Cassidy Arch is only one feature of many on this spectacular hike on the Waterpocket Fold that will capture your imagination and make you feel minuscule as you hike over open slickrock and between towering walls.
Utah's Red Rock Country
Hiking Mt. Kinesava, Zion NP
Southern Utah Hiking/Biking in a Pandemic: Snow Canyon State Park, Wire Mesa, and Zion NP
Red Mountain Primitive Trail, St. George, Utah
In Search of the Rattlesnake Petroglyph
Desert Plant Photos
Fred (upper left) standing on top of Cassidy Arch, Capitol Reef NP.
Overview: Maximize your already overloaded visual experience in Capitol Reef by hiking a trail less-traveled to Cassidy Arch, then descending through the soaring heights of Grand Wash. The only drawback on this spectacular loop is the 2.6-mile walk on the park's road (Hwy 24) back to the trailhead.
Location: Hickman Bridge Trailhead, 2 miles from Capitol Reef NP visitor center on main park road.
Coordinates: Trailhead: 38.287936, -111.226906.
Difficulty: Moderate Class 1 with signs and rock cairn markers.
Permit/Fee: $20 for private vehicle pass good for 7 days.
Navigational aids: Hiking Map and Guide - Capitol Reef National Park (topo map), Stav Is Lost's route description.
Date Hiked: April 28, 2022.
Geology: Capitol Reef NP encompasses its main geologic feature - the Waterpocket Fold, a nearly 100-mile crimp in the Earth (see "For the Geocurious" below.)
Seems like the last few hikes we've done have histories of late 1880's wild west rustlers and outlaws. Two of them - Mount Minerva Hoyt and Lost Horse Mountain in Joshua Tree NP look over valleys where cattle rustlers hid their "stock". Cassidy Arch, the premier feature of this hike is named after Butch Cassidy, leader of the "Wild Bunch" - bank robbers who hid in the remote canyons of Capitol Reef. Wild west characters - one of the many things I like about living in America's magnificent west.
One of the best attributes of this hike is variety; Frying Pan Trail elevates you to a spectacular high point and a rock wonderland with eroding sandstone towers scattered about, then drops you down to the intersecting trail that leads you to Cassidy Arch's cavernous opening. The grand finale is a walk through a long deep canyon aptly named Grand Wash. To get back to our car, we had to walk on the main park road which snaps you out of a dream world of hoo-doos, warm-colored rock layers, scented junipers and ancient petroglyphs to bring you back to the real world of traffic and tourists. It would be optimal to have two vehicles - one at Hickman Bridge trailhead and one at Lower Grand Wash trailhead on Highway 24.
Cohab Canyon/Frying Pan Trail
Start at the sign for Frying Pan Trail/Cohab Canyon across and slightly down the main park road from Hickman Bridge parking. According to local lore, Cohab Canyon got its name because it was a polygamist hideout if lawmen came around. But, lack of diaries and documents from Fruita, the Mormon settlement at Cohab Canyon, indicate it's probably more lore than truth. Intersect with Frying Pan Trail in 0.55 miles, taking a left to head south under Frying Pan Peak. Cohab Canyon Trail continues to the right (west) to Fruita site.
Cassidy Arch Trail - out and back
Hike over cairned and open slick rock 0.5 miles to Cassidy Arch where without warning the sandstone drops below to a spacious opening. It seems appropriate to be named after Butch Cassidy because it's hidden until you are practically on top of it. This a great place to take a break and watch people walk over its top. Stav is Lost describes a canyoneering trip report that begins next to the arch and does several rappels into narrows, a grotto and more arches, and ends up at Grand Wash Road and trailhead. Head back to intersection from which you came and take a right to descend on Frying Pan Trail for 1.0 mile to the intersection with Grand Wash Trail. Cassidy Arch looks like a big tunnel high up on the mesa overlooking Grand Wash.
Large basalt flows erupted and accumulated in the Boulder Mountains, west of Capitol Reef 20 million years ago. These rounded and vesicular boulders are scattered about everywhere in Capitol Reef, brought there by melt-waters from glaciers that had spread out over the lava flows. Many miles of rolling and tumbling sculpted them into these beautiful shapes.
Frying Pan Trail is well-marked.
View from Frying Pan Trail to the southwest.
Those are some thick sandstone layers!
Topping off on Frying Pan Trail.
On the way down toward intersection with Cassidy Arch Trail. Fern's Nipple on the horizon. Great view of titled layers of the Waterpocket Fold.
Heading down toward intersection with Cassidy Arch Trail.
Cassidy Arch Trail swings down to the right: Cassidy Arch is under the sandstone on the right mesa - its opening on the left edge of that mesa. Fern's Nipple on left horizon.
Suddenly it's there: first view of Cassidy Arch.
From Cassidy Arch looking down onto Grand Wash Road.
Grand Wash Trail
After you get back onto Frying Pan from Cassidy Arch, you'll probably run into hikers coming from the Grand Wash Trailhead to the southeast. Frying Pan Trail is longer but so beautiful and less populated. Grand Wash is a peaceful walk between high walls with dark stripes of manganese and iron minerals contrasting with orange and light yellow sandstone. There's many interesting erosion features such as honeycomb weathering, or tafoni - holes produced in the sandstone from water, wind and ice on surfaces facing the sun. Every turn, every bend brings another great sight to see. Petroglyphs, pecked into sandstone panels, appear near the end of the wash. I'm always intrigued by the people who made these - what did they look like? What tools did they use? What did they eat? I had a great time learning about them when I was writing my petroglyph post - In Search of the Rattlesnake Petroglyph.
The road walk back to the trailhead was worth it - It's hard to top Frying Pan Trail - thanks to Stav is Lost for giving us the idea! There is so much more to explore in Capitol Reef, we plan on getting back to this incredible land. I recommend hiking Upper Muley Twist Trail off Burr Road in the southern part of Capitol Reef - it elevates you to an amazing view of the Waterpocket Fold.
Keep on Exploring!
View of Cassidy Arch (top right) from Cassidy Arch Trail descending into wash with intersection to Grand Wash Trail.
Some cool stuff on the trail: click on the milkvetch and petroglyph photos for more information.
For the Geocurious - The Waterpocket Fold
As national parks go, the map of Capitol Reef is unusual. It's long and vertical area encompasses the Waterpocket Fold, a part of the Earth created during the Rocky Mountain building phase ~ 70 - 50 million years ago. Horizontal rock layers were pushed up by compressional stresses on one side by an underlying fault, creating a classic monocline (mono = one, cline = incline), a steep "ramp" of rocks 4,000 feet higher on the west side than the east. It was further uplifted 15 million years ago, exposing more of the strata to erosion to create "waterpockets" - holes in the rock of varying sizes. Increased tilt of the layers created increased gradient of streams, which accelerated erosion.
This unique geological phenomenon revealed strata laid down hundreds of millions years ago in red rock country that has weathered into domes, canyons, arches and cliffs. There are a few scenic loop drives in Capitol Reef NP - a popular drive is Notom-Bullfrog Road/Burr Trail/Scenic Highways 12 and 24 loop. Burr Road crosses the Waterpocket Fold and is incredibly scenic, giving ample geologic "feast for the eyes", especially for the "geocurious".
Image of Waterpocket Fold from NASA Earth Observatory
A good You Tube video features Capitol Reef park rangers describing in simple terms the creation of Waterpocket Fold:
Monocline Explained: Capitol Reef National Park
Illustration from Written In Stone - Seen Through My Lens of a classic monocline like the Waterpocket Fold. Compression in the brittle underlying bed rock causes faulting and folding with east-directed forces during mountain-building and the whole Colorado plateau was uplifted. The western block was pushed onto and over the east block causing the fold. This was initiated by the Farallon Plate sliding under the North American Plate.
Our GPS tracks for entire loop - on top of the Waterpocket Fold.
Fred in Grand Wash.
Our GPS tracks and profile. We hiked counterclockwise from Hickman Trailhead on Hwy 24 to Grand Wash Trailhead.
Google Earth image of our tracks from intersection of Cassidy Arch Trail/Frying Pan Trail (top left) to Cassidy Arch (bottom right).
Butch Cassidy- Outlaw - His Early Years. Capitol Reef Country (website). Wayne County Tourism.
Capitol Reef Administrative History. Chapter 4: Mormon Settlement. U.S. National Park Service.
Capitol Reef: The Waterpocket Fold. Capitol Reef Country.
Flight Plan: Part II – Geology of the Circle Cliffs Uplift and the Waterpocket Fold at Capitol Reef National Park. From website: Written In Stone - Seen Through My Lens.
NASA Earth Observatory. Traces of an Ancient Watery World In Capitol Reef. Website entry on 5/2/22.
Olson, V, Olson, H. 1990. Capitol Reef: The Story Behind the Scenery. KC Publications, Inc.
Hike three high points and view the historic Lost Horse Mine along this western Joshua Tree NP trail.
Starting in Quail Wash.
Overview: Make the Lost Horse Loop hike even more interesting by bagging a few peaks along its route to get a feeling of the vastness of Joshua Tree NP and wilderness, with views of San Jacinto Peak in Palm Springs. Check out the plaque that commemorates Lost Horse Mine stamp mill, one of the best-preserved of its kind in our national park system.
Coordinates: Lost Horse Mountain = 33°.56'13.74" N 116°.08'10.01" W.
Navigational aids: Trails Illustrated Joshua Tree National Park #226 map.
Date Hiked: 4/10/22
Geology: The Lost Horse Loop trail and mine is located in granitic quartz biotite gneiss (metamorphic) related to Pinto gneiss age 1.7 billion years ago - some of the oldest rocks in California. Biotite is dark mica mineral. The Lost Horse Mountains are one of only three occurrences of basalt in Joshua Tree NP.
Cattle rustlers and Gold Mining in Lost Horse Valley
If you were a cattle rustler in the 1870's southwest, you would look for a remote and hidden area with enough water and good stands of trees and plenty of native grasses and other vegetation to feed your "stock". A place where the nearest law enforcement officials were at least 50 miles away. For the McHaney brothers, this place turned out to be the higher, western side of what is now Joshua Tree National Park, in Lost Horse Valley and Hidden Valley. Bill McHaney's gang took cattle from Mexico and Arizona to hide them in other Joshua Tree valleys as well, then returned stolen horses.
Johnny Lang also drove cattle into Lost Horse Valley after his brother was gunned down in New Mexico. He woke up one morning to find his horse gone. He tracked it to the McHaney's place but was told to leave the area. Luckily, Lang met "Dutch" Frank who had discovered a mining claim, but was afraid to set up mining operations because he was also being hassled by the McHaney gang. Lang bought the rights to the mine and called it "Lost Horse", after enlisting three partners to protect the claim against claim jumpers in 1893. The Lost Horse Mine ultimately produced 10,500 ounces of gold and 16,000 ounces of silver. Today, the Lost Horse Mine stamp mill is considered one of the best preserved in a National Park service unit.
We hiked three high points along this loop. The most interesting summit was Peak 5196 because of the columnar basalt at the top. In a land dominated by granite, this is one of only three occurrences of basalt. From its summit, just northeast of the trailhead, are extensive views of Queen Valley to the east and Lost Horse Valley to the west. A few days before, we had hiked Mt. Minerva Hoyt, named after the woman instrumental in President Franklin Roosevelt's proclamation to designate Joshua Tree National Monument.
Sign at trailhead. We hiked the trail counter-clockwise.
Our Hike in the Mojave
As the road to Lost Horse Trail climbs to around 4,000 feet elevation in the western, Mojave desert section of Joshua Tree NP, the amount of Joshua trees, junipers and yuccas is more prevalent compared to lower, dryer Sonoran desert Pinto Basin to the east at 1,700 feet. Although it's a moderately-used trail, you get the feeling of remoteness surrounded by mountain ranges. The trail circles Lost Horse Mountain, trekking through Quail Wash and over juniper and shrub-covered hills darkly punctuated by scattered gneiss boulders.
By the time we got back to the trailhead parking lot, it was full. Another fun day in Joshua Tree's Mojave desert. The three extra summits were the "icing on the cake" - worth the effort.
Time and Space in the Desert
Joshua Tree is an awe-inspiring land shaped by Earth's events spanning the Proterozoic alteration of pre-existing rocks into gneiss, to the five Proterozoic through Cretaceous intrusions of plutons that produced gold and silver and its famous sculpted rocks, to the relatively recent faulting that uplifted mountains and blocked canyons. A landscape that has a tumultuous origin, but a relaxing presence. Dark and rubbly mountains spring out of flat, buff - colored valleys. A slight haze of dust still hangs in the air after last night's wind storm. I stand looking over it all - breathing space. Back straightens, chest raises, diaphragm brings in creosote and sand-scented air. To some, this expanse and space feels intimidating; to me it feels comfortable. To some it looks formidable with its hot, dry stillness and sharp- spined cacti; but I admire their motivation to survive under the hot, penetrating sun. To walk in browns and buffs for awhile and then suddenly come upon magenta and bright yellow cactus blooms is cause for celebration. I remember liking these ragged and gangly Joshua trees and contrasting smooth, rounded boulders the first time I saw them 38 years ago. I revel in the sublime space and quiet that calms my mind. Grateful for the feeling of being connected to this land.
"Time and space. In the desert there is space. Space is the twin sister of time. If we have open space then we have open time to breathe, to dream, to dare, to play, to pray to move freely, so freely, in a world our minds have forgotten but our bodies remember. We remember why we love the desert; it is our tactile response to light, to silence, and to stillness."
- Terry Tempest Williams
Never Stop Exploring!
From summit of Point 4959, looking at Malapai Hill.
Beautiful 1.7 billion-year old gneiss - and hedgehog (?) cactus.
Circling around Lost Horse Mountain (on far horizon) to hike up its northeast ridge.
Remains of a very sturdy fire place and bed frame.
Our first summit - Point 4959.
Three types of rock: great example of gneissic banding - a textural lineation of minerals in metamorphic rock created by pressure and intense heat (foreground). Malapai Hill in middle of valley created by magma. Valley rock is monzogranite.
Looking at Lost Horse Mountain from the slopes of Point 4959. You can see Lost Horse Trail as it climbs to the saddle on its northeast ridge. Hike that ridge to the summit.
Some cool stuff on the trail.
Summit of Lost Horse Mountain
From Lost Horse Mountain's ridge: a view of Lost Horse Mine.
Lost Horse Mine stamp mill through chain-link fence.
Walking up to Point 5196.
Beavertail cactus just before the blooms.
Columnar basalt on Point 5196.
California Geology. 1998. Department of Conservation, Division of Mines and Geology.
Dilsaver, L.M. 2015. Joshua Tree National Park: A History of Preserving the Desert. Prepared for National Park Service, Joshua Tree National Park, Twentynine Palms.
Joshua Tree Geology Tour Road.
Joshua Tree National Park Geology - Rock Types. Digital-Desert: Mojave Desert.
Trent, D.D. Geology and History of MInes, Joshua Tree National Park.
Named after the woman who lead conservation efforts for what is now Joshua Tree National Park, Mount Minerva Hoyt looks over wide, sandy valleys of Joshua trees and piles of weathered granite boulders, famous for their climbing routes.
Overview: To honor the woman behind Joshua Tree NP's conservation campaign, hike to her namesake summit. Bag nearby Quail Mountain, Joshua Tree's highest summit, for a tour of two peaks and great views on top of Joshua Tree. Experience all of the famed attributes: Joshua tree groves, rock climbers scaling eroded granite, a glimpse of the private historic Randolph Ranch, a beautiful wildflower-filled canyon and an enjoyable ridge walk.
Location: Joshua Tree National Park/Wilderness - North Entrance Station out of Joshua Tree, Southern California.
Distance/Elevation gain: 12 miles out and back. Trailhead = 4,061', Summit = 5,405'. Net gain = 1,700'.
Coordinates: Parking = 34.02926 N -116.17905 W. Summit = 34.01347 N -116.22694 W.
Difficulty: Moderate Class 1-2
Fees/Permit: $30 entrance fee, good for 7 days.
Navigational aids: AllTrails map, Trails Illustrated Joshua Tree National Park #226.
Date Hiked: 4/9/2022.
Geology: Begin in the eroded boulder piles of monzogranite, a deep intrusive igneous rock uplifted and eroded to create large depths of coarse rock-fill in the valleys. Monzogranites are a biotite (mica) granite that are the final crystallized product of magma, after other minerals have solidified (like olivine). Mount Minerva Hoyt summit is made of orthogneiss, a metamorphic igneous rock. Interesting to note that the summit of nearby Quail Mountain is not made of this gneiss, but instead made up of monzogranite. Good explanation of magma crystallization.
"This desert with its elusive beauty. . . possessed me and I constantly wished I might find some way to preserve its natural beauty."
- Minerva Hamilton Hoyt
There's a few ways to hike to Mount Minerva Hoyt and nearby Quail Mountain, Joshua Tree NP's highest. Both are listed on Sierra Club's Hundred Peaks Section. Years ago, Roger and Maria Keezer led us up Quail Mountain from the west. This time Fred, Scott and I approached from the east, parking at a lot on Park Drive, ~ one mile south of the Boy Scout Trailhead reached from Joshua Tree's west entrance. You could also begin the hike from the Hidden Valley Nature Trail parking. The weather was perfect - sunny and warm. Scott met us for the hike, as he has for many over the years. We have recently hiked Monument Mountain and Pinto Mountain in Joshua Tree together, and Pahrump Point near Death Valley.
Joshua Tree NP's area is 795,000 acres, slightly bigger than the state of Rhode Island. Thankfully, almost 430,000 acres of it is wilderness, so there is a lot of space to roam and discover. If you want solitude, you can quickly get away from popular spots. If you want to climb to get a view, there are six mountain ranges. Pay attention to maps and apps, because you can easily get disoriented in this huge desert. By getting out there, smelling, touching, and seeing the life of the Mojave, you will gain a sense of wonder and admiration for the species that survive there.
The land in Joshua Tree has had a varied and interesting history, from the Pinto Culture, its initial transitory hunter-gatherer inhabitants to the miners and ranchers that arrived in the 1800's, to people seeking wellness from tuberculosis, and today's recreational visitors. The year 2021 saw the first time that park visitors totaled more than three million.
Minerva Hoyt created a desert conservation exhibit for the Garden Club of America show in New York in 1928 that also appeared in London, England. Her magnificent exhibits not only stressed the beauty of these American deserts, but also the fragility and potential dangers. The widespread attention her exhibits brought influenced many southern California residents to decorate their own gardens with transplanted cacti. Vegetation was taken from the natural desert gardens in the pass entering Palm Springs, California, easily accessible to those traveling on the major highway between that city and Los Angeles. Commercial florists added to this theft. The same occurred in the Mojave desert, where small Joshua trees were uprooted and planted in yards, and larger Joshua trees were harvested for their wood. Joshua trees were set ablaze so that people could signal to each other.
Today, it's hard to believe this destruction actually occurred, because we have learned to respect these beautiful deserts - appreciation has grown significantly. It took this destruction to motivate Minerva Hoyt into action to preserve this awesome park.
When I lived and worked in the Palm Springs area in the 1990's, I was fortunate to be a volunteer to survey desert tortoises along with my hiking friends. We worked with the Joshua Tree National Monument's biologist, walking through the Pinto Basin, a vast sublime open desert. Upon coming across a tortoise, we weighed it, counted its scutes, measured it and glued an identification tag onto its shell, so it could be tracked. This was the beginning of my fascination for desert ecology, and of great memories that we friends still recall today.
Keep Exploring our Deserts!
Starting off on road that leaves from parking area off Park Boulevard near Hidden Valley. This road leads to an intersection with a trail that leads 0.5 miles to the Hidden Valley picnic area, another place to start this hike.
Our GPS tracks leading from Park Boulevard to a loop ascending Mount Minerva Hoyt.
Continuing west along Old Lost Horse Trail
Old Randolph Ranch - go around fenced property. I could not find much on the history of this ranch. It appears the owner had a sense of humor (see photo below).
Randolph Ranch - "May it Never Crumble".
Randolph Ranch, a private inholding in Joshua Tree NP.
Hiking west up Lost Horse Valley past Randolph Ranch. Mount Minerva Hoyt is dark-covered peak on the right.
Some cool stuff on the trail.
Long-nosed leopard lizard
The end of Lost Horse Valley funnels you into a small canyon or draw with visible path leading to saddle where you then descend into wash at base of Mt. Minerva Hoyt and Quail Mountain.
Arriving at the saddle before the drop into the wash at base of mountains. We climbed this ridge westward toward Quail Mountain and then headed northeast on the cross country trail between Quail and Minerva Hoyt to hike Mt. Minerva's southwest ridge to the summit (point on horizon to the right).
Dropping 200' down into wash after saddle. Mount MInerva Hoyt on the right horizon. On the way up, we ascended the ridge in front of us in this photo; we descended Minerva Hoyt's east ridge seen on horizon to end up in this wash.
View of Mt. San Jacinto (overlooking Palm Springs), still covered with a lot of snow.
Walking up ridge toward Quail Mountain after getting out of wash.
Looks like a trail marker on the ridge up. Looking back at the saddle we crossed over to get into wash below.
Scott on ridge trail.
Hiking on cross-country trail that connects Quail Mountain to Mt. Minerva Hoyt. Summit on the left - there is a guy standing up there!
The last 200' climb to the summit is easy, punctuated with beautiful metamorphic boulders and cactus gardens, plus a spectacular view of the desert that Minerva Hoyt fought so hard to protect.
Fred and Scott signing summit register.
One of the beautiful "cactus gardens" on the summit.
One of the biggest prickly pears (may be a dollarjoint prickly pear) I have seen! The saddle that we ascended is just above Scott's head and slightly to the right under the two rock summits - aiming for that landmark on our way back!
Claret cup hedgehog
Minerva Hoyt's east ridge path - headed toward wash below.
Getting near wash and saddle, our entry point into Lost Horse Valley.
On the way back.
Our GPS tracks
Click for larger map
Earle, S. Crystallization of Magma from Physical Geology. BC Campus.
Minerva Hoyt. National Park Service. 2015.
Dilsaver, L.M. 2015. Joshua Tree National Park: A History of Preserving the Desert. Prepared for National Park Service, Joshua Tree National Park, Twentynine Palms.
A high point in one of the Basin and Range mountain ranges, Davidson Peak is a fun ridge scramble on ancient sea limestone with great views of eastern Nevada and western Arizona.
Approaching Davidson Peak from the south on Sheep Pens Road.
Overview: Observe in solitude the raw geologic events and forces that shaped the eastern Great Basin from the tilted limestone sediment summit of Davidson Peak. The fun, rocky scramble up its east ridge has a steep "limestone slickrock" section and circumvents the huge gulch stretching down from the peak. Pass over bryozoan and bright orange brachiopods on slopes with healthy Joshua trees and hedgehog cacti.
Location: East Mormon Mountains in Mormon Mountain Wilderness BLM, near Mesquite, Nevada.
Distance/Elevation: 5 miles round trip; 2,200' elevation gain. Start = 3,163', summit = 5,315'.
Difficulty: Moderate-strenuous Class 2 ridge hike.
Coordinates: Trailhead = Sheep Pens Road = 36°53'59.14" N 114°17'51.92" W. Summit = 36°53'45.36" N 114°19'27.51" W.
Navigational aids: Bureau of Land Management - Nevada/Overton topo map, Stav is Lost's trip report.
Date Hiked: 4/3/22
Geology: East-tilted Cambrian through Pennsylvanian block rooted to its Precambrian basement rocks.
“A million years is a short time - the shortest worth messing with for most problems. You begin tuning your mind to a time scale that is the planet's time scale. For me, it is almost unconscious now and is a kind of companionship with the earth.”
- John McPhee, Basin and Range
A high point to one of the many parallel Great Basin mountain ranges, the horn-shaped summit of Davidson Peak with its steep west-facing cliffs rises solitary over the expansive Mojave desert as you drive on I-15 heading north from Las Vegas. Formed during the time of shallow seas, when North America was closer to the equator, its rocks are 500 - 300 million years old and contain coral and brachiopod fossils. This hike is a ridge ramble for the entire 2.5 miles to the summit, gaining roughly 1,000 feet per mile, and is surprisingly scenic and full of intriguing sights, like bright orange fossils and a gaping, seemingly bottomless gulch.
Our goal this year is to hike to as many high points of the Great Basin mountain ranges as we can, and Davidson is our third. We hiked Wheeler Peak and Virgin Peak last autumn, both in the eastern-most Basin and Range region. From Davidson's summit, we could see another target summit, Mormon Peak, the highest point in the Mormon Mountain Wilderness, northwest of Mesquite, a town on the border of Nevada and Arizona. Nevada is the most mountainous state, so we have a lot of choices!
Another planned summit is North Schell Peak, a nearly 12,000-foot high point near Ely, Nevada.
The hike begins after a 12-mile drive north from I-15 that initially follows the Old Spanish Trail. It is a good gravel road but nevertheless slow-going. We parked on Sheep Pens Road just north of the radio towers. A short spur road takes you to the base of Davidson's east ridge. We walked to the end of this road and started up the ridge on the left side of a wide gulch; a few cairns were present. About 1/3 of the way up, we encountered large rocks, so we skirted the left side of the ridge.
After skirting the ridge top, enter a beautiful valley/saddle with great places to take a break and enjoy very healthy Joshua trees, red barrel and prickly pear cacti. Ahead, confront a steep climb to remain on the east ridge. On the way up, we circumvented the actual ridge top to the right, looking down into the deep and wide gulch coming from the peak. Davidson Peak is an easy scramble straight ahead. However, it is not too difficult to stay on top of the ridge, requiring some use of hands for hoisting and balance, but mostly a Class 2. The ridge to the summit is long and flat.
Mormon Peak is seen to the northwest, and the solitary hulk of Moapa Peak to the southwest. The west side drops almost straight down . We could see Virgin Peak to the southeast, an 8,000' summit we hiked last autumn, out of the Gold Butte National Monument.
On the way down, we stayed on top of the ridge all the way to the saddle, hiking over a fun, steep, smooth and relatively rockless limestone slab which elevated us high above steep drops on both sides. We stayed for the most part on the ridge the rest of the way down and then descended through a shallow canyon to arrive at the spur road lined with yellow poppies.
The ancient Basin and Range mountain ranges rise above a stark and dusty desert; it appears as if there is not much there to discover. But when you get into the "heart" of them, walk over their scratchy limestone and volcanic rocks, circumvent sharp yucca leaves and cactus spines, catch the sudden crimson blooms of a claret cup hedgehog, and feel the desert space you know you are in a special, unique and maybe even spiritual place.
Keep On Exploring!
From Davidson Peak summit; looking at the ridge we ascended and Moapa Peak in the distance.
I'm not sure what this is - appears to be a fossil that has been exposed to a lot of iron - maybe a brachiopod? If anyone knows what this may be, please let me know!
Start of hike; we parked on Sheep Pens Road before it ascended to communication towers and walked cross-country to a spur road from Sheep Pens that led to the base of Davidson's east ridge (right on photo). Davidson Peak is highest point on the right.
At end of spur road, we hiked up this east ridge with the large gulch to the right. Stay on ridge to the top.
On the ridge
On the ridge, gulch below - summit far right
Skirting top of ridge cliffs by hiking on the left side of it ~ 1/3 of the way up.
After skirting to the left side of cliffs, regain the ridge to arrive at beautiful saddle.
On saddle looking back at ridge on the right and large gully - approach road faintly seen on desert floor.
Taking a break on the saddle; Joshua tree, hedgehog cactus, and prickly pear.
Some cool stuff on the trail:
Fishhook cactus, Indian Paintbrush on the summit, two photos of fossils (corals?), Joshua tree bloom, red barrel cactus.
The climb from the saddle up to the summit - about one mile to go! Note limestone with brown chert (microcrystalline quartz) nodules.
A good look at the summit - easy enough to stay on ridge.
Sue on fun "slickrock" section on ridge - Moapa Peak in background.
Fun walking on ridge line
Summit ridge - summit at right
Indian paintbrush on summit. looking northwest to the Mormon Mountains.
Fred on Davidson Peak summit - what better way to spend Sunday afternoon than summit a Basin and Range peak?
A very patriotic and organized peak register.
On summit looking north at the East Mormon Mountains ridge.
On summit looking at Moapa Peak to the southwest, south of Mormon Mountains.
(looks like a fun peak to climb).
Descending from the summit to follow the ridge back down.
Limestone "slickrock" section!
Back to the Joshua trees in the saddle or flat part of the ridge. We went around to the right.
Looking back - we came down the small gulley just off the ridge instead of following ridge to toe.
Parting shot of Davidson Peak.
Our tracks - South direction at top of map. The road we started at is Sheep Pens Road; there is a spur road off of Sheep Pen that a good 4-WD vehicle could drive to the base of Davidson's east ridge.
GPS tracks and profile.
Axen, G.J. , Wernicke, B.P., Skelly, M.F., Taylor, W.J. 1990. Mesozoic and Cenozoic tectonics of the Sevier thrust belt in the Virgin River Valley area, southern Nevada. Geological Society of America - Memoir 176. In the book, Basin and Range Extensional Tectonics near the latitude of Las Vegas, Nevada.
Simplified geologic map of the Mormon Mountains - Tule Springs Hills - Beaver Dam Mountains transect. Uploaded by Gary Axen. www.ResearchGate.net.
We found the hidden and amazing "rattlesnake" petroglyph in the Santa Clara River Reserve which led to discoveries of a mix of representational and abstract-geometric designs in the St. George, Utah area.
Utah is the Rock Art State. On March 6, 2017, Utah's governor signed into law designating Native American rock art as Utah's official works of art.
Panel of petroglyphs high above the Santa Clara River on the Anasazi Trail in Ivins, Utah. This area was used by both Ancestral Puebloans and Southern Paiutes.
Thirty years ago, I liked to hike to a single large boulder with a petroglyph of a rattlesnake curved around a recumbent human reaching for a cross in the Indian Canyons of Palm Springs, California (see below). It's made of connected squares, a concentric circle, and a line-enclosed cross. At least that was my interpretation of this petroglyph in the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Reservation. But after reading more about petroglyphs, I've discovered that it might not represent a rattlesnake at all, but a series of connected abstract shapes such as chained squares. Many archaeologists have concluded that questions of "what does this mean?" cannot be answered, especially regarding abstract geometric rock carvings. Instead of attempting to decipher meanings and assign symbols, archaeologists, anthropologists, etc. try to identify patterns in rock art to learn about past cultures and their way of life, and see if designs can be attributable to certain regions. In some cases, however, a definitive symbol or meaning can be attributed to certain petroglyph images, like zigzags that portray lightning to the present-day Hopi Indians. The spiral petroglyph is consistently interpreted as multiple migrations.
Petroglyph in Indian Canyons, Agua Caliente Indian Reservation, Palm Springs, California.
Photograph by Anthony W. Purnel, featured in Palm Springs Life Magazine (see reference below).
A spiral petroglyph on Anasazi Valley Trail, Ivins, Utah
A few months ago, Fred and I met a Bureau of Land Management guy patrolling 4-wheel drive roads near St. George, Utah. He gave us a "tip" about a "rattlesnake" petroglyph on a giant boulder overlooking the Santa Clara River. A short bike ride took us to what might be the boulder we were searching for, but there were no petroglyphs on the side facing the river. It had tumbled down from the vertical cliffs above. We grounded our bikes and made a short steep hike to its backside facing the cliff and there it was - a serpentine form weaving around different abstract images, most of them ovals of connected circles, reminding me of necklaces. The whole rock, petroglyphs included are covered with lichen. The bottom markings are mostly obscured by desert varnish, a thin dark coating made of clay minerals and manganese and iron oxides - more so than the top petroglyphs.
We were amazed that most of this boulder was covered with various carved shapes, including animals, perhaps desert bighorn sheep, which are among the most prevalent animal petroglyphs in the southwest. The lower petroglyphs could have been made before the upper petroglyphs, because they seemed more eroded and obscure.
Huge boulder with lots of abstract-geometric petroglyphs in the Santa Clara River Reserve near St. George, Utah. The lower petroglyphs are covered more with rock varnish than the top markings.
Both images above are close-ups of "rattlesnake" boulder in Santa Clara River Reserve.
Most of the petroglyphs shown here are located in the Santa Clara River Reserve, administered by the Bureau of Land Management near St. George, Utah. The Anasazi Valley Trail (Tempi'po'op) leads to petroglyphs on tops and sides of sandstone boulders. Many were made about 1,000 years ago by ancestral Puebloans who were farmers in permanent settlements. It must have been an inspiring site for these ancient people because it overlooks the Santa Clara River far below, steadily eroding a route over the millennia, a huge valley of tilted layered rock mesas and drainages, and the Beaver Dam Mountains, snow-covered in winter.
Since moving to the St. George area, petroglyph-finding missions have yielded not only fascinating ancient rock art, but also countless places to explore and a growing appreciation of southern Utah as one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Black, yellow and red rock canyons, plateaus, slick rock, muddy springs, red sand, mesas and mountains await, but I will never have enough time to see it all!
The Tempi'po'op (means "rock writing" in Southern Paiute language) trail near Ivins, Utah. Red Mountain and Snow Canyon State Park in the distance.
The "Geometric Enigma"
Some of the oldest petroglyphs in the New World are 13,000 - 14,000 years old - coinciding with the final stages of the last ice age (Pleistocene epoch). An excellent book, Early Rock Art of the American West: The Geometric Enigma thoroughly discusses abstract-geometric petroglyphs, the oldest form of rock art. In the American West, the authors call this art the "Western Archaic Tradition." It preceded figurative art such as human and animal forms. The authors, who have written other books on prehistoric art, propose theories as to why early American West inhabitants created art, and discuss ancestral minds and symbolism and hypotheses regarding the "peopling" of the Americas.
This book proposes a number of hypotheses explaining why prehistoric humans made abstract markings. The Sexual Duality Hypothesis identified a sexual polarity symbolism which included male signs of dots, barbed elements, short strokes, and spear-thrower signs. Female geometric designs included oval, triangular and quadrangular shapes. The Shamanistic hypothesis indicates that shamans acted as a connection to the spiritual world through altered states of consciousness. The initial stage of the shamanistic trance identifies geometric mental images such as grids, sets of parallel lines, dots and flecks, and zigzags. After emerging from the third stage of shamanistic trance, a participant would pay tribute to their visionary experiences by engraving them on rock surfaces.
Yet a third hypothesis is the Neurovisual Resonance Theory, whose premise is that geometric shapes and patterns are appealing to humans, and they were built into the neural structuring part of our brain millions of years ago. Making these petroglyphs helped humans to feel emotionally rewarded and reinforce survival behavior. The brain's visual cortex "resonates" when geometric shapes and patterns are made and a feedback loop is created that provides the stimulus for making abstract marks.
We may never know exactly why these abstract-geometric designs were made and what specific purposes they had, but we may conclude that they are evidence of the artist's desire to to find meaning by presenting it in a tangible form - a petroglyph. Viewing petroglyphs in an inspirational setting causes one to suspend time for a few minutes and imagine how it was made hundreds and thousands of years ago.
I added some images of petroglyphs from my post Utah's Red Rock Country from other adventures in southeast Utah.
For the Geocurious - The Rock Varnish Enigma
Many petroglyphs are created by carving, pecking, and hammering through a very thin (measured in nanometers), dark coating of desert varnish to reveal the lighter-colored rock underneath. This coating is enriched with iron and manganese oxides that cement clay minerals to the rock and is abundant in arid regions. Some scientists say that it is a sedimentary layer that contains bacterial microorganisms, so it has a microbial origin. How exactly desert varnish is formed is still under debate. Studies use microscale imaging techniques to try and figure out its ingredients. Do microorganisms create varnish or do they use varnish as a habitat? Varnish contains 2 to 3 times more manganese than the underlying rock indicating manganese enrichment. Varnish grows slowly - tens of microns over a thousand years. Lately scientists have considered rock varnish to be of environmental significance because it could show change in paleoclimate through the varying thickness of its manganese layers.
The Holy Ghost panel in the Great Gallery, Horseshoe Canyon, Utah
The tallest painted figure is called the Holy Ghost and is ~ 8 feet in height. These figures are thought to represent spirits.
Utah's Red Rock Country
Slot canyon in Snow Canyon State Park
Wire Pass near Buckskin Gulch in Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness Area.
Ancestral Puebloan-style petroglyph on the Anasazi Valley Trail, overlooking the Santa Clara River.
The top two images are from the "rattlesnake" petroglyph in Santa Clara River Reserve. They are positioned on the bottom of the boulder where the carvings appear to have more desert varnish than the upper petroglyphs.
Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument, Utah.
Geometric petroglyphs near Snow Canyon State Park, Utah.
Near Snow Canyon State Park. Note the petroglyph on the left is covered with varnish more so than the petroglyphs to the right.
Ancestral Puebloan panel on the Tempi'po'op Trail.
Anasazi Valley Trail
Looking toward the west from the Anasazi Valley Trail over Santa Clara River and Beaver Dam Mountains on the horizon.
These may be an example of the "fat footprints" representative of the Western Virgin Kayenta Style that appear in Puebloan sites in the St. George, Utah area. Overlooking the Santa Clara River.
Canyon leading to petroglyphs in Snow Canyon State Park, Utah.
Petroglyphs just off the Gila Trail in Snow Canyon State Park. Some appear to be older than others.
Deeply pecked abstract geometric petroglyphs near Gila Trail in Snow Canyon.
Overlooking the Santa Clara River near Ivins.
I just happened to stumble upon this amazing petroglyph as I was trying to find a trail down to my house.
You have to climb through two narrow openings to get to this one, and then there are more petroglyphs higher than this that I was not able to climb to.
I couldn't climb up to this one; this is my best attempt at sticking my camera over my head.
How did they get to these places? Obviously better climbers than me!
There are a few small petroglyphs on this wall.
Cottonwoods along Santa Clara River are just beginning to leaf out.
Santa Clara River Reserve - note petroglyphs on cliffs to the right.
Ivins Reservoir and Red Mountain
Breeding, A. 2019. Written in Stone. Palm Springs Life Magazine. Desert Publications, Inc.
Jones, K. 2019. Standing on the Walls of Time: Ancient Art of Utah's Cliffs and Canyons. University of Utah Press.
Lingappa, U., Yeager, C., Sharma, A., Fischer, W. 6/14/2021. An Ecophysiological Explanation for Manganese Enrichment in Rock Varnish. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (from the internet).
Malotki, E., Dissanayake, E. 2018. Early Rock Art of the American West: A Geometric Enigma. University of Washington Press.
More evidence on how exercise helps our brain and immune system, increase our resiliency and decrease anxiety and depression, and how "nature experiences" decrease rumination, a negative emotion. Plus, scenes from a few walks in Snow Canyon State Park.
More resources on Exercise and Mental Health and the Neurofit Lab's Mental Health Tool Kit at end of this post.
Red Sands trail in Snow Canyon State Park
Next month I will be back with another adventure post - in this and the last post, I wanted to pass along the positive news of the mind/body connection and how we can find strength, resiliency, optimism and better health.
Many of us know the connection between a walk in nature and feelings of optimism, relaxation and happiness. Hiking elevates your mood, decreases anxiety, and helps open your mind for creativity. For the lucky ones, including me, nature is virtually outside my front door. I'm close to Snow Canyon State Park near St. George, where I can walk in the famous picturesque world of Utah's red rock country. However, you don't need this dramatic scenery in order to improve your mood. A study by Stanford University on nature experience and the brain has found that participants who walked in a grassland/oak/shrub environment "greenspace" reported greater feelings of well-being and less stress than those who walked in an urban setting. The question is, "what effect does living in an urban environment have on our mental health?" What surprised me is that humanity is removed from nature more than ever: more than 50% of people live in urban areas. The forecast for the proportion of urban dwellers in 2050 is 70%. Yikes!
"Running is Medicine for my Mind": All the Good Brain Neurochemicals
In her Nike Trained: Mental Health Miniseries podcast, neuroscientist and expert in brain health, Jennifer Heisz, PhD. discusses her recent research that shows a definite connection between exercise and movement and the release of brain neurochemicals that decrease anxiety and depression. Her new book, Move the Body, Heal the Mind: Overcome Anxiety, Depression, and Dementia and Improve Focus, Creativity, and Sleep, highlights her latest research in her Canadian lab. Her biggest revelation is that exercise has been found to be equally as beneficial as medication for anxiety and depression, and in some cases, even better than meds. Those that need to stay on their medications, by additionally doing exercise, can lessen potential side-effects from the medications. Heisz also weaves into her book her personal journey of the mental benefits she obtained while training for an Ironman Triathlon - resiliency is one. She made the huge transition from a sedentary academic to a triathlete to experience first-hand exercise's effects on the brain. Because the Ironman Triathlon was cancelled due to the pandemic in 2020, she laid out and completed her own course! Dr. Heisz's website for her book and back story.
Exercise, because it acts as an anti-inflammatory, has been found to strengthen the immune system to fight infections. Chronic stress that can cause stress-induced depression compromises the immune system. A health paradox that Heisz discovered from her research, especially apparent during the COVID pandemic, was that many of us wanted to exercise more to improve our mental health, but symptoms of depression and anxiety were getting in the way of doing so. A recent study found that active participants reported less stress during shelter-in-place than did non-active participants.
Endocannabinoids, our body's natural production of cannabis are produced during exercise, helping us to feel mellow, balanced, and content. Endorphins, the body's natural pain killer are also released. I like to say that hiking produces the vital nutrients to thrive - my medicine! In my last post, Experiencing "Flow": The Secret to Happiness, I wrote about what I've known for years: hiking and exercise is crucial for my mental health.
Going to a Tai Chi class for eight years really helped me handle and the stress I felt from work. A boy in my class was learning how to utilize Tai Chi for his ADHD disorder, rather than use medications.
High-Intensity Interval Training - HIIT
During HIIT, you push your body through intervals of near maximal effort with rest in between. In almost all cases, high intensity interval training is beneficial for people with mental illnesses. By maintaining a certain level of stress, your body learns to adapt and then becomes stronger. There is one caveat: people who have anxiety sensitivity, or fear of the normal symptoms that accompany exercise may react negatively to HIIT. Some people are afraid of their hearts beating too fast, or of the feeling of trying to catch their breath, and they over-exaggerate their symptoms. These people benefit from lower intensity exercise, potentially increasing fitness by adapting to increments of challenging exercise.
Neurochemicals immediately released in your brain after exercise.
Basalt flowed into what is now Snow Canyon State Park, covering red and yellow sandstone.
Reduce Rumination - Feel Better!
The Stanford study set out to answer the question: "by what mechanism(s) might nature experience buffer against the development of mental illness?" (quoted from the study). It found that nature walks decreased rumination, a dysfunctional pattern of negative self-thought that's associated with depression and other mental illnesses. The subgenual prefrontal cortex becomes activated during rumination. Participants had a brain scan which showed blood flow to this part of the brain. The researchers' hypothesis was correct: blood flow in the subgenual prefrontal cortex decreased after the nature experience used in the study, thereby reducing rumination.
This state of decreased rumination also occurs with experiencing "flow" where you are so wrapped up in an activity that you focus on the joy it brings, rather than yourself. Flow occurs in all sorts of people, in all sorts of endeavors where levels of challenge and skill are more or less are equal and at relatively high levels. Thousands of people have been interviewed to share their flow experiences: monks, writers, artists, mountain climbers, surgeons, etc. A common theme is reported - a feeling of optimal happiness and satisfaction.
Mix in friends on your hike and nature walks and you have the perfect ingredients for contentment, hope, and happiness. We need to take care of our mental health just as much as we do our physical health, and the research linking movement and mental health is long overdue. Our bodies are a gift! These studies also illustrate the importance of "green spaces" in our urban areas to help reduce mental illnesses.
For help with motivation, you can download the Mental Health Tool Kit from Dr. Heisz's Neurofit Lab that identifies problems encountered since the onset of COVID and solutions to get you going. Keep moving, keep hiking, keep exploring!
"The wonderful things in life are the things you do,
not the things you have."
- Reinhold Messner, mountaineer
Sunrise near Snow Canyon State Park's entrance.
Books on Mind/Body Connection and Movement
The chronic stress of coronavirus is affecting your mental health. Here's how exercise can help. The Conversation.
Dr. Heisz's Trained Podcast
Dr. Heisz's book and back story website
Bratman, G., Hamilton, J.P., Hahn, K., Daily, G., Gross, J. 2015. Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation. PNAS.
Cirino, E. 2019. Ten Tips to Help You Stop Ruminating. Healthline website.
Dusenbery, M. How Exercise Affects 2 Important 'Happy' Chemicals in your Brain. Livestrong.com
NIH - National Library of Medicine. Physical activity and stress management during COVID-19: a longitudinal survey study. January 2022.
Nike Trained: Body and Mind Mental Health Miniseries - Jennifer Heisz, PhD. Podcast: Season 9 Episode 9.
Rogers, Marilyn. Doctors Tell Us How Hiking can Change our Brains. From website Lifehack.
What is flow and how can we achieve it? How it helps us through challenging times.
Pahrump Point Hike and Tecopa Hot Springs, California
Southern Utah Hiking and Biking in a Pandemic: Wire Mesa, Snow Canyon, Zion NP
Feeling "Flow" - The Theory of Optimal Experience
If it wasn't for a friend who reads my hiking posts, I probably would have never heard of "flow", the feeling of immense joy felt during an intrinsically rewarding task whereby the focus is not on the self, but on the activity. He knew that I would be interested in the article he sent me, "Why does Experiencing 'Flow' feel so good? A Communication Scientist Explains", because it relates to my passion for hiking and nature. It helped me question more specifically why hiking makes me happy and turns on my creativity. Is this happiness caused by flow or the release of serotonin, the body's natural mood stabilizer, or both? Is it simply the rhythm of walking? Or is it because nature is inherently relaxing? Did hiking help me through the COVID-19 pandemic? It has led to a cascade of great articles and books to peruse.
Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, in the 1970's, asked the question "what is enjoyment?" when he saw that many Europeans were traumatized by World War II. He decided to find out what makes life worthwhile after he attended Carl Jung's presentation about Hindu mandalas as a technique to gain a sense of order. After that, his life was devoted to answering the question, "how can we achieve a state of optimal experience?" and studying positive psychology. He interviewed athletes, artists, composers, surgeons and CEOs of large companies to ascertain what made their lives meaningful and describe how they felt during happy, intense experiences. Many used the metaphor of feeling like they were carried by a current - like the flow of water. Others achieve flow with yoga, snowboarding, playing chess, and writing. Mountain climbers are among the 8,000 people around the world who have been interviewed for flow research, as well as blind nuns, Navajo shepherds and Dominican monks. He found that regardless of culture, education, vocation, etc., seven conditions appear when a person is in flow.
Flow happens when we complete an activity and feel self-assurance, satisfaction, and joy. An activity in which you can achieve flow is one that is worth doing for its own sake. A website with a great name, "Happiness Lessons," indicates that if we can find this activity, we will be able to move society and humanity forward.
hover for locations
Trinity Mountains, Idaho
Not surprisingly, research shows how people with stronger feelings of flow felt better during COVID-19 quarantine compared to people with weaker experiences because knowing how to get into flow distracted them from worry. Flow refocuses thoughts away from stressful circumstances to more positive and enjoyable ones, and it can decrease depression and burnout. I believe that if you know what to do in order to experience flow and optimal well-being, then you have more confidence and less fear.
Your brain during flow
The brain actually changes its network configuration during flow, says Richard Huskey, the author of this article. He is Assistant Professor of Communication and Cognitive Science, University of California, Davis, and has studied flow for 10 years in his lab. This network change helps people adapt to difficult tasks.
Three activities occur during flow that lead to well-being. We stop thinking about ourselves and our negative thoughts decrease because that structure of the brain becomes suppressed. Conversely, with flow, the brain is thought to increase activation in reward-processing regions. At this time, however, this has not been proven; these brain responses are associated with flow, but we can't yet conclude that these responses cause flow.
So, yes, I would have to conclude I do feel flow on most of my hikes, as long as I don't get stuck on a ledge, or in a thunderstorm, or have to climb Class 4 rocks. There's probably a bit of serotonin mixed in. Hiking with my husband and friends creates "optimal happiness." For a few hours we can can leave negative thoughts behind and feed our souls. There's something about moving in nature and witnessing extraordinary scenes in the American west that bonds us together.
Old Growth Trail - Kokanee Creek - just outside of Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park, Nelson, British Columbia
photo by Ann Amberg - annamberg.com
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Management
Founder, Co-Director, Quality of Life Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.cgu.edu/people/mihaly-csikszentmihalyi/
Huskey, R. January 4, 2022. Why does Experiencing 'flow' feel so good? A communication scientist explains. Retrieved from The Conversation.
Stanford researches find mental health prescription: Nature. 6/30/15. Stanford News.
TED Talk . February 2004. https://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_flow_the_secret_to_happiness
Another rugged summit from the Sierra Club Desert Peaks Section's list completed! On this narrow perch above desert valleys thousands of feet below, we saw spectacular views of Nevada and southeastern California and experienced "flow" - the secret to happiness.
California Desert Hikes
Pinto Mountain Hike - Joshua Tree Wilderness
Monument Mountain Hike - Joshua Tree National Park
Scott on Pahrump Point's southeast ridge just under the summit.
Overview: This classic Mojave desert hike begins on an alluvial fan, ascends through boulders up an ever-narrowing canyon, switchbacks up a talus slope to emerge onto Pahrump Point's southwest ridge for a huge view of the summit's steep walls. From here, the route winds up a gully and treks through a few "passages" in its steep face to gain its narrow summit ridge crest. See fossils and plenty of rough limestone, as well as fantastic views of Telescope Peak in Death Valley, Mt. Charleston near Las Vegas, and the town of Pahrump. Attention to hike directions and navigation crucial to finding correct route.
Location: Pahrump Point is in the remote Nopah Range Wilderness Area is just over the California/Nevada border, east of Death Valley National Park. Its rough and rocky summit rises above Pahrump, Nevada.
Distance/Elevation Gain: 7.6 miles roundtrip from CA Hwy. 178 trailhead to summit; less distance if you can drive in further on gravel road leading to canyon. Elevation gain from highway = 3,400'. We began hike at 2,600'. Summit is 5,410'.
Difficulty: Strenuous Class 2+ with occasional use of hand for balance.
Lat/Long: Trailhead at Hwy 178: (UTM) 11S 0573213E 3992648 N. Summit: 0577422E 3995282N.
Navigational aids: AllTrails map with GPS tracks, Sierra Club Desert Peaks Section hike directions - Pahrump Point.
Date Hiked: December 17, 2021.
History: "Pahrump" is a derivation from the Southern Paiute Pah-Rimpi term meaning "Water Rock" describing the abundant natural artesian wells in the area.
Pahrump Point trailhead location.
One of the best things about this hike is the delightful hot spring pool we soaked our weary bodies in afterwards at Tecopa Hot Springs Resort. We met our friend Scott to camp there on a few unseasonably cold December days. This resort, just outside of Death Valley and near the Nevada/California border was unlike any other I have seen. It had been abandoned for 10 years before the current owner purchased it, and it still wears the characteristics of an old-time hot springs resort, with original buildings, nothing fancy here - very remote and bohemian, complete with a 40-foot labyrinth. With no cell service or internet, it was heaven for three days. One of its mission statements:
"We see ourselves as stewards of sacred land and ambassadors of goodwill."
The Southern Paiute tribe discovered these hot springs hundreds of years ago. One night, after a soak, we enjoyed live music on an outdoor stage, standing around a fire pit sending smoke up into a cold and starry desert sky. The next morning we had excellent huevos rancheros in Tecopa Hot Springs Resort Bistro.
Bath house with 2 hot springs pools at Tecopa Hot Springs Resort, California.
In the classic Mojave desert fashion, this rocky peak rises abruptly from the desert floor with dramatic, unobstructed views from a small, almost precarious perch at the summit. Pahrump Point looks difficult if not impossible from a distance, so it's fun to find the route through its steep cliff face. I'm glad Scott brought along the hike description from Desert Peaks Section manual. There are three crucial points along this route that you need to recognize in order to negotiate the rocky gullies, canyons and ridges to find most efficient way to the summit. The hike switches from Pahrump Point's southwest ridge to its southeast ridge where an easier route is present, just under the summit.
Trip reports describe starting this hike just off of CA Highway 178 and the road leading to the mouth of the canyon, the distance of 1.8 miles. With our high-clearance truck, we drove just under one mile up this gravel road and parked to walk the rest of the way to its end at the mouth of the canyon framed on each side by alternating light-and dark colored Cambrian rock layers. A few cairns identify the trail throughout the completely rocky canyon bottom. A path initially goes along the toe of the left canyon wall, and then to the right, but most of the time is spent maneuvering through rocks and boulders in the canyon bottom.
Once topping off on the southwest ridge after climbing a talus slope out of the canyon, the peak's cliffs come clearly into view, as well as a long and deep canyon to the south. To make the switch to the southeast ridge to summit, there are a few very important and prominent cairns for direction. The last few hundred feet climb to the summit is fun - you go by a hole in the rock that looks down into another steep canyon, then up a steep, short gulley. This empties you onto the final Class 2+ climb up Pahrump Point's manageable face, where you reach a fun and short summit ridge that is only slightly spooky.
The narrow summit elevates you thousands of feet over desert playas, with a clear view of snow-covered Telescope Peak - the highest in Death Valley. The ridge to the next high point to the north seemed treacherous, so being content with our accomplishment, we basked in the nearly winter solstice sun.
We occasionally cursed the loose rock on the return talus slope, after getting off the ridge. I wondered if age has caused me to be slower on this terrain. Picking our way through the boulders in the canyon, looking for cairns to give us a clue for a better route. Exiting the canyon onto the immense Chicago Valley, we turned back to see the Nopah Mountain range a fiery yellow/orange of sunset. Looking forward to dinner at the Crowbar Cafe and Saloon in Shoshone to celebrate another adventure - three friends who (still) like to hike together after all these years. It was great to hike once again with Scott, who said at the summit, "This is good for my soul!"
Hiking to these amazing places with your friends and overcoming physical and mental obstacles together is good for your soul and can help you experience "flow" - the secret to happiness and optimal experience. The concept of "flow" is getting more attention lately and is the subject of my next post, as well as positive psychology, body movement science, enhancement of goal pursuit and well-being .
"Into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul."
- John Muir
Initial approach through Chicago Valley up gravel road to mouth of canyon and then to Pahrump Point, just right of middle horizon. Cold and windy December morning in the Mojave.
End of road, trail goes up wash. Here, trail is seen on left side of canyon; it switches to the right side further up.
Initial main canyon walk alternates between canyon floor and side trails.
Trail seen on left side of canyon initially.
Coming down from a trail on the right side of the canyon, then up bottom of canyon to left and right fork; take right fork.
Tall cairn at 4,120' elevation that indicates to take the canyon to the right.
Trail then ascends up right side of canyon to 2 large cairns. From here, trail traverses slope and then drops you to the base of talus slope and ridge saddle.
Heading up canyon to the right at intersection with main canyon. This right fork takes you up talus slope to saddle at ridgeline.
Getting closer to the ridge
A look back toward Telescope Peak in Death Valley to the northwest.
On a moderately loose talus slope, getting closer to notch on ridge; then peak clearly seen to the left.
Large cairn marking saddle on ridge at top of scree slope. Peak is seen clearly at this point.
Once on ridge at 5,100 feet, see summit, and another 300-foot ascent to it; continue following ridge shortly to a ducked/cairned notch - head left through that notch to traverse to the left through another marked notch where there is a "window rock" on its left side. The route avoids the steep cliff face under the summit.
Cairn on left marks the traverse to the notch with "window rock".
Gully just after "window rock" which is on the left side of trail.
Out of short gully and now fun Class 2+ on final ascent.
Looking down canyon toward Chicago Valley to the south.
Entry up face of summit block on the summit's right side.
Reaching the summit ridge.
Southeast ridge just under the summit.
At the summit; trail goes through the snow on left side of this ridge in photo.
Scott and Fred on the summit of Pahrump Point - 5,410 feet!
Looking southeast down the Nopah range.
Mt. Charleston, north of Las Vegas, in background.
A very organized peak register.
Trail on ridge - working our way back down.
"Window rock" on left side of trail is a landmark to navigate trail.
Some cool stuff on the trail.
(clockwise from top left) Hedgehog cactus, bryozoan fossil, ivory-spined agave, triangulation survey marker at Pahrump Point's summit.
Parting shot - sunset on Pahrump Point in the Nopah Range.
Celebratory dinner at the Crowbar Cafe and Saloon in Shoshone, a few miles from Tecopa Hot Springs, CA.
Sad to see these go - the limestone proved to be too rough for these worn KUHL pants.
Labyrinth at Tecopa Hot Springs Resort
Tecopa Hot Springs Resort
Tecopa Hot Springs Resort Bistro - the best huevos rancheros for breakfast!
Moonrise in Tecopa, California.
Seemore's Ice Cream - "The World's Tallest Ice Cream Stand"
AllTrails GPS tracks from beginning of canyon (lower left) to Pahrump Point.
Route map from Sierra Club Desert Peaks Section
click for larger view
Making images in the photogenic northern Mojave Desert and a quick hike up Little Virgin Peak.
Virgin Peak - 8,071', Seeking Solitude in the Mojave
Jarvis Peak Hike in Beaver Dam Mountains
Desert Plant Photos
Utah's Red Rock Country
The 10 Essentials for Hiking
We returned to Gold Butte National Monument, about an hour's drive from Las Vegas to explore, hike and photograph this land of meandering gravel roads leading to petroglyphs, weirdly-shaped sandstone spires, old mines, and thrusting sandstone domes. Just a month ago, we hiked Virgin Peak summit, the highest in Gold Butte, on an enjoyable fossil-filled ridge.
We scored a hidden campsite in Whitney Pocket perched at the end of a platform above a rocky wash on one side and a rough gravel road marked "designated route" on the other. One night we heard an animal walk around our trailer, maybe a deer. The night sky was illuminated by the milky way as well as a weird glow from distant Las Vegas.
Gold Butte and recreational side-by-side ATV's make the perfect match. We saw a few large "jamborees" of riders churning through sand and gravel and meeting up at the end of the day to re-fill their deflated tires. While searching out the petroglyphs on the way to Little Finland, not one, not two, but about 15 open ATV's buzzed by us, their dust cloud giving away their whereabouts after vanishing behind a bend. These folks are outfitted with all of the necessary off-road devices: multiple navigational aids and emergency personal locators. On the summit of Little Virgin Peak, we watched another caravan buzzing down the road like ants leading to Lake Mead. This activity looks fun, but I will stick to using my legs and breathing fresh air.
The images in my hike descriptions are what I call "photography on the run", where we are moving along and I usually don't have much time to plan or compose my photos. On this trip, however, I had the time in the mornings and evenings, sunrise and sunset, to wander around the beautiful sandstone alcoves and into washes, to take time making images. It is a meditative exercise and a luxury.
We wanted to hike Mica Peak, but that meant another 20 miles on slow-going roads, so we saved it for another time. There's so much to see in the American west, Nevada, and this little corner of southeast Nevada.
Aztec Sandstone at Whitney Pocket.
Buckhorn cholla at Whitney Pocket.
Detail in sandstone at Whitney Pocket
Iron oxide concretions caused by precipitation of iron in paleogroundwater through sandstone.
Joshua Tree - a Mojave Desert "indicator" species (a measure of environmental conditions in the Mojave).
Mud Wash petroglyph panel near Little Finland in Gold Butte National Monument.
Whitney Pocket sunrise.
Whitney Pocket - Aztec sandstone at sunset.
Little Finland - a platform of sandstone features eroded into strange and intricate shapes hanging above a palm oasis.
Our own "private Mojave" hidden by Aztec sandstone in Whitney Pocket - at sunrise.
Little Virgin Peak Hike
Summit and rock cairn of Little Virgin Peak; Virgin Peak (8,071') on the horizon.
Overview: Little Virgin's mellow southwest ridge is a relatively short and sweet way to get fantastic bird's-eye views of the stark northern Mojave desert filled with alluvial fans, washes and mountains of Gold Butte National Monument and Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
Location: Gold Butte National Monument, Southeastern Nevada.
Coordinates: Little Virgin summit = (UTM) 11S 0748307E 4054422N. Our trailhead = 0749437E 4053626N.
Distance/Elevation gain: 2.2 miles out and back/860' gain.
Difficulty: Moderate effort Class 2 scramble on faint trail once on ridge.
Permit: None required; no entrance fee to Gold Butte NM.
Map: Gold Butte National Monument Area Map by Friends of Gold Butte.
Date Hiked: December 4, 2021.
From I-15 north of Las Vegas and just south of Mesquite, Nevada, take exit 112 in Bunkerville, onto Highway 170, traveling 3.5 miles, taking a right onto Gold Butte Backcountry Byway just after crossing Virgin River. Continue on Gold Butte Road about 13.8 miles to the base of Little Virgin on the right. We parked at the intersection of Gold Butte Road and the sandy Fisherman's Cove Road, marked with a sign.
Hike Directions: Can use east or south ridge: we hiked up south ridge from intersection of Gold Butte Road and Fisherman's Cove Road. From this intersection, hike up slope to the north to gain Little Virgin's south ridge. Continue on ridge to the summit. There is a faint trail occasionally cairned once on ridge.
Gold Butte Road passes by Little Virgin Peak on the way to Whitney Point. The hike is short and sweet with great views of alluvial fans and valleys peppered with black, grey and white limestone rocks. The Virgin Mountain range to the east cascades downward from its highest point, Virgin Mountain in a descending series of saddles and rises, its foot embedded into the creosote-filled plains. The geology is vastly different on Virgin versus Little Virgin and the elevation, too (Virgin is 8,071' and Little Virgin is 3,514'). The Mississippian limestone on Virgin Peak's southeast ridge is younger than the schist and gneiss of Little Virgin. To the west, the view looks across Virgin River to Mormon Mesa and other ranges beyond.
The east ridge could be hiked for more mileage. The red barrel cacti and green cholla contrast with the chocolate and rust-colored metamorphic rocks (Proterozoic basement rocks - gneiss and schist). We started walking from Gold Butte Road and Fisherman's Cove intersection through a wash at the base of Little Virgin and hiked up the hill to find the ridge. Once on the ridge, it is an easy walk to the summit, following occasional ducks and cairns along the way.
The vegetation is healthy, with a few attractive cactus gardens of California barrel cacti (ferocactus) and buckhorn cholla on the ridge, as well as one of my favorite Mojave plants - creosote bush. It is a long-lived desert survivor with a lifespan of roughly 90 years. But the best attribute of creosote comes to life after a rain. Water penetrates the creosote leaves' waxy coatings to produce the wonderful smell of the Mojave desert. It was used by Native Americans to treat a variety of diseases and as an antiseptic.
If you are lucky enough to stay at Whitney Pocket in Gold Butte and want a quick adventure, you won't be disappointed with Little Virgin Peak. Once again, as with every hike, we affirm our fortune of having the health, the legs and lungs, to get to these extraordinary places.
Heading up flank of south ridge.
View of summit
Barrel cactus and buckhorn cholla, metamorphic rock. View to the southeast of Gold Butte Road and Virgin Mountains on the left.
Small "duck" on rock at right to mark trail on ridge.
Summit of LIttle Virgin Peak, looking at Virgin Mountains.
Descending down south ridge to intersection of Gold Butte Road and Fisherman's Cove Road. Virgin Peak highest point on ridge left horizon.
Our GPS tracks to Little Virgin Peak from intersection of Gold Butte Road and Fisherman's Cove Road.
Elevation gain and mileage profile: 1.1 mile from road to summit - 850 feet gain.
Gardner, L. The Vegetation of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts.
Nevada geology maps. Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology.
pitchstonewaters.com. Creosote Bush: An Unassuming But Ancient Form of Life All Around Us
Remote ridge ramble on fossil-filled limestone northeast of Lake Mead and south of Mesquite in Nevada. Camping the night before among the dramatic sandstone formations at Whitney Pocket in beautiful Gold Butte National Monument enhanced this experience.
Related: Jarvis Peak - Beaver Dam Mountains near St. George, Utah
Utah's Red Rock Country
Desert Plant Photos
Wheeler Peak: 13,063' - Great Basin National Park
Red Mountain Primitive Trail, St. George, Utah
Virgin Peak summit, looking north toward town of Mesquite, Nevada and Mormon Mountains on left horizon.
Location/Overview: Virgin Mountains Instant Study Area, Gold Butte National Monument, southeast Nevada, northeastern edge of Mojave desert. The approach to this remote hike begins with a drive through ancient bright orange sand dunes at Whitney Pocket, rising abruptly over Joshua tree-filled valleys, providing private primitive camping coves. The southeast ridge hike has three main sections. The first is a high-clearance 4 WD road that utilizes a deep wash on the right (east) side of the ridge. Next, a steep scramble gains 500 feet from the wash/jeep road to the summit's southeast ridge where the third section is a 2.3-mile, 2,000'-gain beautiful ridge hike to the summit, with many examples of Mississippian-age fossils in limestone, and spectacular views of northern Lake Mead, Valley of Fire, Beaver Dam Mountains to the north.
Distance/Elevation Gain: varies depending on how far you can drive up 4 WD road; our distance was 10.85 miles out and back. Our starting elevation: 4,355'. Summit: 8,071', for a gain of 3,700'.
Difficulty: Moderate hike on 4 WD road, moderate-strenuous Class 2 ridge to summit. Although not "official", the trail is seen most of southeast ridge.
Coordinates: See waypoints table below.
Navigational aids: Virgin Peak, Southeast Ridge - birdandhike.com, Avenza app on GPS with Arizona Strip Map, Gold Butte NM Area Map (purchased at St. George BLM).
Permits/Camping: No permits or fees required. Dry camping at Whitney Pocket in Gold Butte NM.
Date Hiked: November 3, 2021.
Considerations: Long pants advised due to a lot of bushwhacking through shrubs and trees, exposed ridge (thunderstorms), the higher the clearance of your 4 WD vehicle, the nearer your access to trailhead at Cowboy Campsite.
Geology: On southeast ridge and on summit, you will be walking on Rogers Spring Limestone AKA Monte Cristo Group (Mississippian period ~ 340 million years ago). Canyon walls on the way up to ridge are Devonian (~ 400 mya) and Cambrian (~500 mya).
Geologic map of the Virgin Mountains Instant Study Area, Clark County, Nevada
“The Mojave Desert is a harsh, but very spiritual, place. As children growing up in the Mojave, we chased lizards and snakes, instead of frogs and squirrels. There is an arid openness about it, and a true feeling of being alone, that you don’t get in any other type of environment.”
- James Stanford, from Shimmering Zen
View of Virgin Peak and its southeast ridge from Little Virgin Peak.
Mojave desert sunset at Whitney Pocket in Gold Butte National Monument, Nevada.
In our quest this year to explore "off the beaten path" areas in southwestern Utah, away from crowded national and state parks, we have seen some sublime, amazing and sometimes astonishing wilderness beyond park borders, almost always in solitude. Last month, we explored part of the Beaver Dam Mountains. Our adventure this month landed us on the highest summit in the Virgin Mountains, a remote "sky island", rising more than 6,000 feet above the dusty desert floor of southeastern Nevada, a little over an hour's drive from Las Vegas. Extra work goes into figuring out approaches and routes to these less-traveled places, but I find this more meaningful and fun than hiking in well-traveled parks. In 1993, the first time I visited Zion National Park, there were a total of 2.4 million visitors. This year, 2021, looks like it will top 5 million visitors. When I visited Zion in May this year, I noticed the trails were much wider and literally trampled. On Virgin Peak's ridge, we had to focus on finding the trail, as it is not well-defined.
I wondered, as we drove on Gold Butte Road to our camping spot from the city of Mesquite, what was so special about this area to make it a National Monument and why so many cared enough to form the Friends of Gold Butte organization. After 20 miles of driving, then suddenly coming upon Whitney Pocket, I understood why. Large, bright orange and red sandstone domes scattered about, anchored into the green creosote and Joshua tree-covered valleys. These large cross-bedded domes glowing orange in the setting sun are remnants of a huge desert formed 180 million years ago, and are the same rock unit as the cliff-forming Zion National Park sandstone. In Utah, this sandstone is called Navajo; the correlative unit of sandstone in Nevada is called Aztec.
Hidden around shaded corners of a few of these outcrops are perfect camping spots of which a few were taken. We found our own and got our trailer ready for the night.
You can't beat the sublime Mojave Desert sunsets.
Whitney Corral - a glimpse of past ranching. The spring that once provided for cattle is reportedly dried up.
A thing of beauty - look at that patina!
Narrower, high clearance vehicles would be able to get up the road further than we did.
I used the waypoints from birdandhike.com and Avenza with the Arizona Strip Map loaded to make sure I was at Cowboy Campsite. Stay on the main road. Two spur roads take off to the right, but you want to stay left near the ridge you will be mounting. Near the Cowboy Campsite, three miles from the corral, remnants of ranching gear appear: old truck tires, water troughs, the metal skeleton of a chair and various other rusted relics and another old truck! See my waypoints table below or check out birdandhike.com waypoints.
From Cowboy Campsite you turn left onto an obscure spur road ascending toward ridge through trees and shrubs that runs southwest as you climb overlooking the canyon and road you just climbed.
Near Cowboy Campsite with view of Virgin Peak's southwest ridge to climb. Road goes left at intersection with wash.
Second Segment: Cowboy Campsite to Virgin Peak's southwest ridge.
We turned right (west) off the spur road at its highest point and started ascending through junipers and brush toward the ridge, eventually got above this forest and saw limestone cliffs at ridgeline. The climb is 500 feet in ~ 0.3 miles. We hiked to the right of the cliffs to get onto the ridge instead of hiking to the lowest point on the ridge to the left of cliffs. We did, however, descend on our way back from the lowest point on the ridge down to Cowboy Campsite.
Ascent/descent from Cowboy Campsite and 4 WD road to Virgin Peak's southwest ridge. Ascended right tracks, descended left tracks. Top of map is west, ascend ridge walking west, then turn north to hike to summit.
On Virgin's ridge: lots of fossils including brachiopods and corals, a small burn area probably from 2020 fire caused by lightning. I believe the upper right plant is a Utah agave; I have never seen a flower stalk quite like that before!
Final Segment: Ridge to Summit
Once on the ridge, follow it 2.3 miles to the summit. The view to the west opens up; Lake Mead is seen (it looks really low) as you ascend the ridge. The ridge heads north to the summit. Wide at first, the ridge narrows and becomes steep to its right (east) side as you ascend. A trail can be seen, especially as you get toward the summit. There are numerous fossils including brachiopods and various corals.
Occasionally the light-colored summit is seen behind other "pseudo" peaks or high points on the ridge. There are a few trails that lead downward off the ridge; try to stay on top of the ridge or slightly below it to the west. You will do a fair amount of bushwhacking through trees and cacti. There are a few times hands are used to maneuver up/down rocks.
From the summit, the small city of Mesquite, Nevada is due north. The yellow sand washes of Arizona's western Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument spread to the east. Lake Mead, the largest U.S. reservoir that supplies water to 40 million people, is a small blue line to the southwest. A good view of Pleistocene relict Douglas fir forests are seen in isolated patches just below on Virgin's northeast ridge.
The peak's register contains a few small notebooks - one from the Desert Peaks Section of the Sierra Club inside an old ammo box. Two other groups had signed it in October. One of the entries proclaimed, "I'll be 79 in 4 days!". Remarkable. I hope I will be able to write that entry into a remote peak register some day, far above the desert floor.
View of Lake Mead to the southwest at top of image.
A view of Virgin Peak ahead.
One last rise to climb before the final summit climb (just to the right of this rise).
Getting up there! Ridge is a series of rises.
The last climb to the summit over increasingly steep and rocky terrain - just under 8,000 feet here.
Virgin Peak summit looking south: South Virgin Peak Ridge on the left, Whitney Ridge behind it, Arizona top of image.
Tilted limestone beds to the west.
Virgin Peak register box.
Summit register: an official Desert Peaks Section of Sierra Club notebook.
Solitude in the Mojave Desert
One of the great American nature writing classics, The Desert: Further Studies in Natural Appearances by John C. Van Dyke has been in continuous publication since 1901. Through his descriptions of his travels in the deserts of California, Arizona and Mexico, Van Dyke changed the popular perception that the desert was a hostile wasteland. The book is a bit monotonous, like Thoreau's On Walden Pond, but Van Dyke helped us to see and appreciate the remarkable beauty of deserts. I can relate to his quote and falling in love with what I call "the desert":
"The weird solitude, the great silence, the grim desolation, are the very things with which every desert wanderer eventually falls in love. You think that strange perhaps? Well, the beauty of the ugly was sometime a paradox, but to-day people admit its truth; and the grandeur of the desolate is just as paradoxical, yet the desert gives it proof."
After seeing no one else on the trail, having our own private camping spot the night before, and walking through a few life zones gaining almost 4,000 feet to look over mountains and valleys, we felt as light and as "in balance" as the surrounding environment, in-tune to the rhythms of the living desert. Each hike and each peak has its own personality, and once you understand the desert's "personality" and ways that its plants and animals survive harsh conditions, you can oftentimes relate and then be amazed. What a great way to reset and rejuvenate and relax. We are lucky to live in America's southwest desert in which there are many places to find abundant peace.
Never Stop Exploring Nature!
On the way down
Near point on ridge to descend to Cowboy Campsite in wash below.
Signs of autumn on the way down.
The new and the very old.
Joshua trees at Whitney Pocket.
Detail in sandstone at Whitney Pocket
Iron oxide concretions caused by precipitation of iron in paleogroundwater through sandstone
At Whitney Pocket in Gold Butte National Monument: Younger orange sandstone and very old limestone ridge on each side of a cholla and joshua tree-filled valley.
Our GPS tracks and profile. Top of the map is north.
Our Waypoints - Zone 11S. NAD27.
The Geology of Gold Butte National Monument - a thumbnail sketch. Friends of Gold Butte.org.
Geologic Formations of Utah. Navajo Sandstone. UtahGeology.com.
Recreation visits by month, Zion NP. nps.gov.
Hiking around Las Vegas and Gold Butte National Monument. birdandhike.com
Lake Mead Drops to a Record Low. NASA Earth Observatory.
Stringfellow, J. 2015. John C. Van Dyke and the Desert Wasteland. mojaveproject.org.
Whitney Pocket. The American Southwest.
About this blog
Exploration documentaries – "explorumentaries" list trip stats and highlights of each hike or bike ride, often with some interesting history or geology. Years ago, I wrote these for friends and family to let them know what my husband, Fred and I were up to on weekends, and also to showcase the incredible land of the west. I hope to hear about your adventures!
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