Saturday, March 23, 2013

Offroad: Davidson's-Toquop Wash

I feel a bit bad that it's taken me this long to post one of the nicest rides we took during last years riding season: The Davidson Graves-Toquop Gap Loop.

It was one of the few rides that dad felt he could go on, not too long, not too far away, of historical interest and not too bumpy.

We trailered to one of the common trailheads around Mesquite – the East Mesa Interchange Trailhead (commonly called "the truck stop" by locals). That's the easiest and most convenient access point to the Mormon Mountains from Mesquite. There are several graded dirt roads, which that year had been maintained for the use of the power line they were putting in.

It only has one problem, which will become evident as the tale unfolds, and that is: there isn't but one or two east-west trails crossing the whole mesa and if you miss one of them it's a long way to the other.

To begin, it's almost a straight shot north to the East Mormon Mountains. The gap the trail runs through is formed under Davidson Peak which is named after the ill fated family whose graves solemnly attest to the struggles of the early settlers of this land and where we will make a stop.

Before we got there however, we espied a road going up a hill and had one of those "wonder where that goes" moments. Now that we've been riding in the area for so long they come less frequently but that seems to be what keeps the excitement in the riding – finding things you've never seen before.  [A free Google Earth file of this route is available at: Google Earth Trail FileOffroading Home.]

We were glad we decided to scout out the trail because it was new to us and it was a truly grand view clear across the valley.

An abandoned shack, probably a hoist shack from the building of the towers, stands guard over the trail. It's not too difficult a climb and affords an expansive view clear back across the interstate and into Gold Butte – on a clear day.

There was a great example of barrel cactus all along the hillside up to the radio tower, almost like a deliberately planted cactus garden.
Of course the view from the top is just as spectacular for it is 360 degrees – not only to the south but to the northeast as well clear around up to the Beaver Dam Wash area and over Flat Top Mesa.

However, don't spend too much time lolly-gagging on the mountain-top for there are "places to see and miles to go before we sleep." Back on the trail it's about another 2.5 miles to the nearly hidden turn off to the Davidson's graves. A small pathway going off to the right is all you will see.

Down the hill and around the wash you come to a large metal cross marking the graves of two early settlers and their son who perished on this very trail after their wagon broke a wheel and they failed to find water in time. Eventually workers at the old Mormon Well found the son along the trail coming for water and then traced his path back to find his parents together under their wagon.

They buried the family along the trail and later generations re-buried them at the point you see with a nice headstone and marker. I've posted the story before.

Back on South Fork Road, the one you've been on, it's another half-mile up to a fork where it continues to the left along the mountain and Power-line or Phone-cable road continues north east.

In three and a half miles you'll run across the old rock cabins still remaining from a more peaceful time. I've posted about them before as well. The CCC boys were in the area to do projects many reclamation projects. When they were released some stayed in the area to try their hand at mining. It's unclear at this time who actually owned the claim but the men, so used to building cabins, built these rock structures to stay in while prospecting and/or mining in the hills.

From the looks of them, they must have been a comfortable place to stay after a hard days work in the hills. They have a main room with a door on the back to a covered porch where cooking was done. The same layout as most CCC cabins around the country but there were no CCC projects on this side of the mesa.

About 2 miles further on you pass Peach Spring and a half-mile past that Gourd Springs. We always stop there to check out the (usually) overflowing stock tank which seems to also be stocked with goldfish of some sort.

It's a refreshing space when it's hot and a welcome relief from the dust of the trail before continuing north another 1.3 miles where "thar be petroglyphs!"

You'll come to a place where the trail drops down into Toquop wash with a steep rock cliff on the left. Once in the wash, head just around the corner to the left up the wash and watch the cliff rocks. On the back side there'll be some "petrified ooze" of a brown-orange color with ancient Native American writings. And, I've posted about them before too in two parts: part one and part two.

There are a few other writings in the cliffs but they require a brisk climb to see. They tell passing travelers about a mostly hidden cistern of water that might come in handy if they were a bit thirsty. You can also see the three tiered catch basin but it was dry when we were there.

When you are through looking at the glyphs, and beware of snakes because most of the times we've visited we've seen at least one, continue on the trail up and out of the wash to another fork in the road.

This time take to the left through Toquop Gap. The trail to the right loops back down the wash, across power-line and back to the Toquop Wash trailhead at the gravel piles. You were on Gourd Springs road and when you turn left you'll be on Camp Road – not that it matters much because there are absolutely NO signs of any kind to let you know where you are.

You're nearly half-way around the loop and will start turning back south as soon as you get to the next "T" in the road. That'll be Rainbow Pass road. You should probably check a mileage point right there because you'll need to watch closely so as not to miss your turn off back to the trail head – there are ONLY two.

When you get over "the Summit" and through the pass you'll be on the west side of the East Mormon Mountains – quite a bit west of your trailhead. You might think that you can run all the way down to the freeway and along some sort of frontage road or something. WRONG - there isn't one. You've got to cross back east up here in the middle of the mesa OR backtrack back here later.

The two return roads are at (from the "T" junction) nine miles and 13 miles respectively. The former runs a straight shot south east to the trail we came in on. The latter does a back-track northward before joining the former track in its middle. If you get to where you can see and hear traffic on the freeway you might just as well backtrack to one of these roads.

What a good ride. It was great to get out of the house – even if it was a bit dusty. The trail was good, and we got to see some new things.


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