Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Offroad: Radio Crystal-Helifino Pass

I'm still trying to clear out a couple of trails that were neglected from last years (2012) riding season and this ride is one of them – a terrific day with Dad and Gordon on our ATVs down to "the lower butte." To places we've already seen a few times.

Why go again? Well, I'll tell you. First, as far as I'm concerned there's no better place to be in southeast Nevada; Second, if "Harry and the fiends" [Reed, D-Nevada and Sierra Club PAC] have their way, most seniors would never see it again; and, Third, its better than Disney – you can never see it all!   [A free Google Earth file of this route is available at: Google Earth Trail FileOffroading Home.]

It's true that the second time you visit a spot the newness has faded but that doesn't mean that it still can't be filled with wonder and awe. Take the Savannic Mine trail for example. That sucker rivals the best viewpoint at Grand Canyon or Bryce's. And it does it every time I squeeze my rig along that precarious canyon ledge trying to share my attention between the view and the trail.

In fact, following the initial visit your brain has a chance to cogitate on it a bit and you usually come up with several "I wish I woulda's" to put on a list for a future encounter. This ride was a treat because we weren't in any hurry, we knew where we were going, we had a good estimate of time and we wanted to explore.

Voight Well and Arrastra

This, probably more than any other site on Gold Butte, reminds me of the method one has to use to discover places like this: "shut up and listen."

About the fourth time I had visited the old town-site, I ran across an older gentleman who was camping at Voight Well. Something impressed me to just stop and say hello, to which he was most willing to respond.

I could see my riding companion become a bit agitated when this new acquaintance seemed to "settle in" to a fairly long explanation of the area and how, as a child, he had come with his father to see old Bill Garrett (Pat's brother). I pretended I didn't notice and we listened for about five minutes.

Then when he finished he, almost as an after-thought, said "you've seen the arrastra?" Well, I hadn't and immediately decided that I really, really wanted to. He said that it was made by the old Chinese workers who worked in the mine and that you could still occasionally see some flecks of gold in it. We did find it, saans any gold, just a short distance up a nondescript trail which we otherwise wouldn't have thought to wander into.

It's made of the same Monzogranite type rock that Gordon says they call "Mormon concrete" up in Wyoming. The central pivot post hole is clearly visible inside the worn channel where a pestle-like stone was drug over it to grind the ore. We haven't ever found the grindstone. It could still be there buried under a mound of dirt or bush of some sort.

This time we explored along the rock wall and found some bore holes dug into the cliff all in a line like they were meant to be used for something long since disappeared. That's the kind of thing that gets your imagination going to discover the true story. It sure would be nice to talk to someone who actually worked in that mine; but, they probably are all long gone by now.

Granite Springs

We've always seen the marking for Granite (Granita) Springs on the maps but have never really hunted for it. This time we ran into it sorta by accident.

We were going to yet another site that I found by taking the time to meet and question a fellow visitor to the area. During our previous several visits we had thought we scouted out the abandoned Gold Butte Mine as being a little above the town-site, really run down, not very accessible and somewhat uninteresting.

We were wrong and the real mine is fairly high on the cliff up one of the many winding trails. Because it had been a spell since we had visited, this time we took a wrong turn and ended up blocked by a fairly unusual pond full of water – from Granite Springs.

The USGS has it marked a bit up the hill (but you know how those old interpolated waypoints are) but this could at least be its runoff.

Gold Butte Mine

Once we refreshed ourselves a bit at our newly found Granite Springs we continued on up the mountainside to the defunct Gold Butte Mine. Remember, the trail entrance is on the Voight Well side and not down by the ghost town and it winds a bit up the mountain.

The view is worth it however cause on a clear day you can see pretty much all the way back up to Whitney Pockets! I've posted photos from the mine entrance before so I won't here; Gordon, on the other hand, did get a chance to walk in a little ways and took this picture. It's dark in there and he didn't have his oxygen meter with him like he usually does, so it was only in a few yards.

The rock at the entrance looks fairly solid but we can't attest to anything beyond that. It's not a good idea to go exploring in old mines as you undoubtedly already know and have been told a million times. I can tell you, if your mom knew you were even thinking about it she wouldn't like it.

Garrett/Coleman Well

This is yet another little item which all of us had passed by at least fifteen times before someone pointed it out to us. In my case it was Tuffy Ruth, an extremely well known 'old timer' of Mesquite who was pointing out the cement pads which once formed the floor of the Garrett-Coleman cabin.

Known as the "long and short of Gold Butte", those two mined the played out area and lived there to their death. Tuffy knew them and had been to their cabin several times because any traveler of the Gold Butte road was always welcome to "sit a spell" and, if you were very lucky, sample a bit of their "home brew."

Tuffy remembered to me that their cabin's front door faced away from the road, pointed at a huge round rock as the place for their still and off-handedly said "and over there's their well." It was like the thing just lost it's "cloaking device" and materialized before my eyes.

How can one nearly step over some rusty iron grating without even seeing it for years? It still had water in it when we were there (in the spring) and neither a human or a cow could get out if they stumbled into it – hence the grating. Sometime I'd like to come back with a tiny bucket and a looong rope.

Pleasant Valley Generator

Dad and I will take credit forever for finding and naming this wonderful little place the first time we were down on the Butte several years ago. We know we weren't the first to find it, after all there was a trail and an abandoned trailer; but, none-the-less, we felt like we discovered it because we took the "less used trail," away from the main road, a bit lost and stumbled upon it.

It was the spring and (at least that year) the entire little valley was completely packed with blooming wild flowers. It is fairly hidden from the main trail which, for miles and miles, had been full of dry, desert rock. This little area was a complete and pleasant surprise – hence the name: Pleasant Valley.

But this time it was Gordon who opened my eyes to the overlooked but obvious. He was trying to point out something by saying "it's over there by that old generator trailer."

For some reason I challenged him with "how do you know it's a generator trailer?" After all, it is and has been every time I've seen it, completely empty and devoid of any markings. He merely replied "well, there's the generator!" And, there it was… not twenty feet away, on the other side of the trail, completely stripped of any shred of valuable metal components.

Ancient Mine and Camp Sites

Being the editor-in-chief of an offroading blog has its perks, you receive the occasional tip on where some interesting areas or artifacts might be.

About a year previous I had communicated with a Gold Butte visitor who wanted to find and visit a spanish-era mine and camp-site which he had been told was down in the area of the more recent Treasure Hawk Mine #4. I told him that a ranger had told me there were "other, more ancient, mines in the area" but not where they were located.

He said that if he found them he would give me the coordinates and he did. Unfortunately, I didn't remember the exchange until we were already on our way to the area and didn't have the coordinates with me.

Undaunted, we did make a valiant effort to locate the sites he talked about and did think we were in the general area even though we weren't seeing what he had described. The map accompanying this post does have the waypoints that he sent in to me and you can see how close we got on our trail. Neither of us can do hiking very safely so, without knowing a specific point we are heading to, can't go exploring around on a whim. Hopefully there will be another visit.

Treasure Hawk #4

The photo accompanying this section is what's left today of the Treasure Hawk mine – NOTHING. The BLMs patient plan to rid itself of the grandfathered mining claim finally succeeded on a technicality and they hired a couple college kids to camp down there with bull-dozers and erase it all. We've posted about this debacle before (5 links) and are sorry to report that without GPS coordinates those of you who've visited that wonderful historic mine and equipment probably won't know where it was; which, undoubtedly will make the "fiends of Gold Butte"-Sierra Clubbers come close to wetting their pants with joy.

Radio Crystal Mine

Dad and I have a fair fondness for Radio Crystal Mine. It was really the first mine we went looking for when we discovered the butte.

The map we had didn't show it but my new Lowrance GPS had a tiny little symbol for a mine with it's label; although, for some reason I don't remember being all that certain of the exact location. We had traveled a greater distance than it seemed we should have and when we finally arrived at Treasure Hawk mine (not labeled) we thought "this must be it."

It wasn't until the next year that, again, a fellow traveler shared with us the true name and the directions (sorta) to the entrance of Crystal. I say "sorta" because we still didn't find it the first time we tried. The trail hanks off in a fairly obtuse angle from the main trail, backwards through heavy foliage (in a good year).

When we did find it, there was absolutely no question that this was the real mine because of the tailings and the, now occluded, mine entrance. In the little gully below the tailings there are rusty pieces of mine equipment and it's a great place for lunch (if you're not going to Grapevine Springs).

This trip Gordon wanted to do his thing (explore any and every mine we run across) so we took a much better look at the rocks. There is still a little of the quartz veining at the site, just like you can see on the cliffs all along the trail. I'm sure if we still had the legs and backs of our youth we would have a lot of enjoyment cavorting about the hills like we did in days of yore.

Grapevine Springs

The first time we were here, dad and I were trying to follow our friend Ralph's directions to the location of an entire valley filled side-to-side and front-to-back with blooming Mojave Mound cacti of the type that he had planted in his cactus garden.

He told us of when he was first married and when he and his wife would camp on the butte with their motorcycles. They had discovered the valley in the spring during their exploring. He also said that he had tried to go back a couple of times and could never find it; but, they both attest that it was really there and was gorgeous.

On our first trip it was spring and we did find a couple of specimens of the cactus along the trail but were highly impressed by Grapevine Spring. It was more water than we had ever seen in one place on the butte, surrounded by scrub trees and bushes and it came at a great time for lunch. It has become our "go to" place for lunch when ever down that way if we can at all help it.

Later, when we were there with Charlie, he pointed out the "backside of an elephant" in the Monzogranite hills flanking the water; which, immediately prompted me to see the same elephants head, trunk and ears adjacent to it on the left. Go see for yourself, it's really not difficult to spot.

Air Strip

The mining rights to the area were owned by John Lear, a pilot of no small amount of notoriety. The historical museum in Mesquite has several pamphlets and books describing his adventures – I just wish they had his plane. They should.

Just below Grapevine Springs (to the west) and a little south of Treasure Hawk Mine is a long'ish flat place in the desert that you may miss if you aren't paying attention because it hasn't been used in some time.

That is the "airport" used by Lear to fly in and out of the mine. There are no buildings or hangers still there, but there must have been at one time.

Hellifino Pass

All of us felt quite "fulfilled" after our long day's journey on the butte and, as the shadows were getting longer than their attached trees, we decided to head on around the loop and back to Voight Well and the trailers.

As luck would have it however, Gordon spotted a side trail leading in the direction of the lake (and a mine he knew about) and didn't have a difficult time in talking us into "let's see where that goes." I thought that it had a good chance of being the trail to Ralph's valley full of cacti.

It led us up the hillside to pretty much a ridge-line. After a mile and a half of ups and downs the trail began descending a bit too steep for my 2-wheel drive machine (I was thinking of the return trip which would probably be necessary) so Gordon went on ahead for a distance to reconnoiter.

When he returned, it was with disappointment over not getting closer to where his GPS told him there was a mine. And, because we also hadn't seen any canyon valley full of cacti, I asked him: "Where ARE we?"

He replied: "Helifino"… sounds like a good enough name to me!

Learn A Little More

Perhaps you, like me, first became aware there even was a TV game show named Jeopardy when everyone was a-buzz with excitement over a computer nerd named Ken Jennings from Utah who seemed to be unbeatable. "He's already won, like, a bazillion games so far" I was told, so I tuned in. It really became exciting to watch the guy mostly out-strip every opponent with his seemingly universal mastery of trivia.

He did eventually slip up but by that time held the record for the longest winning-streak ever. After the furor died down, both he and another top winner were called back to play against IBMs new super-computer: Watson. THAT, was a match!

Now, Ken has had a chance to speak at a TED conference about the ordeal and has some advice for us all.

Ken Jennings: Watson, Jeopardy and me, the obsolete know-it-all


Linda said...

Hi: Don't know your name but we've been following your exploits for quite some time, and this one trip and the one through Pierson's Gap interested us a lot. So we took a trip to go to the Radio Crystal Mine and wrote it up here http://www.in-the-desert.com/Gold_Butte_Nevada.html We would like to know if you know if the road is still blocked just south of Eureka on Piersons Gap Road? We are both disabled and really appreciate your position on them closing roads! It really ticks us off as well. A very few people have chastised us for putting downloadable GPS tracks on our site for all the trips, but many more have told us they like that. And we'll continue to do this on all our trips. Thanks again for these publications! Sincerely Don & Linda Gilmore If you'd like to contact us --- desertcruiser2@gmail.com or a contact us link on our web site.

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