Sometimes the best and most fruitful explorations are close to home. Photos from Rattlesnake Mountain and Huffaker Hills regional
by Daniel Montero
We have made a little spot alongside Pyramid Lake’s Monument Rock. The water level is very high now. there is almost no beach, and we have spread out our picnic in the shade of some trees along the shore underneath the bulbous northernmost of the two monument tufa structures. We settle in and Renee reads from Michael Branch's new book, How to Cuss in Western, to me.
We have been sick all weekend, irritable, if not grumpy, and the apartment a little too small but the states of ourselves a little too degraded to want to be outside. So we’ve hung on, but then, not sure if we’re feeling better or not, but not really caring either way because we are stir crazy, we decided to excursion out to Monument Rock on Pyramid Lake. It is one of our favorite Pyramid Lake places, high up on the northeast side with great views of the whole span of the lake from the Pyramid and Anaho Island, up to Tohakum, and the Needles up on the north end catch the light. Not only is it a beautiful place, it has a rich personal history for us as well, we’ve camped here many times, on bike tour or just for a night escape from Reno. We saw Perseids here one year with a group of friends, lying in our sleeping bags on the (much larger then) beach watching flares of space rock trace across the sky all night long.
But for one reason or another we haven’t stopped for a few years and it was a great pleasure to see the lake up high and the dry tree skeletons in the water again. There was a car when we arrived but the people left immediately and we had the rest of the afternoon to ourselves. We had our picnic and then left our things in the shade and wandered down along the shore, walking more in the lake than out.
Tufa is for me an extraordinary structure. It is hard, but appears soft. Fully mineral, but with a sense of movement to it that seems organic. It has geometric structure, but geometric structure as imagined by Gaudí, not by Euclid. Speaking of, I don’t know if Gaudí ever saw tufa, but if he had, I bet he would have loved it. The water was clear and the lake almost entirely still on a windless afternoon and so walking in the water with the tufa below was textural overload, a sense of walking in a dreamscape. We stopped out near the favorite of the tree skeletons that have been in that place for years, high up on the sand when I last walked by, but now protruding appendages from an otherwise still water. I've found a child's swimming kickboard along the shore, almost new despite its journey here, and when I resolve to go out to my favorite of the skeletons, Renee tells me I should use it. I don't think the water will get deep, but it does, and I do end up following Renee's directions and kicking myself out to the tree where i climb up onto its bone white truck and balance on its smooth surface. Pyramid is like that, a place whose very austereness is a sort of sensory overload when the mind tries to make sense of it. The whole overwhelms the particular almost completely. At least until you start to see the detail, and then you realize that all of this giant landscape is equally overloaded and you are just a little part of if, tiny, nothing.
We wandered among the afternoon, read in the shade and generally played on a Sunday afternoon. Toward sunset we climbed up on the tufa mounds and watched shadows ascend, filling the places the light had left for the day. Just another play, another day. From away the Monument Rocks look like full masses, but both of them have open spaces on their tops. Up over the lake, under a dome of open sky with the lake ranges as the audiences to our play in the amphitheaters, we are consecrated, ethereal.
The sun gone but our spirits balmed we started back toward Reno, toward our conceptions of the future, while behind us the lake slid into night.
It's so fun to come across interesting and beautiful rocks while out exploring the great, wide open west! We love our public lands!!!
by Daniel Montero
It's a little hard to believe that it is almost Labor Day weekend and summertime explorations are going to turn into fall explorations! It has been a wonderful, busy, hectic, nonstop, marvelous, and, well, in the words of Sublime, "it's summertime and the livin's easy."
The biggest, most hectic, and most marvelous event of the summer was that there was a RaD wedding! Renee and I tied the knot, with Larry as our ring bearer and at Chicken Creek, a camp on the family ranch, and the place where Renee and I first kissed! We'll post more about the wedding, but it was such a fun time and I'm so proud to wear Renee's ring (she made me my wedding ring, it's made out of wood!
I hope your summer was full of fun explorations as well and here's to another full fall, winter, spring, and beyond!
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!
by Daniel Montero
In my last post I introduced my dear readers to the whirlwind that has been the grand ol’ month of me, February. When I last left you, Larry and I had just hiked up into the twisted rock gardens I call The Pillars.
Feathers and a Day with My Mom
The next morning we were due back in Reno, but were in no rush to make the drive back, so we dawdled about in the morning, seeing about helping with clearing old dead willows and junk, but mostly just finding peacock feathers. My mom then came and asked if we would go out and do a little scouting in preview of the upcoming winter gather, so we piled into her truck: my mom, Belle and Sissy on the blanket behind the seat, Barney in her lap, Renee in the middle with Larry alternating between our laps for an excursion up Cherry Creek. My mother is not a person who stops to visit a lot, so this was a really unique opportunity. She has spent her entire adult life (really more even, she was just 20 when she arrived a new bride at the ranch). There is not a piece of this mountain that she has not traversed and most of it has stories: stories of wayward cattle, lost horses, errant children, faithful dogs. So driving the range with her is not only crossing landscape, but also traveling through time. But time does move and we got back to the ranch and packed up for the drive back to Reno.
Larry Gets a Hair Cut
Larry (and, some would argue, Dan) has been in need of a haircut for a while, so it was a super treat to my birthday month that on Monday Renee was able to make him an appointment (same day, no less, lucky for us). We have never really seen him with short hair and it’s been really shaggy this winter, so it was a wonder to see him all cleaned up. You can tell he is happy for the change and is just so adorable and cute that the amount of hygge in our household has gone into super overdrive.
Nighttime walks on Rattlesnake Mountain
This one goes back, really, to Valentines Day, when Renee made a special delicious crock pot meal. Before she got off work we took off from our house and climbed Rattlesnake Mountain in the dark, and then she met us and we did the Huffaker Hills loop before going home to have a great home cooked meal. But throughout the month Larry and I have been going back to walking up there in the dark, three times I think, including tonight, when we visited what I call the Peace Shrine on the northnermost edge of the summit ridge.
An Evening with Willy Vlautin
On Friday a different kind of exploration, to our favorite local bookstore, Sundance Books and Music, to see Reno native author Willy Vlautin read from his new novel, Don’t Skip out on Me and sing songs and just generally put on a really great performance. We were a little late so squeezed up on the staircase, but there wasn’t a bad seat in the house and later we got him to talk with him just a bit about, of things, Robert Laxalt’s boxing days.
Into the hinterlands in the cold and some snow
Some work days and the last weekend of the month was upon us. It has been bitter cold in Reno and while we really wanted to get out and explore, setting up our tent just did not sound fun, so instead we decided to really rough it, on Saturday we called and reserved a room at the Cold Springs Motel in Cold Springs on Highway 50. We had never tried it before and a chance to explore some parts of Nevada that we haven’t. We drove out in the afternoon. In no rush, we just stopped along the way, including a stop at Sand Mountain. Usually a bustling hive of off-roaders, the cold wind had caused a lull and for a short space we had the entire shifting sand to ourselves.
That night, lo and behold, it snowed, we enjoyed dinner at Cold Spring and woke to a white wonderland. We spent the day exploring along Highway 50 and then south along the highway from Middlegate to Gabbs.
by Daniel Montero
It's my birthday month! I turned 44 earlier this month and, while I'm not generally a giant birthday celebrator, there is something about 44 that has really inspired me and it has been a whirlwind month. So much has happened that I want to write about more, but I'm still in media res and so haven't had the time to really focus on one thing above the other! Here are some highlights of the month so far.
This wasn't technically in February, but directly before I had to go to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering for work I took a day and made it to the top of Purgatory Peak in the Selenites. It awesome but quite a challenge, especially navigating the icy rocks and thick brush at the top with Larry.
The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering
I had to go to this for work, where I watched over a booth selling Basque books and emceed a presentation in which I read from Joan Errea and shared the stage with other Center authors. It was quite an adventure being in Elko for this event and I treasured every moment of it. I also, of course, brought my Surly bike, Reggie, to ride around Elko--No way I was going to a Cowboy Poetry Gathering without my steed!
Through Central Nevada from Elko
On my way back from Elko I decided to avoid the freeway and back road across a little part of central Nevada. So I turned south through the Crescent Valley and to Highway 50 near Austin.
Riding to Black Rock Point
My mom had asked if we could come up and help with some major work, during the next week, so on my actual birthday week I decided I'd try to ride my bike to the ranch to help them out. I drove to Gerlach, packed up with Larry riding in my BoB trailer, and set out, but soon changed my plan (which was pretty malleable anyway) and instead of heading toward Soldier Meadows I turned out toward the Black Rock Point. Despite spending so much time in and around the Black Rock, I'd never been out there and it seemed like a perfect birthday celebration. And it was, such a beautiful ride, then night in the shadow of the Black Rock Point. The next day lollygagged around the springs and riding back to Gerlach, where I then drove to the ranch. Then, of course, I had a flat tire in the Subaru on Jungo Road driving to my family's place, haha, but that was nothing to mar this adventure, which I will definitely write/post more about.
Then it was the ranch, where we helped out with one of the hardest days in a year that is full of hard days, running cows through the chute. Not a lot to say about this one, but we made it through with smiles and not too much in the way of mishaps, so all good!
Closing Gates and a Night Under the Stars
The next day, we worked again, this time taking 4-wheelers up and closing the gates so that the cattle won't drift up into the high country too early. It is sort of our annual job, and we pretty much zipped through it, and then afterward we went out into the desert and spent a wonderful night under the stars before making it home to our warm bed.
Hiking the Cliffs
Looking toward Pine Forest from the southeast face, one of the most striking features is The Cliffs, a landscape of granite cliffs and spires, and on the next weekend, visiting my family again, we snuck off for a hike among them. It is an awe-inspiring face, and it was Renee's first time climbing all the way through them and to the very top. The wind was cold and the day bit into our clothes, but we found a sunny glade out of the wind for our lunch and had a great day!
This is my name for a place that is very special to me, in the Black Rock Range. I have wandered this rock garden many times before, but am always able to make it a new hike. It blew icy, dry snow into our faces all day, and Renee, still fighting a cold, stayes home for this one. I think Larry wouldn't have minded staying home either, he looked like an icicle for a good part of the hike, but it was still a great time.
And beyond! The month is still not over and the explorations are sure to keep coming! With Renee feeling better this week and with some days off maybe we’ll head somewhere south and warm(er) ... it’s definitely chilly in Reno this morning!
I love the atmosphere of cold, crisp, evening air mixed with the steam of a natural, wild hot spring.
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!
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!
This blog is dedicated to stories and ideas from our explorations. We hope you enjoy!
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