Sunday, February 4, 2018

Virlis-Fisher & Bridge Spring Arches - 2/3/18

Virlis-Fisher Arch

Bridge Spring

Miocene Andesite to Left of Saddle #2

Dirt Bikers across Highway 165
Virlis-Fisher Arch and the natural bridge of Bridge Spring are located within the Eldorado Mountains approximately 2 miles from the small town of Nelson, Nevada. The trailhead is a small pullout with adjoining dirt road situated on the north side of State Route 165. It is located on a crest previous to where the highway dives down into the little town. Drive south on 95 around 10 miles from the Cascata Golf Course. Turn left onto Highway 165 and drive another approximate 10 miles to the trailhead on the left. This area has become popular in the past decade for dirt bike racing and camping off the grid.

Lush Desert Foliage
Some time in the 18th century, gold was discovered in this area. Hostile Mohave Indians prevented the gold from being mined until beginning around 1857. The original mining town of Eldorado is now under Lake Mohave along the Colorado River but the mining continues to this day producing millions of dollars worth of gold, silver, copper, lead, and zinc.

Bridge Spring Trail
The following excerpt is taken from Geologic Tours in the Las Vegas Area (Expanded Edition with GPS Coordinates), Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Special Publication 16, University of Nevada, Reno, Mackay School of Earth Sciences, 2008, Bear Printing, Sparks, NV; pages 104-109.

Dropping to Bridge Spring Wash

First Gathering
"The small quarry cut into the side of the hill to the left exposes the tuff of Bridge Spring, a regionally extensive ash-flow sheet that erupted from a caldera in the Eldorado Mountains about 15.2 million years ago. The hills extending away from the road to the left are thought to be composed of a thick section of this tuff that was deposited against the wall of the caldera. The caldera wall, and the tuff, has been tilted 90 degrees onto its side. The tuff exposures are cut by a left-lateral strike-slip fault that represents an adjustment or tear fault in the upper plate of a major detachment sheet This unit is named after Bridge Spring, located about 2 miles north of Nelson and about 1 mile east or S.R. 165."

Climbing up to find Rabbit Hole #1
This excerpt describes what you see as you approach the trailhead. Much of the rock here is Miocene andesite as influenced by the lava flows from millions of years ago.

Exit Cave from Rabbit Hole #1
Thus, the name of the Bridge Spring natural bridge and ridge of mountains in the Eldorado Mountains along Techatticup Wash. Twenty-three hikers arrived at the trailhead for the club's first hike here in four years.

Exploring Rabbit Hole #1

Steep Drop back to Bridge Spring Wash
In the past, we have done this hike in a clockwise direction while taking in the Virlis-Fisher Arch first by way of some interesting washes. However, today, we began our hike in a counterclockwise direction and we started out the trail at the end of the small dirt road to the east. This trail took us up and over a small ridge then winds down into the Bridge Spring wash that flows eastward. Before we got too far in the wash, we climbed up northward and searched for a known rabbit hole. It's been a while (like I said) so we missed the entrance. Nevertheless, we circled around at the top of the hill among the rock and found the very interesting cave in which the rabbit hole exits. We played around here for a few minutes then headed back down to the wash below.

Bridge Spring Wash Scramble
There was another small group of hikers in the wash as well. Very unusual! But, they were just finishing up at the natural bridge when we scrambled down.

Almost down to Bridge
Some of us climbed up to the top of the bridge. The rest of us stayed down to take photos. It was a perfect day with a bit of wind whenever we were on top of something.

Bridge Spring Natural Bridge

Climbing steeply up from Bridge
As all of us finished our perusal past the bridge, we headed up the hill to the left. Here, you can see that hikers have made this climb with somewhat of a trail. A short break midway put us all together again then we finished the climb. At the top, the trail continued over a small saddle and around a hill. Another small saddle then we were at the top of the Rabbit Hole #2 small canyon. There is a trail here, too. Then at the end of the canyon, we all dropped down through a large hole made by several large boulders and came out at the bottom of a very large valley. Perhaps a fault zone.

Following Trail around to Descent
Each time we had an obstacle that required special care or single file, we were happy to stop the rapid speed of the hike and wait for everyone.

Descent Canyon
At this point, we could almost make out Virlis-Fisher Arch in the wall of rock cliffs high across the valley. It was difficult to tell but the telltale sunlight told the tale. (Hmm.)

Rabbit Hole #2

First View of Virlis-Fisher Arch
Our target now was the saddle up on the ridge to the northeast. Although there was a game trail for much of the way, it felt more like a bushwhack straight over (passing a lone red barrel cactus) and up to the saddle. Some of this had steep slippery footing but this was only a hint of what was coming later. We all ended up on the saddle with a simply amazing view of the Colorado River, Lake Mohave and the Lake Mead NRA. Worth the climb! We stopped here for a few photos and held onto our hats. This saddle/view was not included in our previous hikes here and the writer was very impressed! This is a must do!

Climbing up to Saddle #1
Next, we were told that the upcoming climb up to Virlis-Fisher Arch was optional if some of the hikers chose to stay grounded. We divided into two groups.

Saddle #1
One group headed down into the valley again for their break to watch the other group traverse around to the base of the arch where a very steep climb ensued to the east of the arch.

Colorado River from Saddle #1

Traversing over to Steep climb to Arch
The traverse trail is nothing better than a game trail and it is very difficult to tell exactly where the arch is from this angle. A good landmark is the rock formation seen through the arch in the first photo. This rock is not far to the west (left) of the arch. Some hikers climbed up a wash and others climbed up the steep loose rock covered slab. Any way you do it, it's fun! So, we took our photos and ate a snack with some conversation. Afterwards, we went through the arch and descended the first crack ... most of us on 5 legs. At the bottom of the crack, we crossed over to the first ramp ridge to the west and descended to a meeting point made of large boulders near the bottom of the valley.

Arriving at Virlis-Fisher Arch
The leader came barreling down the ramp and took off down to the valley wash. We fell in line. Soon, we were able to look back and get a better view of the arch in the distance from the west side.

Taking a Break next to the Arch
The easy hike down the fine gravel didn't last long before we turned into a wash to the left onto a trail. We began to climb again.

Arch descent Chute

Arch and Descent Chute from Ramp
The trail was pretty good but a small group of our hikers decided to drop back down into the wash below and "do some bouldering." The remaining group stayed on the trail. We didn't see the bouldering group until after we had reached Saddle #2. Our trail was difficult to follow at one point but we continued our upward momentum doing some bouldering of our own and catching the trail again at a later time. We waited at the saddle for a few minutes and still didn't see the other group so we began to amble back toward the trailhead that we could see as the crow flies. We used a use trail for most of the way but it was very vague.

Valley Wash
Many of us dragged our feet since we didn't want the group that was behind to lose us. Mainly, we were not positive that that group would arrive at the saddle.

Connecting with Trail to Saddle #2
Finally, we saw them cresting over a hill above! All was well! Our large group of twenty-three were now strung all the way across the desert from the saddle to the cars!

Arriving at Saddle #2

Starting Bushwhack/Trail hike over to Trailhead
Each time we peaked out on a ridge, we would look back and make sure that all was still well. It was and they were catching up just fine. We connected with the initial Bridge Spring Trail and climbed up over the last ridge and down to the cars noticing a new (2003) survey marker next to the short dirt road. The dirt bikers were gone and so was the other group of hikers. A wonderful hike full of discovery out in the middle of the beautiful desert.

4.5 miles; 1200 feet elevation gain; 3.75 hours

Hiking through Beautiful Terrain

Peaking out on a Ridge

Joining Bridge Spring Trail

1 comment:

Las Vegas Cockapoo said...

Kay--Thank you for the great blog photos & narrative on yesterday's hike. I know you had to put a lot of work into the effort--and it was quite informative.

Chuck H.