Monday, January 13, 2014

Grand Gold Butte Petroglyph Hike - 1/12/14

Bighorn Petroglyphs Outside Entrance Hole to Falling Man

Very Large and Old Joshua Tree with Black Butte in Background

Wonder why it's called Gold Butte?

Descending after Viewing of Petroglyphs on High Rock
 There were five hikers on the pre-hike and fourteen hikers on the main hike to the Gold Butte petroglyphs at Falling Man. (The writer appreciates the attendance of the pre-hikers and a few of these photos were taken on that day.) On the main hiking day, five high clearance vehicles drove north on I-15 to Exit 112; turned right for 3 miles; crossed the Virgin River; then, turned right onto Gold Butte Road. Although there is no sign indicating Gold Butte Road before you turn, there is a sign you can see right after you turn.

High Rock Petroglyphs
 We traveled 19 miles on this "sort of" paved road then turned right onto a high clearance road that is only indicated by a white "Limited Use" sign. Two more miles on this high clearance road (taking a left fork about halfway), we ended up in a parking corral. This is the trailhead for the Falling Man petroglyph area where we began our hike.

Petroglyphs Near Parking Corral
The first petroglyph panel that we viewed was on a high rock very close to the trailhead up to the right. We warmed up our scramble legs almost immediately on a rock hill to see them.

Viewing Petroglyphs Near Parking Corral
 From there, we came off of the rock to view a large columnar rock with panels on two sides. Then we delved into the sandstone for a tour around a sheltered rock area where we could only imagine Anasazi families thriving.

Scenery in Falling Man Area

Scrambling Down to the Falling Man Entrance Area
 We emerged from the sheltered area having some feeling for the importance of the area and scrambled over to the Falling Man entrance hole. We climbed up to the hole in the rock and noticed several petroglyphs in and around the hole. This must have been an important place for the people who lived here. Historians say that the first people to live here were hunter-gatherers. Then, the Virgin Branch of the Kayenta Anasazi lived there until 1000 AD. After this, the Patayan and Southern Paiute made this area their home.

Viewing the Distant Valley of Fire from Behind the Entrance Hole
 From 1905 through 1910, gold and copper were mined in this area. The small ruined town of Gold Butte is found several miles down the main road from Falling Man. Of course, the area was named "Gold Butte" for the small amount of gold found here but the name is appropo for the beautiful pinks and oranges veining throughout the white sandstone. We dropped down on all fours and crawled through the fun hole that was probably better suited for the small stature of the natives.

Climbing Through the Falling Man Entrance Hole
 The women waited for a few of the men to go through first ...!
Wow! The Falling Man Petroglyph!
 We came out of the hole and dropped to a ledge that took us around to the Falling Man petroglyph. Even though it is so named, there are many theories as to what it actually represents.

Long Distance View from Falling Man to Valley of Fire

Searching for Petroglyphs Behind the Falling Man Rocks
 We circled up and around to the left to an area where there were many small petroglyph panels here and there, right and left. There are so many that the writer is pretty sure that she has not seen all of them as they are sometimes hidden or camouflaged in plain sight. One of the panels has five bighorn sheep that appear to be either in a circle or were made in two different time periods since 2 of the 5 seem brighter than the other three.

Bighorns Panel
 As a note, the bighorn sheep petroglyphs are not always necessarily representing the animals that are native to this area. Some historians presume that many times the meaning of the writing depended on how the sheep is "written." Facing left or right; horns long or short; horns separated into two or profiled into one; legs separated or together; etc.

Pothole Alley
 As we meandered around this "busy" area, we hiked down "pothole alley" and turned the corner to the right. Following a well-trod path, we made our way to Newspaper Rock.

Approaching Newspaper Rock
 Newspaper Rock is so called because of the many writings jumbled together on one rock face. We stood staring as we tried our hand at "interpretation." This panel seems to have many "papooses" written on the left side.

Steve Interprets Newspaper Rock

Pre-hikers Examining the Three Level Panels
 From Newspaper Rock, we climbed up to the left side of the wash on a ramp. There is one large panel seen on a flat rock lying on the left side as you go up. Circling up the ramp to the top took us to a view of three beautiful panels on the wall across a drop. The panels are on three levels of this large wall. The lower panel can best be seen from a scramble down on the other side. This is a side trip that is usually made at the end of the hike if there is residual energy supplies!

Man Walking Through Gate?
 The fourteen hikers were busy taking photos of all of these writings. The beautiful petroglyphs on these panels were very popular. When the last of the photos were taken, we returned down the ramp and followed the trail up to the right. As we found the trail, one last panel was noticed up to our right. It was an interesting man walking through a "gate." Hmmm. It does spark the imagination!

Descending to Twenty-One Sheep Wall
 The trail took us overland through desert and sandstone terrain for about half a mile then it drops in a wide wash to an open area bordered by an old jeep road. In the large alcove at the bottom, the desert varnished wall is covered with petroglyphs that are mainly bighorn sheep.

Twenty-One Sheep Wall
 At the top of the panel, there are many sheep in a line. This line has given the wall panel the name, "Twenty-One Sheep Wall." It is one of the many highlights of the hike.

Dammed Pond Area

Surveying the Dammed Pond Area
 After another photo session, we turned to go down the old jeep road that leads to the base of Black Butte, a landmark butte of the hike. Follow a cow trail ... did we talk about the free range cows in the area? ... around to the left and end up passing a small dam and fat natural arch on the left side. We ducked under the arch and climbed a short wall to view a very dry pond. The dam we noticed before, keeps rainfall in the shallow depression below to slake the thirst of the cows.

Hiking at the Base of Black Butte
 We came down off of the "pond viewing rock" and turned to the left, continuing into the forest of white sandstone at the base of Black Butte. We hiked expertly through the slot maze and came out into a sandy desert area. There is a dirt trail here to follow and we began our desert traverse talking about various trail landmarks on the way. Within the group of fourteen hikers, there were several explorers who wanted to know as much about the area as they could learn.

Joshua Tree Nursery Landmark
 The trail took us along a sandstone outcropping that ended at the "Joshua Tree Nursery" landmark as seen above. From here, we followed the trail that forks to the left after crossing a wash in the sand.

Crossing the White Sandstone
 We made a beeline over to the next sandstone outcropping where we stepped onto the rock and crossed it lengthwise until we could not find anymore sandstone to walk on. Not far from here is an old sandy jeep road on which cars are no longer allowed.

Kay and Paul just built a cowpie cairn! It's a "green" cairn!

Crossing the Second Shallow Wash
 Turning left on the road, the walk in the deep sand was short-lived ... this time ... as we took a right fork onto a single track trail as we neared a rock hill. Being careful not to get too close to the sandstone deep canyons and cliffs to our right, we made a sort of beeline across the rock. Our target was a distant sharp cornered rock hilltop near the end of the sandstone ridge ahead. We found the trail that had disappeared for a short time and crossed a couple of shallow washes. The third wash was not so shallow but there is a good place to cross it if you go to the left a little ways.

Red Foothills of Bitter Ridge in Distance
 After that last wash crossing, we followed a reasonably nice trail down near the sandstone canyons. A view of the red foothills of Bitter Ridge could be seen between the white rock in the foreground. Then, we found ourselves above the main petroglyph panel of the hike, the "Kohta Circus." We pointed out the location of the panels first then headed down the trail to the left into the canyon area.

Paul Views the Kohta Circus Panel of Petroglyphs
 As far as research has given the writer, the word Kohta was taken from an historic Japanese artful comic-like series called Elfen Lied. This series contained a morphed strain of human race with physical abnormalities.

 The Kohta Circus Petroglyph Panel is the largest panel in Clark County, Nevada. It is 75 feet long and 4 feet tall. It also includes a smaller panel on a wall high above the main panel.

Steve and Susan take a closer look at the Upper Petroglyphs

Rock Overhang in Small Exit Canyon
 We took our lunch break at the Kohta Circus Panel and explored the small slot canyon nearby. Three of our hikers also climbed the wall under the exquisite upper panel to take a closer look. Finally, it was time to continue our adventure as we headed out the canyon toward a smaller wash with an over-hanging rock as seen to the left. At the end of this smaller canyon, there is a dirt and rock hill to climb of about twenty feet in elevation. Across from the top of this hill, we saw the crack slot we intended to use for our exit.

Climbing the Small Hill Before the Crack Slot
 Even though the slot is well-known around the Las Vegas hiking community, there is still a lot of brush covering the entrance to the slot. So, we swam through a bit of foliage and entered the rocky crack that began with a foreboding rock hanging between the walls that we had to duck under. The short scramble up through the slot had a few large step ups that were not hard to navigate. Soon, we found ourselves back in the daylight of the beautiful day.

Beginning of Crack Slot Climb
 We took a small break at the top of the slot as fourteen hikers emerged from the depths of the crack slot.

Steve Steps Up in the Slot
 From the slot, we continued over the sandstone, heading in a one or two o'clock direction from the slot heading. This brought us out to the sandy jeep road at the single track trail junction.

Taking a Break in the Joshua Tree Shade

Nearing the Beginning of the Old Jeep Road
 A slog through the deep sand ensued so that we were able to route the hike through several old-growth joshua trees. These trees may be 500 to 800 years old. The sandy jeep road was once used to approach the Kohta Circus Panel by vehicle, however, now, the beginning of the road that we came to is blocked by tree branches. At the wash junction, we turned right then headed off toward the white sandstone and joshua tree nursery landmark. Connecting with the trail, we followed it and found the high small arch landmark of where we needed to drop into the small canyon forest near the pond area.

Dropping Down to View the Lower Panel of Petroglyphs
 We passed the pond area, hiked back to the sheep wall then up to the overland trail. Upon returning to the falling man area, a few of the hikers wanted to inspect the lower panel of the three level petroglyph we had seen from above. From there, it was a simple circumvent to the falling man entrance and car corral. A great hike!

7.5 miles (including all side trips); 1200 feet of total elevation gain; 4.5 hours hike time; 3.5 hours drive time from and returning to Las Vegas (at I-15 & Cheyenne)

Whew! Almost There!

Gold Butte Sandstone

Returning to Cars

Basic Small Elevation Changes During Hike

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