Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Offroad: Old Narrows Trail

The trail that once was: The Gold Butte Narrows. Oh… I know, those of us "Johnnie-come-lately's" still have a trail we call "the narrows," but as good as it is, it doesn't hold a candle to what "once was."

Back in the day before the National Park Service (NPS) got a burr in their blanket and decided to close off the well used trail, one could navigate up a high-walled, carriage-wide, multi-colored, serpentiginous, slick-rock canyon to everyone's amazement and absolute delight.

Today, pretty much NO-one uses it at all – except those who ignore signs.

Hikers don't – because it is really, really, really far off road from the nearest staging area, across huge amounts of uniforn, non-colorful, boring, hot and flat desert and would require them to ride an offroad vehicle to get there to hike it. And, because it was never really important to them anyway.

ATV riders don't – because, well… the sign says not to! We just pass by where you used to turn off and shake our heads; or, sometimes someone will stop and reminisce about what you could have seen in the good old day's before the NPS land-grab turned it into coffee-table-book fodder.

Post A Closed Trail?

This post with accompanying GPS trail is for a couple of purposes: first, to bring attention, in a more-or-less permanent venue, to this great and beauteous area. For after all, now it's on the web; and,

Second, to call attention to the fact, for those who don't know, that it was the NPS who closed the trail sometime back when it grabbed all the land within many extra miles of the highest shoreline Lake Mead could ever possibly be.   [A free Google Earth file of this route is available at: Google Earth Trail File Offroading Home: The "Old" Narrows Trail.]

Why was it closed? Who knows why the bureaucrats in the government do what they do? For most of us, it completely defies all reason why such an entity would close off A WASH! On occasion, nature's rain closes it off by completely scouring the twists and basins down to bare, unpassable slick-rock full of bike swallowing cravasses. Most of the time, however, the trail is filled in with navigable sand deposits.

In fairness to the NPS, I honestly don't think that anyone in the organization even gave offroader use for this trail a minutes thought; because, offroaders just don't naturally fit into their world, pretty much anywhere. Have you ever heard of any public hearing conducted by the park service PRIOR to making an edict? I haven't.

The BLM, on the other hand, has closed off the Mud Wash ABOVE the narrows ostensibly to protect some spring, from what the ranger told me. The problem is that in the 30 or so rides I've been across the area, I've never even seen a spring.

The USGS marks the Red Bluff Spring down by where we now cross the wash and we can see that there isn't any spring at their marking. And the only other area it could be isn't even close to where ATVs rode – only hikers… and cows. So, who knows? We'll probably never know!

Middle Gold Butte Yearly Checkout

Today's trail ride stems from when I was reading another "save the butte" site which stated that the BLM had closed off the Devil's Fire area and gave instructions that you should now park back in Mud Wash by the corral and hike over the hill. I knew that the BLM contractor had erroneously closed off the trail two years ago; but public outcry had made them take down the barriers last year. This article made it sound like they'd done it again.

So, I asked Gordon if he would check while he was riding down that way. He ended up running all over the Middle Gold Butte riding area to scout out if anything new had been closed down. Later, when I showed his track to another "old-timer" he showed me "how we used to do it" complete with photographs.

I decided to combine the two experiences, and this is what we ended up with. The recent track is in yellow and the… let's call them – "historical," trails are in red. You can see, even from the map, that THEY used to be the most picturesque way by far.

We've posted about riding into the Middle Area before, and you most likely already know to stage at Whitney Junction and run down Gold Butte Road into the Mud Wash. The post and chain barrier at what is known as the Lollipops Trailhead is still there. We didn't expect it wouldn't be.

The Mud Wash Petroglyphs were also the same as last year (a welcome relief from the "tagging" they've been through recently). Another good thing is that there is much less of that chalky, alkaline seepage on the rocks this year. Probably because it's been a bit dryer.

And, as we've already said, the trail into Devil's Fire hasn't been re-blocked like we'd feared. The palm trees are still doing well, as are the rest of the formations.

The BLM fence still blocks the narrows at the point where there is another side trail running up the cliff-side to the mesa; although, it's a LOT more traveled and worn now.

Gordon and his group went around to the Narrows Crossing to see that it was still un-molested and were going to run over to Fisherman's Cove to see the lake; but, decided to go back via Kurt's Grotto and Devil's Throat instead.

The corral at Kurt's Grotto is still doing its job blocking the trail; although, with all the anger that I hear around town it's a wonder. It was the "fiends of Gold Butte" and their paid lobbyist who were taking credit for "protecting" the area from us riff-raff seniors in the newspaper three years ago.

We knew then that their blustering rhetoric in their press release about grand plans to "make a nice trail so that it will be accessible and safe for everyone" was just a blatant smoke screen; and time has showed them for the liars they are. It is now more dangerous than it ever has been without offroad vehicles to firm down the trail, and absolutely no work on a "path" has even been attempted.

None of Gordon's party had brought their climbing gear so they couldn't go in and check the petroglyphs – I hope they are still safe.

Finally, after back-tracking most of Mud Wash, they split off over to Devil's Throat. That is one of the most visited sites on the butte due solely to the fact that you can nearly drive to its edge in a vehicle. And possibly the fact that it must be fun to throw things in to; as nearly every time I've seen someone else at the site when I got there, that's what they have been doing.

If any of you have memories of riding "the Narrows" we'd appreciate hearing from you in the comments.

Learn A Little More

This time I'm a bit sad about this section. It marks the final segment of the George Burns-John Denver special we've been posting called: Two of a Kind. And, in many ways they were.

John became an icon for his generation. A songwriter, performer and an actor as well. He starred opposite George in "Oh God," which began a deep and lasting friendship. Knowing George added to his career and made him a better man. He died in an airplane crash much, much before his time and his artistry is still today making people happy.

George was also an icon for his generation: a comedian, an actor and a singer as well. He starred opposite John in a host of television specials and even music concerts, which began a lasting friendship with "the kid." Knowing John may have added a few years to his life, you see George's career spanned to the end of his one hundredth year in 1969; and he, also, died long, long before his time… and he will always make people smile!

George Burns - 18 again with John Denver (two of a kind end)


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