Sunday, December 23, 2018

Amber Cat Canyon / Doodlebug Arch Loop (Gold Butte NM) - 12/22/18

The Amber Cat

The Doodlebug Arch

Beautiful Slot in Amber Cat Canyon

Starting down the Gravel Road
 Gold Butte National Monument is truly a unique area. It was made a National Monument in December 2016 by President Barack Obama. Then, it survived the whittling of new National Monuments by the following administration with the help of strong support from the People. At this time, research is being done so that construction of an actual park can happen in the next few years. It is all very exciting! Perhaps some of our devised trails can become a part of National Monument history. Until then, it is very important for all of us to keep the area undamaged. Stay off the cryptobiotic soil! Keep 4-wheelers off trails and abandoned roads. Pack out all trash and don't leave fire rings assembled. Don't touch the petroglyphs. And, please don't graffiti over anything. These are things that should be second nature to all outdoorsmen and women. Bless you!

Starting up the Small Wash to Catnap Canyon Saddle
 So, after a reminder talk about all that, ten hikers started out from the large parking lot on the right after the end of the "sort of pavement" of Gold Butte Road.

Redstone next to Small Wash
 This area is known as Whitney Pockets. And, there are a few large campsites dispersed around that usually fill up every weekend. ATVs and Jeeps are a big thing in Gold Butte but they are relegated to the Designated Road Routes.

Reaching Catnap Canyon Saddle

Wardrobe adjustment at the Overlook
 The Amber Cat Canyon / Doodlebug Arch Loop hike is new to the club and this was our maiden voyage. The hike is also known as the Doodlebug Arch Loop. And, in fact, the hike begins by following the gravel road that passes two campsites down to the Catnap Canyon Saddle; the canyon in which Doodlebug Arch resides. It isn't too bad following the uneven washed out gravel road for a mile downhill. It is important that we waited until we saw the two cairns at a small wash that came into the road before turning up the hill to the second saddle. Burros and cattle have cut trails across the cryptobiotic soil to shortcut up the hill but I don't think they are as smart as we are.

Starting into the Fun Stuff in Catnap Canyon
 We turned left at the cairns and climbed the small wash trying not to drift one way or another. On the way up, we passed a nice large redstone outcropping.

Stayin' in the Washes
 On the saddle, we saw Catnap Canyon in front of us but we turned to the left on an old abandoned road and followed it up the hill.

And, over the Sandstone

Narrow Passage
 The road cliffed out at an overlook of Amber Cat Canyon. We could see all the way down the colorful canyon and into the distance to Black Butte and Bitter Ridge. I pointed out the Falling Man petroglyph area. We saw that it was very important that we not get close to the edge of the cliff since it was unclear what, if anything, was beneath the soil we were standing on! A few hikers needed to make a wardrobe adjustment here since the sun was warming us up. We returned to the saddle and dove down into Catnap Canyon; so named because Tom Cluff was caught taking a nap in the canyon one time!

Some Interesting Stuff
 Determined to stay in the wash, we followed a worn wash trail down to the sandstone area. Even when there was a lot of sandstone around, we tried to use only the wash.

Arrival at Doodlebug Arch
We came to a large sandstone slab and crossed over it. Then dropped into the wash for a narrow passage. The wash zigzagged then a use trail appeared to the right.

Taking a Break at the Huge Arch

Dry Fall Drop in Canyon Wash
 Knowing we were in the arch area, I led the group up the hill and rounded the corner. Wow! Now, that's an arch! Doodlebug Arch is a big one! So named either for the abundance of ant lion craters under the arch or the shape of the arch resembling a larva of an ant lion called a doodlebug. Maybe both. Anyway, we stopped here for our break as we enjoyed the view and a little climbing. The arch is extremely sturdy! From here, we continued down the wash until we came to a particular dry fall that only three hikers conquered. The rest of us followed an up and around trail and dropped back into the wash.

Lower Catnap Canyon
 The wash becomes a little brushy but we stayed the course all the way down to the confluence of the Amber Cat Canyon wash and Catnap Canyon wash. Here, there is a wide area of gravel paths. We turned to the left and chose one of the widest paths.

Confluence Area
 After about 1/3 of a mile, we started seeing yellow sandstone rising from the terrain. The wash began to narrow and we even had to step up onto the rock at one point just to get through.

Finding the Sandstone in Lower Amber Cat Canyon

Staying in the Wash and on Sandstone
 At the same time, we began seeing cat and rabbit prints in the sand. The wash became more and more colorful and interesting. Soon, we arrived at the junction of a red wash to the right. A quarter of a mile side trip up and back this smaller wash afforded us a view of fossilized roots in a solid red wall of dirt and sandstone. Back at the main wash, we continued up. This is where the canyon gets really beautiful with slots and curves and colors. For a short while, we just enjoyed the display of nature-made art and sculpture. When the canyon widened a little, we came to the Amber Cat formation.

Lower Amber Cat Canyon Wash
 Set in a side wash, the huge formation sat on its haunches as seen in the first photo.

Red Layer
 Returning to the main wash again, we began a series of zigzags in the wash. There are trails offered to shortcut the curves but we stayed in the wash ... as promised.

Side Trip into a Side Wash

Yellow and Orange Slot
 The Island of the canyon came into view dressed flamboyantly in red and amber. We continued our winding path as we made our way by. I noted the bird's nest up in the front corner of the monstrosity. As we neared the top of the canyon, or the saddle, the wash gave us a few different suggestions. I picked the routes that made the most logical sense and we found the saddle trail up. Gathering one last time on the saddle, we turned to follow the offered trail toward the parking lot. The trail junctioned with the gravel road before we reached the cars.

Fun Stuff
 It was a wonderful day 3 days before Christmas. And, this hike is an excellent moderate hike to add to our repertoire.

Amber Cat Wash Area
 High clearance vehicles are not needed to get to the trailhead. Unusual for Gold Butte.

Arriving at the Island

Passing the Island
 Thanks to David Morrow for adding a few photos to the blog. And, thanks to JB for suggestions and recommendations. Yes, Gold Butte is a special place.

5.3 miles;
750 feet elevation gain;
3 hours

Starting the Climb Out to the Saddle

Amber Cat Canyon Saddle

Following the Trail back to the Cars

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