Wednesday August 19, 2015 Jarbidge River Canyon Nevada
The posts in this series seemed to have gotten jumbled during the postings of several posts at the same time. Nothing I can do about that? You’ll just have to do some digging if you want to read them all starting on August 12, 2015. Use the sidebar, new posts and all posts.
Today was the day we’d been working up to. We were going to attempt to find the old passage down to the bottom of the Jarbidge River Gorge, about in the middle of a twenty three mile no access part of the river. It’s no access because it’s about a thousand feet down with chimney type rocks going up the sides which prevent access.
Steve and I started off just before eight this morning down this old road that is now in a wilderness study area with no tires allowed.
I measured the distance where we had to stop and camp using my GPS. It was about 1.5 miles to the end of the old road and about another half a mile down to river bottom from there if we could find the old trail. So we had to walk about two miles down and two miles back through some pretty rough areas where rescue wouldn’t be easy so there was no screwing up allowed.
The road was mostly just one foot before the other with lots of anticipation as I’ve been here before, several times, but not in about fifteen years. Would I remember the way down to the river. It’s not marked and now that cows no longer use it, it’s getting harder to find it.
We left the road were it ended and started down this field. I remembered as we started down this field that we needed to head left a good deal to get over and down to the two caves I remember. This is Steve’s first look at what we came to do and see, the Jarbidge River Canyon Gorge. It only gets better.
Like I said we headed to the left as we descended the fields. At this spot I recognized the big cave, one of which I was looking for. It’s in this picture just to the right of the green tree. We headed for it taking it easy as some of the grass was real slippery, especially on steep slopes and there was no falling allowed.
We are approaching the cave here. It goes into the hill a bit and comes out on the left hole there. From the looks of things, there was once lots of Indian activity here and down in the river were we plan to go.
This is what it looked like as I walked into the main part of the cave where I sat down and rested and contemplated many things, including what it would have been like to live here with the game trail going down to the water with other family’s living in more caves down on the river n the gorge.
For some reason Steve didn’t seem to like the inside of the cave and stayed out, so I had the place to myself for a bit.
Now it was time to start looking for a trail. Actually there are two trails down to the river from this area. This cave has a wild sheep trail down that is very mellow, no cliff hangers, but first you need to find the trail and hope the sheep have been using it to trample down the grass so the trail can be seen easily.
The trouble with this trail is from the top, it looks intimidating, but in fact as I remember, it is easier than the other trail the cows and horses used to use.
While looking over the side in front of the cave, my fear of heights was kicking in a bit, so I was thinking of using the other trail. I do think I found the start of the sheep trail to the left of the cave a bit. I remember it to be a good trail, only intimidating at the top as you can see.
I needed to find the other big cave I remembered. I remembered it was off to the right from the first cave looking out. Or it would have been to the right walking down when we first saw this cave.
But I couldn’t really remember too well after fifteen or so years since I was last here. I spotted a cave that might be it, but after hiking to it, I found rocks on the bottom. The big cave I wanted had sand and silt on it’s bottom. I looked at another one and thought I had it, but not no sandy bottom. You have to get it right as any wrong way will only lead to a cliff after going down a ways and back up you’ll have to go. The trails must be found and used. It’s the only way down.
I was starting to have doubts about my memory as I wasn’t finding the cave when we cleared a hill and there it was. The other big cave where we were first is two or three hundred feet to the right of this one looking at this picture. This is the cave with the trail the cows and horses used.
As I got closer my spirits lifted with memories and the fact I knew we’d make it down to the river today. I wasn’t sure for a bit there.
This was the way down, the way I went the first time I went down there about forty years ago. Not so intimidating, but it does have some loose rocks and slippery dry grass, but no place you’d fall off a cliff which is always nice. We started down looking for the old cow trail that was still barely there in the rocks and weeds.
I was greeted by a big rattler as I approached the water. It didn’t rattle, but just moved into some roots under a big tree not to be seen again. Even though it was a big guy, it only had two rattles on it’s tail.
It’s a beautiful river and you can see why there aren’t many ways to get into this part of the river.
We didn’t do much, just sat around and enjoyed the place. I think that is what is required in a place such as this, so we complied.
We spotted trout like looking fish swimming around in the water in the riffles and pools.
Eventually, I could feel my legs tightening up from the hike in so I got up and moved down the river a bit leaving Steve there for alone time.
The snake put it’s head and about six inches of it’s body into the air as in a striking position, looking back, keeping it’s eyes on me and crawled off, not taking it’s eyes off me until it got into the roots. This snake was about fifty feet from the other one. It didn’t rattle either, but did move off letting me know not to bother it.
The story goes old time ranchers would take their horses down here with the family for a week or two of great fishing and this was likely one of their camps as limbs of some of the trees were sawn off and there was a shovel and some other metal stuff about.
Looking around the camp area, I spotted this skull. The wild sheep in this area look a lot like goats to me. I’ve seen them before on previous trips, but this was the best I could do this trip. Remember, these are the animals that use the other trail down under the big cave.
A hunter that came by a bit ago at our new camp, says the sheep are California big horns and this was a female.
The sun was down low enough in the sky that we had shade most of the way up until we got to the top where it was still shining bright with a nice cooling breeze still blowing.
We passed by this lizard. We passed close while it eyed us, within two feet. It didn’t move and we left it to do it’s thing.
We needed to find the end of the road which is the place our cars were parked in the old days, but not now, a time before they closed the road, so we had put up some rocks on the way down and we were looking for them as the road leads back to our rigs. Before, the rigs would have been our guide.
From the rocks, it was still a 1.5 mile walk over the desert worn road, fairly flat all the way to our camp at the edge of the wilderness study area. From the bottom, we made it back to camp in just over two hours. It took over three hours to get down because I got lost and forgot where the big cave was, but that’s what exploring is all about.
In reflecting, I think the thing that amazes me most about this place and me is how I ever could find this place in the first place. It’s a lot of desert driving and hiking in the middle of nowhere so to speak, although, I’d say it certainly isn’t nowhere. :O)
The Indians, ever present here for thousands of years still have a presence here that will outlive me, even though there are none of them alive today.
I reflected a lot on my age now, 68 and all the times I came here in my youth. At that time, I almost ran around as compared to my now slow but sure pace with many more enjoyable forced breaks. :O)
The passage down to the Jarbidge river bottom isn’t really a secret, but very few people alive today know about it. I thought this a good time to document it so some other’s may enjoy the adventure into the past with the Indians and the early settlers in this area which started settling around the 1850’s. The Indians have been in this area for about 12 thousand years.
Tomorrow we will move camp out of this open desert to somewhere there is water and some shade and rest up these older bones.
Nice trip down to the gorge bottom.