Saturday, April 8, 2017

Little Finland & The Subway (Gold Butte National Monument) - 4/7/17

Little Finland at Red Bluff Spring

The Subway (Grotto)

New Sign !!

5 HCVs at the Trailhead (Pointy Hill Landmark)
 Little Finland is known around the world. Tourists go out seeking this unusual landscape from Las Vegas often. In fact, a dude with a Russian accent came up to us today, out in the middle of nowhere, to ask us where it was. Our best advice to anyone is to do your homework. There are no signs saying, "This way to Little Finland." Also, in this area, is The Subway (aka The Grotto). You won't find a lot written about this sacred area to the Native Americans. Eighteen club members piled into five high clearance vehicles this morning to pay an annual visit to this area of the brand new Gold Butte National Monument.

Points of Interest in First Quarter Mile
 It would turn out to be a day full of fun, work, beauty, and scrambling.  We exited I-15 north at #112 (Riverside/Bunkerville) and turned east.

Passing an Arch
 Following the Virgin River crossing (3 miles), we turned right onto Gold Butte Road. (It is difficult to find the sign.) Another 20 miles on a sort of paved road, 4 miles on a graded dirt road and 4 more miles on a wash dirt road and we were at the trailhead.

View down to the Backdoor of Little Finland

Dropping from Plateau
 We began our hike in a cut in the rocks to the right. From here, it should be a direct line over to a high point rock outcropping near the drop on the left. Today, we wandered a bit more to the right than usual but found the high point rock and turned toward the backdoor of Little Finland. This entrance into the area of fins is a fun scramble down red rock. At the bottom, we turned a corner and the curtains were opened to an imaginative landscape of delicate rock formations called fins.

Scramble Down
 These fins are made by the erosion of softer rock that once surrounded the remaining fins. The fins appear delicate even though the rock is mostly strong. Care must be taken not to "speed up erosion."

 As is customary for the club hikes here, we were allowed around 20 to 30 minutes for wandering and photography.

Final Drop to Backdoor of Little Finland

Exploring the Fins
 The sky was extremely overcast all day long so it limited photographic possibilities. However, the temperature was optimal for hiking and there was very little wind. We were very comfortable all day. Two weeks ago, we had scheduled this same hike and had to cancel due to a huge storm moving through the area. We reaped the benefits of that postponement! The landscape was very green with mostly creosote.

Small Oddities
 Plus, many flowers were blooming everywhere! Globemallow, desert marigolds, beavertail cactus, creosote, and even the indigo was starting.

Hall of Fins
 We found a small cholla growing out from one of the fins that had two blooms on it!


Gathering Again
 After everyone was finished wandering, we gathered at the other end of Little Finland and hiked down to the flat area below the cliff. Staying parallel to the palm tree dotted walls, we passed through the Red Bluff spring area and hiked through the wash. At the end, the route climbs up the hill on the right and squeezes around the end of a fence. The fences here are to keep the free range cows out of the mud hole. They have other places to get their water.

Red Bluff Spring
 There is somewhat of a straight line trail/old road that goes from here out to the corral found next to the dirt road. This dirt road is the same as the one we came in on but a little further on.

Climbing out of Wash
 Many visitors park across from the corral and hike into Little Finland from this point. The corral is in very good condition and we checked it out ... feeling a little like a corralled cow!

The Corral

Crossing Wash at Base of Baby Butte
 From the corral, we crossed the dirt road(s) and hiked up a small gulley that brought us to the top of the next desert plateau. Another half mile across the desert and we were at the base of Baby Butte where we found a comfortable rock to sit on and take our snack break. The tall monolith of Baby Butte is a good landmark for this side of the hike. There is also a good shady campsite located nearby. After the break, we left the butte to cross the deep wash in front of us.

The Slot Climb
 Crossing the desert, we made a beeline for a slot in the sandstone. We entered the slot and, at the other end of the large crack, there is a climbable slope up to the next plateau.

Balanced Boulder
 Two red-shirted men (John W. & Tony) were sweeping so from here on out, we were always looking for the two red shirts to appear!

Inside the Small Slot

Petroglyphs outside the Subway
 Not far from this crack, we weaved our way over to a small slot that contains several very unusual and large petroglyphs. We all took a look see and were very careful to not touch any of them. Just like snakes, you have to look before you place your hand in this area! And, BTW, we saw two snakes today. One was a brown snake that slithered away before it could be identified and the other ... wait for it ... was a mojave rattler. YIKES!

Descending Cliff
 After leaving the small slot, we circled around the corner and made our way down to the Subway opening. The Super Scramblers descended the cliff and the Not so Super Scramblers came around the more sensible way!

Entering the Subway
 We took a look at the faded petroglyphs outside the Subway walls then entered the slot. The Subway entrance looks like ... well ... a subway.

Observing the Subway Petroglyphs

Big Boulder Canyon Scramble
 The walls of the Subway are covered with ancient petroglyphs. (A few modern ones are interspersed.) But, the best petroglyphs are located at the end of the slot up the rock fall. We were properly respectful of this sacred native place and felt fortunate to be able to see it. After the short exploration of the slot, we exited through a side slot and began another exploration of petroglyphs that are written on the walls and boulders around the end of the canyons.

Petroglyphs found Entering Big Boulder Canyon
 So concentrating on our foot steps and scrambling fun in the past, we had not seen the abundance of wall writings to the left and right of the Big Boulder Canyon scramble.

Chock Rock
 This explains why there seemed to be a worn trail along an area that seemed forbidding to Kay and John when they first routed the hike.

Climbing up to the Plateau

View back toward Little Finland from Plateau
 Well into the boulder scramble, we made sure the red shirts were keeping up. Cheat grass was thriving everywhere in the canyon and out on the desert floor. The catclaws were still on guard and, after entering the narrow part of the canyon, we took the right fork every time squeezing through the brush. This route spit us out over a chock rock at a saddle. Just afterwards, we climbed up on the plateau to our left via another good scramble.

Sidling down Lubinski Point
 The plateau crossing is simply a short cut back to the other side of the rock wall. To hike around the end of the wall is much longer.

Help Offered to Many
One really exciting point of interest was remaining as we took on the Lubinski Point descent. The exposure is real so care must be taken. From there we hiked back over to enter the Subway from the opposite side.

Returning to Baby Butte Area

Crossing the Big Wash Again
 Tired, we took a short break outside the Subway. Then a beeline was made over the last 2 miles to head back to the cars. Knowledge of the landscape and landmarks helps. (Note the pointy hill near the cars after you park.) One last petroglyph panel was noted near the trailhead on our way back (along with the rattler). Then, we headed home. It was a full day making the long drive worth the effort.

9 miles; 1200 feet elevation gain; 6 hours


The Wall Panel

Y'all come back now, ya hear?

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