Wheeler Pass via Cold Creek

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(Fig. 01)
MAP-Wheeler Pass Rd (East of Wheeler Pass)
(Fig. 02)
Area Description:
Located on the northeastern side of the Spring Mountains at an elevation of 6,500 feet, Cold Creek is a small community of less than 250 people that lies concealed within the boundaries of the Toiyabe National Forest, surrounded by the Wheeler Pass Herd Management Area. With no electrical power, phone service (except cell) or town supplied services of any kind, this town, about 50 miles from Las Vegas, provides a quiet respite where one can truly get in touch with nature, totally removed from the high octane life of Las Vegas. It is named for the little creek that runs through it and feeds three small ponds located just south of the town. The source of its cool, clear water is a mountain spring that runs year-round. The creek and springs that dot the surrounding landscape provide water for the feral horses that openly roam the area, as well as deer, elk, birds, rabbits and other animals. Two of Cold Creek’s most popular features is that it is the eastern starting point for Wheeler Pass Road that goes up and over Wheeler Pass to the historic Tecopa Charcoal Kilns and on to Pahrump, and, that driving north of town takes you to the trailhead for the ten mile R/T Bonanza Peak Trail, one of the most popular hikes in the Spring Mountains. The ravine area in the mountains behind the horses in (Fig. 01) leads to Wheeler Pass.
06/05/2013 Trip Notes: Preface: Though most people use this location as a starting point for the drive up to Wheeler Pass and beyond, these trip notes are a continuation of a trip that started in Pahrump on the west side of Wheeler Pass. Click here to read the trip notes and view pictures from the first leg of this adventure … Wheeler Pass via Pahrump, then come back here to finish the trip. The trip notes here cover our journey from the top of Wheeler Pass, down to the town of Cold Creek.

While we were stopped (Fig. 03) at the top of the pass, WP-4 on (Fig. 02) we talked with a couple in a jeep that had just traveled up the road (more of a rocky trail) from Cold Creek. They indicated that we would experience some very difficult driving for the first two to three miles going down. Boy, was that an understatement. It must have taken us nearly two hours to reach the bottom of the ravine. This road was so rocky, that I had to get out and walk in front of the truck to try and remove large rocks and boulders and to guide Harvey over the remaining ones in an effort to keep from bottoming out the vehicle. Driving was so slow, that it seemed like forever that the speedometer was stuck on zero mph. Unfortunately, because it took every bit of concentration we had, I didn’t even think about taking pictures except for a few times when we were at a dead stop, trying to decide how to transverse some of the rock surfaces in front of us. Other than a couple of flowers and cacti (Figs. 04-06), the only pictures I captured were of some wild horses (Figs. 07-09) that were feeding in a clump of trees and bushes only 8-10 feet off to the side of the road. Once we neared the bottom of the ravine, there were more than a half dozen roads going of in various directions. This is where our trouble began.

We missed the turnoff, WP-3 on (Fig. 02)  to what was the continuation of Wheeler Pass Road and headed straight out into the desert on a well defined road that followed a very large, and deep, wash. There were a lot of “up-and-down” gulley's with nearly sixty degree inclines that certainly needed 4WD assistance to navigate. Even though we began to realize that we had somehow missed a turn that would have taken us to Cold Creek, we knew that we were head in the direction of US-95 and weren’t worried until the road came to a abrupt end, about five miles short of the highway, with a 50 foot drop off to washes on either side. We had no choice but to backtrack the entire distance that we had just traveled over the past 45 minutes. After wasting nearly two hours, we finally found the turn we should have taken, WP-3 on (Fig. 02) coming out to a place called, Willow Creek Campground, WP-2 on (Fig. 02),  about 4 miles west of Cold Creek on Road 601 (Wheeler Pass Rd). With several sites, this is a primitive campground with no water or restroom facilities, though it does have some shade and therefore slightly cool due to its elevation. As you come out of this area, you drive up to a saddle (Fig. 10) on a road that is quite steep and could be very slippery when wet! The view in (Fig. 11) taken from the top of this saddle, is looking in the direction of Cold Creek, with Willow Creek and the campground down the hill on the right side of the picture. The next picture (Fig. 12) taken from the same vantage point looking southeast, is a view of Wheeler Pass Road as it winds its way back to town. The barely visible buildings near the horizon in the upper right portion of the picture are near the pond off Cold Creek Road, WP-1 on (Fig. 02); the actual beginning of Wheeler Pass Road. When we finally reached the pond, we found several horses munching on the shrubs and grasses along the edge of the pond (Fig. 13), including this pregnant mare (Fig. 14). Very much relieved after what turned out to be an 11-hour day, a very stressful decent down from Wheeler Pass, and nearly being stranded in the middle of nowhere, we finally started the journey back to Henderson.
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(Fig. 14)

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Slideshow Description:
The slideshow above contains 131 pictures of this area that were taken over three different visits here.