Sunday, March 7, 2010
Gold Butte - 3/6/10
After an invitation from the Friends of Gold Butte, the Around the Bend Friends organized two outings on two consecutive Saturdays to explore the Gold Butte area located at the northern tip of Lake Mead. The area encompasses over 300,000 acres of land which is filled with many historic, cultural and geological features. It is an important wildlife habitat for desert tortoises and other sensitive species. We did not explore all 300,000 acres but we filled the day in the interesting desert which will, hopefully, someday soon be protected as a national conservation area.
Fourteen club members plus two guiding members of the Sun City Mesquite Desert Fossils Hiking Club met at the beginning of the 20 mile road leading into Gold Butte near the Riverside / Bunkerville exit of I-15. In five vehicles, we drove as a caravan into the desert to begin our exploration of one of the most prolific areas for petroglyphs that this blogger has seen.
After getting a short warm-up in an area of smaller petroglyphs, the first highlight of the petroglyph hike was "Falling Man." We climbed up through a triangular hole in the rocks and came out the other side. This was especially fun as most of the group were ladies and the view of us climbing into the hole was a little embarrassing if the cameras were on the wrong side of the hole!
Walking around the edge of the rocks, we looked up to our left and there he was, "Falling Man." There are a few stories as to what the picture on the wall meant or portrayed. The only thing that everyone seems to agree on is that the picture is of a man who fell, perhaps off the very rocks on which we were standing.
We hiked around the rocks studying the many pictures carved into the walls trying to decipher meaning from them. Although it was a puzzle, we did understand that the native Americans of very long ago had something to say. The petroglyphs seemed to be around every corner and on every flat surface that was covered with the dark colored desert varnish.
We, also took in the incredible views. This part of the Nevada desert was different than that of the Las Vegas immediate area. The rocks were colored differently with a lot of tri-color surfaces. The joshua trees were very tall and large and so were the desert yuccas. In the near distance, there was a prominent black peak called Black Butte. Our hike meandered in its direction.
Our hike took us past "pot hole alley." The pot holes were filled with water and each of us took in the scenery in our own way! Might there be critters in the water? Well, let's just take a closer look! Actually, Jim knows what to look for and can name whatever he finds! Ask him what he found next time you see him.
We climbed down from "pot hole alley" and turned to the right. A few more steps brought us to "newspaper rock." "Newspaper Rock" was an entire flat boulder surface of about 10 x 20 feet filled with petroglyphs. In fact, we saw on the bottom of the side to the left of the cube-like rock more writing. We decided that this writing on the next side said, "The End" or "Continued on Next Rock."
After reading the newspaper, we climbed up on another rock hill to read more writings on a very high surface. It made us wonder how they got all the way up there to do the carving. Nevertheless, they had beauty surrounding them while they chipped away saying whatever it was they were saying. (Maybe, "There are big horn sheep in next valley travelling in circles.")
The Friends of Gold Butte have made a lot of improve- ments in this area over the previous one or two years. Some roads have been blocked off as impassable; a corral was made where we parked; and a trail has been marked for exploration of the petroglyphs. This trail leads down to another historic corral and dammed watering hole. This is the trail we followed.
After passing another huge petroglyph which resembled Santa's twenty big horn sheep flying across the sky, we hiked down a gravel covered wash road, took a left and ended up at a low natural bridge. This was an entrance to a natural corral. Someone had built a dam to collect rainwater into a pond next to the corral.
We climbed up on the rocks and took in the view while eating a snack in the warm sun. The pond was full proving that the dam still works. Reflections of the white rocks filled with holes bounced in the wind just below the surface of the water. This was a magical place. You could imagine the horses and cows lapping the waves and nibbling the green grass next to it.
We began our trek back by retracing our steps for most of the way. There were a couple of small variations on the trail. At one point, we dropped down to the bottom of a high wall of petroglyphs to get a closer look. This provided a small amount of scrambling which the guide kept to a minimum.
The colors in the rock were vibrant and all around. The picture to the left is of the ground! We hiked around the rocks and got back to the cars around 2 o'clock. So, "Are we going to Little Finland?" we asked. "No," said the guide, "It is too far." So, off we went following Jim who had only GPS coordinates to show us the way. It was "Little Finland or Bust!"
The guide was right about one thing, it was pretty far away! We drove past Whitney Pockets, out the washboard graded road, and onto another small rocky road. We stopped at some more petroglyphs and continued. We were "all shook up" when we got to a parking lot with nothing interesting in sight except more of the same beautiful desert. Having been there once before, the blogger headed off down the blocked off road as the other nine hikers who came for the extra trip followed.
As you can see by the pictures of the unique red rock landscape, we found Little Finland just where the blogger left it two years ago. Everyone was surprised and impressed as they really didn't know what to expect when we headed off after Jim's jeep. Little Finland is difficult to describe and is certainly a must-see for anyone visiting Gold Butte for the first time.
We climbed around at Little Finland taking pictures and gawking at the odd sculptures for about 20 minutes. Then realizing that the sun was on its way down and we were in the middle of nowhere, we decided to go back to the cars and leave. On our way out, we took a short break at Devil's Throat. This is a large sink hole that began happening only in the last 20 years.
We gazed down at the hole as the sun sank closer to the horizon. Time was of the essence. We got back into our cars and zoomed back down the small road, hitting the interstate just before dark. We were tired. We were hungry. But, we did it! We fell in love with Gold Butte again.
The following information was taken from the nps.gov website for the Petroglyph National Monument in New Mexico. The web address is www.nps.gov/petr/historyculture/why.htm. These words likely could also be applied to the Gold Butte and Red Rock petroglyphs here in Southern Nevada.
"There were many reasons for creating the Petroglyphs, most of which are not well understood by non-Indians. Petroglyphs are more than just "rock art," picture writing, or an imitation of the natural world. They should not be confused with hieroglyphics, which are symbols used to represent words, nor thought of as ancient Indian graffiti. Petroglyphs are powerful cultural symbols that reflect the complex societies and religions of the surrounding tribes. Petroglyphs are central to the monument's sacred landscape where traditional ceremonies still take place. The context of each image is extremely important and integral to its meaning. Note each petroglyph's orientation to the horizon and surrounding images, as well as the landscape in which it sits. Today's native people have stated that the placement of each petroglyph image was not a casual or random decision.Some petroglyphs have meanings that are only known to the individuals who made them. Others represent tribal, clan, kiva or society markers. Some are religious entities and others show who came to the area and where they went. Some petroglyphs still have contemporary meaning, while the meaning of others is no longer known, but are respected for belonging to "those who came before."While viewing these petroglyph images, please consider their importance to both past and present cultures."
From other websites, I have learned that petroglyphs range in age from 300 years to 5000 years old. They were made by chipping "dots" into the stone with flint and a hammer tool. It reminds me of pixels! Unfortunately, a short perusal of web offerings gave no indications as to particular meanings for any of the figures.