The Nipple Expedition

You can see her from just about anywhere in Washington County, a geological feature whose name is not only an apt descriptor but also a social icon in this ultra-conservative culture, Mollie's Nipple. That's her poking up in the upper right hand corner of this view down our street, and you can see how she got her name.
We've wanted to climb Mollie's Nipple for awhile and since relocating to Hurricane, her ever-presence got us even more motivated, so before the weather gets any warmer, we thought we make the hike today. Ginger and Maryanne in their enthusiasm were ready to go, though they were in the wrong car.
There are two approaches to Mollie, one from the base where the trailhead is just outside a little housing development, and the other from a rather technical dirt road that comes off of Highway 59 east of Hurricane. There are more internet descriptions than there are approaches to this hike and we followed one that took us to Gould's Trail that leads to the Hurricane overlook. This is part of a great mountain bike trail that winds around the Hurricane Cliffs for 21 miles, but it is not the way to Mollie's Nipple.

After another online check of alternative routes, we decided to point the H3 in Mollie's general direction and just go.
I could post a laundry list of directions, forks in the road, coral landmarks, and a dike and such, but just driving in Mollie's general direction as the road wanders will get you there. 

But not any vehicle will do the job. A high clearance, four-wheel drive is needed to navigate to Mollie's base. 
This is the most technical part of the road, about a 23 degree incline over high steps and crossing axles, is on the last two miles of the drive. 
Not far from the end of the road that terrain turns from limestone to a layer of the Moenkopi Formation, climbing from the Paleozoic to the Mesozoic layers, all at the edge of the Colorado Plateau. 
Closer to the summit the trail turns technical with basalt boulders, remnants of the volcanic activity that formed Mollie's Nipple during the Quaternary period, over a million and a half years ago. This, like most every other vertical hike in this area, is time travel at its finest. 
We reached the top and celebrated with incredible views of the St. George Basin and the wonderful color of the Plateau. 
 We ate lunch, watered the dogs, soaked in 360 degrees of awesome, and headed back down the Nipple.
On our way ambling back to Highway 59, Pink Floyd's Time was playing on the radio, a perfect score to our dirt road time travel. Driving along I spotted a little book on the side of the road, reversed back and picked it up. It's Eric Hansen's On and Off the Beaten Path, a great narrative on hikes in this area, including detailed instructions on how to get to Mollie's Nipple. Bonus. Some hiker is sorry to have lost it, I'm sure.

Finder's keepers, loser's weepers.


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