Ride Report; Behind the MGL mines, a loop through the Nightingale Mtns

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From the pullout the southern Nightingale Mtns

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Northern Nightingale Mountains

I have a love affair with playas. We have several major dry lake beds in northern Nevada and numerous minor ones. They are the desert’s seas and oceans. They can be explored and charted finding springs, ghost towns/mines, unique weather, and unique geology along their shores. Winnemucca Lake playa has captivated me as I whizzed past it from either the driver’s or passenger’s position in a car to and from the Black Rock Desert. The Nightingale Mountains in the glow of sunset were magical. With its close proximity to Reno and quality terrain to ride I have made it a destination for solo and group adventures.

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The remains of the mill from my previous trip

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On a group ride we visited the abandoned tungsten mine on the east side of the playa. The reaction from my fellow tourists was this relic seemed best for a movie set for something out of this world. I agree that much of Nevada seems out of this world. Behind the mine is a canyon with a dry stream wash complete with a 4X4 road. My plan was to return on a mountain bike to explore the canyon.

My research on the area led me to The Fly Syndicate blog (and here) with outstanding photos and description of the area. A more technical report of the mine can be found at Western Mining History. When trying to trace a route through the Selenite Mountains I could only be hopeful that the roads went through because there was no obvious route.

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Impressive examples of tufa

Brandon and I started our loop around the south end of the lake by visiting the prominent tufa formations. But we quickly made our way to Valley Rd and around to Coyote Canyon. I was eager to share this route with a new tourist. I pointed out several box canyons, a formation I call “the Pyramids”, and other roads to explore.

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Looking across Winnamucca Lake playa to Lake Range

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Massive wooden mining relics

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Stay out, Stay alive!

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Great engineering!

We made quick time to the MGL tungsten mill foundation then started up the canyon. We encountered more mining relics but I was most most intrigued by the miniature rail system for the long gone ore carts. It is easy to be tempted to enter an abandoned hard rock mine but “stay out, stay alive” is a good slogan to follow.

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Our climb on 4×4 track up the canyon

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Great example of a desert spring, essential to local wildlife

We followed the 4X4 trail complete with jeep and moto tracks until it ended in a spring. There is always a surprising amount of water in the desert. Or any water is surprising in the desert. The spring was barely flowing but enough to attract animals. You could collect water here if you dug a small pool. Unfortunately we could not find a route from here. My GPS showed some tracks a less than a mile away but a mile through this terrain was going to be difficult.

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Looking back at our climb

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Starting to Hike-a-Bike

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Swallowed by the Nightingale Mountains

We descended to a moto singletrack that looked hopeful. After a long steep hike-a-bike we topped out above the Nightingale Mining District.  I had a good idea of where we were and my plan was to return via Coyote Canyon. I had previously ridden this with Dean Magnuson so I was confident in the route. We had a quick lunch of prosciutto, brie, arugula, fig spread sandwiches before our return to the car.

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View of Pyramid Lake

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Rugged Terrain

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Topping out above our efforts, Winnemucca Lake playa

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This structure is on borrowed time

Exploring the mining relics was a great adventure. Unfortunately the hike-a-bike sections were very difficult. It was very eye-opening to see how Coyote Canyon connects to Kumiva Valley and in my opinion becomes a great off road connector for travel to the Black Rock Desert.

South of Frog Pond Hot Springs

A route north from the east side of Nightingales would arrive here, Black Rock Desert

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Sunrise Pass Rd. through the Pine Nut Mountains

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Looking back across the Carson Valley to the Carson Range

Dean Magnuson and I had worked our way south from Dayton via Eldorado Cyn to Sunrise Pass Rd before looping back on Old Como Rd. This was my first experience on Sunrise Pass. Since then I had studied the maps but couldn’t find an obvious loop through the Pine Nuts to the south. It looked as if local knowledge had taken travelers through on roads that were not obvious in satellite view.

I suggested to Brandon Anderson that we check-out Sunrise Pass on our gravel bikes so we could reward ourselves with post-ride refueling at Minden Meat and Deli. I am an advocate of supporting businesses near where we tour to prove our recreation has a positive impact on the communities we visit. I hope small efforts will ensure eco/adventure tourism, including bicycle touring, has a place at the table when Nevada considers which types of recreation to support. I mapped out a potential route using STRAVA and shared this with Brandon. We figured we had an easy day ahead of us.

We parked at the end of Johnson Ln just above the Carson-Minden Airport. The public land access point looked well used. We took off on Sunrise Pass Rd rolling on the sandy track across the Carson Valley. The climb into the Pine Nuts was gentle on a well maintained road. As we climbed into the pygmy forest of juniper and pinon pine the road became less sandy. I recognized the point at which Dean and I tied into Sunrise Pass and the steep section in view of Lyon Pk. We rolled through a hanging valley before our descent to Old Como/Artesia Rd. This became one descent too far.

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Aspens in full fall colors

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Same aspen grove from when Dean and I visited in August 2016

We headed south and my eyes were constantly scanning for roads that turned west back through the Pine Nuts. None of the options looked good. We continued south towards Artesia Lake State Wildlife Management Area, part of the Nevada State Parks system. Once we passed Mason Pass Rd and entered the rural neighborhoods of Smith Valley I knew we were going to be looping around on SR 208 and US 395. Brandon checked his phone, “45 miles back to the car.” As long as the pedals keep turning we got this.

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Headed south between Artesia Lake and eastern slope of Pine Nut Mountains

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Junction of Lower Colony Rd and  SR 208

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West fork of the Walker River

Just south of us are Wellington, Topaz Lake, the Walker River, and plenty of roads to explore. But that will be another trip. This was my first time riding across SR 208 but I had driven it a few times. The head winds made it feel all up hill. Our Return on US 395 went much faster than expected and Brandon found a short cut through the Carson Valley off US 395.

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Antelope Valley from Jack Wright Summit, SR 208

Back at the car we continued our plans to Minden Meat and Deli. Did I mention the 32 beers on tap? The great selection of burgers made with local beef? You will have to check it out for yourself! Our overall impression of the ride was very good. The roads were in great shape and supported travel on gravel bikes (700x40c tire width). My other travels in the area were on my Fargo with 27.5+ tire size. Sections of Old Como and Eldorado Cyn Rds are definitely more ridable with mountain bike tires.

First Third of Jungo Rd, Gerlach to Lava Beds Creek

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I really appreciate the signage, Old Razorback Mtn

I thought this ride might give some insight to a hundred miles on a gravel bike. I still can’t comprehend how people are racing 100-250 miles on a such terrain. I let Brandon Anderson know I was interested in a longer ride and Jungo Road would provide a quality out-and-back ride with unlimited mileage (90 miles to Winnemucca, therefore unlimited mileage for a day ride). I first rode a bit of Jungo during a staff retreat and have had it on my to-do list ever since.

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Quality but rough road at times, looking west Pahsupp Mtn

Jungo starts off the pavement just a couple of miles south of Gerlach, NV. Gerlach is famously the home of the Black Rock Desert, an ancient lake bed or playa that has seen numerous land speed records and now hosts the Burning Man art and music festival. I can also recommend Bruno’s Country Club (bar and diner) as well as Planet X Pottery as great businesses to check out in the area. Gerlach is also the gateway to numerous recreational public lands such as High Rock Canyon and Soldier Meadows to the north.

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Across the playa to Black Rock Point

The road follows the south eastern edge of the playa. You start between the Selenite and Granite Ranges. The air was clear and crisp and now with the sun much lower in the sky the eroded mountains had so much more contrast. The Frog Pond and Trego hot springs are worth checking out even if you don’t take a soak. You pass Old Razorback and Dry Mountains. Between the mountains are the Kumiva Valley and lava beds. There are roads to explore to the south as well. The heavy winter took its toll on the local roads but land managers have done a great job to mitigate the damage.

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My eyes keep going back to the Black Rock Desert. I love seeing the dust storms on the playa. My eyes scan across to the Calico Hills and Black Rock Point. One ride I have on my list is to ride down the middle of the playa and camp under the huge dark sky.

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I seek out these route markers with quotes from the early travelers

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From our turn around point, Jackson and Kama Mtns,  Allied Nevada-Hycroft Mine

Brandon and I made it out to a prominent basalt feature about 30 miles down the road. We had been fighting a headwind so our progress was not as impressive as we anticipated. We could see Sulfur and the Allied Nevada-Hycroft Mine in the distance. This became our turn around point for a 60 mile gravel tour. We are still a far cry from a 100 mile ride but it will come soon.

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From my first trip on Jungo Rd, Staff Retreat 2014

Return to Fort Churchill; Ride Report

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Arrested decay, from the barracks across the parade grounds

I was looking for an “easier” ride, dirt roads, proximity, and views to share with Brandon Anderson when we were not up to driving out into the desert for a full day’s ride. Fort Churchill Road from Dayton to Fort Churchill State Park seemed like a winner. I had been to this area  on several rides, by myself, with Raymond Eliot, and Dean Magnuson. It is an easy drive south from Reno to Carson City/Dayton opening up great opportunities in the Carson Range, Pine Nut Mountains, and Carson River Valley. The views along the Carson River, options for additional exploration and the unique historic state park make this dirt road a great outing.

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Brandon checking out the barracks

The road surface like so many routes in northern Nevada had taken its toll from our record wet winter. Although this road is well maintained, the road work left behind softer than ideal conditions as it has been a long dry summer. But the conditions were firm enough for our 700x40c tires. The fall colors, dry grasses, blooming rabbitbrush, fiery cottonwood trees, were just coming on along the river bottom.

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Historic stagecoach stop, worth returning to get an inside look

We had a light lunch at the park and spent some time in the museum. We continued through the arrested decay of the fort’s grounds before following the Nature Trail along the river to the historic Buckland’s Station stagecoach stop. The Nature Trail had become a bit of a sandbox from the flooding of the Carson River. Mountain bikes or even plus/fat tires would have been best suited for that section.

I highly recommend this ride for its quality backroads, concentration of fall colors, unique geology/geography, and historical significance. Brandon Anderson agreed.

Ride Report; Between Smoke Creek Desert and Pole Creek Wilderness Study Area

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At home in the northern Nevada desert

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This classic abandoned car with the playa in the background was a priceless set for this photo

The three inch wide tires on my Salsa Fargo glided over the sand as if I were on a hard packed trail. It’s likely there was only an inch layer of sand blown over the hard packed dirt road but a few weeks prior the conditions forced us to turn around when we explored this same road on our gravel bikes with only 40 mm wide tires. I returned to the Smoke Creek Desert to explore the roads that loop around the southern and eastern borders with the Terraced Hills and Fox Range.

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The BLM posted these signs on the edge of the Pole Creek WSA

An early goal for 2017 was to bike around as many Wilderness Study Areas as I could. I learned a bit about WSA’s after riding around Kumiva Peak and noticing Mt Limbo WSA. My understanding is WSA’s are roadless tracts of land over 5000 acres in size with the attributes of wilderness. Land mangers, such as the Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management, suggest these areas for consideration by Congress to become protected wilderness. During this period they are managed similarly to wilderness. “Non-Impairment” to “naturalness” and opportunities for solitude and unconfined recreation are key bits of language in the guidelines for WSA management.

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Looking out to the Smoke Creek Desert

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Broad area of erosion below the Fox Range

One of the major attributes of wilderness that I seek on my rides is solitude. The Smoke Creek Desert is surrounded by WSA’s. On this trip I rode along the Pole Creek WSA to the southern edge of the Fox Range WSA. The solitude was refreshing. I rolled along sagebrush and expanding playa with no other disturbance. The dune system and immenseness of the Smoke Creek Desert gave the area a coastal feel. Further along the eroded clay substrate pocked with black basalt rock gave the area a not-of-this-world feel. The remains of our wettest winter on record were washed out roads and in some spots treacherous ruts across the roads.

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Smokey skies dimmed but not dulled the vistas

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Sea of sagebrush

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Entrance to the Fox Range

The Fox Range is enticing but only a few roads give access from its western slope. I rode to the entrance of Wild Horse Canyon but I will have to return to explore it further. Mullen’s Canyon is just to the south and also deserves exploration.

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One of several hot springs

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Find your beauty

Sulfur springs dot the Smoke Creek Desert. There are two noted on the maps around southern edge of the playa. They provide a significant source of water year round. The spike in biodiversity is notable from microbes, plants, insects, and wildlife. To many the marshy habitat may not immediately seem beautiful but I encourage all to seek wonder in these spots. I was intrigued by the numerous dragonflies in paired nuptial flight.

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The hope of water was not fulfilled

The out-and-back route started and ended at this dry water trough. In past trips I hoped it would be a source I could recommend to fill water bottles. But it will also be a starting point for exploring the Dry Valley Rim WSA. My next plan to ride this area will be to ride south from the north end of Smoke Creek Desert at Godeys Gap.

Ride Report; Loop Around Winnemucca Lake

This roadside marker off SR 447 was very informative.

“It is a matter of how much you will be pushing your bike,” I paraphrase (misquote) Casey Clark during a discussion of “optimal” (read mythological) tire size and gearing. The gist of the conversation was it’s not a matter of if you will be pushing your bike, but when and for how long. Nevada’s varied terrain makes it challenging to have “the bike” for desert travel.

Thee KHS Grit 440 was needs a bath and some TLC

For this ride I chose my “gravel bike”, 2017 KHS Grit 440. The bike is near stock, bagged out with a Revelate Designs kit, new Vittoria Adventure Trail 700 X 38c tires, and Ritchey VentureMax Bars and Look S-Track pedals. This has proven to be a very capable and comfortable setup.

I have been looking at this loop route for years. I went through the mapping exercise in 2016 and estimated the ride to be 63 miles with 2000′ of climbing. About that time I talked Dean Magnuson into a trip just to “explore” the area. I didn’t think the entire loop matched our style of riding. We had a great ride, climbed Coyote Canyon, got some great pictures and video. Six months later I did a ride around Kumiva and Purgatory Peaks that returned on the north side of Winnemucca Lake. A couple months later I took my co-workers on an outing to an abandoned tungsten mine on the east side of the lake. This rich area is about an hour from Reno so no wonder I keep returning.

The start/end of the loop looking to Black Warrior Peak, Truckee Range

My riding partner, Brandon Anderson, at the last minute was not able to make this ride but I decided to go for a solo outing. While my riding partners are incredibly valuable I love solo trips. On solo trips I get to focus on my pace, route, objectives, internal conversations, and motivation. I enjoy the mental aspect of decision making, and risk evaluation without worrying about my companions’ experience. This ride was exactly that, I committed to the loop and was determined to mash my pedals back to the car because once the ride is over there is family waiting for me back home.

From the southern end of playa, Purgatory Peak, Selenite Range

While my past rides included some less than ideal route choices I had a clear plan on how to get to the tungsten mine, past Coyote Canyon, on fast dirt roads. Beyond that I was just hoping the road conditions would be in my favor. I was keeping track of my progress, miles in a given hour, hours per 10 miles, etc. I was a bit worried that I was not keeping my first hour’s pace. Doubt crept in. The last leg of the trip was on paved road. Hope returned!

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The norther third of the playa, the Lake and Selenite Ranges are separated by Poito Valley

The winter’s record precipitation had taken its toll on the road. Some of the washes were 5-20 feet below the road bed. I was surprised to find someone had rerouted the roads upstream to a passable route. I didn’t think this road was important enough to warrant the effort. I am guessing the area either is valuable to off-roaders and/or miners. I appreciate their efforts.

Great roads for now along the Nightingale Mountains

My last known marker was the abandoned tungsten mine about 14 miles into the route. Similarly to Coyote Canyon, since I was familiar with this spot I continued past without stopping for photos. But this is one of the great points of interest on the trip. I recommend poking around the remaining foundation and try to imagine what it was like when in operation. I will return to explore the canyon above.

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Blackened mountains remind us of our horrible fire season

The roads became rougher, softer, and slower. I had a view across the playa of the Lake Range and its bold scar from the Tohakum II fire this August. Our dry lighting season left its mark in many of the mountain ranges I visit. At mileage marker 19 the road dropped off into a dune system at the north east corner of the playa. So I walked. With hindsight and the power of GPS mapping I stayed left where I should have stayed right!

I am not a fan of walking but I did enjoy seeing several species of lizards, my favorites include the high speed Zebra-tailed and Horny-toad lizards, that I wouldn’t have from the vantage of my bicycle. The fine sand held evidence of nocturnal creatures I could hope to see on an overnight.  The jack rabbits were nearly as numerous as the lizards (license taken with hyperbole). The party never ends in the desert.

The end of my hike though the dunes

I could see on my GPS I was near a power line road and I was tempted to make a bee-line for it. I evaluated the choice by weighing the uphill, soft sand, and shrub dodging vs staying on the sandy road until it ties into the better road. The piece of evidence I didn’t have was the barbwire fence I would have to negotiate but avoided with a gate by staying on course.

On the power line road I wrapped around the north end of the playa and made my way to SR 447. With about 24 miles to go on paved road it was a relatively simple cruise back to my vehicle. My ride on STRAVA is here.

From the northern end of the playa

I was asked what the route has to offer beyond interesting tuffa formations. There are petroglyphs that have been dated back 10,000 years. Their artists were the first humans to migrate into northern Nevada. That is a lot to offer. The ancient history of water in the area ad well as recent history of water diversion is evident in the landscape you ride through. The geology of Nightingale Mountains, Selenite, and Fox Ranges changes every few miles changing the views as you pedal along. The playa is about 25 miles long by 5 miles wide but as you travel around it those dimensions feel vast. Wild horses, mules, antelope, reptiles, birds, and small mammals abound. While the route was physically demanding the rewards were abundant.

Ride Report: Pyramid Lake to Smoke Creek Desert

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Smoke Creek Desert from Surprise Valley Rd

Overnight Above Reno, S24O

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Pete finishing up our ride

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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.