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Pahrump to Oatman - Petroglyphs and Our First Ever 4-Stamp Mill | NVBDR #6

Stage 1 - Pahrump to Oatman

Like many of the medium-sized towns along the NVBDR, Pahrump has - I assume - grown since the route was created. As such, some of the roads that were once dirt have been paved, and we found ourselves on pavement for longer than we expected as we made our way south out of town, passing cross streets and developments that weren't even on our map. Eventually though we reached dirt, and thus began one of the least enjoyable segments of the entire BDR.

(How's that for a glowing endorsement for the area south of Pahrump! )

To call the BLM land south of Pahrump "ugly" would be giving it too much credit.


It wasn't so much the land that was the problem of course, it was the way it'd been treated that really turned us off. There was trash everywhere, and all of that trash was full of bullet holes. The roads had been completely destroyed by UTVs, and it seemed that any bit of terrain we could see had been driven on by some bozo trying to make fresh tracks. Needless to say, we were glad when we finally started climbing into the State Line Hills and left this wasteland behind!

Now that's some folding!

But then, as we descended the east side of the hills towards Primm, the same thing happened again. At this point we were following a power line road - already notorious for their crappiness - that had once again been destroyed by UTV riders with little respect for the land. We got through as quickly as we could, actually wishing we could have taken the highway - I-15 was separated from us by a fence just to our east - for this section of the route.

After 90 minutes of this, we finally arrived in the border town of Primm. Essentially, the Reno of Los Angeles.

In Primm around 1:00pm, we took full advantage of one of the casino parking garages to eat lunch. Out here in the desert there was no shade - so getting out of the sun was a nice respite while we ate!

Happy to be lunching in luxory.

Primo parking is the only parking for us.

Our bellies full, and our bodies ready - even after eating in the shade - to get back to the A/C in the truck, we headed out of Primm and toward the quaint little town of Nipton.

Yes, Nipton. In California. But, I'm getting a bit ahead of myself.

South out of Primm, the road paralleled the train tracks, and in many cases, there were three options - one immediately next to the tracks, and then two just down the berm. We split our time between all three, looking for the one that allowed the fastest progress - there wasn't much to see out here except for the Ivanpah Power Station that we'd first seen on our trip to the Mojave National Preserve at the end of 2019.

Fifteen miles and 45 minutes later, we pulled into Nipton.

Only a few houses and a general store/bar/trading post on the side of the road, one of the town residents was clearly an artist - because sprinkled all throughout town were various colorful sculptures. Unfortunately for us, everything in town was closed due to COVID-19, so we admired what we could from the main road and then continued on our way - back into Nevada!

Now, as we've run BDRs in the past, one of the things we've always sort of joked about is that it seems the BDR planners always seem to get a little lazy - or ready to be done - near the end. The roads become less interesting, more pavement is involved, that kind of thing.

The fact that we were on pavement now - almost the entire way from Nipton to Searchlight - got us joking once again. Probably not warranted in this case, since we were running the BDR "backwards," but wasn't it just our luck that we'd have a similar experience?!

Not to say the highway - NV-164 wasn't beautiful here. It passed immediately south of the Wee Thump Joshua Tree Wilderness, one of the densest groves of Joshua Tree's we'd ever seen!

As we pulled over to take a look, we happened to notice the remnants of a less-prepared explorer before us; the heat obviously getting to them. Hopefully, everyone was OK.

Anyway, we made it to Searchlight in record time - the pavement affording the maximum 45mph that I wanted to go with the tires aired down to 15psi - where we fueled up and got right back on the route - my hope that we'd be able to finish fading with each passing hour.

And then, @mrs.turbodb looked at the GPS and exclaimed, "Oh hey, you had something marked outside of Searchlight, do you want to go take a look?"

In fact, I did have something marked - a mine I'd found called the Oakland Mine, which was reasonably close to town and seemed to have some old mine equipment still present as looked down on it using Google Earth.

This was not going to be good for our chances to finish, but we were here, and I have to keep reminding myself that it's always more important to enjoy times like this than be in a rush. So, rather than head south, we headed east, up into the hills behind town.

We were immediately rewarded with a beautiful landscape - yuccas, chollas, and Joshua Trees covering the land... and Lake Mojave in the distance.

Yep, worth slowing down for!

The Oakland Mine (or Berkeley claim, I've heard it called both), was amazing! When we pulled up, I couldn't believe it - while we often see abandoned headframes, or old mill foundations or skeletons, we've never actually seen an actual mill before. And here, right before us was a four-stamp mill, still in reasonably good shape. A-W-E-S-O-M-E.

We poked around for a while - checking out the old structure and the holding tanks below it - before continuing on our way towards the Newberry mountains, via long powerline road.

The Newberry's - which contain the Spirit Mountain Wilderness and are part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area - were the second-to-last set of mountains we'd navigate, and they'd turn out to be some of the most interesting of the trip!

We didn't know much about the Newberry Mountains as we entered the range, but driving along, @mrs.turbodb was the first to noticed a "decorated" juniper tree. Thinking it might be the only one, we backed up to take a look, and she started reading through the various books she'd brought along on the trip.

It turns out, we need not have backed up! We were in fact driving through Christmas Tree Pass - a fun little segment of road where many of the trees have been decorated, many with different themes.

As if we didn't already have a hankering for a cold soda in the blistering heat.

Love ya, Lance!

Immediately after Christmas Tree Pass, we entered the Spirit Mountain Wilderness and Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and the landscape changed reasonably dramatically. Really, it was like entering a candy store of rocky mountains, reminiscent of those we'd seen at Indian Hills in Anza-Borrego on our visit there.

This particular formation reminded us of the Breadloaf in Idaho's City of Rocks.

With several roads and many more hikes around, I can see this as a place that we could come back and visit in the future - the majesty of the mountains was just that breathtaking.

As we slowly-but-still-too-quickly made our way through the mountains, @mrs.turbodb discovered that not far from the route, a hike - to ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮  Canyon, apparently allowed those who put in a little effort to enjoy a series of petroglyph panels, and we knew that despite it already being after 5:00pm, we had to make the trek.

So we deviated once again - for the last time actually - from our planned route - and made for the mouth of the canyon, the sun reminding us why we visit places in the desert during the winter and early spring, rather than in the middle of summer!

The hike into the ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮  Canyon wasn't a long one - maybe a mile or so roundtrip - and boy, was it worth it! At the mouth of the canyon, there were petroglyphs everywhere!

Level upon level of rock art.

Many Native American's must have passed through this place hundreds of years ago!

A newspaper rock overlooking the canyon below.

Wait, Batman?!

A couple of sun petroglyphs.

Bighorn sheep, a common glyph.

A person, holding up another person - the first we've seen this depiction.

Our hike had taken another hour of time, but it was an hour that I'd happily spend any time something so amazing presents itself. Back in the truck, I pushed the skinny pedal a little harder on our way into Bullhead City, the checkerboard ownership of the land (BLM and Reservation) apparent out our windows.

We had one planned stop to make here - at the Davis Dam - which we'd heard was quite the structure. Perhaps more interesting than the structure itself though, was the distribution of people. On the Nevada side of the Colorado River - where we were - the banks were deserted. On the Arizona side however, they were packed with folks enjoying the cool water and having a blast on their jet skis! Whether it was differing state rules around social distancing, or simply a reflection on the mindset of the local towns, it was quite the contrast in our eyes.

We made a quick stop at Safeway in Bullhead City - technically already out of Nevada, and into Arizona - to pick up milk, before making our final push into the Ute Mountains towards Oatman.

With it getting late, we weren't sure where we were going to camp, so as we pushed onwards, we kept our eye out for side roads that looked promising in case there was nothing immediately outside of Oatman - since at this point we were GOING TO MAKE IT!

And then, at 7:35pm, just as the town was shrouded in shade, we pulled into our final stop on the NVBDR. We'd made it.

A cute little town, it's clearly been rejuvenated for tourists, but with the state of the world as it is, there were few people, and we were able to enjoy it for what it used to be - back when eeking out life here was harder than it must be even today.

Ultimately - rather than return to the Ute Mountains to camp - we decided to start heading west towards California, our destination for the evening the little town of Essex on Route 66, south of the Mojave National Preserve.

So, we aired up the tires for the first time in six days and as the moon rose in the rear view mirror, we began our next adventure!

Thanks for reading, and get out there to run a BDR!


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  1. John Herrick
    John Herrick August 23, 2020

    Primm, the Reno of Los Angeles? What does that even mean?

    One of the issues that may have frustrated you in southern Nevada is the fact that 80% of the state's population lives there, they recreate, the garbage blows all over the open desert and there is a lot of sanctioned racing. It's also generally open to cross country travel and people go everywhere. The rules are different there and it's just different in general compared to PNW. I wouldn't blame it all on UTVs though they tend toward being newer offroad enthusiasts and could use some education. You should offer it.

    • turbodb
      turbodb August 23, 2020

      Hi John! So, Primm being the Reno of Los Angeles... the way I see it, Las Vegas is sort of the premier gambling city in the state; that is where the investment is made for big resorts and fancy experiences. Reno on the other hand is closer for folks in the Bay Area, and many of them go there even though it's not as nice. Primm is like that for Los Angeles - if you don't want to make the trek all the way to Vegas, you might settle for what they've got in Primm, which is just over the border; again, like Reno.

      As for what we experienced south of Pahrump, IMO it's less about the population density and more about mindset. I've recreated in plenty of very populated areas and across a lot of BLM land, and have rarely seen the mess we saw there. When effectively every sign is completely destroyed by gunshot, and tire tracks wind between every (and over many) creosote bush, that's just blatant disrespect IMO - it's got nothing to do with "educating" people as to what is right.

      As for who is doing it - I'm sure it's not just UTVs, but while we were there, we saw several UTVs doing donuts and jumps with no regard to the trail system at all. This is a trend I see more and more with UTVs, where the owners seem to have the attitude, "if it doesn't get stuck, send it."

      And as for my offering education - to the extent that I can, I definitely do! All the content on the site is a great example of that, where I do my best to set a good example, help people learn how to get out there, and share my experiences with gear, trails, etc. I'm always open to suggestions though - did you have some sort of specific education in mind?

      Cheers! -d

  2. Keith U.
    Keith U. August 25, 2020

    Another great trip report, you always make me want to get out there and explore these areas. I also really like the new "trips by" menu system.

    I am curious as to what you do for a living. You seem to be able to get quite a bit of time off to make these trips.

    • turbodb
      turbodb August 27, 2020

      Thanks Keith, glad you enjoyed the report and THANK YOU for the feedback on the Trips By.. menus. I wasn't sure if folks were finding those helpful or not, but I figured I probably would if I went to a site like this and wanted to break down all the trips in some way(s).

      Are there any other "By..." that you think would be useful?

      • Keith U
        Keith U August 27, 2020

        I've found the By Year option very useful as I don't always get around to reading them as you post them, so the menu allows me to easily find where I left off.

        The only other By that I think some might find useful is by duration. If I've only got 4 days to run a trip, I could use this to easily find trip ideas that you were able to run in 4 days.

        • turbodb
          turbodb August 27, 2020

          Duration is an interesting one. I've found that people's pace varies quite a bit, but maybe I can figure something out around mileage or trail time or something. ?

          Also, sent you and email...

          • Keith U
            Keith U August 27, 2020

            Duration can vary depending on who's doing it, but it would still give a good idea of what it can done it. Reading the report gives great insight into how easy or hard you pushed it on your trip and that can be factored into what someone thinks they will be able to do it in. One option my be to do a moving time and miles stat (if you record that via GPS) to give an indication of duration.

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