Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Offroad: Carp-Caliente Loop

Literally the very first "offroad" trip we took when snowbirding into Mesquite for the first time five years ago, was the dirt road exiting I-15 toward Carp-Caliente. We were in a touring car, which wasn't so bad, but noticed that we were at around a quarter-tank of gas, running through some pretty isolated country.

Couple that with the fact that there are absolutely no route or place signs out there, AND it was before I had bought my first GPS unit, and what it meant was that, although we knew Carp was up here somewhere, we had no idea how far it was from where we were or even where precisely WE were.

We turned around long long before seeing what we expected might be something called Carp, let alone Elgin; but, we did make it back before running out of gas. So, every time we have passed that exit since then, we had a nagging sense of failing to find out what was up there.

So, after the trip into the Tule Desert this year on ATVs, and having a much better understanding of the relationships between places, we decided to see how far the van would get us up that road.

Although, as Murphy seems to have decreed: because there have been so many waypoints plotted on my GPS that I have begun to "archive" them, yet again this year I STILL hadn't brought any of the landmarks for the area! Couple that with the fact that there STILL aren't any place signs for most of the area's historic places and it means that we STILL haven't seen Carp!!   [A free Google Earth file of this route is available at: Google Earth Trail FileOffroading Home: 05-Carp-Caliente.]

First, I must say that we were all pleasantly suprised with the road. It was actually more "street worthy" than many of the so-called "improved" roads around Mesquite. Someone had bladed it recently (January 2012), it was dry and even though gravel, didn't cause any trouble for our low centered van. [Remember all that could change in a heartbeat with some heavy rain.]

We wondered at the time about the placement of the Carp-Elgin exit on I-15. When you exit then need to drive back the way you came for over three miles on the frontage road you begin to question the competency of the planners!

Additionally, if you'll notice, even though the road is named Carp-Elgin it runs in the wrong direction away from the freeway down to Mormon Mesa by what is now Overton and once was St. Thomas.

If you are following along on the accompanying, free Google Earth map you can see that the road from this point up toward Elgin is called: Rainbow Pass Road. Go figure! I guess if you were down in St. Thomas the road would be going in the direction of Carp.

The first part of the trip runs through the desert toward and into the Mormon Mountains - scenery we've seen from the ground many times while on ATVs. After you pass Hackberry Springs Road you head through "the Summit" next to Davidson Peak on the east.

The road makes a little left-angle jog at the South Fork Toquop Wash and you realize that in that gap are the petroglyphs that we've talked about before and all the rides we've taken down on Toquop Wash.

The road runs northwest then straight west to a "T" at an old rail-road siding. We thought it might be Carp, but it wasn't. To see Carp, or what's left of it, you need to turn left (south) for about three miles. As it was, we turned right (north) toward Elgin and only later found out that the "T" was at Lyman Crossing, another former RR siding.

In fact, you even pass Cloud, Leith, Kiernan and Kyle all before you reach Elgin – and none of them are signed. The whole ride being along the railroad line and along a beautiful canyon.

At Elgin, there was a closed down (for the winter?) state area (?park) at the old Elgin school house. It would have been nice to look into it; but as it was, the gates were locked and everything closed down. However, it was fun to visualize what it must have been like for school children back then when we saw the outhouses across the back playfield painted to match the school.

The canyon scenery continues all the way up to Caliente passing Boyd, Kaolin, Stein, Etna and Kershaw (another state park) along the way and side canyons such as: Deadman, Rainbow, Willow, Buck, Buckboard and Whiskey Springs, to name but a few.

A "rustic" town to say the least, Caliente is probably worth a re-visit for a day. A much more substantial railroad spur, it is still in use today; and, even though there is no McDonalds or Wendy's there is a nice fast food diner and plenty of historical sites to visit.

Dad remembered his dad and mom talking about one of their relatives who lived in Pioche but didn't remember much more about it or why they were there. So, we diverted plans and turned north for a side-trip before we returned home.

That actually turned out to be another interesting ride. Pioche is a great historic town with still-remaining cable-tram mine cars hanging above the town. The old Saloon and dance hall are still in use for the towns few inhabitants and the map shows multiple mine claims all around the area which we didn't even begin to see. Pioche is definitely on the bucket-list to visit again.

On the way back I spotted a turn off to a "view area" which I wanted to take. What a view area! It turned out to be Miller's Point in the Cathedral Gorge State Park – and at just the right time, sunset-wise for photos.

We'd never even heard of it before but it's almost as picturesque as Bryce Canyon with views looking down into intricately carved passageways on the canyon floor. All done in red-orange rock! Quite a view, especially with a few white snow skiffs on the walls for counterpoint.

Never liking to retrace our routes, if we can help it, we decided to take NV-93 (Great Basin Highway) all the way back down to I-15. Another great ride through multiple canyons and valleys.

At Crystal Springs, and the Key Pittman Wildlife Management Area, the road turns sharply south to pass alongside multiple mountain ranges with barely-pronounceable names, like: Pahroc, Timpahute and Pahranagat.

Too soon you are passing the smelters or factories or whatever-they-are buildings with smoke-stacks next to I-15. At the freeway entrance you are only about 20 miles from North Las Vegas so if it's early enough you can catch a show or stop for a bite. Otherwise, you are in great shape for a quick ride home. A day and 250 miles worth of gas well spent!

Learn A Little More

A short time ago I posted a clip of Ronald Regan's russian jokes, which was actually only part 1. Whether you remember it or not, one of the major reasons the Iron Curtain fell was due to the overwhelming international pressure from being the brunt of jokes being told about them by nearly everyone around the world – a little practice started by President Regan who lightheartedly told one in many of his talks.

Here is part two.

Ronald Regan tells Russian Jokes - part 2


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