Ride Report; Toulon to Blue Wing Flat

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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