Ride Report: Pyramid Lake to Smoke Creek Desert


The sacred Needles tufa formations, Pyramid Lake

It has been a long hot summer, said everyone in the West. Northern Nevada seemed to set new records of days and consecutive days above 90 and approached the record for triple digit temperatures. While we had our fair share of wild fires we seemed to have been spared the worst of smokey skies. The abrupt switch from cool rainy temps to record high temps quickly turned summer into our “off season” for bike touring. My last day in the desert was June, 12 with a high of 59 and rainy. Four days later it was 97 degrees.

But the desert has been beckoning ever since. My friend Brandon just got a new gravel bike so I was eager to get him out on a favorite road. Nevada State Route 445, Pyramid Lake Rd, ends about 10 miles past the town of Sutcliffe on Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation. The end of the pavement is really the beginning of our gravel ride on Surprise Valley Rd. Not only is this area a favorite getaway but I was curious to see how the road repairs were progressing from the destruction of our record wet winter.


Suprise Valley Rd, Virginia Mtns in distance

I can confirm the rumors that Surprise Valley is completely driveable though I imagine improvement will still be made to prevent future washouts. Just past the largest washout we ran into Murphy Mack who was scouting a dirt road route from Mt. Shasta, CA to Reno, NV. He too was curious about the condition of Surprise Valley Rd. The combination of rough and chunky repairs and sections of deep washboard roads made the going on 700c x 40 tires a bit challenging but it was great to see Pyramid Lake in all its glory.


Sand Pass, first view of Smoke Creek Desert

My goal for the day’s ride was to explore the primitive roads on the east side of Smoke Creek Desert. While I am aware of sand dune formation on the east side of Nevada’s playas I was not expecting such soft road bed conditions. Brandon and I spent a frustrating half hour traveling 1.6 miles in fine sand. Chances are good that the entire route will not be so slow going. But for what I hope to accomplish I will return on my Fargo with plus sized tires.

On the return we turned off on High Rock Rd that is a route on the east side of Honey Lake to Wendel and Susanville, CA. For our wildlife viewing pleasure we saw a young pair of pronghorn antelope run alongside before crossing our path and disappearing in the distance. As the heat of the day was building, we checked our estimated return time against our remaining water supply and decided to turn back.

The heat was climbing into the 90’s and I was suffering. I finally decided to rest in the shade of a boulder while Brandon completed the ride back to our vehicle and returned to pick me up. The 3 L of water I had packed was not enough for the day’s adventure. I now have new “rules” in place for what level of exertion I can perform at what upper temperatures. In the last 10 days of summer the temperatures have gone from the low 90’s to the high 50’s with the first snow fall on the lower slopes of the Sierra above Reno. I cannot wait to get back into the desert.


Smoke Creek Desert from Surprise Valley Rd


Overnight Above Reno, S24O


Ray and George setting up camp and getting ready for dinner

Raymond Eliot, our two dogs and I got out for a quick Sub-24 Overnight (S24O) between work days at the Reno Bike Project. Following the S24O model it was the perfect get away. Our bikes were packed with a little dinner, water, coffee making paraphernalia, and sleep/shelter needs.


Well loaded Salsa Fargo, 27.5+

Reno and Nevada for that matter is ideal for the S24O get away. We are surrounded by a sea of public land which welcomes campers and explorers of all kinds. One of my favorite access points to the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest is just up the street from me, Hunter Lake Road. Of the many things that go through my mind on my rides is, “that looks like a good spot for an overnight.”

The spot I chose was a little meadow that has been protected from damage from 4-wheel drive users by old telephone poles laid down as a barrier by the local 4-wheel drive club. It was about an hour of moderate climbing to get to this spot. We hiked through the damp meadow to a high flat spot with an excellent view of Reno and the Truckee Meadows.


Dinner views of distant pyrocumulus cloud

One of the highlights of the trip were the prosciutto, brie, and fig spread sandwiches that I picked up from our local grocery. I will be adding these my regular camp menus. The views of Reno and the surrounding areas at twilight and a distant pyrocumulus clouds were our entertainment for the evening.


Sunrise over Truckee Meadows

Riding out the next morning was a breeze. Our first stop back in the neighborhood was our local bakery, House of Bread, for their morning special of biscuits and gravy. Refreshed and fueled up it was off to work.

There are great resources out there on How To S24O. I recommend BikeOverNights.org which is a resource of Adventure Cycling.  My prep went like this; I chose a spot on public land that I could get to before dark. I packed for comfort including packable camp chairs, a tent, and beers to go along with our dinner. Because of our four legged companions I carried extra food and water. My pack list wouldn’t be much different if I were out for a longer tour – probably just adding some clothing items, provisions and water purification.

A shot at the Black Rock Desert

Nothing is wrong with Plan B even when Plan A was so right. My hope was to make a loop through the Selenite Range from the southern end of Winnemucca Lake to Nightingale and return via Coyote Canyon. The driving rain kept us in our vehicle at the pullout. Since my ride companion had not been out to Frog Pond Hot Springs nor the Black Rock Desert I thought we could explore a gravel road that heads south from Frog Pond off Jungo Rd. through the Kumiva Valley. We only road a soggy 16 mile out-and-back but it opened my eyes to a great 70 mile route to Nixon. At times several inches of the seemingly sandy road surface was slick mud. A highlight from our trip was stopping at the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe Museum and Visitors Center in Nixon. It is an outstanding museum of the 10,000+ years of people living in northern Nevada .

South of Frog Pond Hot Springs

A soggy day at the Black Rock Desert

Day Trip; Around Little High Rock Cyn Wilderness

Pete in the saddle

Pete coming up Smokey Canyon with the bottom of Little High Rock canyon in the distance

Pete Rissler, a local wildlife biologist, invited me on this trip around Little High Rock Canyon Wilderness. My first thought was, what an opportunity to get out with a local guide, I’m in! He promised great wildlife viewing, a 40+ mile loop around Nevada’s fantastic wilderness and the potential for wildlife like I have never seen. Maybe these weren’t his exact promises, but it was what I had formulated in my mind. His goals included a gravel grind tune-up ride for the up and coming Lost and Found event.

We drove from Reno to Gerlach at the base of the Black Rock Desert. Pete is very familiar with the area but hadn’t been out since the recent flooding. He said, while it represents an impressive amount of water for the region, the flooding in 1983 was greater.

Black Rock Desert

Black Rock Desert “Lake”

We continued north of Gerlach past the turn off to Soldier Meadows to the George  W Lund Petrified Forest. At this point we were on the southern border of the Little High Rock Canyon Wilderness. This area is a patchwork of Wilderness, and Wilderness Study Areas. They are stitched together by a network of roads that range in quality of groomed gravel roads to barely used jeep roads that are disappearing from under use. While travel in wilderness is generally limited to non-mechanized forms, in this area you can travel between wildernesses on designated routes.


Pull out on edge of wilderness, Lund Petrified Forest

We took of from the parking pull-off at the petrified forest. Pete’s gravel/cross bike was perfectly suited to these roads. My bike, a mountain hardtail with drop-bars,  was better suited to the roads ahead. Pete chose a clockwise loop around the wilderness which in hindsight proved to be the most rideable direction.

The first turn-off took us to Little High Rock Lake and the top of Little High Rock Cyn. To explore the canyon further would have been a soggy hike but I am sure well worth it. Beyond the lake we came to an old corral and abandoned home, Denio Camp, complete with a flowing spring. Great real estate for the adventurer or rancher.

Our next turn took us on a rugged jeep road that climbed between High Rock Cyn and Little High Rock Cyn Wildernesses. At this point we were riding on mountain bike terrain. The trail became steeper and rockier. But the views grew in vastness. Pete pointed out potential landscapes for seeing sage grouse and chukar but none made themselves apparent. While I have seen the occasional pronghorn antelope on rides, this trip had dozens. We saw small groups of males and females, young fawns, and many individual males.

Chunky road between wildernesses

Chukar and Sage Grouse habitat

The trail made a radical descent to High Rock Lake. It was steep, rocky and loose. The conditions made my descent questionably a good idea while Pete wisely took a stroll. As the lake came into view, it was noticeable larger than pictured in topo maps and satellite views. At this point we were riding between the Little High Rock Canyon and High Rock Lake Wildernesses. The lake would make an excellent base camp to explore the area’s 10 wildernesses within the Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area.


We made our way past the bottom of Little High Rock Canyon and the classic Little High Rock Hilton. Our final road out followed Willow and Little Smokey Creeks through Smokey Canyon until we exited onto Leadville Rd.

Little High Rock Hilton

A place to weather a storm


Pete finishing up our ride


Back onto Leadville Rd.

We finished our loop at the petrified forest with a respect for what it takes to travel in Nevada’s outback by bicycle. The route fulfilled all of Pete’s promises, we saw a variety of wildlife, wild flowers, unique geology and traveled through 46 miles of Nevada’s backroads along precious wilderness. Check out our route here at Ride with GPS.

Ride Report; Pah Rah Range North


First view of Pyramid Lake towards Nixon at Mullen Pass


Typical view along the route, breathtakingly atypical

A friend of mine proposed a route that included a section of the Pah Rah Range from Mullen Pass, near the Pyramid Lake overlook, off NV 445, to Palomino Valley reconnecting to NV 445 off Whiskey Springs Rd. I rode this area when visiting Virginia Peak, but not on this exact route. As a result I got to explore another chunk of the Pah Rah’s with its own hidden canyons, creeks and wildlife plus great views of Pyramid Lake.

I made this a loop from Whiskey Springs Road and Pyramid Highway. The entrance to Palomino Valley has great views of Dogskin Mtn, the Virginia Mtns, and the Pah Rah Range. This is one of my favorite places to ride, close proximity to Reno/Sparks with a great variety of dirt roads to explore. From the start it was 10 miles of NV 445, Pyramid Lake Hwy, to the dirt turn-off that led to Mullen Creek.

With hindsight I would not use this turn-off in the future. This road requires three gates and route scouting where Mullen Creek makes the road impassable. The alternative is to use Quail Canyon Rd about three miles back. Quail Canyon Rd is well maintained until the turn off to the Quail Canyon Ranch main property then it becomes steep and rocky.


Looking back on the climb


A few small creek crossings

The climbing is relentless but the views are rewarding. I took advantage of breaks along the way to photograph Pyramid Lake, creeks that were flowing enough to be heard from a distance, and rugged geology. I did have to hike several sections that were too steep and rocky (and sustained) for the gearing on my gravel bike or for the fitness of my legs. This route would have been better handled on my Fargo with lower gearing and 27.5 Plus tires but part of my friend’s question about the route was weather or not it was appropriate for 700 x 40 tires.  It definitely “goes” with a gravel bike setup.

Quail Canyon Rd gives way to Rodero Rd and Cougar Rd. Luckily these roads and a few others are easily discernible on GPS apps and devices. I was navigating by my trusty Garmin Edge Touring and I was using Ride with GPS (app for Android) for the first time. I need to spend more time exploring the features of the new (to me) app and its online companion but it seems to be a popular way to share route information.


Cougar Rd marked the ridge crest of the Pah Rah Range. The view of of Palomino Valley and Pyramid Lake was striking. And I was quite relieved to assume the lion’s share of the climbing was over. Just as the climbs were steep so was the descent. Cougar Rd gave way to Paiute Creek Rd  and there were places where to road and creek now shared the same wet path.



It was a quick descent and return to the car as soon as Paiute Creek intersected with Whiskey Springs Rd.  For much of the ride I could see Virginia Pk topped with the weather radar equipment. Now I can imagine a route from Wadsworth to Pond Pk to Virginia Pk exiting on Quail Canyon Rd. This would truly be a Pah Rah Range Odyssey.

Lagomarsino Petroglyphs; The High Road


A favorite example of rock art, so much more to explore

My friend Dean had originally led me up Lagomarsino Canyon to the petroglyph site a couple years ago. To this day I rate it a top 5 or top 3 outing in the Reno area. But it in not the greatest ride. The trail from Lockwood along Dry Valley Creek is incomplete, phantom, rugged, underwater, and over-grown. But for some, especially Dean, this is just part of the romantic challenge.

This route is motivated by the Rout3 Challenge from Bikepacking.com. I have planned a weekend long loop from Reno to the Black Rock desert and returning through the Lagomarsino Petroglyphs. I believe this route will have the highest density of points of interest and off-pavement travel in an ambitious weekend tour. While I have completed most sections of this route, route finding from the petroglyphs to Reno was uncertain.

Between scouting out a route from Reno through the Virginia Range to Lagomarsino Canyon and avoiding the washed out Long Valley Creek I had my challenges set out before me. I planned a full day’s ride but maybe not as full as it became.


Just over Steamboat Creek off Clean Water Way

My plan was to enter the Virginia Range from Clean Water Way near the confluence of Steamboat Creek and the Truckee River. This power line climb is eye catching (at least my eye, I am always on the lookout for road cuts through our mountains) from the interstate. The steep climb is rewarding in its views of the Truckee Meadows. The price of admission: 1,400′ of climbing in 3 miles.


Above Reno/Sparks

Off the top the descent is steep and loose in a narrow canyon and the power line road quickly erodes to a 4X4 trail or quad trail. Once this opens up the fastest roads of the route are ahead. There is a turn off to Lockwood at this point that intersects with Canyon Rd. For those who wish to start in Lockwood I would recommend this point.


Several natural reservoirs provide wildlife with water

 Heading south I came to a depression that is now filled with water. Our northern Nevada winter snow and rain has given our drought stricken wildlands a huge boost. I imagine this reservoir will last through fall. At this point I made a left whereas on my last trip through the area I staid right. Unfortunately the network of roads through this area is devoid of any signs.


Forested canyon led to Lousetown Creek and Road

After the next climb I entered the lightly forested area around Lousetown Creek. The canyon was particularly craggy as the change in geology matched the change in flora. To follow Lousetown Rd in the opposite direction leads to the community of Virginia Highlands and eventually Geiger Grade (SR 341). This is another alternative starting point for this route.


Creek crossing on Lousetown, it was dry on last trip

During the entire ride I had moments of complete recognition of where I was and confidence in my route selection and periods of doubt. Just past mile 24 I came to a turn off at a mud hole that was a landmark given to Dean and I as a key direction on our first ride in the area. So I knew I was close, only a mile to go to my turn around point.


Most roads were in good shape

I hiked around the petroglyphs for a brief time. While I wanted to spend more time I knew I had to get back. I chased a marmot around the rocks but it was a reluctant photographic subject. Back on the bike!


Flowers starting to bloom

The ride out was challenging after 25 miles and 3,000′ feet of climbing. Nevada backroads are paved with rock. But the slow rate allowed for greater appreciation of the views. The most notable wildlife on this trip was the wild horses and their foals. Watching the protective interactions between the adults and juveniles was particularly interesting. I narrowly missed a horny toad lizard, the clowns of our reptile fauna. At one point I stopped to rest and the was a hawk moth, the hummingbird of the insect world, at my feet. The birds were out, I could hear them in the junipers and pinyon pines but they did not make themselves seen.


First view of Reno on the return

I tried a shortcut on my return to Reno that brought me out of the Virginia Range just north of Damonte Ranch. The shortcut eliminated about 800′ of climbing on dirt. Overall this route is very challenging combining distance, elevation, and road conditions. The petroglyphs are an amazing pay off for your efforts.


A great wonder only a day’s ride from Reno



Ride Report; Toulon to Blue Wing Flat


Captivating gravel road branching off Ragged Top Road disappearing into the Sahwave Mountains

This was my fifth ride in the area. When I rode the length of Ragged Top Rd I came to an intersection with a beautifully graded road that crossed the Granite Spring Valley and disappeared into the Sahwave Mountains. I estimate the road is only about 14 miles crossing the valley but it gives the illusion being much longer.

My original interest in this area was to ride north to Blue Wing Flat, a playa below Blue Wing Mountain. But after mapping several approaches to this dry lake bed I figured this route might be best. I was especially curious to see if after this record wet winter in northern Nevada if the playa  had become a shallow lake.


At the start of the ride, looking east along I 80 to Lovelock and the Humboldt Range

Ragged Road out of Toulon was in surprisingly great shape. The road increases in pitch from 2% to 15% over the 6 mile, 1,800′ climb. But the road is well maintained and was in as good of shape as the last time I rode it at the beginning of our winter.  After climbing  a few miles the road enters a craggy canyon with a few side roads and dirt bike single tracks to explore. Near the summit there was a winding power line road that I had traced to the east and north that could take the adventuresome to Winnemucca. Seeing the road on the ground told me that it would be a challenging though rewarding route of one taken least often.

The descent on Ragged Top Road was welcomed and my mind wandered to thinking we had not seen much wildlife yet. But then I saw a small snake in the road, grabbed a handful of brakes to stop and let Dean know what I had seen. We watched the young gopher snake for a while. As it turned out the day was pretty good for wildlife viewing. We saw horny toad lizards, a golden eagle, a burrowing owl, a variety of butterflies/moths, beetles, wild burros, and collections of tracks.

We branched off Ragged Top Road to a road that heads to alfalfa fields in the middle of the valley just south of the Blue Wing Flat playa. We made a bee-line from the unsigned fields to the playa following a wash that connected mini playas surrounded by chaparral. We spotted and later heard a cautious group of burros. I picked a turn-around point of 20 miles figuring that was all we had time for as well as “gas in the tank”.


Dean making the final climb of the day, Blue Wing Flat just visible in left third of photo.

The return trip was an out-and-back. While the assumption that out-and-backs are boring and should be avoided I find the change in perspective especially when the views are as spectacular as the northern Nevada high desert just as entertaining. This ride was either climbing or descending so the rates of travel were reversed so the slower pace allowed greater appreciation of some of the side spur roads for future exploration.


Summit shot looking south to Humboldt Sink and Humboldt State Wildlife Management Area. West Humboldt and Stillwater Ranges in background.

As so often is the case on these rides we did not encounter any other vehicles except for a small group of dirt bike riders. The Granite Springs Valley felt isolated surrounded by Trinity Range, Seven Troughs Range, Blue Wing Mountains, and Sahwave Mountains. As my network of rides expands I can now imagine linking this ride to Winnemucca Lake and the Black Rock Desert as well as extending north and east to Winnemucca and Battle Mountain.


Dean looking good at the start of our ride

Dean Magnuson shot this video of our ride.

The Goal Zero solar panel and battery were  new additions on this ride. I have seen them secured on the handlebar bags of other riders but on this ride I was only carrying a seat pack so I carried it there. I need to secure it better for the rough terrain as well as secure the cord and the battery. But I was able to charge my phone at the end of the day with the passively collected energy. It will become a standard item on my future outings.

Winter Monday Shop Rides

The Line Up

I work with a great bunch of bike riders at the Reno Bike Project. As a community bike shop we serve the bike riding public in the greater Truckee Meadows with access to tools, DIY bicycle repair, economical used and new bicycle parts, refurbished bicycles, and a hub for bicycle culture. While during our peak season we are open 7 days a week, during our winter we are closed Sundays and Mondays. So this winter I planned on hosting Monday bike rides for my co-workers to share with them some favorite local routes.

Not everyone could make every ride nor could I plan a ride for every Monday but this is how it shook out.

The Cast:

Raymond Eliot – Public Workstation Guru

Ray Eliot coming into view

Crossing just below a boundary dune system

Ray and I have done some serious riding! Our 3 part tour from Pyramid Lake, around the Smoke Creek Desert, and to the Black Rock Desert was a true test of our ability to be bike riding partners. At work Ray is the one I lean on the most to make sure the shop runs well. He has mastered taking the naive bike mechanic and making sure they are successful with their bike repairs. Ray has accomplished a couple successful solo tours on the Pacific coast  as well.

His ride, KHS SixFifty 6500+

Allen “Ray” Hill – Meticulous Mechanic

Ray Hill above Gold Hill

I have known Allen the longest, coming up on 20 years. Now he goes by Ray and is known professionally as Bicycle Ray through his mobile repair bussiness. Ray believes in and embodies the spirit of the community bike shop. As a racer of 30’ish years Ray can tell you about every mile he has raced through California and Nevada.

His ride, KHS 4 Season 3000

Dean Magnuson – Bicycling Romantic to Fat Biking Proselyte

Dean and Moses rounding Winnemucca Lake

Riding together at the end of a long day

Dean came to the Reno Bike Project with the community spirit! Before he started volunteering hes was helping people find what they were looking for in our collection of used parts. After picking up on his valuable customer service I encouraged him to volunteer regularly, then in order to secure his free time we hired him. Dean’s vast collection of bikes, DIY on a budget experience and interest in “Community” makes him a great asset to the Bike Project. Dean has chronicled many of our rides on video.

His ride, Gravity Quigley

Mike Pickering – Punk Rock Bike Mechanic/ Shop Manager/ Bicycling Dad

Suiting up

Kid prep for a day on the road

Mike is the most talented bike mechanic I know. Coupled with his sense of fraternity, compulsive organization, and bike shop experience he is a key leader at the Bike Project. Mike is an avid adventure bike tourist involving his whole family, wife Erin, son Moses, and daughter Enola, in commuting, family picnicking, outings and camping. Mike is also an accomplished bag maker for bicycles and motorcycles. Check out his Instagram for more. His ride, Surly Krampus 29+

Elijah D. Lyons

Elijah has worn many hats so far at the Reno Bike Project. As a regular volunteer he has given his time to support all aspects of RBP’s daily functions. He is a regular participant of Dan’s Night and our annual functions. Most recently he was a participant in our FutureCycle internship program resulting in him becoming our most recent hire. He is instructing two Bicycle Repair Classes; Monday afternoons to the Girl Scouts and Thursday evenings to our members. Elijah is involved. Elijah also has professional interests in branding, design, and marketing.

His ride, Giant Trance, custom Bike Project build!

Jake Francis – Super Volunteer, Bike/Bee Guy


Moses checks out a rabbit mandible

Jake is a PhD candidate at the University of Nevada at Reno studying the ecology, ethology, and evolution of native bees. He came to us from the Recyclery in Asheville, NC. Jake is always willing to lend a hand with the public and most frequently takes charge at our weekly open bicycle repair clinic and is a regular instructor for our comprehensive bicycle repair class. Jake’s many interests and always positive attitude makes him very popular on bike outings.

His ride Lynskey Sportive

Hunter Lake Rd – Snow covered

Ray and Dean top of Hunter Lake Rd

The Ray Hill grin

“Allen” Ray Hill had just got a new KHS 4-Seasons Fatbike. With the goal of being able to ride all winter and the reality that we received 200% normal snow fall this year Ray went ahead with getting his fatbike.  Once he got his bike it was our duty to get him out. With an early snowstorm we took to the hills above “old southwest Reno” to climb into the Carson Range on a forest service road that bisects the Mt. Rose Wilderness. The route is easily accessible and challenging under any conditions. The increasing snow coverage kept it interesting and gave Ray Hill a true test for his new bike. With time allowing we rode to the high point between the Truckee Meadows and Hunter Lake. We earned a long descent back to the start slipping between partly snow covered rocks. Ray’s ear-to-ear grin was proof positive to how much he is enjoying his new bike.

Jumbo Grade – Ophir Grade – Virginia City

Jumbo to Ophir Grades, Virginia City

Moderate Ophir Grade

Getting your friends out to show them awesome places is a great feeling. Climbing the historic mule train route from Washoe Lake to Virginia City offers just that. I rode a version of this route about two year ago and became enamored with the history and natural beauty with of the area. Raymond just got his KHS full suspension 65ob (27.5) Plus bike (hows that for a marketer’s dream description).As the maiden voyage, this rugged route would be a good test.

rest break 1/2 way up Jumbo Grade

Climbing Jumbo Grade

Early in the route some of the wear and tear of erosion on the roads put us to the test and later the grade tested Mike’s power-endurance carrying his daughter, Enola, on the homemade kid seat on the back of his Surly Krampus. It baffles my imagination how the early mule trains transported ore and building materials up and down these roads.

Virginia City Jerky Co.

Lunch stop

Transitioning from Jumbo Grade to Ophir Grade we were above Gold Hill and Virginia City was just coming into view. The mellow ride into Virginia City was a welcomed rest. We had lunch at the Virginia City Jerky Co. then did a little sightseeing loop on the main C St and B St. Our return trip was a roller coaster ride through the junipers with views of Washoe Valley and the snow capped Carson Range.


Ray H bottom of Jumbo

Winnemucca Lake – abandoned tungsten mine

Valley Rd, Winnemucca Lk

Dean, Ray, Mike and Enola heading out

Arcing around the south end of a relatively new playa this ride shined for a couple of reasons. First off our group included Jake Francis who is always a pleasure on a ride. Our group also included Moses Pickering, our shop manager Mike Pickering’s 7 year old son. Moses rode his mini-Plus bike with the adults the entire day. We all can say we have seen the future of bikepacking in Moses’ courage.

Bikepacking mentoring

Moses assisted by Dean’s firm arm and kind words

After a bit of route finding we were cruising along the east side of the playa past the opening to Coyote Canyon. Dean and I had ridden here so we could point out some of our favorite spots. But our goal today was a tungsten mine ruin beyond where Dean and I looped across the playa.

Great roads

Gravel along east side of Winnemucca Lake

Everyone was in awe of the remaining multi tiered concrete foundation. I think everyone has a favorite post-apocalyptic scene from a movie and this spot makes you feel like you walked onto the set. The site offers plenty to explore including a canyon wash behind the mine begging to be ridden.

Canyon wash to explore

Road above the mine, into Nightingale Range

The out and back return brought our day’s mileage just shy of 30 on hard pack, gravel, and sandy roads. While this was a test of everyone’s fitness our two junior adventurers truly rose to the occasion. Best of all, our group worked together and stayed together so that everyone had a great day. Also worth mentioning the day’s temperatures were hovering around freezing so props to our hearty band of bike adventurers.

Terraced canyon, Winnemucca Lake

I would love to see this in a flash flood

Bedell Flats – Willow Springs


Across Bedell Flats from Fred’s Mountain to Dogskin Mountain

Bedell Flats is the depression south of the Dogskin Mountains maintained by the BLM between wild horse Herd Management Areas. The area’s proximity to Reno makes for an easy getaway to a silent sea of chaparral. While I have shared this area with many this was a first time outing for Mike and Enola, and Ray Hill hadn’t ridden out here since it was a training ride for him from northwest Reno.


Enola, where are we going?


Then where?

There were a few roads into the Dogskin Mountains with labeled springs I wanted to check out. With recent storm events I was hoping the riding conditions were passable. The area is known for its sandy conditions, which can be difficult for conventional mountain bikes when dry, and there are always slick clay bogs which can be impassible when wet. I knew there is always a gamble on conditions but it is worth taking by getting out there.


Muddy low points Photo: Mike Pickering

The conditions were good. While there is an enormous amount of water in the desert right now the damp sand made for ridable conditions and the mud bogs were skirt-able (except the one I fell into). Much like soft snow, the climbing we did into the Dogskins in soft sand, compounded by the steepness of the grade, was much harder than we anticipated. We made a few spur of the moment route decisions that led us to quite scenic terrain.

Truckee Range – Fireball Ridge, Tolbert Canyon, North Valley


Hot Springs Flat

Ray Eliot was so excited for our last ride when I announced we were taking off from I 80 exit 65, Nightingale Hot Springs. The name is a bit misleading, Nightingale refers to the old mining site to the north, while Hot Springs refers to the Bradys Hot Springs, which are privately harnessed for geothermal food processing. The water reaches the surface at about 300 degrees so there is no need to pack your bathing suit. Sorry, Ray.


Ray getting ready to climb into the Truckee Range

But the area offers a series of dirt roads in all directions perfect to be explored by bike in near solitude. Ray, Elijah and I headed out after a break in the weather with the intent of riding through the Truckee Range and to the north creating a loop around Fireball Ridge. The roads were mostly dry but got muddy then snowy as we climbed into the mountains. As travel slowed we decided to not pres our luck and turned back.


Mines on the south end of Fireball Ridge

Ray and I returned a few days later to continue our adventure. We brought our dogs with us who inadvertently pushed a group of cows to Tolbert Canyon before we could pass them on our way to North Valley.


Tolbert Canyon, Truckee Range

We followed the most obvious dirt roads through the region. Power lines, pipe lines, and active mines seem to be the main motivation for roads through this area. Other than seeing two trucks shuttling back and forth to a mine and one personal vehicle on the eastern base of the Truckee Range we were alone. Easy access and a rich network of roads makes this area a great starting point for adventures lasting hours to days.


Looking to North Valley and north end of Truckee Range


The illusion of infinitely long dirt roads, Hot Springs Flat

We covered some ground this winter. I am already looking forward to what next winter will bring.

Ride Report; Brunswick Cyn, Pine Nut Mtn Range


Rocky outcrop at the entrance of Brunswick Canyon

This was my fifth trip into the Pine Nut Range so I feel like I am becoming familiar with these roads. But that really is a false sense of familiarity as the OHV users in this area really have a vast network of roads and jeep trails at their disposal. When Dean and I did a loop in this area that included Sullivan Cyn Rd we crossed Brunswick Cyn Rd, and so the planning began.


Off the main road there were several feet of fresh snow

I got some local information on how to approach the ride from Bike Carson as the recent snow and rain had caused flooding limiting some access points. Dean and I drove in from Highway 50, along North Deer Run Rd to Sedge Rd. From here our ride started, first on snowy muddy slush, then on packed snow.


Spectacular winter scenery descending Brunswick Canyon

This route was fantastic! The canyon is beautiful in its geology and flora. We did see animal tracks in the snow and mountain bluebirds flitting about so I imagine wildlife viewing is outstanding at times as well.


Dean’s quick gear check

We were focused on maneuvering through the snow more so than the grade of the climb. At one point Dean commented on how slow we were going. The combination of pitch and fresh snow on packed snowy roads definitely slowed us down. But there was a good level of distraction that kept us from thinking about how much we were climbing or how much snow we were pushing through.


Always high spirits on new routes

At one point we were passed by a couple of ATV riders, one dragging a tire the other dragging a weighted section of chain link fence. We don’t know why but they were grooming about a 6 mile stretch of the road we figured as we saw them pass us four times before we saw where they ditched their grooming attachments.


Snack time

We turned around at a given point about a mile from where the road T’s into Sunrise Pass Rd. Dean and I had ridden a section of Sunrise Pass as a part of our Eldorado Cyn – Como Rd loop. This ride was to be an out and back and the downhill return was much quicker. I would recommend this route as a passage through the Pine Nuts that once tied into Sunrise Pass and Como Rd going south would be a great route to Smith Valley and beyond.

After our ride we stopped at a local taqueria, Playa Azul, for a great lunch.

Thank you to Dean Magnuson for the great company and short video of our ride.