The Real Devil's Thumb
The Devil’s Thumb — As far as place names go, the Devil has towers, post-piles, kitchens, elbows, and backbones, but who knew the Devil had so many thumbs? especially in Southern Nevada? Only 3-weeks ago, on January 18, 2020, the first recorded ascent of “The Real Devil’s Thumb” occurred with Tracy F. (#1) and then Harlan S. (#2). Harlan S. (2x) and Anji C. (#3) again summited on 01/31/2020 and set ropes. This video documents the third occurrence of a successful ascent with Tracy F. (2x) and Steven S. (#4).
As you drive along US 95 between Searchlight, NV and Needles, CA, you will see an unusually striking “thumb-like” peak on the east side of the highway toward the Newberry Mountains, which run adjacent to the Colorado River and Lake Mojave. The real Devil’s Thumb is formed of volcanic basalt and andesite. Between 20 and 40 million years ago, numerous volcanoes were active in this area, resulting in large calderas (basins formed by volcanic explosions), lava vents, cinder cones, and andesite and basalt flows.
“The Real Devil’s Thumb” is exactly 6.66 miles northeast (a devilish coincidence of distance) of the tiny town of Cal-Nev-Ari. The Real Devil’s Thumb is not located on any maps due to an error in the digital elevation model (DEM) data. According to Harlan S. (the 2nd recorded human to summit), because of “an accident of photogrammetry: [the real Devil’s Thumb] looks unimpressive on USGS topo maps” because at least 100 feet of cliff face elevation is not mapped (the actual, documented elevation is 3,550 ft). The most common misnamed “Devil's Thumb" peak (situated approximately 1¼ miles northeast of Spirit Mountain) is “neither thumb-like nor particularly striking,” according to Harlan S. The misnamed Devil’s Thumb peak on most USGS topo maps is 5.3 miles due southeast of “The Real Devil’s Thumb.” The real peak is obvious to locate in person, but not on Google Earth or a topo map. “Spirit Mountain,” also known as Avi Kwa' Ame in Mojave, is a sacred mountain slightly southeast from Cal-Nev-Ari, Nevada. Spirit Mountain is the center of creation for all Yuman speaking Indians. The Yuman and Mojave people believe that all life began on this mountain; it is listed on the United States National Register of Historic Places.
Cal-Nev-Ari, Nevada is derived by blending the syllabic abbreviations of CA-NV-AZ (a U.S. portmanteaus geographic place name) because of its proximity to Nevada’s southernmost point. The town’s legal name actually includes the “double-hyphenations.”
Cal-Nev-Ari, Nevada was established in 1965 when Nancy and Slim Kidwell acquired a 640-acre section of land from the U.S. government. Originally, “Stage Field” was a gravel airfield developed by General George S. Patton and used to train troops for overseas duty from 1942 to 1945. Both Slim and Nancy surveyed the site, then bulldozed homesites to build an airport-based, “fly-in community” just one hour south, by road, from Las Vegas. In addition to the FAA-designated renamed “Kidwell Airport,” the town now includes a casino, motel, RV and mobile home parks, convenience market, and residential lots. Nancy and Slim once cultivated crops of barley in Cal-Nev-Ari. Today, Nancy Kidwell (now in her early 80’s) will drop-in almost daily to spend time in her casino. As of the census of 2010, there were 278 people, 154 households, and 93 families residing in Cal-Nev-Ari, Nevada.