Ride Report; Hazen, NV and Hot Springs Mountains

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There were many choices leaving the car. If the road goes up, I go up!

How many times have I driven past the iconic Hazen Market? Whatever the number, it is only a fraction of the number of photos of this Alt-Highway 50 (Old Lincoln Highway, Reno Highway) landmark I have seen. It is interesting to railroad buffs (founded in 1903 as a Union Pacific station), history buffs (Nevada’s last lynching, 1905), but I was interested in the Hot Springs Mountains that separated Lahontan Valley and Carson Sink in the south from The Forty Mile Desert in the north.

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Snow was blowing through, but just a dusting. Cattle on hillside

I made the quick drive to Hazen by sunrise to give me the day to explore The Hot Spring Mountains. I had mentally prepared a map around the mountains but was willing to adjust my ride depending on what I came across. I started out in blowing snow with limited visibility. I picked a road that seamed to be looping back far too early in the ride (plus the road was in too good of condition, I wanted a challenge). So I picked an unlikely road to explore. It was primarily a quad trail up a wash. I was prepared for it to be a bust but it kept climbing into the mountain.


Looking back toward Hazen, Little and Black Buttes

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Snow over sand, a bit soft but ridable

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Climbing through the valley

I descended into a snow filled hanging valley. The road was soft sand but mixed with snow it was ridable. As I climbed the far and of the valley I realized the mountains were home to dunes. ATV riders had discovered this too but I was surprised. I assume as water brought sediments into the Carson, Fernley and Humboldt sinks the prevailing winds carried the sand to create these and other dunes in the area. The USGS maps show these dunes so I assume they are well established.

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Dunes inside the mountains

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OHV users definitely know this spot

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Sunlit valley under heavy skies

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Dunes in the mountains, Nevada shows me its potential

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The descent begins

I started a steep sandy descent to the northeast. I was really hoping the road I was following would connect through to the road I was hoping to follow along the Forty Mile Desert. I did not want to hike-a-bike to retrace my ride back to passable roads. As good fortune would have it I was treated to a fun downhill ride over rock and sand to the road I had pictured in my head.

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Still in sand, the Forty Mile Desert and the Truckee Range

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The Forty Mile Desert and Hot Springs Flat

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A quick descent to the road below

My return route had washed out in several places. Jeep users had created go-arounds for the worst wash-outs. I was very pleased to be on this road. I had ridden a parallel route on the other side of the sink and had hoped this road existed. Once I made it back to my vehicle I realized what a great day I had exploring by the seat-of-my-pants. I followed the road I was on until I found a road that looked interesting, and let that lead me to the next. I would like to make the bigger loop around the Hot Springs Mountains and possibly connect to the West Humboldt Range. Not surprising there appears to be miles of minor roads throughout the mountains and a variety of geological formations to explore.

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The past winter had taken its toll on the return road

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A rock race track, pick your winner

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Lava beds, sagebrush, and the Fernley sink. Textures of northern Nevada

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A bit of Nevada cobble


Ride Report; Loop through Selenite Range

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Dean pausing after another steep climb, Kumiva Valley and Bluewing Mtns

It was a reunion of sorts. Dean Magnuson, my long term riding partner of so many adventures chronicled here, had moved away to Portland, OR but was back in Reno for a visit.

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Dean is still smiling

“Dean, I have a ride for us along the ridge of the Selenite Range between Kumiva and Luxor Peaks.”

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Suffering on initial climb, Lake and Fox Ranges, San Emidio Desert in between

He just smiled and agreed to the ride. But he knows from our past history he might be in for long climbs, rough terrain, and adverse conditions. So I decided I better sweeten the deal, “I will bring lunch!” Dean is always agreeable, never needs a bribe, so the plan was I would pick him up in the morning and we would take-off to our mutual destruction, I mean discovery.

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I had forgotten how steep this climb was from the highway, Lake and Fox Ranges

I used a turn-off from the highway I had used in a loop through the Selenites to the south, to Winnemucca Lake. Dean and I had ridden Winnemucca Lake and Three Mile Canyon in this area together. This particular route was inspired by searching on Google Maps for routes to the north.

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Dean suffers with a smile!

Our climb to the ridge line was steeper than I remembered. Pain fades with time, ha! Dean struggled with the climb. His time with his grand kids, while does much for the soul, did little for his cardiovascular system. I must admit I get pleasure out of his suffering. Maybe I shouldn’t admit this. The views along the climb were fantastic. We were up close to the burn sites from our last fire season. We can only hope for quick recovery.

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Looking north through the Selenite Range


The ridge line was rewarding in mixed terrain and stunning views to the east. But the ridge line was taxing so we found a turn off to the east down to Kumiva Valley. We passed a large working ranch and chatted with a group of chukar hunters. I thought they were bird watchers, and they were, just the other kind of bird watchers. We had not seen any birds.

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Dean tells me he is looking for rocks

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Kumiva Valley and Lava Beds

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A steep climb past a boulder field

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Rock climbing/bouldering potential

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Looking for more rocks! White line angling down L to R was a steep snowy descent. 

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Kumiva Pk.

The last climb of the day was moderate and gave way to a long fast downhill back to the car. The route can be shortened or extended to the north. To the south and extreme north the Selenite Range is protected as Wilderness Study Areas. To the north is the Selenite Mtns WSA and to the south is the Mt Limbo WSA. For some this begs the issue of bikes in the wilderness. My personal feelings is the Wilderness Act should stand as it is with regards to bicycles. There is no loss of opportunity for me to explore Nevada’s wild lands. I can bike up to wilderness or wilderness study areas on established roads and if I choose to explore further I can park my bike and do so on foot.

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Great roads on east side of Selenite Range


C Dot Ranch, Cowles Ranch on maps

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Climbing back to ridge through burn area, Betty Creek, alkali flat, and Black Mtn

I have heard from other users in this area that the ridge road is enjoyable all the way to Jungo Rd. I think the road that climbs over the Selenites is a valuable east-west crossroads between Kumiva and Poito Valleys though passage to the south of the Selenite Range is an option to avoid the climb.

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Transition TransAm, bagged-out and ready to tour

Dean borrowed my Surly Instigator for this ride. I wasn’t sure how much snow or sand there would be so I figured the 26×3″ tires would be a good choice. I have recently set up my Transition TransAm for touring. I replaced the suspension fork with the Salsa Cro Moto Grande 29’r fork, swapped out the riser bars for Surly Moloko touring bars, and added bags and cages. I love the way it rides. It has quickly become a favorite.

Here is a short video Dean shot. He has a couple more on his YouTube channel.

Ride Report; Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge and Stillwater Range

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The importance of marsh habitats for migratory birds

Vernal wetlands, marshes, swamps, estuaries, and salt flats can appear (and smell) unappealing to the eye (and nose). But their value to the ecology, biodiversity, and therefore the wildlife biologist, public, and future generations is immeasurable.  Wetlands of all types are the “tropical rain forests” of the temperate landscape. Unfortunately most of us do not have an eye for their value. I would say this is similar for having an eye for the beauty of the desert, the value of a sea of sagebrush. To train that eye I recommend getting out to Fallon, Nevada then venturing on to the Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge.

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One of my favorite “universal” signs

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Fallon and northern Nevada is a major player in the National Wildlife Refuge System

The roads switch from pavement to hard pack clay and gravel. There is a network of roads that guides visitors from pond to pond with frequent pullouts for wildlife viewing. The complex is divided into hunting/ no hunting areas as well as boatable and boat-free areas on the ponds. Maps throughout the park describe these regulations.

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I used this map to guide my visit

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Lots of rules!

I used the main entrance and parking area to stage my loop through the park. The roads are flat. After 35+ miles of exploring the park I had climbed less than 200′. The main roads are very high quality. I would have even felt comfortable on my road bike with 700×25 tires. The less traveled roads in the north end of the park are a little rougher, passable on a road bike but more comfortable on the fatter tires of a gravel/cyclocross/touring bike. My route through the park was mostly haphazard with the idea of returning to explore my last intersection if the roads ahead did not hold my interest. The road ahead always holds my interest, I rarely make it back to passed up roads until my next visit. I worked my way through the center of the park then made a counter clockwise loop to back to my start.

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Insert loud bird cacophony here, Tule Lake, Stillwater Range in background

My first impression was the smell of the ocean. The brackish water marshes on top of the alkali playas smelled like the wetland estuaries of the Pacific coast. Then there was the noise at the intersection of Hunter, Navy Cabin, and Center Roads. Here you are between Lead and Tule Lakes and you hear the birds long before you see them. Later on Center Rd a flock of herons flew over and it was absolutely stunning. These birds are beautiful standing solitary along rivers, borrow ditches, and other wetlands but I was not prepared for the view of a dozen or so flying overhead.

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East County Rd

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To tempting to pass up, Mountain Wells Cyn Rd

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Great roads all day!

After my loop I continued on East County Rd between the refuge and the Stillwater Range. My plan was to make my way into the park at Nutgrass Lake. But I was distracted by a road sign leading me into the Stillwater Range through Mountain Wells Canyon. This road was considerably rougher and gained in elevation. Like so many mountain roads this last year it seemed to spend part of the year as a wash but overall the conditions were fine for a gravel bike. This canyon shows the diversity of geology for the area as well as demonstrates ranching in the area. I had ridden a canyon to the north of Mountain Wells and it too was used by a local rancher. I will definitely return to ride this road through to Dixie Valley.

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A bit of climbing

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Ranching in Nevada

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This old windmill had been replaced by a diesel pump

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Changing geology

On my return I stopped off at the Overlook park on Stillwater Point Reservoir. I am a sucker for interpretive trails, kiosks, and self-guided tours. They all appeal to my inner geek. From the parking area I road through an interpretive trail that gave a timeline for the area. Then I climbed to an elevated viewing deck that had even more information on what biology I could expect to witness. I was very pleased.

Looking at the big picture, the Stillwater National Wildlife Complex can be a stopping point for someone on a big west-east tour of northern Nevada along Highway 50.  Now I am trying to conceptualize a big north-south Nevada tour. I imagine the East County Rd will be a segment from Lovelock to Fallon. Regardless showcasing a wetland in the desert with such importance to world bird populations has its intrinsic value.

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The Stillwaters welcome you

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My KHS Grit 440 with Revelate Bags, the gravel slayer

Ride Report; Loop through Pine Grove Hills

This ride was cold. We made this loop December 4, 2017.

Toiyabe National Forest Rd 22815, Pine Grove Hills

Turn off from Sand Canyon, rugged 4×4 trail through sparse forest

After my first ride in the Pine Grove Hills I had to share this place with a friend. So I got a hold of Brandon Anderson and told him about this great location near the Sweetwater Range and its abundance of canyons to explore and the ghost mining towns and more to check out. Brandon had heard recommendations for the Sweetwater Range so was intrigued my my suggestion.

Sweetwater Mountains

The Sweetwater Mountains across Sweetwater Flat

We arrived at Sand Canyon in bright sunshine but a chilly 26 degrees. Conditions felt comfortable in the sun but the air temperature had a bite to it. We climbed Sand Canyon but then turned off onto a 4-wheel drive trail that climbed to Lobdell Summit. The climb was significant and warmed us up for the time being. The track was rutted in by erosion but bikes were a perfect vehicle in this terrain.

Road and creek took the same path

Sand to rugged path from winter’s snow melt cutting in the road

Rugged climb from Sand Cyn to Scott's Cyn

Rugged climb from Sand Cyn to Scotts Cyn

Near Lobdell Summit, Pine Grove Hills

Named saddle summits make it easy to get bearings in this terrain.

We crossed over from Scotts Canyon to Pine Grove Canyon. At this point we were at 7200′ so the temperatures were still bellow freezing. Shortly we were in the ghost town of Pine Grove. This place is well preserved and a delight to explore after a challenging ride to get there. We explored a few side roads to see if they would provide a short cut to Pine Grove Summit. From the ghost town if you back track down Pine Grove Canyon you will get to Pine Grove Summit. We continue to Pine Grove Flat then climbed to Rockland ghost town. At this point I was riding my past route in reverse. It was getting late, temperatures were dropping and we had a 2200′ descent to the car.

Pine Grove Historical Site

Great history!

Stamp mill

Well preserved Ghost Mining Town

Pine Grove buildings

Interior detail

Pine Grove site

Just your average mining neighborhood

Rock formations of Rockland, Pine Grove Hills

These rocks in varying light are fantastic

Stone Towers over Rockland, Pine Grove Hills

These stand guard over Rockland

There is a connector trail from Nye Canyon to Sand Canyon but I was not sure the quality of trail nor how long it would take to travel. So I suggested we continue down to the highway then finish our ride on the road. It was dark but the route was the only sure thing I could offer a very cold riding partner. We finished our ride, packed up, and made our way to Minden Meat and Deli for our favorite burgers and beer. The car ride discussion was focused on the cold, the risks it posed, what we carried or should have carried to be better prepared. We also talked about the potential the area has once the snow has melted this spring and the burgers we were going to eat.

Once a two story building

Landslides filled in the bottom 1/2 of this Pine Grove building

Ride Report; Carson Sink’s Dunes

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“If you survive…” Such confidence inspiring words

“If you make it I will ride down and you can take my picture. For perspective,” Pete let me know. If I survived? What were the range of outcomes riding down the face of the dune? Ripping success, a slow stilted descent, tumbling down the sand face, and somewhere in the mix was not surviving. Then Pete wouldn’t feel obligated to follow my line. We rode down several faces that day and while there was a moment of hesitation with each attempt they were all fun! Pete Rissler, who I rode with around the Little High Rock Canyon Wilderness, invited me out on another adventure.

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My view inspired just a twinge of doubt

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Pete Rissler following my line

The Carson Sink’s Dunes are located in the Carson Sink between the Fallon and Stillwater National Wildlife Refuges. We rode from Battleground Point east about 5 miles. There are about the same distance of lesser dunes continuing east. Dunes and dry alkali flats give the rider the ultimate freedom to pick and choose their route. It is most similar to the experience on slick rock where you choose your lines. The dune surface seemed well packed under my 4.8 inch wide tires. It was the same for Pete with his 4 inch tires under him. Pete pointed out the two types of sand, a coarser more firmly packed sand and a finer looser packed silt. Sometimes there were invisible patches of the two and you could feel your bike going fast and slow. We came across a third distinct sand that was very coarse black pebbles, it mostly added color and texture to the dunes.

The dunes can test your bike riding skills unlike any other terrain. Just plodding through the sand with wide tires will test your power output. Next you can test your climbing abilities by choosing grades and length of sandy climbs. Steering take a bit getting used to if you try to weave your way up a grade or carve S turns down a slope. Rocketing down a face is much slower than you expect, brakes are a whole new tool. But with some speed you can find sand lips to catch some air off of. Between the sights and the riding the dunes are very entertaining.


Pete’s Salsa Mukluk, The Stillwater Range and Botulism Bay in the background

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Botulism Bay from Battleground Point

Between the dunes were alkali flats, or playas. Some were hard packed dry clay beds, while others were soft and white with salt. We crossed one playa that was much harder pedaling than the dunes. Pete wanted to see the playas flooded up to the edge of the dunes. That would be a sight. There was some water in the sink that gave us an idea what that might look like.

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Water in the Carson Sink restricted some routes from dune to dune

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Tough existence for plants and animals on the Carson Sink’s Dunes

The dunes make for a great day’s outing. The BikeCarson gang have an excellent write-up with outstanding blue-sky photography. Travel by bike in this area the, Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge Complex, is fantastic. It can be linked to the Stillwater Range, Lovelock, Dixie Valley, and beyond. Pete and I had lunch at the Pizza Barn, Fallon’s oldest pizza parlor.

Pete Rissler has a lifetime of field experience in northern and central Nevada from his time growing up as a local and a career as a wildlife biologist. Every outing is a chance for me to learn so much natural history. On this trip, fish bones that were regurgitated by pelicans were of interest. Depending on where the pelicans were feeding, such as Pyramid Lake, the remains would be particular or even contain a tag from a biologist. Pelican  Island is a dune to the west of Battle Ground Point we plan on visiting – there is always a next trip!

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Live to ride another day

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My Surly Ice Cream Truck

I normally have front and rear racks and cargo cages on the fork of my extra-small Surly Ice Cream Truck. But these accessories can make transporting fat bikes challenging. Pete drove us out to the Carson Sink with our bikes on a Kuat NV rack so I was glad I removed these items. The velcro Two Fish water bottle cage, small Deuter frame bag, Skinz top tube bag, and Apidura handlebar food pouches were handy accesories but I also carried a small pack with extra gloves, outer layers, and water blader. With a little better organization I could have forgone the day pack.  In anticipation of a icy snowy winter I have the ICT shod with studded Vee Snowshoe XL tires. I left them on for this trip to take advantage of their width. The fat bike makes a great touring bike for the northern Nevada outback. Surly’s philosophy of Omniterra, Fatties Fit Fine, and 4130 Chromoly Steel Tubing make for versatile touring bikes.

Day Trip; Through the Pine Grove Hills

Pine Grove Hills

Gorgeous forest

Most of what I write about are short half day outings. These are exploratory routes that I imagine can be linked together or expanded upon to suite anyone’s needs. I plan them  in particular areas but occasionally stumble across “lines on the map.” These write-up get filed under “Ride Reports.” To me these are the most basic bike tour. The next level of outing is the day trip. The planning and organization is somewhere between a half day trip and an overnighter. Day trips tend to be solo as it can be hard to convince a riding partner to commit to a full-day-plus in the car and on the bike.

Dawn on Sweet Water Range, Nye Canyon

Leaving the car for a great day’s adventure

The canyons off the Sweetwater Rd, NV 338, have intrigued me after using this highway as an alternative to US 395, between Topaz Lake and Bridgeport, CA.  I have camped and fished along Desert Creek in the Wellington Hills on the west side of the highway. Now I know I must link these two areas in a bigger trip.

Nye Canyon, traverse to Sand Canyon

Not very good advertising

I picked Nye Canyon “off the map” as it was a prominent line on the map that seemed to branch into many options to explore. My choices are often just this haphazard. The drive was about 90 miles south of Reno so I left early enough to arrive at the canyon as the day was breaking. The conditions were great. I appreciated the signage both in the names of the canyons and the forest service road carsonites. I picked a route that went through an impressive pine grove. I must be in the right place. I climbed into the snow bellow Bald Mountain. I was close to the wilderness boundary and the end of the road when I turned around because of the deep soft snow. I could look into the Pine Grove Flat valley to the east, it looked warm and inviting. The jagged peaks of the Sweetwater Range were enchanting.

Looking back at Nye Canyon

Great conditions at sunrise

Always choices, Pine Grove Hills

Following Nye Canyon route to Bald Mtn

Sweetwater Range from Pingrove Hills

Climbing to Bald Mtn looking at the Sweetwater Range

Bald Mtn, Pine Grove Hills

This is getting interesting

Bald Mtn, Edge of Wokova Wilderness

Turn around point, 8,800′

Bald Mtn Trail, Pine Grove Hills

Descending to warmer terrain

Sweet Peak Trail, Bald Mtn

A bit muddy here, Pine Grove Hills

Lake beds, Pine Grove Hills

Junction of Bald Mtn Trail and Sweet Pk Trail

I back tracked to the main trail fork. I climbed Dead Ox Canyon. It was sandy but passable with wider than average tires. As I was climbing the dry and sandy road I turned a corner to find the road a sheet of ice. The water of Dead Ox Spring had frozen solid across the trail at this one cold spot on the mountain.

Last of the ice age, Pine Grove Hills

The road turned to ice

Surprise icy road

From dry/damp sand to this… Dead Ox Canyon, Pine Grove Hills

At the saddle bellow Pine Grove Summit I was faced with crossroads. Again by chance and picking a prominently marked route I descended into the ghost town of Rockland.  Rockland Canyon dropped precipitously to the valley bellow. I had some reservations in that I did look forward to climbing back up the canyon if this proved to be the best route back to my vehicle. These doubts are common when exploring a new area.

Descent into Rockland

Very steep and a long way down to the valley bellow

Rockland mining structure

Fixer upper, Rockland mines

Colapsed Rockland

Closed mines for your safety, Rockland

Welcome to OZ, Rockland, Pingrove Hills

Hard rock mining

Once in Pine Grove Flat I felt overcome with “explorers fever”. Like the mountaineers desire to reach the summit at all cost, I started looking around the Cambridge Hills roads knowing they were separating me from the Walker River and beyond. But I have to reel in my ambitions to plan my crossing the Pine Grove Hills to get back to my vehicle. I started my loop to the north but found myself questioning if I had the return climb left in my legs. In all reality I did. But I decided to stay low and loop around the hills following the most prominent roads.

Rancher's heaven

I was distracted to ride off in every direction

Pine Grove Flats looking north

I was so tempted to see what was on the edges of the map

Potential renturn route through Pine Grove site

A bit intimidated by the elevation to return back over the “hills”

Range land, Pine Grove Flats

Such potential to ride

I passed the road that climbs to the ghost town of Pine Grove. But I was intimidated by the steep mountain walls. I worked my way to the north and was pleased to see signage with mileage to Scotts and Mickey Canyons. These are areas to explore on a future trip. I was a little disappointed  assuming I would have to finish my ride on the highway. I climbed one road hoping it might connect me to a network of roads through the hills but it petered out to a game trail I was unable to follow. But eventually I was able to turn onto Hudson-Aurora Rd. which brought me most of the way back to the car on dirt.

Mickey Canyon, Pine Grove Hills

I super appreciate signs in the wilderness

Route to the north of Pine Grove Hills

I chose the longer flatter route home

Choices near the end of the ride, Pine Grove Hills

Route decision time, late in the ride

Sonora Emigrant Trail Marker, Pine Grove Hills

I love finding these

Looking East, Pine Grove Hills

Heavy skies

Popular OHV, Mickey Canyon, Pine Grove Hills

Reminded me of Death Valley

End of the road, Pine Grove Hills

I was hoping for a road into the hills to link up with Nye Canyon. Maybe if I were a deer.

I finished at twilight and and felt very accomplished by the day’s journey. I looked at what I carried with me and thought I need to cut it by 1/2. I wore a typical cycling kit plus knee warmers. I carried and wore when necessary a windshirt (Sherpa Shirt by Marmot), a waterproof shell (Alterra Jacket by Belwether), a windbreaker (Hoodini by Patagonia), a wind vest, appropriate head gear and several pair of gloves by varying weights. I have a fairly comprehensive first aid kit, bike repair kit, as well as 4.5 L of water.  I really need to optimize what I carry.

What I carried, Pine Grove Hills

Three jackets and a vest, time for critical thinking.

2017 Freewheeling to the End, 2018 Shifting Gears!

Rugged canyons to explore, Dead Camel Mtns

Rugged canyons to explore, Dead Camel Mtns

Without this blog I would be riding about the desert just as I have been for the last three years but this outlet has made it all the richer. Looking back a year ago I was reflecting on the crisis of loosing our public lands, especially the protection of our wilderness. So one goal of mine was to focus on our wilderness and wilderness study areas and showcase them on my rides. My wilderness area focus for 2017 will always be an underlying theme for this blog. Nevada spoils the outdoor enthusiast with its abundance of public lands.

Between Wildernesses

High Rock Cyn and Little High Rock Cyn Wildernesses

I have enjoyed being a part of the outdoor blogging community. A few writers seem to be away from their keyboards. I hope this is temporary as I do miss their adventures. I have “met” so many writers this year and I am grateful for their insight and influence on Bikepacking Norther Nevada. I am excited for their shared stories in 2018.

Strange parking job, Hunter Lake Rd

As it gets steeper things get stranger

The “who I have ridden with” of 2017 was richer than ever! I organized a few rides from the end of 2016 to the beginning 2017 with my shop coworkers for the days we were closed in the winter. Mike Pickering brought his kids, Moses and Enola on a fair number of these adventures which really added to the fun. I invited Tracy Marche, Jake and Gillie Francis on a crazy frozen road ride out of Middlegate, NV. Our time warming in the bar was the best. Of course there were adventures with Dean Magnuson, but unfortunately he has moved to the Portland, OR area with the promise of it being temporary. Of course there were rides and even a S24O with Raymond Eliot. Wildlife biologist and longtime friend, Pete Risler, took me on an adventure to Little High Rock Canyon Wilderness. My mountain bike and road riding partner over the last 5 years, Brandon Anderson, decided he wanted to get into the desert riding game. During the last three months of ’17 we logged some incredible miles and explored some new areas. I organized a ride with local photographer/artist Chris Carnel. My newest riding partner is Brandi Withers, a new to northern Nevada cyclist. She is getting an eye-full and ear-full about the northern Nevada landscape. I feel the community of backroad explorers is growing and social media is getting us connected. The next step is getting connected on the road. I am excited for new collaborations in 2018.

Post ride food, drink and cheer!

Jake and Gillie finding feeling in their toes

Mike checks in with Enola

Mike and Enola, pilot and co-pilot communication

Bikepacking mentoring

Moses assisted by Dean’s firm arm and kind words

Carnel Arrives, MGL Mines

Chris Carnel arrives in early afternoon shadows

Winter ruts and rocks

Raymond Eliot follows my questionable line

Pete in the saddle

Pete Rissler coming up Smokey Canyon from the bottom of Little High Rock Canyon

The weather this year definitely impacted my riding. 2017 was the wettest and snowiest on record followed by the record hottest, smashing the record number of days over 90 degrees. Smoke from fires near and far added to the difficulty to ride. The impact also was seen in the terrain. Erosion and flooding was severe in most places I rode. The scars from fire season are heart wrenching as our wildlands are so slow to recover. My hat comes off to the land managers who have worked so hard to mitigate the damage we saw this year.

Roots Rut 1

Heavy winter closed this forest road.


A little snow fall to obscure the rut and roots

In reviewing my rides of the year on Garmin I could see the weather’s impact on the total number of rides. But in review I would say there was quality over quantity. There were a few outings not included in this space because there were outside the scope of Bikepacking Northern Nevada. I took a family vacation to the Grand Canyon. While staying in Williams, AZ I explored a couple of dirt roads in the Kaibab National Forest. I felt that area was ripe for bikepacking and exploration. Brandon Anderson and I did a three day road riding odyssey using Silver Creek Campground off Hwy 4 near Markleeville, CA as a base camp. Again my thoughts lead to the possibilities for bikepacking with a gravel bike to take advantage of paved and unpaved roads through the less popular parts of the Sierra.


Brandon Anderson recovering from a long hot day on Monitor Pass

Some of the highlighted routes for 2017 were:

  • Brunswick Canyon, Pine Nut Mountains
  • Pah Rah Range North
  • Little High Rock Canyon
  • Winnamucca Lake Loop
  • Sunrise Pass Loop, Pine Nut Mountains
  • Soldier Meadows Rd
  • Pine Grove Loop, Pine Grove Hills
  • Dry Valley Rim WSA

In looking at the big picture I need to start driving further to fill the the empty spots on the map. I need to explore the roads around Yerington to Walker Lake. As the crow flies, a sweeping arc from 50-100 miles from Reno would give me more than enough opportunities to fill 2018. Nevada towns such as Winnemucca, Battle Mountain and Austin, NV are great half-way-across the state destinations for starting rides. I am excited!


Hope to see you riding in 2018

One plan for 2018 will be to host a Rendezvous for bikepackers, fat bikers, gravel grinders, and anyone interested in exploring Nevada’s backroads by bike. The venue will be BLM’s Dry Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Area. The trails in that area are along the Dry Valley Rim Wilderness Area and the Smoke Creek Desert. Participants will be encouraged to spend the night or just come out and explore for the day. While the planning is in its infancy I am shooting for the first weekend in April, 6-8.

Dog Valley Days; What do they mean to you?

Another peek at Dog Valley

A feeling of Peavine Peak wrapping around Dog Valley

Geographic names become funny as you study maps, talk to locals, then confuse them in your own mind. Dog Valley is one of many examples I have encountered in my travels in northern Nevada. When I here people “rode Dog Valley” I first make certain assumptions then I am eager to find out more. I have written about Dog Valley rides here( and here) but always with the same hesitation, Dog Valley is in California, and always use the same justification, it is one of the most popular areas for a wide variety of recreational opportunities in all four seasons for Reno locals. My Dog Valley write-up has been the most viewed post of 2017. But what is Dog Valley?


Dog Valley Meadow December 2017

Dog Valley, CA

Dog Valley Meadow November 2014


Dog Valley Meadow September 2017


Dog Valley Meadow August 2017


The Meadow at ground level


Great information kiosk

Off Bridge Street (where it turns into Hill Lane) in Verdi, NV just above the one lane bridge over the Truckee River and the tiny bridge over Dog Creek is Dog Valley Rd. But it is also known as Henness Pass Rd and there are even road signs that indicate so. Occasionally I hear it miss referred to as “Hennessey Pass.” But if you want cognac it is strictly bring your own. After a mile the pavement ends and you climb for a couple miles and 1000′ in elevation into the Toiyabe National Forest. From “Summit One” you have several choices, the most popular being to descend to the Dog Valley proper or continue on Henness Pass Rd to “Summit Two” and on to Stampede Reservoir. Alternatively you can climb on Sunrise Creek Rd into the Verdi Range, around Beacon Peak above Sunrise Creek and descend to Summit Two. Your efforts are rewarded with great views of the Truckee River going past Verdi to Reno.


Crystal Peak Cemetery off Dog Valley Rd in Verdi, NV

...adventure begins

The Pavement Ends, adventure begins


Brandi Withers at Summit One

Summit 2 Henness Pas Rd.

Raymond Eliot at Summit 2

I recommend descending to Dog Valley. The road along the east side of the meadow takes you past an information kiosk that lets you know what you are looking at and its environmental significance. In my minds eye the valley expands north and descends into Long Valley. But the truth is quite different. The north end of the valley tips up into a forested volcanic terrain at Mitchell Canyon. The near solitude in the forest was only interrupted by a party out gathering wood. Otherwise the bird chatter was remarkable. If Dog Valley is not known to birders it should be. While I am not a birder I would love to spend some time with the initiated to start my own Dog Valley species list. The naturalist will be at home in Dog Valley.


All good choices from Summit One

Descending Long Valley Rd

Descending from Summit One to Dog Valley Meadow


Aspen canopy before fall color change


Far too many road choices to be explored in a day



Looping around on Long Valley Rd

The terrain changes one more time as the road steeply descends to Long Valley with views of the Cold Springs community. You will quickly descend on sandy U-shaped jeep road beds to the Long Valley Rd junction with Dog Valley Rd. This area has a group  campsite occupied by a group of OHV users. Continuing the loop on Dog Valley Rd has opportunities to hang out creek side, climb through aspen groves, and explore roads off the main loop. You will loop around to the turn-off for Crystal Mine.


Views from the north end of Dog Valley

Dog Creek

Great spots to stop along Dog Creek


Tahoe skies


Famed Crystal Mine, you are driving/standing/walking/riding on a mountain of quartz

Bellow Babbitt Peak is a mountain of quartz crystal. Here you are allowed to remove a bucket of crystal treasures. Have at it! People have collected fantastic rocks here. It is common in this area to be traveling on road beds of quartz crystal. Rock hounding abounds! Crystal Mine and Crystal Peak are often confused. I ran into a party on the road below Crystal Peak looking for the mine. They were miles away.

Crystal Pk

Crystal Peak Knob

Looking north to Haskell Pk

Great decomposed granite descent coming up.

Leaving Crystal Mine you will pass Lookout Campground. There is a great double track behind the campground to explore. You can finish the loop back to Summit One but I like climbing road 009 to Summit Two. Beyond Summit Two it can be a quick descent to Stampede Reservoir.  Stampede Reservoir is only 22 miles by bike from downtown Reno. Alternatively Forest Service Road 72 south from Summit Two’s 5-way junction will take you above Hoke Valley and Stampede Reservoir.


Decent signage approaching Summit Two from Stampede Reservoir

Road 72 has shown it vulnerability to the elements after this winter’s record precipitation. But the places you will go! You can climb to Verdi Peak, descend to Boca Rest campground, East Boca Canyon and Hoke Valley. I always have an eye out for spots to grab a S24O (Sub-24 hr Overnight camping) opportunity and there are several off FS-72.


A small creek crossing on FS-72

Inviting rock groto

Warm light gives a false sense of security before a long ride home at dusk

Forest through the trees

Above Stampede Reservoir

It is no wonder Dog Valley means so much to so many northern Nevadans. I saw families out for day hikes with small children. I have been passed by numerous 4×4/OHV enthusiasts. I have seen wood collectors, rock hounds, hunters, and Christmas tree cutters. I have passed hikers, snowshoers, and cross country skiers. My friend Jake Francis has done multiple S24O’s in Dog Valley, often during the most unlikely of seasons. My friends Jude Mayne and Cary Shales will take Henness Pass Rd to Smithneck Rd to continue on to Loyalton in the Sierra Valley. This is an outstanding gravel grind. My friends Greg Burge and Will Lumpkin have fly fished the creeks that flow through and around the valley. Other groups have biked and drove to the campgrounds for a quick overnight. I have taken friends and family to Dog Valley for delightful picnics and poking around for crystal treasures.


Emigrant Trail Marker


Horseback and covered wagon travelers


A quick dip in Stampede Reservoir

Whatever your Dog Valley is I encourage you to get out there. If you don’t know Dog Valley go find that secret spot to make it yours.

Ride Report; Along the Calico Mtns Wilderness

Getting Closer, Calico Hills

The places Soldier Meadows Rd can take you, Calico Hills

Old Razorback Mtn

Later in the day, sunburst over Old Razorback Mtn

My first experience on Soldier Meadows Rd was our Reno Bike Project staff retreat in 2015. We drove out in the dark, set up camp, but woke up in a surreal landscape. Ever since that trip I have been tracing Soldier Meadows Rd in satellite view on my computer wanting to get back there. But I must say the images I had in my head based on what I saw on the computer screen had me less than enthused to spend hours grinding out that road. But it is such a significant route in the area I had to go!

Across the Black Rock, Old Razorback Mtn

A wet playa between us and Old Razorback Mtn


Mini-playa dwarfed by Granite Range and Black Rock Desert

Raymond Eliot and I made the drive through Gerlach and north on SR 34 to the Soldier Meadows turn-off. When the pavement ends the adventure begins. Raymond and I have many adventures chronicled here, the biggest being our trip along Smoke Creek Desert. Choosing a riding partner has as much to do with compatibility on the ride as with the 4+ hours in the car and deciding which bar to stop at after the ride (although on this trip Bruno’s Country Club was the only choice).

Ray Eliot and Mormon Dan Pk

Ray Eliot and Mormon Dan Pk

Riddled with caves and pockets

It would be fun to see if these caves are home to bats leaving at dusk

Rolling out was far more eye-opening than I had imagined. We were above Hualapai Flat and Fly Ranch as well as a wet Black Rock Desert. Ahead of us were the Calico Hills behind us the Granite Range. The road was in excellent condition. Although we were on mountain bikes, gravel bikes would have been great. The vastness of the landscape is apparent as distant features advance very slowly. It was great recognizing familiar features across the playa such as the Selenite Range, Old Razorback Mountain, and Black Rock Point.

Climbing on the north edge of wilderness

Good roads, will continue this route at some date

Turn around, Calico Hills

Get off and explore by foot

We turned off the road to climb up to Jackass Flats. This was our turn-around distance for the day. Twenty-five miles in, 25 miles out, reasonable days journey. There were so many side options to explore. While we were on the edge of wilderness defined as roadless tracts there were the occasional roads that brought you into the wilderness and then at that point you could explore on foot. There were options to cross the playa to Black Rock Point and now that is on the “must-do” list. I will get back here to loop the Calico Mtns Wilderness at some point.

Designated Route

To Fly Ranch from Soldier Meadows Rd

Ray Eliot, Soldier Meadows Rd

Rider is life size, Nevada wilderness is bigger than life size

On our drive back we stopped in at our familiar watering hole, Bruno’s Country Club. After Bruno’s passing the bar had been remodeled. I am not a big fan of change but the Picon Punch was just as refreshing.

Ride Report; Simpson Rd and Dead Camel Mtns

Sandy choices, Lahontan Reservoir

Is there a choice here, gravel bikes are not keen on sand

When storms hit northern California and western Nevada it is often a game of watching the storm tracks and making the best educated guess as where to ride. Just the day before Brandon Anderson and I rode out of Quincy, CA in a cold windy rainstorm. Chalk that up to adverse conditions training. For today’s ride we started looking as far east as Middlegate but decided to take a chance on the Lahontan Reservoir area. Simpson Rd has always been on my list of rides. It is best known as the Pony Express Route.

180 deg of Simpson Rd, Pony Express

180 deg of Simpson Rd, Pony Express

I traced a couple of loops in the area and went with a quote shaped bubble into the Dead Camel Mountains. We were super impressed with the condition of the roads. Much of the route was carved out of the ancient lake bed, hard and buffed smooth like fresh tarmac. Much of the road bed was bellow the surrounding land. I can only imagine what a mud bog Simpson Rd could present. After about 11 miles of tailwind assisted cruising we headed north into the hills.

Mini playa

Mini playa between Dead Camel Mtn and Desert Range

Flowery Range, north of Lahontan Res

Flowery Range, north of Lahontan Res

We passed a couple of mini-playas. The road surface changed between clay, rock and sand. Luckily the roads never made us wish we were on anything other than our gravel bikes. We did encounter the occasional pitch that was too steep to ride. But we were always rewarded by views of rugged canyons and mountain ranges across broad flats.

Rugged canyons to explore, Dead Camel Mtns

Rugged canyons to explore, Dead Camel Mtns

Across to Fallon

Across to Fallon

The Nipple

The Nipple, Dead Camel Mtns

With views of Lahontan Reservoir we descended a very sandy track to the ancient lake bed. Luckily this was the descent. The sandy track had us surfing our bikes through the soft stuff. There would have been no way to climb this track with 700x40c tires. The ride back to our start was spent in the reflection of a high quality day. By the numbers the day’s temperatures were in the upper 30’s to lower 40’s, breezy, damp, but improving through the day.

Scouting out a route, above Lahontan Res

Scouting out a route, above Lahontan Res

Exit, Dead Camel Mtns

Exit, Dead Camel Mtns

When I return to the area I would like to see how far I can stay on the Pony Express Route. To cover the distance I think plus sized tires would be in order. There is too much variety in the desert roads to rely on anything narrower. I would like to explore the Desert Mountains as well as the White Throne Mountains. This is just my first ride in the area.

Sunset on Carson River

Glowing Cottonwoods on Carson River

I highly recommend Bike Carson’s write-ups for more information on this area.