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2012 Trip Report - Spring Mountain

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