Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Offroad: GB Mines

The last time Charlie and I trailered down to Gold Butte (the town) we decided that it was easier to ride our ATVs down than pull a trailer, so we wouldn't do it again. However, the allure of being able to ride in air-conditioned comfort down a road you've already been on plenteous number of times before, makes one reconsider past decisions when conditions change.

Such was today. Gordon brought his much more rugged frame trailer and we wanted to test to see if it would ride better than the fairly massive toy-hauler did before. The findings: 1) it did ride better, 2) the road was no better than before, and 3) it still is easier to take the ATVs.

However, the break in the weather gave us a chance for a 'shake-down cruise' to loosen up the shock absorbers, limber up the springs and see what surprises, if any, 'the Butte' and the BLM had left for us over the summer.   [A free Google Earth file of this route is available at: Google Earth Trail FileOffroading Home: 02-Gold Butte Mines.]

Noticeably absent this season were any campers or other riders staging at Whitney Junction and Pockets. It was early yet (November) but usually there are one or two souls soaking in the ambiance. It's been at least two years since anyone scraped the main road. But there is now (finally) a notice board in the parking lot – although it can't have been prepped very well because it's already showing substantial weathering.

Pulling into the old homestead, and now final resting place, of Art Coleman and Bill Garrett felt just like it did the first time we were there. What a place! You can easily see why the fellows didn't want to leave.

We unloaded and rode back up around to Voight Well where we noticed that someone had set the "trigger-trap" on the corral and it now contained 4 or 5 head of long eared cattle without obvious tags or brands. There was water in the trough and a roll of hay so it must have been deliberate; but, no one was around and the ranger has sworn up and down to me that there are "absolutely NO grazing permits on the butte."

So what was happening is anybodies guess. Rustlers or BLM – your choice… not that there's probably much difference.

The arrastra is still there and thankfully no two-legged jackasses had left any of their aluminum or plastic 'tracks' for us to clean up for them like we often need to do. Passing the turnoff we decided to take a quick jaunt up to the main Gold Butte Mine entrance and found it just as we had left it months ago. The spot is one of many along today's trip that clearly demands you to break out the camera, as you can see if you're following along on the free Google Earth map.

But, the trail beckons and we want to be down at the mines by lunchtime. The trail to Pleasant Valley (named because of the wildflowers in the spring) runs along the foothills from the graves. It passes a wildfire revegitation project which basically didn't work. Oh, native plants have regrown but none inside the hundreds of little plastic protective devices (finally now removed) that someone had a mind to help mother nature with.

The rocks become unique in the world of geology in that whole sections are monzogranite, a type of ultra-slow hardening granite which has formed very large crystals which are easily fractured and eroded. As the rock is uncovered, ground water can seep into the fractures and erode them into rounded shapes – looking as though some giant has plucked massive stream-bed pebbles or lumps of malleable rock and pieced them together.

Over the years, awed visitors have given them individual names and posted them in photo collections. The rocks don't care, they just keep sittin' there waiting for you to come visit them.

The first time dad and I 'discovered' Pleasant Valley it was in the spring during a year when, for some undiscovered reason, every yucca on the desert decided to bloom! Wildflowers were everywhere, and this valley was thick with their fragrance. Today, not so much. Of course it's winter and nothing is in bloom.

Continuing along the trail was a disconcerting experience. There had been erosion of course, so the trail seemed to have more bumps and turns; but, we came to a crossroads and for a moment were completely disoriented. There had never been a "T" in the road before – but wait… this was the Treasure Hawk Mine!

There had been a house directly in front of us, which had now been leveled back to the earthworms. In fact all the settling ponds, mill houses, assay shed, panning table houses and shaft had been pulverized, hauled off or buried. Even the foundations.

Not only that, it had been landscaped to death! To the point that it looked too symmetrical and too proper – like it was phony and at any minute the seven dwarfs would emerge from behind a rock.

I'm sorry to say that I was so taken back I didn't think to get any photos to show you. I almost never do that. So these photos are of visits past and show us what we are missing.

We were going to eat at the mine but the eerie feeling just wouldn't go away and we decided to go see our old friend: Grapevine Springs. The side-trail to the springs is just a hundred yards or so past the mine; but we evidently were still stunned and missed it. That's the obvious back-track that you can see on the accompanying free Google Earth map of our ride.
Grapevine Spring has been a constant surprise for us over the years. One time it is full to the brim with water, the next bone dry down to the moss on the rocks and everywhere in between. This time it was full and making the air at least 10 degrees cooler all around.

The first time I brought Gordon to the spring he quickly pointed out an exact likeness of an elephants head looking at us from within the monzogranite rocks just across the water (photo far above-click to enlarge). Its ears flappin' and trunk wavin'. Not to be outdone, I found its back half right next to it on the left, complete with its tiny swishing tail. Elephant Rock – commin' and goin'.

This area is the only place I have ever found the 'Mojave Mound' cactus. It's a hedgehog type cactus, or claret cup cactus, which has the most intense burgundy flowers in the spring. It grows in a clump of several plants like hedgehog's do, then it flowers in a "wave" beginning on one side and moving to the other. You can see them from Grapevine Springs to a little beyond Pierson Gap on the east and nowhere else.

From the springs the trail turns back north and west. You'll run into an old landing strip that "Crazy Eddy," a former owner of the mine, used to use. The fellows at the Mesquite History Museum can tell you about the famous history of Ed and his plane. They even have a small book about him and some aftifacts.

About three miles from the springs, along the Indian Wash Trail, we decided to take a side trail which we had often seen but never followed. It just turned out to be a short jaunt up the hill and over to connect with the Gold Butte Road which was our ticket home.

Learn A Little More

By now you probably know that I like to include some little tid-bit of nostalgia with each post. Something a bit out of the ordinary or unusual.

And, as it turns out, many of them come from the actors and writers of our youth. We've seen Dean Martin before on these pages, and we've seen George Burns; but, Dean and George together – now there's a treat!

George Burns and Dean Martin


Post a Comment

Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I will, of course, be moderating all comments to make sure (a) they conform to the standards of good taste set forth by Offroading Home; and (b) nope that's pretty much it.