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Arizona Strip - Low Mountain, Black Rock Mountain

St. George Jeepers Trail Report - November 3, 2015

Arizona Strip - Low Mountain

A clear, bright and sunny morning greeted the 14 vehicle assemblage as we aired down at the Black Rock exit on I-15 for our Tuesday outing. This run proved to be one of the more challenging in some time. We were led by Gus and his “fearless” navigator, Sandy Peterson. Jim Beller and his, well, perhaps underrated, Isuzu was our tail gunner.

On the trail, headed for Low and Black Rock Mountains

Below is an interesting artifact along the trail. This is a homemade road grader. No, it is not self propelled, the engine is for ballast. It belongs to Allen Jones. There will be more about Allen later in this report. 

Along the trail are several interesting signs, painted and posted by Allen Jones. They are such a pleasant relief from the “No trespassing, Do not disturb, Keep out” signs so common on the landscape anymore.

Following are photos of the petroglyphs Mr. Jones directed us to in his sign, above. One of the interesting characteristics of this small collection of rock art is that there is clear evidence of a large time span of aging of the drawings. Also, as this volcanic rock is very hard the art is scratched onto the surface, rather than carved into it.

Allen Jones is a soft-spoken man who obviously has a sense of humor, trust of his fellow man and a generous spirit. After leaving the rock art we next visited the “Piknik” area. The piknik area could have easily been locked up and access denied, but Allen makes it obvious that all are welcome to come, utilize and respect the area. The sign on the gate says it all.

There is an excellent spring above the piknik area that Allen refers to on his sign. Below is some of the tubing leading to the 'piknik' area and to a sprinkler irrigation system in the meadow below the 'piknik' area.

Before preceding onward, our leader decided it would be a good time to break for lunch, just in case it was to be the “last supper” of any of these potentially ill fated Jeepers.

There were two challenging stretches of trail on this run. The first was a descent into a large valley. The second was the climb out. Following are photos of vehicles going down. It was a bit of a thrill to be out snapping shots as Jeeps slid by with all four wheels locked up. It was steep with loose rocks. Below, Gus and Sandy lead the way down.

Below, Ellie and Ron Motter make their way down. No, the camera is not tilted...

This trusting, confident grin may not have been typical of all the passengers, but Theresia Shepherd and grandkids were having fun!

Bruce Furr and passengers ease their way down. 

Tim and Shelley start down. Theirs was the only Jeep that was not on the brakes on the way down. Tim, a very experienced driver was making very good use of his hill descent braking feature.

A look back at the down-hill gives you an idea of the grade. It’s a good bet that it looked much steeper than that to some of the drivers and, especially, passengers.

Below is a photo of the up-hill section of this fun trail

Below, vehicles wait for others to clear the switchback and steep portion of trail ahead.

Below is a shot of Ellie Motter making the ascent, just prior to the following photo.

Even despite being a “little light”, well, very light, on the uphill side, there’s no suppressing that “I’m Jeeping” grin! Gus Peterson prepares to hook on a strap.

Queued up for the last section of steep grade

Below are the last of the vehicles to clear the top. In the rear is our tail-gunner, Jim Beller who was back there in his Isuzu to “pick up the broken Jeep parts.”

We happened to come upon Mr. Jones on the trail home. Below, Jim Beller, a long-time friend of Allen, visits with him. Allen and his father, over many decades, ranched and built most of the trails in this section of BLM land. Allen still maintains them with this dozer. When we told him where we had traveled today, his jaw dropped and he just shook his head in disbelief.

After making the climb out of the valley, it was clear sailing on the way home.

So concluded a great, well led day on the trail and another one for the memory book.

Many of our adventures in the St. George area feature views of the Pine Valley Mountain. This prominent mountain has a very interesting geologic history, described below. Signal Peak, its highest point, rises to 10,364 feet above sea level.

“The Pine Valley Mountains formed from the Pine Valley Laccolith, is the largest laccolith in the United States and perhaps the largest laccolith in the world. The laccolith was formed during a 20 million-year period of volcanic activity. After 4-5,000 feet of volcanics had been deposited on top of the Claron Formation, the magma vents were effectively sealed off. A final surge of magma, unable to find its way to the surface, instead pushed sideways along the weak seam between the Claron and the overlying volcanic layers. Thus was injected a 3,000 foot-thick layer of monzonite porphyry to form the Pine Valley laccolith.

"The contact between the top of the Claron and the bottom of the laccolith can be seen in several locations, most notably near the headwaters of Cottonwood Creek along the southwest corner of the mountain range, and at the headwaters of Leap Creek north of the Browse Guard Station. After erosion exposed the laccolith, volcanic activity continued and the youngest flows are 1-1.6 million years old. Many volcanic cinder cones can still be seen in the foothills of the Pine Valley Mountains and these have been dated at around 20,000 years old, geologically very recent. As a result of these lava flows, the valley for which the mountain range is named and in which the town of Pine Valley is situated, was formed when lava dammed off the Santa Clara River and formed a lake. Sediments eventually filled the lake until they reached the height of the lava dam. These sediments form the floor of the present day Pine Valley, Grass Valley, and Grassy Flat. The mountains straddle the divide between the Great Basin watershed and the watershed of the Virgin River, a tributary of the Colorado River. The Chinamen's Canal tunnel at the north end of Grass Valley diverts the waters of Mill Canyon Creek from the Colorado River drainage system into the Great Basin drainage system, eventually finding its way into the Newcastle Reservoir via Pinto Creek. Zion National Park can be seen to the east from the mountains. Part of the range is in the Pine Valley Mountain Wilderness, which at 50,232 acres is the fourth largest wilderness in Utah. The 2,643-acre Cottonwood Forest Wilderness is located at the southeastern end of the range. The Pine Valley Mountains support spruce-fir forests, including a large stand of virgin Engelmann spruce. The mountains also have numerous meadows up to 50 acres in size. Several threatened, endangered, and sensitive species live in the mountains, including Bonneville cutthroat trout, Townsend's big-eared bat, and the pygmy rabbit, among others. Botanically speaking, Pine Valley Mountain is the most diverse mountain range in Utah.”

Submitted by Bud Sanders