Another beautiful little stroll on one of our Reno backyard trails, Huffaker Hills. Reno is surrounded by fun trails of various lengths and difficulty. It’s one of the things we love about this area!
We hope you are are able to get out this weekend and enjoy some trails!
Job’s Sister, the name is enigmatic, the terrain exotic, the form sinuous. At 10,8233 feet elevation, it is the second highest peak in the Lake Tahoe Basin, only sixty feet lower than Freel Peak, its nearest neighbor. It has spectacular views of Lake Tahoe, the desert mountains to the east, and the Sierras to the south. But none of these are the reason why I love the place so much.
The first time I visited her was November 23, 2005. Less than a month earlier we had learned that my father had brain cancer, he had already had surgery to remove the tumor and while he hung on to life, he was a husk now, lost, slipping away quickly into the ether. It was the day before I would go to the ranch for Thanksgiving--the first in my life when I would be there and he wouldn’t—and I had some free time so I decided to explore.
Earlier in the summer, before the news about my dad, I had camped near Markleeville and the Freel/Job’s Sister/Job’s area had caught my eye. I had little idea about it, about the names of the peaks or their elevations or their trails or anything, but something about the white wind-whipped summits called to me. So, on that pre-Thanksgiving day, I set off with Dusty and Coco to explore. I didn’t start early. When I found a dirt road from Luther Pass that seemed to go toward the mountains, I pulled over and stopped. It didn’t look like my Honda Civic would make the first steep rocky grade, so I parked at the turn and started walking up the road toward the mountains. (It turns out the steepest and rockiest part of the road is the very beginning, but I had no way of knowing that then, nor was I sure the Honda would have liked it much anyway.)
My companions were in fine spirits, and it was a beautiful clear late fall morning. We climbed up along the road through pine forest and leafless aspen groves and then left it behind as we cut up past mountainside springs and through steep pine forest. It had snowed that year and there were drifts in places among the trees, but for the most part it was still a dry year and the way was clear. An advantage of walking with no plan and little forethought is that each turn, vista, path, et cetera is a revelation and a leap into the unknown. And the unknown was what I was leaping into: the unknown of helping to care for my father, the greater unknown of what life would be like when he was gone. He had been the rock and the support for everything in my life and it simply had never occurred to me that I might lose him. I, recently back from the East Coast, more or less new to walking alone, more or less tethered in Nevada, more or less employed, seemed much more like a balloon ready to float away than my father who, other than a stint at UNR and the Korean War, had never been away from the ranch for more than two weeks at a time in his life. I couldn’t even begin to imagine losing him. And yet the reality was that I was going to lose him, had in fact already lost him. He was still breathing, but he was gone.
I don’t remember the exact route we followed, it definitely wasn’t a trail, but I know that we climbed, straight up the big ridge toward the treeline and the big rock escarpments jutting from the otherwise coarse ground slope. One step at a time, up, up, up. Climbing becomes hypnotizing in a way, moving a step forward when going up a steep slope becomes the sum total of reality and existence for me, and in the midst of a big climb there is no future or past, no advance or retreat—there is only climbing. So much so that it was almost a surprise when I crested the ridge at what I now know is the crest summit between Freel Peak and Job’s Sister that I call the Dragon Spine, but that doesn’t have a name on any map I know.
Just as suddenly, the world transformed. Light seemed to pour from the granite sand, shining through wind-sculpted drifts pressed against the lines of the mountain and the wind-shaped junipers across the slope. And, from there, looking like nothing so much as a giant ramp, an exorbitant jumping off point into the future was Job’s Sister, pointed east, toward the desert, toward my home. It seemed a place both out of time, and also the launching point for time.
I didn’t climb Job’s Sister that day, I didn’t stand at its summit until the next summer. The day was late, we were tired and we had a long walk all the way back to the highway, but I went down in good spirits, the future seemingly just a little bit more manageable than it had been at the beginning of the day. I have carried Job’s Sister with me since that day when I walked toward it as I walked into the unknown and returned just a little bit more confident in my own ability to handle what was coming, whether I wanted it to or not. That was the beginning of my love affair with Job’s Sister (and with Freel, and with Job’s), an affair that I hope will never end as long as I continue to make my way along the unknowable path that is the course of a life.
Dan and I have been to this area several times looking for petroglyphs and have found some here and there, but mostly few and far between. We went back last weekend and found a bunch. We were so giddy to find them. If you go exploring for and find petroglyphs please, please, please treat them with respect. Here is a link for some types on how to be responsible in these areas: https://www.basinandrange.org/archeological-sites.html
We finally had a decent snow down on the valley floor. We decided to head to one of our favorite local haunts, Washoe Lake, and enjoy the snow and the views. On one of our hikes, we found an gorgeous arrowhead point, left it where we found it of course. We also lost my Buff on Saturday, but found it when we returned on Sunday. We visited the pond at Davis Creek, checked out the Bellevue pulloff, hiked Deadman’s Loop, and spent a bunch of time hiking and relaxing in the sand dunes-we may have even had a snowball fight or two. It was a wonderful weekend, filled with a very full Washoe Lake!
The Quilici Ranch Rd section of the Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway is one of our favorite places to go when we want a fairly flat, shaded place to hike or ride our bikes. It has great views of the Truckee River and even though the trail’s fairly close to I-80 and the train tracks it still feels like you’re out in the wild. You will likely have a train pass by every once and awhile, which we think adds to the fun!
And a modest proposal
By Daniel Montero
What a difference a year makes! Marlette Lake Road climbs from Carson City’s Lakeview neighborhood up to Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park. The road might not even be called Marlette Lake Road, on Google Maps it is labeled Tanks Road, and meets up with Franktown Creek Road, and then higher still, there is a Marlette Lake Road mentioned, but I am going to call it all Marlette Lake Road, because, well, I can. I stumbled across it by chance, although Renee spent her teenage years here and remembers the road as the hardest mountain biking road in the world.
Last winter on a Sunday afternoon I decided to go down to it and see how far I could walk just in snow boots, without my snowshoes. It was a sunny, but windy day, and the fresh snow blew in swirls and gusts all around me. I climbed up as high as the first meadow (around 6,200 feet) where someone else’s snowshoe track I had been following filled in and I decided to turn back to visit Washoe Lake State Park.
This past weekend I decided to return to the road. This time I embarked in sneakers and decided I would turn back wherever I made it to snow that was higher than my shoe. I passed the place I had turned back last year with nary a snowball in sight, and only reached the first road drifts at 7,600 feet, and this hard packed and only in spots. This year, I also have a companion, Larry, and despite the dryness of the season we walked together in companionable high spirits. We had lunch in a sunny glade alongside Hobart Creek Reservoir in what I have decided to call a “late, late Sierra fall.”
After lunch, we climbed the granite point east of the reservoir, a point on my Topo Maps that is called called “point 8208,” but that I think deserves a name, being the highest of the rocky outcrops on this far eastern ridge of the Carson Range. So, without further ado, because his father’s sheep camp was in the area, I propose it as Robert Laxalt Peak. If there is another Robert Laxalt Peak, well, then, my apologies, but I like my name, especially thinking about these rocky knolls and ridges being the places where he would drive around looking for his father, maybe he clambered up here looking for Dominique, or just for the heck of it.
We sat on the little summit for a little while, watching the afternoon advance from a sunny and warm place in the granite fortress.
"It was late afternoon and the shadows long when I started the walk down to my car," Robert Laxalt, Sweet Promised Land.
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Sweet Promise Land, Robert Laxalt
Written by Renee Aldrich
As I mentioned in a previous post, we're not peak baggers, but we do like to climb mountains. One of the great thing about exploring desert peaks, especially those without trails, is that many times you don't make your intended destination. It can happen for a number of reasons, there may be unforeseen obstacles that don't show up on maps, unexpected changes in weather, and sometimes there may even be *gasp* human error, such as getting a late start, starting at the wrong location, or forgetting gear--just to name a few.
This past weekend we hiked up Dogskin Mountain north of Reno. It's a relatively easy hike, with a jeep trail most of the way up and the last little stretch that isn't on a trail is fairly smooth, without many obstacles.
Even though it's a relatively easy hike, it took us three attempts to reach the top. The first trip was December 2016. We made it most of the way up, but near the top there was quite a bit of snow. The snow was up to our knees and went back and forth between soft and icy, which made walking in it difficult, We decided we didn't want to deal with the awkward and frustrating walking conditions so we decided to called it.
The second trip was December 2017. We parked and started hiking up the canyon. Roughly an hour or so into the hike we and by we I mean Dan, realized that we were in the wrong canyon. A fire had come through the area since our last attempt and things looked quite a bit different. The canyon we were in was just past the canyon we were supposed to be in. However, it took us quite a bit out of our way. We got up to the ridge, where we had great views of the Petersen Range and surrounding desert, but unfortunately Dogskin Mountain was bit farther off than we had time for.
Our third try, January 2018, we finally made it to the tope. There was a bit of ice and snow down low in the shaded canyon, but up high there was not much snow at all. We parked at the right spot and headed up the right canyon. Conditions were great, a sunny bright day and sitting at the top we had great views and a nice snack and really enjoyed it. And, because we had to work extra hard to make it to the top it made the top all the more enjoyable.
And, as our inside joke goes, "At least we don't have to go back there again!"
Haha, it's a great hike and just an FYI, this is a OHV area and there is a likelihood you'll run into some OHVers. We ran into a few friendly ones on our January 2018 hike.
Our first attempt, December 2016.
Our second attempt, December 2017.
Our third attempt, January 2018, success!
For the most part we had a great 2017. Lots of Kayaking, hiking, riding, friends, family and more! We hope you had a great year and enjoy this video of our year. It's roughly 11 minutes long and even though it's mostly silent, the videos have some noise or us talking in it.
Written by Renee Aldrich
We are spending Christmas week in one of our favorite places, the northwestern corner of Nevada, at the base of the Pine Forest Range.
So far, we’ve enjoyed beautiful skies on our drive up, my mom and sister came to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with us, on Christmas Day we all went up to one of our favorite spots—Chicken Creek, and on the day after Christmas we hiked up Bartlett Peak, a peak in the Black Rock Range. It’s now Wednesday morning and there’s still a lot of fun and adventure to be had!
We hope you all had a great Christmas and Holidays!
by Daniel Montero
I love to walk. For itself, not for exercise, not for a purpose, not even with an end in mind. Just walking. So on the final day of our Southern Nevada/California expedition, with a bit of time on my hands and fresh snow in the Sierra, I decided to go for a walk.
My original intention had been to get all the way home from Bakersfield (the back way) the day before, but then I had gotten tired and stopped in Bridgeport. When I woke up I decided to take the full day off from work (not that I would have made it anyway), and to start the day off with a soak at Buckeye.
With my only object for the day now to get from Bridgeport back to Reno, and with the higher parts of the Sierra clothed in fresh snow, I drove north looking for likely walking places, of which there is no shortage. I took Little Walker Road, a few miles before the turn off for Sonora Pass (which was already closed), and drove as far as I liked in the Prius, to about Obsidian Campground. It was a warm, sunny day, and I had no object, no destination, no end goal other than to wander a bit among the mountain meadows that spread around me.
I followed the road up a little, but then ducked off. There was snow, in patches, but more than less, and the basin I was in was dotted with willow and aspen. As I walked I realized that it has been a while since I’ve done this, that many of our recent hikes have had a purpose, been toward a peak or other mark, and while we are not obsessed with ends rather than means, it still is a different thing to be just wandering with nowhere to go. In this case, even more so than normal, the end is the journey, and it was a pure pleasure to just pick where I was going based on exactly where I wanted to go, not because I was headed somewhere. Of course, avoiding marshes and finding creek crossings was essential, and I did point toward rocky points or winter meadows, and was turned back by a No Trespassing sign near Cow Camp Creek, which I only knew because of a ranch painted sign and because I looked it up for this writing. (Speaking of, now that I have looked, I realized that I spent most of the day along the eloquently and somewhat terrifyingly named Poison Creek.)
I don’t need rules for walking (even the absence of a rule becoming a rule eventually), and probably the next time I got out it will be toward a peak or some petroglyphs, but it was such a nice reminder that sometimes the best destination is no destination at all.
This blog is dedicated to stories and ideas from our explorations. We hope you enjoy!
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