Spring Mountain Range
May 5 and 6, 2012
Leader: Glenn Shaw
This trip was planned as a one day tour of the Spring Mountains with a museum and winery visit the next day. With this in mind and the close proximity of Pahrump’s hotels, restaurants and campgrounds it was decided not to have a campsite and potluck. But who would have thought that Pahrump would be sold out that weekend with no major event going on? With a flurry of emails back and forth between participants it was decided to meet at the Saddle West Casino at 5:00 p.m. Friday and caravan 8 miles to the east of Pahrump and camp between the towering walls of Wheeler Wash for the night. The full moon was out big and bright, the weather was ideal and it was a pleasant night for at least some of us who were sound sleepers. It seems we were visited during the night by a party crowd from Pahrump who chose to party just up the wash from our camp. They must have had fun judging by the collection of beer cans left behind. Saturday morning we assembled at the Saddle West Casino again to wait for anyone who was not with our camping group, Emmett & Ruth were the only ones.
By 9:30 a.m. we were bouncing up the rocky road to Carpenter Canyon. I was leading with Mignon serving as my ”communications” co-pilot and Mal as tail. The Spring Mountains Range is about 80 miles long and it separates Las Vegas Valley from Pahrump Valley. It is an isolated range that does not connect to any others, therefore many species of plant and animal life have evolved there that are not found anywhere else. The Spring Mountains were named for the abundant springs found in all the canyons. These springs were home to the Paiute Indians and later homesteaded and used for cattle ranching operations. Carpenter Canyon is a beautiful spot with a cascading stream, tall pines and towering limestone cliffs. Located beneath 12,000 foot Mt. Charleston, it was the perfect place for a rest stop. After backtracking a short distance we cut across the fan of the mountain through canyons and washes while being treated to spectacular views across Pahrump Valley and the mountain ranges beyond. Passing Wallace Canyon, a planned stop but impassable because of washouts, we continued on to the road that would take us to Wheeler Pass. At this intersection a sign was posted stating the Wheeler Pass road is closed on the down side at Cold Creek village where we needed to go. Even though the sign had a Forest Service logo, it had a home made look to it. We continued up the Wheeler Pass Road passing a pair of fantastic limestone monoliths and on to a late lunch stop beside the remains of four charcoal kilns built in 1885 for processing ore in the Tecopa Mining District. One was rebuilt by Forest Service volunteers about ten years ago but malicious vandals tumbled it down again. After lunch we continued on to the 7,700 foot summit of Wheeler Pass. The views were awesome, to the east we could see Highway 95, Creech Air Force Base and beyond to the Nevada Test Site. To the west were the Kingston and Nopah mountain ranges and a hazy view of Telescope Peak in the far distance. The decision that needed to be made here was whether to disregard the road closure sign spotted earlier and brave it down a very rugged seven mile stretch and hope the road was not closed and we would not have to backtrack back up the bone jarring trail to the pass. We later learned, as we suspected, the road was indeed open and the sign was probably put there by land owners to discourage ATV traffic. We decided to be wimps and return to Pahrump on the well-graded gravel road and then continue on with the second leg of the trip. This was a prudent decision because of time.
On reaching Highway 160 in Pahrump we traveled 22 miles north past the old mining town site of Johnny that by 1907 would boast of restaurants, stores, tree-lined streets and fresh cold water delivered by pipeline from the Spring Mountains,. By 1914 it was all but over. Turning east we traveled about 4 miles to the site of the original gold strike at the Johnny Mine. Because of the rich ore some thought this was the fabled Lost Breyfogle Mine rumored to be somewhere in this area. The mine produced over one million dollars in gold ore in the early 1900’s and is said to have over 2 miles of underground tunnels. The mine has been in private ownership since closing and retains all the original equipment including the intact 16 stamp mill. Just around the corner from the Johnny Mine and half mile down a wash we visited some fantastic petroglyphs as well as pictographs portraying a host of bizarre human and animal type figures. I recently learned of this site from a rock art enthusiast and was given a picture of a large strange glyph,. He said according to Paiute/Shoshone legend it’s a rare glyph called a Water Baby and it was responsible for creating the ancient rock art? Emmett called this bunk! Oh well it’s a fun story anyway, but we did look for the glyph and found it. After much picture taking we returned to Pahrump, Emmett and Ruth to Shoshone where they were staying.
We chose a different campsite for Saturday night as we did not want any late night party visitors again; we all slept better knowing this. The site turned out to be a great location overlooking Pahrump. It was also great for viewing the full moon rising over the mountains and watching the unexpected treat of firework displays down in the valley. We attributed this to the Cinco de Mayo festivities and not to our arrival in Pahrump.
Sunday we met for a docent tour of the Pahrump Valley Museum. It is a great little museum with a President Lincoln memorabilia room, historic buildings, Indian artifacts and many items relating to Pahrump’s history. Next stop was a tour of Nevada’s first winery the Pahrump Valley Vineyards. We had a great guide who did an excellent show and tell presentation with wine tasting included. The guide explained about the failed attempt at growing grapes. Seems the wild horses and other desert critters decimated the grape plantings so now most grapes are trucked in.
The only mishap of the trip was that Alan’s truck refused to start Sunday morning even with jumpers. It was decided that the battery was shot so it was taken out at the campsite and a new one purchased in Pahrump and installed back in camp. The group all agreed we had a very good time. Participants included Mignon Slentz, Alan Hodes, Nelson Miller, Mal Roode, Glenn Shaw, Emmett and Ruth Harder.
Check out the photo gallery - all photos contributed by Mal Roode