Relatively late in the day on Friday, I decided to get a quick camping and sightseeing trip in. This would be the same loop I rode on an ATV in late 2010, but in the opposite direction and with some new sights to see. After work I hurriedly threw some gear into the Jeep and headed south on Highway 10, crossing under I-70 and landing at the Willow Springs Overlook just before sunset. I waited with my camera ready, hoping for a colorful sunset like we’d had the previous few evenings, but sunset was a dud. I drank three potent beers and read a book while darkness fell, then went to bed early.
I didn’t sleep very well and got out of bed a little after 6AM. Sunrise proved to be quite nice, and while sipping coffee I took a few snapshots of the fiery sky. When I hit the road it was cloudy and still quite dark. I drove down Willow Springs Wash and found some crude pictographs that I’d missed on previous trips. I investigated a faint spur road off the main road where, in the satellite imagery, it looked like a trail approached the cliffs to the north. I found the trail and followed it, hoping to find some rock art or perhaps a stock trail, but what I found was perplexing. In several places along the cliff somebody had drilled hundreds of holes along the cliff face, obviously while suspended from a rope. I’d seen something similar near the Moore Cutoff Road, but then as now I don’t know what their purpose was.
A little farther down the road I visited the site of the Willow Springs Civilian Conservation Corps camp. Still left are some rock walls, concrete foundations, a dugout building, and various other structures whose purpose I can’t fathom.
Farther south I came to the Last Chance Dugway, which was constructed by the CCC. I’d read in a book about Piano Hill, where the young men from the Willow Springs CCC camp lobbed a piano off the dugway after the camp disbanded in the early 1940s. I didn’t expect to see much there, so I was surprised when the piano was clearly visible at the bottom of a very steep hill. I had no desire to descend such a steep and loose hill, but down the road a short distance I found a way to easily hike to the piano. There was a lot of other junk that had been tossed down the hill–mostly cans and bottles. At the bottom of the dugway were some inscription, the best of which was left by Samuel Gilson. The inscription was undated, but others of his that I’ve found dated back to the 1870s.
I headed into the Last Chance Desert, then curved east and north toward Mussentuchit Flat. I’ve been in this area many times so I only stopped a couple of times to find some geocaches that have been there since May of last year with no finds.
A detour off the main loop led me to the grave of Razor the desert horse. A friend had told me where to find the grave, but I have no idea of the history behind Razor. The plaque at the grave says Razor was born around 1950 and died in 1989. Next I made a quick jaunt toward Pissant Knoll, which is a tiny hill capped by basalt. I climbed to the top and enjoyed the meager views while braving some cold wind.
Next I visited a spot I’d been to before where I found several arrowheads. I hiked around for half an hour and only found a few worked pieces of flint, but none worthy of photographing. Nearby I checked out the Butch Cassidy inscription (spelled “Casady”) that I’d first seen in 2010. It’s deteriorated some since I was last there. The last letter of each name has spalled off a little, and the other letters appeared to be more faded. From there I headed home, having accomplished everything on the loop that I’d planned. It had been snowing much of the day to the west over the Fish Lake Plateau, and while driving back through Willow Springs Wash the snow began to spill over into the desert lowlands. I struggled to keep the Jeep between the lines for most of the drive north on Highway 10, as the wind buffeted me from the west. I had almost let the weather forecast scare me from making this trip, but the wind and snow were only bothersome late in the day on Saturday. Overall it was quite pleasant and I enjoyed both the mild weather and some new sights.
Photo Gallery: Last Chance – Mussentuchit Loop
4 thoughts on “Last Chance – Mussentuchit Loop”
I’ve been following your travels for years. They are always interesting. You usually post GPS tracks–Have you any for this trip?
I didn’t include a GPS track for this trip ’cause there are some places whose locations I’d rather not publish. Much of it can be found by just getting out there and exploring, though. 🙂
Very interesting travel log. Thank you.
The drilled holes in the cliffs near the mouth of Willow Creek were made in the 1990s and by the Bureau of Economic Geology, Austin, Texas, and also Mobil Oil. The drill bits recovered small cylinders of rock (sandstone) that were then analyzed as part of oil industry-funded research projects.
The value of the data derived from these drill holes is dubious at best (my view).
The legacy of the drilling will be visible for many generations.
Thank you for that information! I’m surprised the drill holes are that recent–I’d have guessed they were made in the 60s or 70s.