Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Offroad: Beaver Dam - East Pass Loop

I got a chance to take a ride in Gordon's CanAm and jumped at the opportunity. We joined Hugh and the "Beaver Dam Gang" on their adventure up "The Wash" to "however far we can get before the snow stops us" – not really expecting to get all the way to East Pass, which I think was Hugh's secret goal.

The Beaver Dam Bridge seems, to me at least, to have a new entrance this year after all the repairs to the bridge caused by last years floods. It actually makes it quite easy now for all the town's residents to head to the trails on their ATVs – a major past time activity for them.

There was but the tiniest trickle of water in Beaver Dam Wash this winter but you could tell that there had been major runoff by all the broken limbs and debris strewn along the banks and caught on rocks.

Beaver Dam Wash

The trail in the wash is quite sandy but very easy to navigate. About 2.3 miles from the trailhead you pass a trail which winds down from the top of the west mesa upon which we will eventually be returning at journey's end.   [A free Google Earth file of this route is available at: Google Earth Trail FileOffroading Home: Beaver Dam–East Pass.]

At about 6.4 miles up the wash you pass a major wash coming in from the east at the area known as "Welcome Creek." It is the Mormon Wagon Trail that I've posted about before, and was marked as an Eagle Scout project some years back.

At 6.9 miles, we stopped to look at what was at one time a very, very major landmark for pioneer travelers across the desert: Mormon Well. It was the only place along the trail where water was continually available within one or two days journey, depending upon which direction you were heading.

There are plenty accounts about people dying of dehydration when they missed or didn't make it to the well – the Davidson family (for whom Davidson Peak was named) were one such unfortunate group. This location is so-named due to the well dug and continually maintained by the Mormon settlers in the area. Today, there is a bit greener vegetation at the spot, but not much else to mark such a historically valuable location.

However, onward and upward! You need to watch carefully for the side wash to the left at about 7.7 miles. If you miss it you will run in to the cattle fence across the wash at the Utah-Nevada border demarcating the NEW wilderness area created by the Utah BLM last year (2011). If you hit it, turn around and come back because what you want, is known by the locals as: "The Snake."

Three Corners Via The Snake

The trail going up the wash to the west rapidly narrows through high-walled sandstone and becomes very… well… serpentigenous! To say the least!

Winding back and forth through narrow walled cuts in the earth is quite exilerating, at least at first. I always take new friends and visitors up this route because it is not only fun, but picturesque as well. However, more than one has told me that they felt the canyons lasted for longer than the fun.

You know the Snake is over when you top out over some slick rock and come to a cattle fence. The gate is to be kept closed, so close it no matter how you have found it. Then take a sharp right turn to the north up the incline and it'll be just a skip and a hop before you get to Three Corners.

Ostensibly, this is where Utah, Nevada and Arizona all meet; although, it probably isn't the exact location of the junction either now, or in the past. Our GPS waypoints have never corresponded to Google's map no matter how often we have set them; and, the survey marker for Initial Monument (the state border before the Nevada land-grab from Utah) is up on the edge of the mesa to the northeast.

Most people stop to have lunch here when they are merely riding around Mormon Mesa in the "North Flats" riding area, but we just stopped for a minute to "get our land-legs back." It is a popular site as attested by the changes each year. Five years ago, there was a great "geocache" ammo box with a "guest register" of sorts going back over a hundred years.

Three years ago, a nice American flag was added to the post. Two years ago, the flag disappeard along with the ammo box! Last year, the flag thankfully re-appeared; and this year, the flag is still here – but, still no "guest register."

If you're following along on the free Google Earth map of this little off road adventure, you can see that back on the main trail you'll run northwest along a fence line to a "confluence" of trails. You want to take to the west along Camp Road, although it certainly won't be labeled.

Road Rules

And I guess that brings up a valid point. If you want to take one of the trails in this area, and you never have been there before, you ought to take a good map or GPS unit or guide along with you, or you stand a good chance of NOT finding what you seek. Been there, done that, have the T-shirt, believe me.

And, while we're bringing up points, you should be aware of several observations about maps and GPS and Google: 1) Almost no trail is ever marked with its name on the ground; 2) it's only a rare trail that even has a name; 3) Not all the trails on the ground are on Google Earth; 4) Not all the trails on Google Earth are on the ground; 5) a whole lot of things that look like trails on Google Earth – aren't; and 6) Heck, Google Earth doesn't even always tell you all the trails it knows!

That's why, when I'm working on maps in some areas, I've taken to creating road name icons which will stay "on" so I can see them, no matter what Google Earth decides to do. If you would like to see the icons for the trails we rode on to east pass today, click the "Road Names" box in the menu on the left of the Google Earth screen.

Heading west on Camp Road, you'll cross the Kern River Pipeline Road; which, even if you can't tell the difference between the pipeline and the powerline, makes a good landmark. The next trail you come to after that, going north, take it. It will be going into the Tule (pronounced "Too-lee") Spring Hills and to Jones Springs.

Tule Desert

You'll know you're at Jones Springs when you see the large cattle corral and water tanks. From there the trail turns north and shortly affords a vista over the Tule Desert. Unlike many down by the freeway, the Tule still sports a heavy growth of Joshua Trees which loom over the trails and make the ride a lot more interesting – especially when/if they are in bloom.

A short two and a half miles from the springs, you'll cross Snow Springs trail, although you won't know it. You can either make a sharp jag to the west and then north (as we did) or continue on straight to end at the same place. And, speaking of things you won't know, you'll then cross Lime Mountain Road where the trail you're on suddenly gets the name: Sam's Camp Road. I sure hope you're following along on the map I provided, cause even I'm getting dizzy.

Sam's Camp

Continuing north you'll come to an area of greenery, that's Sam's Well, then to what looks like a wide dusty parking lot among the trees. Hugh called the place Sam's Camp; but, who knows if "Sam" ever really camped there.

I don't even know who Sam was or why he would be camping here. All I really know is that it was an excellent, shady place for lunch; which hit the spot after the long dusty ride.

Continuing on north for only about a mile, you come to what is as close as you get to a "spagetti bowl" of trails in the Tule Desert. To the left is where Sam had his spring at Sam's Camp Spring; Sam's Camp Road splits off to the right, according to the map, in several places; and, the trail you are on looses its name entirely!

Not to fear, however, just keep the faith and only about four miles further north on your un-named trail and you'll join that sneaky East Pass Road which has been shadowing you in the next valley over for a couple of miles.

East Pass

You've been climbing and winding now for a couple of miles, the air is a lot cooler and you're in actual trees; so, you must be in mountains. To the left (west) is Sawmill Mountain and to the right (east) is Jack's Mountain [We can probably assume that Jack was a friend or something of Sam and that one or both may have had something to do with a sawmill.]

Besides being quite cool, we've only seen small amounts of the white stuff. The roads have been very passable and Hugh says this is a bit unusual for this time of year. He has often come when the pass is closed with snow, except for snowmobiles– as if you could get them up there.

After a series of four seatbelt tugging switchbacks and a small climb, you know you've arrived at the pass because of the small dot on the map – and all the signs.

To the left (south) is a short stub to a viewpoint, and onward to the right (north) will take you eventually to Caliente Nevada, a nice back woods town which Hugh likes to stay in overnight to make this a two day trip.

In fact, we met a couple of offroaders coming from the other way who claimed to have been on the trails since early morning and wondered how to get to the trails above Gunlock (Utah!) Hugh helped them with directions, although if they did what they were trying to do, I'm sure they ended up sleeping along-side the trail.

Return Via Different Route (Slightly)

Speaking about getting back before dark, it was already well past noon and because none of us had packed a bag, we needed to head back down the mountain. Going down the trail seemed a lot easier.

At Lime Mountain Road, Hugh decided to add some variety to our day's journey by taking an alternate route. At the intersection we jogged slightly west to a parallel trail which took us south to Tule Springs Road.

South on Tule Springs road takes you into the Jumbled Mountains and what is known as "The Ribbons." You pass Summit Spring and Tule Spring before you join Camp Road again at Abe Spring where you turn left (east).

If you've been paying attention, this is a part of Camp Road which you haven't been on but will eventually pass the pipeline road that we crossed on the way up. However, we again depart our former trail when Camp Road sharply turns south down Sand Hollow Wash.

We jogged a little east to the Nevada-Arizona border on Sand Hollow Wash Road, then turned south again into the wash; but, one could just as well continue down the wash to eventually get to the same place where you see a nice trail crossing the wash (GPS point 6 on the map) and take it eastward.

Or you could just keep going east on Sand Hollow Wash Road for about three miles then turn south to meet the same unnamed eastbound trail you'll eventually be on anyway. There are often several ways to get there from here.

Once you're there from here, it should be easy to recognize the trail down into Beaver Dam Wash again and to the trailhead where this adventure began – A full day's ride, 106 miles and a tank of gas later, having climbed up to 6,600 feet and back.

If I were you, I'd print out the map!

Learn A Little More

Look, up in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plane – it's a flying nut!

Ok, perhaps only a few people besides me would call him that; but, Swiss pilot Yves Rossy stepped out of a helicopter 8,000 feet above the Grand Canyon and ... took off. To me, that's about as classic definition of a nut that you can get short of peanut butter.

A rigid wing powered by four model jet turbine engines strapped to his back, the guy flew for eight minutes over the mile-deep canyon before running out of fuel and needing to parachute down to the Colorado River far below (his planned method of ending a flight). It's his latest exploit, he says, in a life powered by one dream: to fly like a bird.

Rossy really flies with his single wing, steering with the movements of his body – no other controls. He has crossed the English Channel, flown over the Swiss Alps and done aerobatic loops around a hot-air balloon. Now he is developing a new kind of parachute so he can fly as low as 656 feet (200 meters).

So, what do YOU think?

JET: Jet Man


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