Friday, February 3, 2012

Grand Gold Butte Petroglyph Hike - 2/2/12

                                Virgin Peak in Distance

                                Kohta Circus Panel

 After two hours in cars and four and a half hours of hiking in the strong cold wind, twenty- six hikers from the Around the Bend Friends exclaimed that Gold Butte was well worth the drive. None of us had seen so many petroglyphs in one area before. The beauty of the colorful white, gold and orange sandstone was mesmerizing under the partially cloudy skies. And, the opportunities of adventure just kept coming.
                                Petroglyph Panel in Falling Man Area

                                Wind, Snow and Sunshine at Gold Butte

We began our morning with an immediate leap up a mound of sandstone to peer at a petroglyph located on a rock high above. From there, we circled around looking for more rock writings among the beautiful sandstone ancient Indian campsite. A note of interest is that loud voices cannot be heard from one side of a sandstone mound to another. Therefore, we learned very quickly that staying together was a must!

We soon reached the entrance to the Falling Man site as seen to the left. Here, we climbed a small hill and disappeared through a rock hole. A view of the morning sun on the Valley of Fire located across Lake Mead's Overton Arm could be seen through the hole. 

                     Valley of Fire from Crawl Through at Falling Man

We then dropped to a ledge path that led us around to the petroglyph.  It took some time for all the hikers to climb through the hole and get their photos. Cameras were in almost every hiker's hand throughout the day. Regretfully, five hikers were left here and had to be retrieved! It was an unnerving start to a wonderful day.

From here, we rounded a corner seeing more petroglyphs on the walls to our right, hiked down colorful pothole alley and turned right to view Newspaper Rock.

                                Falling Man

                                Newpaper Rock

After viewing several more petroglyph panels, we headed off to the south on a trail over the sandstone and desert terrain. The wind was whipping up but the skies were slowly clearing. The light on the surrounding rocks was magical in nature. We adjusted our speed over the next couple of miles so that the long line of hikers were able to stay fairly close together.

                                Sheep Wall - Parade of Bighorns

 We passed by a wall covered in petroglyphs. Some call the wall "The Sheep Parade." Although there are more, many people call it "21 Sheep." We counted and counted and we just couldn't figure out which sheep were included in the twenty-one! Presumably, it is the line of sheep plus a leader and a caboose! Some internet research suggests that the bighorn, which is extremely prolific in rock writings, does not always necessarily stand for the actual animal. It is important how the horns are "written" and which way the animal is facing.  Interesting research and theories on rock writings were divised by a man named LaVan Martineau. He is worth doing a search on.

 From the sheep wall, we hiked a short distance to the dammed pond which is, at this time, dry as a bone. When some of us were here last time, there was a good amount of water in it and it was clear that the free range cattle in the area used it regularly. We ducked through the fat natural arch and viewed the dryness then moved on into the "unknown." Most of the hikers had never been to the next area that we explored. It began by crossing sandstone and desert terrain that sometimes had a trail. We stayed on the rock as much as we could for easier traveling.

                                Hiking Across Sandstone / Desert Terrain

 Crossing a main sandy trail that used to be a road that served this remote area, we hit the sandstone again. The hike coordinator was making a bee line for a particular rock formation on a sandstone hill in the distance. Faint trails, again, were in the area but hiking on the sandstone was easier and more fun. This large group of strong hikers appreciate a good scramble now and then!  We finally merged with the trail and made our approach to a large canyon area below us.

                                Bitter Ridge Base in Distance

From the edge, we spied the target petroglyphs in the canyon and began our short descent. The Kohta Circus Panel was exquisite. At seventy- five feet long and four feet high, the Kohta Circus is the largest panel of petroglyphs in Clark County, Nevada. We were thrilled to have the honor to view them. Taking our break here, we snacked and explored the area. A few hikers scrambled up a nearby wall to prove how the ancient Indians were able to reach other petroglyph panels.

There was a small beautiful slot canyon nearby. Several hikers went down to explore it during the break. We slid down through the striped color then returned via a trail over land. One hiker decided to explore even further and surprisingly headed out through a canyon. Finding the trail that connected with the Kohta Circus approach trail, he returned later after completing, virtually, a trip around the block! He was almost left there as we were on our way again. The coordinator concedes that counting hikers regularly is essential ....

There are many interesting places to explore in this area. Balancing the time one has to "play" and the amount of time there is daylight ... taking into account whether you wish to drive in the dark ... is delicate.

  Nevertheless, we had more fish to fry ... so to speak. So, off we went through the canyon to the next point of interest. Previously, the hike coordinators had explored a long slot canyon created by a large crack through a large sandstone hill. Wishing to find a better way to arrive at the entrance, a new approach was successfully tried.                            

         Greg takes a break while others return from a small slot nearby.

The new approach led up between two walls (seen to the left) and ended in another wall. The wall was negotiable on the left side and we slithered up over the loose rock. At the top, we found ourselves directly across from the slot entrance which was grown up with brush. We waded through the brush and entered into an extremely fun slot climb. All the hikers had huge smiles on their faces and exclaimed with delight at the challenge. "Super cool" was a common sentiment! The cameras came out again and we all had a good laugh at the top.

 The remaining return part of the hike was relatively uneventful. Although we used a different route, a trudge through heavy sand was required. This part of the trail had become more and more sandy from when it was first chosen to be used. It's been dry here and the wind whipped the sand into our eyes, nose and mouth. Anyway, we enjoyed the beautiful old joshua trees that lined the path then headed over the sandy desert and through the sandstone to arrive back at the pond corral. Several stops were made on the return but the day had worn long, the wind had reached its maximum predicted speed and the stops weren't long enough. One last look at one of the petroglyph panels then we were passing Falling Man and heading back to the cars.

Although the hike was over seven miles, the terrain did not have any significant climbs or descents. It made the mild scrambling seem insignificant as well. But, as this is being written the next day, the writer and coordinator of the hike is here to tell you that she is sufficiently sore! Sore but extremely appreciative of everyone who joined her and enjoyed this amazing area. We all need to help support the Friends of Gold Butte's bid to make Gold Butte a National Conservation Area.

                                Return to Black Butte Area

                                Four of thousands of rock formations.

                                 Rough elevation graph of hike.

                                Hike from trailhead.

                                Hike from turnaround point.

                                Hike in relation to approach roads.


Anonymous said...

What a great time we had. Once in a lifetime experience. Well worth the trp.

Jerry T2 said...

Great trip. Thanks for organizing it and great blog entry as usual. Best petroglyphs I've seen. Somehow though I hurt my back. :-(