Wheeler Pass via Pahrump

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MAP-Wheeler Pass Road System
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Directions - Wheeler Pass Road 
MAP-Wheeler Pass Road Overview-2
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The point noted in the lower left corner of the map in (Fig. 02) is about 10.5 miles up Wheeler Pass Road from either of the entry points off of NV-160 in Pahrump, as noted in (Fig. 03). As you can see from the map in (Fig. 02), there are several primary roads that transverse the area taking you to the saw mill and charcoal kilns. Though there are no real designated hiking trails within this area, there are numerous stopping points that provide wonderful opportunities to view and experience the area.

Area Description: This is a very beautiful high mountain desert environment located inside the Wheeler Pass Herd Management Area (HMA), and some of which is located inside the boundaries of Toiyabe National Forest and the Spring Mountain National Recreation Area (SMNRA). The landscape in this area boasts of north-south mountain ranges up to 13,000 feet in elevation, separated by long narrow valleys ranging from 5,000 to 7,000 feet in elevation. The highest point in the county is the summit of Wheeler Peak in the Snake Range at 13,063 feet above sea level. The elevation of “cross-over” point at Wheeler Pass is 7,700 feet. Besides the beautiful, quiet and serene mountain environment, there are two areas of interest here. One being the Tecopa Charcoal Kilns. Built in 1875 they produced charcoal for the Osborne Tecopa smelter near Death Valley. Another is the Younts (Clarks ) Saw Mill which probably provided the wood. In addition to the feral horses that roam the area, one can sometime see herds of elk, deer, and signs of bobcat and mountain lion.

09/11/2014 Trip Notes: Due to the pristine nature of this area, I make it a point to visit at least once a year. Even though I have spotted wild horses, deer, and other wildlife here on previous visits, today's visit, other than the pure mountain air, filled with the smell of the pinion pines, seemed rather mundane. At the beginning of the trip I hiked about a mile up the wash that contains the upper portion of Wheeler Pass Road (Figs. 14-1 & 14-2). The view in (Figs. 14-3 and 14-4) were captured while hiking back down the wash along Clark Canyon Road after visiting the historic site of the Younts (Clarks) saw mill. (see below for pictures) The ledge in (Fig. 14-4) can be found in the middle of the picture in (Fig. 14-3).
(Fig. 14-1)
(Fig. 14-2)
(Fig. 14-3)
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06/05/2013 Trip Notes: My friend Harvey Smith decided to explore this area in his 4WD truck see if we could make it over Wheeler Pass and down into the town of Cold Creek. On this visit we decided to try something different than our previous visits and enter from WP-2 on (Fig. 03). After driving in for about 10 miles we split off of Wheeler Pass Road, following the Clark Canyon Road to its end at the old Younts (Clark) Saw Mill site. (Refer to the 05/24/2012 Trip Notes section below for pictures and information) Shortly after continuing up this road we encountered seven feral horses that appeared to be nibbling on a dirt embankment (Fig. 04). We couldn't figuring out if they were seeking some moisture or minerals from the soil. After ignoring us for the longest time, they posed (Fig. 05), turned up the road (Fig. 06), and departed up the opposite embankment, disappearing over the hillside (Fig. 07). This was by far the largest spotting we've seen here in all of our visits. When we got to the saw mill site, we decided to ignore the locked gate barring the road and the “Private property, violators will be prosecuted” signs and do a little hiking on the other side, “to see what was there”. The map in (Fig. 08) shows where we hiked. At one point we hiked along a ridge-line that provided us with some nice views of the surrounding area (Fig. 09). Notice the truck parked below in the center of the picture. No sooner did we get back to the truck did the owner arrive. When he got out to unlock the gate, we noticed that the person with him, his grandson we later learned, got out and put on a police gun belt that had a very big hand gun and three attached clips. He told us that the property was used as a police/military training facility. Whew! I have no doubt that they might have shot us for trespassing. From here we headed back down Clark Road to a fork that took us onto Autumn Road. This road follows a wash that provides some very interesting geology (Fig. 10). After a brief ride up Buck Spring Road, we continued on by following the Wheeler Pass Cut-off Road that ends back at Wheeler Pass Road, where we turned north, heading up Wheeler Wash towards Wheeler Pass.
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MAP-Clark Road Hike
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EP-P1010479Tecopa Charcoal Kilns: After a few more miles, we came to the site of the Charcoal Kilns (Fig. 11). They were built in 1875 by Nehemia (“Red”) Clark for Jonas.B. Osbourne who was operating a smelter at Tecopa, a mining camp in Inyo County California.

A single Lime kiln(1) was built for Osborne in 1877. Today, these broken down beehive-shaped structures are all that’s left of the three charcoal making kilns and the Lime kiln (Figs. 12, 13, & 14). The location of these kilns was chosen because it was the nearest wood for the smelters. A single kiln has an estimated capacity of 35 cords of wood which would produce 50 bushels of charcoal, enough charcoal to produce one tone of silver-lead ore. Evidence shows only tree limbs were cut in fuel and no extensive tree cutting was done. The charcoal produced here was carried by horse drawn wagons about 50 miles to the Tecopa Smelter.  In 1878, back in the boomtown of Tecopa, California, Osbourne designed and built a furnace big enough to smelt over 20 tons of silver and lead ore each day. It took forty-four men to keep the furnace working by cutting and hauling the ore, and feeding and constantly repairing the furnace. Unfortunately, after less than a year’s use, it completely failed and was abandoned in the fall of 1878. The three charcoal kilns here were used up until 1910. Wood for the kilns was provided by Harsha White, who operated a saw mill in Clark Canyon, and was in partnership with Nehemiah Clark. In 1950 two had fallen down. Natural erosion, vandalism, and theft of the limestone blocks has ruined much of this site. The main kiln was partially restored in 1971 and 1995. The fence is a safety measure for both the kilns and for visitors.
(1) The Lime kiln was used to produce lime which was utilized in making mortar. Limestone was crushed (often by hand) to fairly uniform 1 to 2.5 inch lumps. Successive dome-shaped layers of coal and limestone were built up in the kiln on grate bars across the eye. When loading was complete, the kiln was kindled at the bottom, and the fire gradually spread upwards through the charge. When burnt through, the lime was cooled and raked out through the base. Fine coal ash dropped out and was rejected with the "riddlings". Typically the kiln took a day to load, three days to fire, two days to cool and a day to unload, so a one-week turnaround was normal. The degree of burning was controlled by trial and error from batch to batch by varying the amount of fuel used.
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MAP-Wheeler Pass Road (Northern End)
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The map above (Fig. 15) shows the northern portion of Wheeler Pass Road that we covered, from the charcoal kilns all the way to the town of Cold Creek. Shortly after leaving the site of the kilns we encountered several mule deer (Fig. 16) that made their way across the road and up a nearby ridge. Continuing up Wheeler Pass Road led us across a very large valley that offered outstanding mountain views in every direction. The view in (Fig. 17) is looking back to the southwest over the area that we had just traveled. The view in (Fig. 18) is looking northeast towards Wheeler Pass, the saddle in the center of the picture where we were headed. After a long series of switchbacks we finally ended up at the top of Wheeler Pass (Figs. 19 & 20). We spent nearly an hour hiking around the top of this ridge-line and I was actually amazed at the number of plants, cactus and flowers I found blooming here (Figs. 21 thru 28). [Figure 21 is a Prickly Pear Cactus; Figure 28 is a Mojave Kingcup Cactus] The view in (Fig. 29) is looking east at the area that we had to descend in order to reach the town of Cold Creek. There is no way this picture provides the depth and steepness of the trail that we were about to embark on. Rather than discuss the remainder of today’s journey here, I have added it to the another page titled, Daytrip - Wheeler Pass via Cold Creek  Click this link to read about the rest of today's trip.
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05/24/2012 Trip Notes: This was my second trip to this area with rock-hounds from the Henderson Heritage Park Senior Facility. While the temperatures back in Las Vegas were approaching the mid-90’s, it was around 78 degrees with a slight breeze, an absolutely beautiful hiking day. At about 10 miles in, we made our first stop was at the bottom of Clark Canyon Wash where Wheeler Pass Road and Clark Canyon Road split (bottom left corner of (Fig. 02))  Hiking up a ravine to the top of a large hill opposite the wash, I encountered several specimens of plants and cacti (Figs. 30, 31 & 32). As we continued our drive Clark Canyon Road some of us sighted two deer scampering up a hillside, but unfortunately were not prepared to get a picture.
(Fig. 30)
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Younts (Clark) Saw Mill: At the end of Clark Canyon Road we located the remains of the Younts (Clark) Saw Mill, shown in the grouping of pictures below. This mill supplied to the Tecopa charcoal kilns as well as lumber to the Bullfrog mining district surrounding Rhyolite, Nevada, some 70 miles to the north. Pryor to the railroad being completed the wood was hauled by wagons up to around 1905. There is evidence indicating that this site was in operation before the 1900’s. All that remains today is the large boiler (Fig. 33) that produced the steam that ran the large piston, which then turned a series of heavy steel wheels (Fig. 34), connected by belts that eventually turned a large saw blade (Fig. 35). A stamping on the base of the boiler (Fig. 36) indicates that it was made by the Pacific Iron Works of San Francisco in 1876. From this site most of us hiked back along the roadsides and accompanying washes for more than three miles, until Bill eventually picked us up for the long return journey home. Be sure to view the slideshow for more pictures.
(Fig. 33)
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09/22/2011 Trip Notes: Today's hike with the rock-hounds from the Henderson Heritage Park Senior Facility took us high into the western side of the Spring Mountain Range. The view at the top of the page was taken at about the halfway point on our journey up Wheeler Pass Road towards the summit of Wheeler Pass. Even though we never made it to the top of the pass, we got to enjoy the wonderfully fresh mountain air, cooler temperatures, and some very nice scenery along our journey. Several of us decided to hike along the roadway on the way back and let Bill pick us up on the return down the mountain. If you look at the two panoramic pictures (Figs. 37 & 42)  you might get the feeling that there is nothing but desert landscape with little to no life to be seen, however, the four shots shown in (Figs. 38 thru 41) that were taken while walking along the road on the way back are proof that there is life in the desert.
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Slideshow Description:
The slideshow above contains 131 pictures of this area that were taken over three different visits here.

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