Humboldt County (NV) Highpoint: Granite Peak

Leaving Kingston in the morning, I headed north, cutting through the mountains and had breakfast in Austin and then kept pushing north. Thanks to the long days of summer, even after a leg stretching stop in Winnemucca, Sprocket and I made it to our intended campsite by 2pm. Some quick mountain calculations lead me to decide to tackle Granite Peak right away instead of waiting until morning.

The road up to Hinkey Summit was in really good shape and passable by pretty much anything. Above Hinkey Summit, there were some pretty good water channels in the roadway that probably could have been negotiated in #RuthXJ but with any bad tire placement there would have been trouble so we decided to just park near the communication towers.

While it had been really hot down in the valley the weather on the ridges was great for hiking! Sprocket seemed very happy to be out hiking as we worked our way up the road.

Looking across the valley at Hinkey Summit
Granite Peak in the distance
Almost to the end of the road approach!

The walk up the road felt long but it was pretty easy. There was another set of foot prints going up and coming back down from the peak but we definitely had it all to ourselves! Once we reached the end of the road, we made our way up the sage and grass filled slopes traversing below the eastern knob of the ridge.

From the saddle between that eastern false summit and the much higher actual summit of Granite, we started picking our way up the rocky slopes. I didn’t want to climb too fast because the ridge proper looked like a bit much for Sprocket.

As we climbed, I think I got to perma-grin status. Granite definitely has a low alpine feel which was awesome considering its proximity to lots of desert!

As it turned out, Sprocket wasn’t able to make the last bit of the (super fun) summit scramble so he sat below me and made his displeasure known to the winds. With another hiking buddy I could have totally made this work for him (just like Fish Lake Hightop earlier in the week!) but solo, listening to him be mad was the best thing I could do for him. I snapped a few photos at the top and then downclimbed to him to take a summit selfie.

Since I’m prepared with a headlamp in my pack, I wasn’t too worried about being caught in darkness descending the road but as it turned out I was treated to a glorious golden hour drive down the mountain. Since it was still light, we headed a bit further to the west to find a camping spot in the broad valley.

Sprocket, by this point in the roadtrip was very into his tent cuddles and being tired from a nice hike only made him even more cuddly. Considering that the mosquitos were out in force, I happily crawled into the tent with him to delve further into Owyhee Trails, an older book about the Idaho-Oregon-Nevada territory—perfect regional reading.

Small Town Nevada

I decided that there were too many question marks for my liking so Sprocket and I headed out for a nice training hike around the historic town of Belmont.

We summited a few minor peaks around town before dropping down to check out Belmont Courthouse. Unfortunately, I was not there when the Friends of Belmont Courthouse were doing tours, but the work they’ve done to make the building stand for another hundred years was impressive.

After leaving Belmont, we headed north enjoying the scenery. When I reached Kingston, I saw a sign advertising Jack’s Lucky Spur Saloon. Stopping to check it out was an excellent decision: they had Icky and I made some awesome friends who invited me and Sprocket to their house for dinner! Traveling solo(ish) is fantastic sometimes.

Nevada Is Weird, and I Love It

When school was out for summer, I loaded up Sprocket and all of our gear (and a lot of tools, but more on that later) and we headed for Washington State. The really long way—through Nevada. After leaving Mountain Meadows, I’d planned to hike Washington County, Utah’s highest point, Signal Peak but after our effort on Fish Lake Hightop, I opted to leave it for another time. Instead, I headed west on a dirt road and camped just before crossing the Nevada line.

After a lovely night of listening to coyotes howl just far enough away from camp to be restful, we packed up camp and headed for Nevada. A quick stop for gas in Panaca and then I continued south to Caliente. I had breakfast at a little restaurant called Side Track that had just opened. The décor was adorable, the service was fantastic, and my food was good (and cheap!).

I was kind of in wander mode, so after breakfast and a walk around the historic railroad depot, it was time to wander west again.

I stopped at Oak Springs Trilobite Site and we walked out to the site but it was too hot for me to want to spend much time actually looking for a trilobite fossil. The walking path was really nice though so it was a good stretch for both Sprocket and me.

At Crystal Springs, I continued onto NV-375, The Extraterrestrial Highway. Since I was there, I stopped at the Alien Research Center just off the highway. I wasn’t really into buying alien souvenirs and I’d kinda hoped for some displays of “research” so I didn’t stick around too long.

In Rachel, I couldn’t help but stop for a beer at the Little A’Li’Inn. Again, my server was wonderful and we talked a lot about my road trip. An older woman, she seemed to delight in the idea that I had time to just wander and do what I wanted.

I made a quick gas and leg stretch stop in Tonopah and then continued north to Manhattan. I stopped for a beer and chatted with the locals there who told me that the campground at Belmont was free. I was really on the fence about the Jeep’s ability to do the Mount Jefferson road (and for the ridge to be free enough of snow) and Sprocket’s ability to do the hike if we had to hike from further down the road but I headed that way anyway.

 

The campsite was so perfect! I was really glad that we decided to make camp there. Thunder threatened in the distance but we pretty much stayed out of the storm for a lovely night’s sleep.

Spring Break 2017: Ball Rock and Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park

After a lazy day of driving, I left the Austin area looking for something relatively easy to hike. Sort of on a whim, I turned off towards Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park and then pulled over to hike Ball Rock.

It was a pretty short hike and I found myself at the summit fairly quickly. The sun was warm but it was fairly breezy.

After I summited and looped back around to the van, I continued south to Berlin-Ichthyosaur. I immediately drove up to the fossil site excited to check it out. Unfortunately, tours of the shelter only happen on the weekend (and they charge another $3 on top of your $7 entry fee into the park). I had to content myself with just peering in the windows.

I spent a little time poking around the Berlin townsite before heading further west!

Storey County Highpoint: Mt. Davidson

When I started planning my trip to California, I really didn’t have any idea what snow conditions might be like along the way so I didn’t really know what county highpoints, if any, I’d be able to attempt. As it turned out, there was still a significant amount of snow to go along with some fatigue on my part from working so much. I just wasn’t feeling a lot of motivation to climb and more to sit at the van and read a book.

While perusing highpoints in Nevada and California, Mt. Davidson above Virginia City stood out as a good possibility.

I plotted a route near Spanish Gulch up Ophir Hill then wrapping around the ridge to Mt. Davidson. The Jeep road up Ophir Hill was steeper than I expected but I made quick progress knowing that my ridge walk would be a lot more relaxing. I wasn’t wrong:

I did really enjoy the views west towards the mountains of the Tahoe area as I meandered along the ridge. It was mostly snow free and the walking was easy. I made a short little scramble to the top of the mountain and there I was a the top of Storey County.

After a short stay on the summit I headed directly down the face of Davidson. I was hungry and In-N-Out + Great Basin Brewing were calling me from Reno…

Spring Break 2017: Crossing Nevada

Leaving Lehman Caves and Great Basin National Park, I piloted the van onto Highway 50, aka the “Loneliest Highway in America.” I love lonely two lane highways and I was excited about making the drive.

The road did not disappoint. Nevada is the heart of the Basin and Range Province and I really enjoyed the alternation between broad flat valleys and crossing its varied mountain ranges. (I also wanted to climb the highpoints of each and every mountain range but there was definitely snow lingering in the mountains and I lacked my usual 4wd.)

I paused to poke around Ely, Eureka, and Austin but as a combination of Sunday and vacant store fronts, I mostly took walking tours of the main streets.

Just before I reached Austin, I stopped for a dip at a hotspring. The water wasn’t scorchingly hot but it was nice to feel a bit cleaner and take in some mountain views. I thought about sticking around overnight to grab a morning soak as well but the lure of the road was too strong.

I visited Stoke’s Castle near Austin and started looking for a place to spend the night.

Although Nevada is full of public lands, the basins don’t provide much cover for camping so I felt kind of exposed and actually moved camp once because something just Didn’t Feel Right. (I think I was being paranoid but I didn’t really want to stay to find out if I was right or not.)

Spring Break 2017: Great Basin National Park Lehman Cave

I don’t often visit National Parks when I’m out traveling. It’s not that I hold the No Puppy Service in low regard but Sprocket’s my adventure buddy and quite frankly, I’ll skip the crowds for BLM or Forest Service land just outside the park to hang with him.

Since he didn’t join me for this trip, I was free for National Park adventures! I spent some time in Arches but my next stop was Great Basin National Park. I’ve been wanting to go to Great Basin and visit the bristlecone pines for ages (and more recently, I’ve really wanted to climb Wheeler Peak); these high mountain adventures were on hold though since the upper slopes of the park were still pretty packed in snow. Instead, I signed up for the Grand Palace Tour in Lehman Cave.

Reservations for the tours are highly recommended so I made mine about a week and a half before I left on my trip. I’m not much for specific time points to be places but I’m really glad I made space for this! The cave tour was just the right length and our ranger was really informative.

This wasn’t my first tour in a limestone cave (I visited Shasta Caverns in 2009 and Carlsbad Caverns in 2010) but I was impressed. The cave was beautiful and the tour was really interesting.

I really liked this cave bacon:

I was having a really hard time making all of my knowledge of western geology come together while trying to fit in the formation of the cave. The final answer was: I don’t know anywhere near enough about Great Basin geology and I need to fix that before I come back to Nevada. #sciencenerdproblems

I’ll definitely be back to Great Basin in a different time of year to check out the upper part of the park!

Road Trip: Wendover, Nevada to Salem, Oregon

F and Karen’s last day of riding took them from Indian Creek to Moab via Lockhart Basin and Kane Creek. Sprocket and I headed directly for town, expecting them to move quickly. When we arrived and found we had some extra time to kill, I stopped in at Back of Beyond Books and picked up the latest issue of High Country News. We retreated to the yard of the Manti-La Sal National Forest ranger station (a great place to relax!) and enjoyed the shade.

Sprocket

When our motorcycle riders arrived, we transferred gear around and said our goodbyes to Karen and headed north. When we got to Salt Lake City we decided to head to Wendover and camp above town and watch the pretty lights.

In the morning, we woke up to a beautiful sunrise over the Salt Flats and downtown Wendover. The light on the rocks behind our campsite was pretty fantastic too.

Salt Flats from Wendover, Nevada

Desert campsite

Sprocket

Jeep in desert sunrise

After we packed up camp (and I was done taking pictures), we headed west on I-80. I’d never been on this stretch of highway which I always find exciting. In Winnemucca, we headed north across the lonely desert towards Oregon.

Nevada desert

We spent the night in Klamath Falls before heading onwards. We stopped at the Collier Logging Museum near Chiloquin, Oregon. They had lots of cool old machinery including this sweet early Caterpiller Tractor. After a brief stop at Diamond Lake, we were on our way to Salem.

Caterpiller Tractor

Caterpiller

Tree Display