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Las Vegas

Stories, pictures, and information about a variety of attractions around Las Vegas that lie outside of the main gambling entertainment industry.

Cottonwood Pass

Travelogue

Short stories chronicling off-road adventures near Las Vegas and interesting places within Las Vegas itself.

 

 

Cottonwood Pass

Joseph Bostic

Date:................October 10th, 1998
Destination:.........South of Red Rock Canyon (east of Las Vegas)
Duration:............Day trip
Departure Point:.....11S 0640124E 3984744N UTM (horse trailhead)
Weather:.............clear & mild
Adventurers:.........7
Vehicles:............3.5

Summary

 

A group of adventurers decided to explore the area south of Red Rock canyon. The goal was to see some wild horse herds (reported to be in the area), test out out GPSs, and to give the 4-wheel drive vehicles a little workout. One of our party is an old hand at off-roading and was going to give us a few pointers.

Meet at the Trailhead

This first official thing that we do is to meet at the trailhead. Naturally, some unofficial business occurred prior to this such as buy snack food, fill up with gas, and drive to the trailhead.

   Posing at trailhead

Posing at trailhead

At the trailhead, there is a sign that shows maps of all the trails in the area. These trails are mostly for horse back riders, but there were some mountain bikers in the area as well.

We all arrive intact. The party consisted of seven explorers: (from left to right) Chris, Ted, Chuck, Gerald, Steve, and Jonathan. I'm taking the picture and am behind the camera. We have 3.5 vehicles for the trip; two Jeep Wranglers, one Jeep Cherokee, and one motorcycle. Jonathan is taking his Wrangler for its first official off-road trip!

First we examine the trail maps and then determine that they are completely useless to us. Time to head south toward Cottonwood pass and look for horses.

Lookout Hill

   Lookout hill (lower hill) with MT. Potosi in the background

Lookout hill (lower hill) with MT. Potosi in the background

The road south was mild as far as dirt roads go. We look left and right for wild horses, but see none. We keep driving and keep looking, but to no avail. We need a better place to view the valley from and we also need to do some challenging off-road driving. Both needs are solved by driving to the top of lookout hill.

Partway to the top of the hill, we meet up with a Hummer for Off-road Adventures of Nevada. They tell us that there is unusually heavy tourist traffic in the valley that day and the wild horses have been scared off. This doesn't bode well, but we continue our way to the top of the hill. The trip to the top was steep and bouncy, but we eventually creep our way to the summit.

 Spreading out to look for horses

Spreading out to look for horses

Here we are at the top of lookout hill. The party spreads out to look for horses and other sights we can see from this vantage point. Looking to the north we can see the road we just traveled on. Red Rock canyon can be seen in the distance. Looking to the south there is a narrow valley, what looks like a mine, and a small house. However, no matter where we look, there are no horses to be seen. Chuck takes the opportunity to point out various interesting features in the valley -- but not horses.

   Chuck points out something in the valley

Chuck points out something in the valley

The best place to explore from here appears to be the mining camp in the valley to the north. After examining the appropriate U.S.G.S. map, we determine that the mine is called "Ninety Nine Mine".

Ninety Nine Mine

This time, the Cherokee leads the way down the back side of lookout hill. The road is steep with a few dips that test the ground clearance of the vehicles, but we arrive at the bottom in one piece. Sure enough, there is a mine here. In fact there are several mine entrances. The mine entrances are either fenced off or have been dynamited. The dynamiting wasn't very successful since there was still easy access to the mine.

   Mine tailings piled up just outside of the mine entrance

Mine tailings piled up just outside of the mine entrance

The party splits up to check out the various mining remains. Some head to the mine entrances, some examine the remains of the mining camp, and some (i.e., Chris) go cross country hiking.

   Ted stands over an old foundation to a long disintegrated building

Ted stands over an old foundation to a long disintegrated building

In addition to the tailings there were some foundations to old buildings. Ted was the first to discover these and stood triumphantly over one of the better specimens [right]. Within the foundation of the building there was a cactus bearing some strange fruit. The fruit sure looked weird -- mutated even.

   Squashed rusty tin cans

Squashed rusty tin cans

In addition to the tailings, mine shafts, and building foundations, there were lots of tin cans. Rusty tin cans. Very rusty tin cans. Squished flat very rusty tin cans. This reminded me of the vast acres of cans discovered on the Green Monster Mine field trip. This just goes to show that regardless of which era of history, squishing tin cans flat is a popular pastime.

There were no wild horses here. Rats.

The Miner's House

   The abandoned miner's house

The abandoned miner's house

A little further up the valley there appears to be a small house. We decide to check it out. Chris still hadn't returned from his cross country hiking but we decided to drive up the road to the house anyway. After all, the distance wasn't that far. He would probably thank us for letting him get some exercise. Yea, that's it.

   Chuck points out various architectural aspects of the flimsy building foundation

Chuck points out various architectural aspects of the flimsy building foundation

Upon closer inspection, it appeared to be abandoned. The windows were shot out, the front door was missing, and there were no signs of recent activity. It didn't look very sturdy. The foundation consisted of drums with sticks pointing up out of them. The entire house was suspended on these sticks. Although there was room enough to walk under the foundation, no one was stupid enough to do so. To do so would surely mean impending death. With this flimsy a foundation, the house was probably going to collapse as the slightest excuse!

   The underside of the house. Notice the foundation consists only of sticks for support

The underside of the house. Notice the foundation consists only of sticks for support

This space under the house was not empty however. There were ladders, crates filled with mysterious white fibers, cushions, blankets, lumber, metal pieces, and various other miscellaneous objects. This was a lot of stuff to leave behind. Maybe the miner who lived here left suddenly or maybe he died in the mine and we are the first to discover the house after that tragic day? Who can say for sure. The previous occupant didn't seem to have any problem with walking under this foundation of impending death. Such disregard for personal safety probably explains the demise of the miner.

There were no wild horses here either.

Inside the House

   Chuck points out some architectural feature or else someone just asked the question "Where's Steve?"

Chuck points out some architectural feature or else someone just asked the question "Where's Steve?"

Although only a fool would venture beneath the house because of the fear it might collapse, we didn't seem to have any problem with going inside the house. Upon entering the house we confirmed that it was in fact abandoned. However, it was not empty. There was a stove, table, and mattress here in various states of decrepitude. Strewn about the floor was ample "evidence" that animals had lived here for quite some time. (No horse "evidence" was detected)

   Chris climbs into the loft to check it out.

Chris climbs into the loft to check it out.

I'm not sure what animals lived here, but it didn't appear to be bats. Just to be sure, Chris climbed up into the loft to make sure. There was "evidence" up there too, but no bats.

   The front door as viewed from the inside.

The front door as viewed from the inside.

Through cooperative deduction we concluded that this house must have been occupied on at least two occasions with a period of abandonment in between. We came to this conclusion because there were signs of repair at various spots.

Well, after tromping around the house for awhile (adding an additional half ton of weight to the foundation) without having the house collapse, we became bored. Time to leave this house and have some lunch.

Break for Lunch

   Ted takes our picture as we eat lunch.

Ted takes our picture as we eat lunch.

It is time for lunch, but were can we eat? Certainly not in the house. There is no place to sit and it is horribly disgusting in there. Examining the immediate vicinity of the house reveals a campfire ring. Someone must have thought this a good place to camp, so who are we to argue. They even provided a chair next to the campfire ring [right]. The chair wasn't in any shape to actually sit in, so we spread out over the nearby rocks.

   Strange contraption. What could it be used for?

Strange contraption. What could it be used for?

While eating we discover something strange nearby. It consisted of a board suspended between two barrels and a chair underneath. Just what could this contraption be for?

A very skinny table?

A pull-up bar for the chronically lazy?

A random collection of objects (yea right)?

   The view of the house from our lunch spot.

The view of the house from our lunch spot.

After having lunch in the blazing hot sun, we decide it is time to move on. Gerald also decided to move on, but instead of going foreword, he decides to return to Las Vegas. His motorcycle was getting low on gas, and we didn't bring any spare gas nor even a siphon tube.

Moral: Bring a gas can (full of gas) (just in case)

The Adventure Resumes

   An off road trip as viewed from a following vehicle (notice the dust)

An off road trip as viewed from a following vehicle (notice the dust)

The adventure resumes. This time the plan is to head further south in hopes of seeing some wild horses. Jonathan leads the way. This brings up an important point when driving off road -- always try to be the lead vehicle (cough, cough).

   The "Gas Line" that travels to Las Vegas

The "Gas Line" that travels to Las Vegas

After a few zigs and zags we end up at a lookout point. This lookout point provides a view of the Cottonwood Spring. Since we were at Cottonwood Pass, this was quite appropriate. Cottonwood Spring is located in a little hidden valley that is accessible by jeep trail. It also is characterized by having a "Gas Line" traveling through it. We know it is a gas line because there are signs that say so.

   Cottonwood Spring as viewed from the lookout point

Cottonwood Spring as viewed from the lookout point

We decided not to go down to Cottonwood Spring, but from the lookout point we could see trees, a water tank thingie, and remains of wood structures. It looked like an interesting place and would make a good spot to visit on a future off-roading trip.

Surely there would be horses here. It is a spring and is in a secluded valley not likely to be disturbed by humans. However, there wasn't a wild horse in sight. Not even a tame one. Hope of seeing a wild horse was fading. It was time to move on.

On To Jean

We proceed south toward Jean Nevada. The small town of Goodsprings lies along the way. It is a sleepy little town with the emphasis on the word little and sleepy. This town is familiar to some of use since we passed through in on a previous off-road adventure. The down consist mostly of trailers and a few old abandoned buildings of indeterminate function -- probably mining related.

   Old water tower in Goodsprings

Old water tower in Goodsprings

About 10 miles east of Goodsprings is Jean. This hardly qualifies as a town since it primarily consists of a couple of casinos, a small airport, and a prison. However, it does have a small convenience store so we stopped for gas and snacks.

   Underside view of dust-devil

Underside view of dust-devil

While stopped, we were almost hit by a dust-devil (desert twister). It passed within 50' of us. We now know what the underside of a dust devil looks like. Although it passed close by while we were at the convenience store, it didn't travel over any people or vehicles. This is good news, since the dust was swirling so fast that it would easily have sand-blasted the paint of a car or human.

It probably goes without saying that we didn't see any wild horses around here either.

The Dry Lake

   Lining up on the Jean dry lake

Lining up on the Jean dry lake

From Jean, we head east to the dry lake. This is the same dry lake that we first learned to kite paragliders on during our paragliding training. I was first to arrive, followed shortly by Chuck and Jonathan.

   Looking across the dry lakebed

Looking across the dry lakebed

Since we didn't see any horses on this trip, we might as well see a little horsepower! I jump into the Cherokee and take off across the lakebed at breakneck speed. Jonathan takes off after me followed closely by Chuck.

Eighty miles and hour and 20 seconds later I'm at the far side travelling down a dirt road. Clearly the winner in this race. Jonathan is close behind me. After a short distance down the dirt road on the far side of the lake, it becomes apparent that Chuck is not following us. We wait. And wait. And wait some more. Surely his jeep couldn't be that slow. It was about time to invoke the "20 minute rule", but then Chuck finally arrived.

He had in interesting excuse for being so slow. Now get this: When he started to race across the lake at a good speed, a bottle of Pepsi exploded in the vehicle sending sticky liquid everywhere. The explosion was more like a fire-hose type than a grenade type and resulted in pandemonium within the vehicle. Too bad I missed seeing that. This "accident" probably had nothing to do with Ted shaking the Pepsi bottle while we were in Jean.

   Remains of a well in Hidden Valley

Remains of a well in Hidden Valley

After a good laugh, we continued east into Hidden Valley. In the middle of Hidden Valley is a corral. The corral was in a dilapidated condition, but there was the remains of a well present. The remains consisted of a concrete slab with a pipe sticking out of it. Real interesting (yawn). After dropping a few (hundred) rocks down the well pipe, we continue northward and toward Las Vegas.

The road north through Hidden Valley is very rough, bouncy, dicey, and partially washed out, but otherwise uneventful. We finally reach I-15 and head back into Las Vegas. No horses were seen on this trip, but we had fun anyway.

The End