Tuesday, February 7, 2012
From the water tank trailhead, (the large gravel parking lot at the top of Ben Franklin Drive), the trail began first to go up and over Flat Top Mesa, a very scenic ride in itself. Once on the other side in Toquop Wash the trail to Overton begins just on the other side of the I-15 bridge and heads west beginning the climb upwards.
The first goal is to run along the Virgin River over to and cross the Riverside Road at Cook Bottom. The twenty-two rigs made it easily across the highway in shifts as there is rarely any traffic on the highway.
Hugh blazed the way following the Virgin River along power-line roads and offroad trails for about 7 miles (17.5 mi from the trailhead) until one last "up and over" brought the group down into Half-way Wash.
[A free Google Earth file of this route is available at: Offroading Home.]
Almost straight across the wash is another trail which immediately goes back up about 400 feet to Mormon Mesa which we need to cross in order to get to Overton. A short distance, west and a trail runs off to the south and round the edge of the mesa – that's the one we took.
There are many old native American, power-line, mining and other maintenance type trails on the mesa. As long as you are heading eastward you'll eventually get to the far edge and can look down upon the Moapa Valley.
It seems that some guy claiming to be an "artist" conned himself several months of paycheck by convincing The Museum of Contemporary Art in LA (MOCA) to buy a tract of desert (pretty much otherwise worthless at the time) and let him dig a couple of trenches on it.
NO Kidding! They are calling it "Land Art" and, no I'm not making this stuff up. In 1969 the guy, Michael Heizer, dug two trenches, 30 feet wide and 50 feet deep and 1500 feet long on either side of a natural canyon on the east side of the mesa.
He dumped the 240,000 tons of rock, mostly rhyolite and sandstone, into the canyon, wiped his hands together and said "now that's art!" Me, I just look at the photos, scratch my head and wonder "why'd ya wanna' go and make such a mess?"
You see, what he claims is that: it's all about the "negative" space – what isn't there. He looked at the river valley below and the natural red rocked canyon falling away from the mesa – both of which God made, and said to himself: "I can do better than that." So, he bulldozed a trench, filled in the canyon and pronounced "now that's better" ["let's see if I can get somebody to buy it"]
Oh, lordy! With the "fiends of Gold Butte" leaving Popsicle sticks all over the desert to prove that they donated a plant, building parking corrals in the desert that rival Walmart and idiots claiming to be artists bulldozing trenches on cliff sides it's a wonder God lets any of us live another day. BUT MAKE NO MISTAKE, ALL OF THIS IS DONE WITH TAX-DEDUCTIBLE DONATIONS IN THE NAME OF ART AND TREE HUGGING. The artists and "fiends," or the donors – who are the bigger fools?
Sugar's Home Plate Diner is just one of those non-descript places that fits like a "Harley Saddle" and has waitresses that call you "sweetie" and "hon." If you have just a normal appetite you better order a "baby burger" cause their regular would pretty much fill your cooler.
They have other things there as well but with more than 30 people descending on them at once – I'm glad Charlie called and warned them. We got in and out only as hurried as any of us wanted to be.
The return trip begins by going back the way we came, at least to the top of the mesa. Once we got to the east rim however instead of turning north we continued down Huntsman Hill to the Brandlewood Gun Club (hist) on Badger Bench. Bet you didn't think I knew their names did you.
Hugh told us the story of the club. It seems that it was started by lawyers out of Vegas who came up to shoot ducks along the river. Before too long some began bringing some ladies with them until their wives found out and came up to burn the place down. Hugh said that until several years ago the walls were still standing even thought the place had been gutted by fire. Today, vandals have knocked them down as well.
I watched Hugh's face carefully as he was telling the story – and it stayed pretty straight without a crinkle of a wink or crack of a smirk. But, I don't know. The thing just sounds too much like Charlie's "old Nevada governor Stuben" story, (about the mistresses in the Toquop Wash rock houses) to me.
In the distance you will begin seeing the FAA's big, white VOR radio thingy that planes use to navigate by. That's basically where you are heading and do pass right in front of it on your way to the freeway.
The ride becomes fairly smooth sailing when you get onto the old, paved highway 91 we used to use when we wanted to drive to LA. For having been replaced by the freeway so many years ago, it's still fairly nice.
At the Interstate you can easily find the tunnels to cross to the other side where you will head east along the Old Spanish Trail, such as it is now, to the truck stop and beyond. There are a couple of crossing trails, but as long as the one you are on is heading east you'll end up where you want to be.
You'll know you're on the right trail when you come to a ledge and a drop off the other side that would make a Llama from the Andes feel right at home. Then there will be only one trail which makes a sharp left (north). Take that one until it dumps you into Toquop Wash at the very point you want to be to climb back up to the top of Flat Top Mesa.
You're home – at least at the trailhead. If you are staying on the southeast side of Mesquite, there is a way that you can ride the back roads and cross the freeway. I've marked the Mesquite route in orange on the map which accompanies this post.
All in all, it's a fairly nice day's 73 mile ride across some nice country with great views. Camera's are a nice addition and the ride can be combined in several ways with non-riders meeting you for lunch at Sugar's or with trailers for a half-day's ride.