Story & Photos by Denis & Sandi Inman, Pahrump Valley 4 Wheelers
There are several forks to take at Mormon Gulch and the first one we tried didn’t seem to go in our desired direction, so the resolute pair went back and chose another. Our second selection took us to Roger’s Pass. From there, we could have gone down the hill to Arrastre Spring that the larger PV4W group had just visited the previous day, but we opted to explore some new trails on our way back to Panamint Valley. Our preferred route ran in a westerly direction along the ridge above Butte Valley and we looked down at a large portion of Saturday’s club run.
Passing Colter Spring, Thorndike Mine and Suitcase Mine on the way back to Ballarat, the path then became somewhat treacherous, requiring all our attention not to take a quick trip to the bottom of the canyon. When we finally reached Wingate Road and returned to town, I thought it prudent to add the fuel in my Jerry can to my gas tank. Jeremy apparently has a lighter throttle foot and didn’t burn as much go juice as I did on our 75 mile trip thus far. From Ballarat, our duet took Indian Ranch Road to Happy Canyon. Somehow we ended up in the wash that was blocked by a substantial fence, but our return trip to Pahrump had begun, so it was decided to get back on Indian Ranch Road North to see what we could of Surprise Canyon.
The 6 mile portion of Surprise Canyon beyond the current barrier was, at one time, a must do for extreme off roaders due to the 7 beautiful waterfalls and the almost impossible sections along the trail. In 2001, environmental groups sued Death Valley National Park to prevent off roaders from accessing the canyon. The lawsuits continued until 2007 when the land owners at Panamint City and off roaders lost, so the route was closed. The maintained portion of the road now is only 4.5 miles and ends at Chris Wicht Camp. Descending from the trail terminus, I spotted what we are guessing to be a Mojave Green Rattlesnake.
The park website indicated that Wildrose Canyon was closed, but we thought that might just be an advisory for tourists and gave it a try. Unfortunately the gate was locked so the decision was made to air back up at that spot for the trip home. Sunday afternoon traffic through the park was pretty heavy, but we didn’t have to run anyone off the road to get through, so that was a plus. We were back in Pahrump at about 3:30 to begin planning our next adventure.