Escape to Little Finland
By Debbie Miller Marschke
Steve and I hit the road in early September on a loosely planned trip that found us spending some time in Mesquite, Nevada. We found our way to the Virgin Valley Museum, enjoying the displays and artifacts; it’s worth a stop because it has a treasure trove of unique items. I also had an ulterior motive, I was hoping to find a source that had specific directions to a place I had heard of, “Little Finland.” Luckily, I hit paydirt when talking to the museum docent. Not only did she know what I was talking about, she photocopied all the hand drawn maps that folks had shared with the museum. This made me extremely happy, because I only had a vague idea of how to find the place.
Armed with the locally sourced materials, we hit the road and headed towards Gold Butte National Monument. We now had our treasure maps, complete with the “x” marking the “spot”!
We had been provided with several maps that had other interesting destinations, so it was tempting to become distracted along the way. All I can say is…we need to come back again when the DE is running trips and the weather is good!
The road into Gold Butte National Monument was unmaintained dirt. For at least 20 miles we endured a hellish washboard that had us worrying that our vehicle’s nuts and bolts would be shaken loose before we arrived. Airing down helped a little bit, but not enough. I really wish folks would just put their vehicles in 4WD right away and stop making more washboard! The washboard was so awful, we actually discussed turning back. But both of us were suffering from extreme cabin fever, we needed a good adventure.
We had a late start to Little Finland after time spent in the Museum. We had to pass many interesting features, like Whitney Pockets, just to make sure we did not run out of time (we did not have our camping gear in the Jeep). Whitney Pockets reminded me of Valley of Fire, with its colorful sandstones and features that yelled out for us to stop. We had to keep going, but we’ll be back sometime to check that out.
We came to a decision point on our maps: there was a short cut that potentially saved us 5 miles. It was not well marked, so it came with a risk of becoming lost in the middle of nowhere. We trusted our navigation skills and took the shortcut. This lead us into an interesting wash lined with gypsum deposits. I relented, we had to stop and investigate. While stopped and eating lunch, we were passed by one other vehicle which was the only one we encountered during this backcountry sortie. Something to consider – it would have been a long walk back to town if something did go wrong with our vehicle.
We were not too far from our destination now. Our maps indicated that we needed to park and hike to Little Finland. Later we found out that this advice was not 100% true. You can park at a corral and hike in, or continue to drive a few more miles and arrive at the flank of the formations. No problem, the whole key to enjoying Little Finland is to climb up into it and around it. You really don’t get much enjoyment just from gazing at it in the front seat.
The formations are red rock sandstone, wind sculpted and contorted. They are similar to what you would see in Valley of Fire or Coyote Buttes AZ. These formations have thin “fins”, fragile plates, hoodoos and unexplainable shapes to tantalize any imagination. It is a bonafide “rock garden”, and every step you take changes what you see. Every twisted and delicate shape is different depending on where you stand. I found myself beckoned to keep exploring and winding my way around the rocks. Thankfully, I did not see evidence of human destruction or vandalism. This place is amazing.
Another pleasant surprise were petroglyphs we found there. We were not looking for them, but there they were. According to the maps, there are several sites in this area. There were also a few palm trees, standing sentinel upon areas which may have been running springs.
It was time for us to suffer the washboard back to Mesquite. It was a day of discovery and wonder, we hope you find the time to make the trip someday. What is that I hear? It’s Nelson Miller on my shoulder, yelling in my ear “I want those maps!.” I scanned them and sent them with this article and I will post them on our website. ~ Deb