing themselves. And, by the time we reached Gourd Spring we were ready to re-evaluate our priorities.

In constrast to the last time we saw it (last year) the spring was brim to overflowing with spring runoff. The range cattle were all clustered nearby and warily gave us the "evil eye" as we stopped to cool off.

We were not quite half-way around the full Toquop Loop but were more than half-way past our interest in the terrain so decided we had endured enough fun for one day and set our GPS on "backtrack."

However, we did decide to take the trail less traveled on the way back and it turned out to be the highlite of the trip. The cactii were out and, probably because it was just a little bit higher, the runoff seemed to have left it alone. It was a real trail and not just a collection of Australopithecine geology.

Learn A Little More

Speaking of bones!   In the recesses of my tickler file, I found this little ditty.

In his "third career" George Burns experienced a reawakening of his popularity riding the crest of detante with the younger generation following his film with John Denver – Oh, God. He was asked to come on the "talk shows" to explain the phenomenon; then, as we have seen, to do television specials with John Denver. He said that he was suprised to receive requests to even do television specials of his own.

Here is a segment from one such special, done in Nashville, which showed that he still had a lot of career left in him: "Old Bones."

George Burns: Old Bones


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