Friday, November 9, 2018

Garden Canyon & Car Camp - Gold Butte National Monument (FOGB) - 11/6/18 & 11/7/18

Garden at Canyon Overlook

Deep in Garden Canyon

Ridge Road to Garden Canyon

November 6, 2018 (Photos)
The 1.75 Hour Drive to Campsite

Evening Photos of Corral at Campsite
 Continuing the effort to learn about other hikes in the Gold Butte National Monument, John and I joined the Friends of Gold Butte (FOGB) hosted by Jim Boone on a one night car camp in the southern region of the monument area. Our target was Garden Canyon, a beautiful canyon that flows into the Grand Gulch Wash near the Arizona border. We started the adventure by meeting at the SR 170 & Gold Butte Road junction, at the kiosk, in the early afternoon. There were twelve (and a half ... little dog) of us with a mixed bag of experience. This made for a very well rounded outing with knowledge and information coming from several walks of life, all with the same enthusiasm for the upcoming hike. Four of the attendees are or were members of the Around the Bend Friends Hiking Club.

Around the Campfire
 Twenty-one miles on the "paved" part of Gold Butte Road. Seventeen miles further on the graded dirt road of New Gold Butte Road. Left on Devil's Cove Road. One mile on Devil's Cove Road. Left on unmarked Garden Wash Road. Three fourths of a mile on Garden Wash Road. And, the group campsite is on the right next to a very large old corral with a windmill placed near a dried up spring.

November 7, 2018 (Photos)
Morning Light at Campsite
 We quickly set up camp spreading out over the large bare area. Then light faded fast after we began to eat something. Jim set up a nice campfire in the middle of the bare area and, slowly, we filled in the circle around it with our camp chairs.

The Corral Windmill
 Discussions around the fire were very interesting. We talked about the geology of the area. We talked about the history of the mining in Gold Butte. We talked about the Old Arrowhead Highway. We passed around popcorn. And, we laughed at how cold we were all getting to be!

Non-Descript Garden Canyon Trailhead

Starting up the Mining Road to the Ridge
 With the time change three days ago, it got dark early. We looked at our watch and couldn't believe it was only 5:52pm! Well, what can we say? We are early-to-bedders! So, we talked, shivered and breathed in the smoke as long as we could then realized we were all craving the warmth of our sleeping bags! So, early to bed (7:30pm) for a chilly night in tents and cars. John and I did okay inside our Ford Escape wrapped up in warm stuff. We woke to the faint light piercing the sky that had just hours before been packed with stars. (We actually saw the Milky Way!!) John served up a breakfast of eggs and bacon and the camp slowly came alive as we prepared for the big event, Garden Canyon Loop hike. Around about 8am, we started out in the sturdier cars to continue down Garden Canyon Wash Road, an ungraded dirt road that has a few wash outs.

Mining Road on the Ridge
 Approximately three miles from the campsite, we parked the cars just off the wash / road. The trailhead was rather non-descript. There is an old mine road that climbs up the hill on the left side but you could not see it from our trailhead.

Hikers along the Mining Road on Ridge
 Here, a truck was shuttled down the wash to the canyon entrance for possible tired hikers at the end of the hike. When they returned, we started around the hill and up the old mining road.

Geology, Botanical & Geography Discussions

Nearing the Canyon on Ridge
 Jim allowed us to climb to the ridge at our own pace. It was the steepest climb of the day but not bad for Around the Bend Friends' standards. When I reached the crest, I had several minutes to take a slew of photos! The mining road split here. One direction of the road went over the ridge and down into the next canyon to a mine somewhere. There were several cobalt mines in this area back in the day. The other direction turned to the right and led along the very top of the ridge. Word is, the miners would speculate on mining this or that then they would cut a road. Only after that would they decide if the mine would pay or not. It usually wouldn't in this area even though many different minerals have been found. Then the road would be abandoned. Gold, cobalt and uranium are only a few minerals that have been discovered.

Mine Claim
 We hiked slowly along the ridge stopping often for a new discussion. We passed the mining claim in the photo above.

End of Mining Road and Start of Hike up to Overlook
 The amazing distant views kept my attention! We could see all the way back to Whitney Pockets and Virgin Peak. Then, to the west, we could see the Grand Gulch Wash cutting the terrain (left to right) deeply in the distance. Beyond that was Arizona.

Overlook Up Canyon

Overlook into Canyon
 When we turned around, we could still see our cars at the trailhead in the wash. Then, we came to the end of the mining road that was near the entrance of the canyon far below. Continuing from the road, we climbed up off trail to the high point above the canyon abyss. This was definitely a no-selfie zone! Cacti and limestone ruled the roost. And, two sharp pinnacle type pyramids rose up within the canyon below us. Distant views were 270 degrees around us and the other 90 degrees were of Azure Ridge across from us. Azure Ridge was the original ridge in this location. An earthquake cut it in half and the north half of the ridge, now Tramp Ridge, has since moved 6 miles to the southwest. The end of Azure Ridge that was cut off, broke in another earthquake and that is what made Garden Canyon that we can enjoy today. Tah-dah!

Overlook down Canyon toward Grand Gulch Wash
 We sat on the overlook and took our first break. What a feeling of being in the middle of ... well, ... just space ... beautiful space!

Overlook back to Whitney Pockets and Virgin Peak
 Our leisurely break ended and Jim directed us to continue down the ridge. There were two descents here that were fairly steep. Still, very doable. Bring two hiking sticks!

View to Grand Gulch Wash (left to right)

Hikers on Overlook
 We picked our way down the slope that was full of rocks (layered and loose) and desert plants and came to the first saddle. It was clear that we were still above steep canyon walls so we continued down the ridge and made the second steep descent. Same song, second verse! As we dropped down this hill to the second saddle, we could see the trailing ridge that led to the canyon floor. It was the second ridge after the second saddle. But wait! Don't miss the ocotillo grove! Word is, this is the northernmost ocotillo grove in the world! We passed several of the individualists looking very healthy, all leafed out. One, in a photo below, was actually blooming!

Hiking down from Overlook
 So, we followed the long gentle slope of the trailing ridge, through several ocotillos, down to the sandy / gravelly canyon floor.

First Ridge Saddle
 Turning to hike up canyon, we immediately noticed the interesting layered geology of the canyon walls. The terrain was upturned at almost a 90 degree angle. Hmm. Before or after the earthquake that made the canyon? Maybe before since the layers on both sides of the canyon were uniform in their tilts.

Hiking down Next Ridge Descent

Hiking down 2nd Trailing Ridge to Wash through Ocotillos
 As soon as we found a large shady spot in the entrance of the canyon, we sat for our second break. As we rested, some of us searched around for small Precambrian seabed fossils in the limestone walls. A few of our hikers were well learned in the names of most of the fossils. I didn't write them down. Anyway, most of these smaller fossils were similar to the fossils we have found in Red Rock Canyon, the Spring Mountains and the Desert Refuge. Interesting nonetheless. After the break, we began slowly hiking up the wash taking it all in at our leisure. As we gently ascended, the canyon became more and more narrow, and slightly steeper. I was mostly concerned that I would miss the larger fossils that were rumored to be here, without the help of Jim. He seemed to not be concerned about that. We would soon find out why!

Blooming Ocotillo on Ridge above Garden Canyon
 While we sauntered, the beautiful canyon enveloped us into its fold. We passed a couple of small pools of rancid water. One had a bee's nest nearby.

Starting into Garden Canyon
 We passed a large old boiler that had washed down to a curve in the canyon. Then, we began having to make small scrambles up about two feet at a time.

Broken Layers of Geology

Small Fossils near Canyon Entrance
 As the canyon narrowed, tamarisk and catclaws made their appearance. A few times, we held back the sharp foliage for each other. A few more curves and the canyon narrowed so much that we could touch both sides at once for several yards. Here! Yes, here were the fossils we waited for. Um. Excuse me. What are those annoying splotches of bright white paint all over the wall? Oh. That's why Jim was not concerned that we would miss them! Someone had come into the canyon with a can of white paint and marked all the large fossils that they could see in a 50 foot section of the very narrow canyon. The paint was placed to the side of the fossils and, yes, I suppose it helped people like me that didn't quite know what to look for. But, ... bad form ... really bad form.

Canyon starts to Narrow
 I took photos of many of the fossils that I could decipher then photoshopped out the white splotches. See two photo collages below.

The Narrows Begin
 One particularly impressive fossil was a 2 foot sea creature that appeared a lot like a squid! Again, sorry about the lack of scientific names.

Inside Garden Canyon

The Canyon Narrows and Climbs More
 These fossils were, in fact, different than any other fossils that I have seen in southern Nevada ... or anywhere else. (Lack of experience, maybe.) They are larger than your normal seabed fossils and they are different animals. So, we got our fill of the imprints in the limestone and continued up the canyon. Squeezing out of the very narrow section, the canyon began opening again. The walls continued appearing like the fossil walls so I continued looking for fossils. I think I found a few but only one was very clearly something special. It is also found in one of the collages below. (I refrained from putting white paint next to it.)

A Few Small Scrambles Appear
 This upper part of the canyon had two different piles of lumber that had been washed down in a flash flood; presumably from the mines.

Large Sea Fossils in Narrowest part of Canyon
 Then we passed one mine that was at eye level from the wash. A grate gate had been placed over the entrance since this was most likely a dangerous mine to explore.

Large Sea Fossils in Narrowest part of Canyon

Utah Agave growing out of Canyon Wall
 Finally, I passed the official top boundary of the canyon where a marker had been placed to stop ATVs from going down the wash. To the right was a small mining cabin that was in shambles and past that, the truck was waiting with a few hikers around. Not wanting to quit my hike in this fantastic area, I started hiking up the wash / road. I was three quarters of the way up the wash when the truck, filled with hikers, came up behind me and offered a ride. I jumped in and we all went back to the group campsite. John and I made good time getting back to I-15 in one and a half hours. We had a fantastic time and learned so much that we want to share.

5.5 miles; ~1200 feet elevation gain; 5 hours (taking our time)

Tamarisk growing in the Upper part of the Canyon

Man Made Points of Interest within Canyon

Mining Cabin at Canyon Entrance

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