From our Barlett Peak Peak walk the day after Christmas. Can you spot Larry clambering down that rock?
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.
By Daniel Montero
“Up and down the rugged mountain side I searched, with always increasing interest and always augmenting gratitude that I had come to Humboldt and come in time. Of all the experiences of my life, this secret search among the hidden treasures of silver-land was the nearest to unmarred ecstasy. It was a delirious revel.” Mark Twain, from Roughing It. While in this passage Twain is really setting up a joke, I can’t help but feel what he feels in this passage when I am in Nevada’s desert mountains.
Especially in the two Renee and I visited in the late spring of 2016: Star Peak in the Humboldt Mountains and King Lear Peak in the Jackson Mountains. Both of them are true guideposts to this vast part of Northern Nevada and had long beckoned us, especially the imposing volcanic rock faces of King Lear. I grew up looking at it across the desert valley. It always was there on the periphery of my life and with its imposing faces and with its suggestive and romantic name, it always lit my imagination.
Star Peak, and the Humboldt Mountains, was famously visited by Mark Twain and written about in Roughing It. While Twain had only comic luck in his prospecting attempts in the mountain, the mountain did have important mineral discoveries, and it was from the heart of this, the ghost town (well, not even really a ghost town although there are some mining remains and stone foundations) was where we started the hike, going past the big tailings, pits and shafts of the Queen of Sheba Mine. It was a beautiful spring day and we climbed the mountain in grand fashion and high spirits, with Twain’s “unmarred ecstasy.” On the descent it was hot enough that we shed our shoes and soaked our sore feet in the cold rushing water of Star Creek. Many many stars on this one!
After a rest day in between, we set out with a friend to climb King Lear. It is a glorious majestic and steep climb (well, Star Peak was no slouch in that either). We approached it from its western face, off of Jackson Creek Road, and despite sneezing fits with the newly emerging summer pollen, we also climbed it in grand fashion, especially the breathtaking cliff faces of the upper summit climb was, as Twain wrote, “a delirious revel.”
From the summit the vast Black Rock Playa spread out below us and peaks ringed us, including, off to the southeast, Star Peak, but peaks, peaks all around. King Lear is of course, a literary reference. But why King Lear? In Nevada Place Names, Helen Carlson refers to its Shakespearean origin, but to me that only begs the question. Why among all of Shakespeare's hundreds of characters, why King Lear, why the betrayed father driven mad? I don’t know the answer to this, but in the imagination of Gloucester, who, blinded, believes he will jump from the heights of the cliffs of Dover, there are descriptions that do seem to fit King Lear Peak:
“There is a cliff, whose high and bending head
Looks fearfully in the confined deep:
Bring me but to the very brim of it,
And I'll repair the misery thou dost bear
With something rich about me: from that place
I shall no leading need.”
And later, Edgar’s description to the confused Gloucester:
“Come on, sir; here's the place: stand still. How fearful
And dizzy 'tis, to cast one's eyes so low!
The crows and choughs that wing the midway air
Show scarce so gross as beetles: half way down
Hangs one that gathers samphire, dreadful trade!
Methinks he seems no bigger than his head:
The fishermen, that walk upon the beach,
Appear like mice; and yond tall anchoring bark,
Diminish'd to her cock; her cock, a buoy
Almost too small for sight: the murmuring surge,
That on the unnumber'd idle pebbles chafes,
Cannot be heard so high. I'll look no more;
Lest my brain turn, and the deficient sight
Topple down headlong.”
I can feel some of King Lear in these descriptions, but I don’t know. Does anyone out there have any ideas?
We started down into the afternoon and, as a writer for the WPA Guide to Nevada wrote in the 1930s about the Jacksons: “At sunset in this silent land, light changes so swiftly that one evening may be filled with 100 variations of color and pattern. Occasional quivering mirages project themselves against the hills.”
Books In This Post
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
My next excursion into the black was also my first excursion into the white of 2017. In late September I took a day off from work and ventured out to Stateline Peak, the high point of the Fort Sage Mountains east of 395 around Doyle, California. The mountain is one of the farther ones from Reno that can be seen from places in the Truckee Meadows and of course it has an interesting name and an interesting position on the stateline, but also wedged between the Sierra front toward Susanville and the Virginia Mountains bordering Pyramid Lake. An island of a mountain.
I had climbed up on its flank when I rode to the ranch with Coco a few years back, and had caught it just at dusk before plunging on a dark ride into the Fish Springs Valley and my meeting with Grub, but that is another story altogether. When I passed there, the peak had seemed very close, and thought that the road I had followed out would give me good access, so I drove out along Fish Springs Valley and found my road without any problem.
It had stormed the night before and there had been snow on the summit, which I admired as I drove north on 395 and around on Fish Springs Valley road.
What I hadn’t realized was that this side of the mountain had burned in the summer and then had been heavily rained on, so my access road was more of a wash than a road, especially in the Subaru. I went as far as I could but it was definitely testing the Subaru limits more than I like. The day was threatening as well and the summit was white, if I made it high enough I would be in the snow. Why wouldn’t I make it high enough? Well, I felt like I’d parked OK, but it had been a place that washed, so if it started raining, I was definitely booking it back to the car and getting out!
After that, the climb was straightforward, an old mining road wound up a ways to a cool old mine shaft and then it was just climbing along the ridge. The black had had enough rain that it showed lots of signs of green. The mountain is beautiful granite as well, and the sky show was tremendous, and the darkest of the storm clouds stayed over west, along with a great thunderstorm out over the Smoke Creek Desert.
And then, higher, the first specks of white, and then the world transformed, the wind picked up, and we left the black. The top fringe of the mountain had escaped the fire.
On the way down we detoured by a single juniper adorned with snow like a frosted Christmas Tree. Fire comes, the black is created, I walk through it today, rain and snow come and then green returns, tracks of some critters, shelters among the skeletons of the last fire. Life always returns, the black is only temporary, as total and all-encompassing at it seems to walk through.
By Daniel Montero
The black, in firefighter speak, is the charred earth where the fire has already passed. Every year sees the creation of new black in Nevada, and this year’s busy wildfire season has been no exception. For firefighters, the black means safety, a place the fire will never catch you as it cannot chase its own tail. For others it means destruction, emptiness, finality. The starkness of the desert is even greater in the black, and the reminder of the frailty of existence. Getting out exploring the desert like we do, we have walked on the black many times, but this year we have had three unique experiences in the black that I will share in a trilogy of posts.
Early this spring, before the fire season even started, we had our first experience of the black. We went out to camp in the Desatoya Mountains east of Middlegate at the mouth of Big Den Creek. We were able to arrive much earlier than the rest of our group and so we left the car and started to hike generally toward Desatoya Peak. From the camp spot we could see the evidence of recent fire, but it wasn’t until we climbed higher that it’s enormity revealed itself. Climbing we stayed north and generally west of the black, but on the way down we descended straight into it. It was early enough on a wet spring—and the fire must have been late—because there was no growth at all. Big snowdrifts remained on the steep slopes and the contrast between early spring, white snow, and usually summertime black was especially striking in the high basin of Big Den Creek. Along the creek itself what had been a large grove of aspens were only skeletons breaking the line of sky and mountain. In the early spring it is common to walk among unbudded trees, but this was different, the starkness harder somehow, less buffered by the promise of life.
By Renee Aldrich originally posted on womenbewild.org on 10/19/16
I stepped off the trail to take a piss. I looked up and an old pine tree caught my eye, I smiled and said "Hello, old timer." As I started to walk away the old tree grabbed my arm tightly and said "I may be rugged in my beauty, but I am fragile in my nature. I am holding on to this life, holding on with everything that I've got, but my time here is limited, it is almost out. I need you, we need you. We need you to stand strong and fight. Fight for those of us who have no voice. Fight for future generations so we can live and thrive. You are us and we are you. Do not forget."
Most anyone who knows us will know that Renee loves to handstand in all sort of funny/crazy locations and I love to take pictures of her (check out the Instagram hashtag #reneehandstands to see many of them). It is so amazing that we can be exhausted climbing a peak or swimming a river somewhere and yet—always—at the idea of a handstand, Renee is ready to go.
And the Internet teaches you all sorts of things, and one it taught us this year is that June 24 is International Handstand Day. So Renee was determined to celebrate it, and I was a more than happy accomplice. It fell on a day that we were slated to ride all day helping my family move cattle from one summer pasture to the next. A long, hot, incredibly exhausting day. But we were determined to play along, despite the incredulous comments of my mom, especially, who said I should do the handstands (to hilariously terrible results, although one day I will learn to at least approximate a handstand). So on a day that we were moving about three or four hundred cattle across the high desert mountains we stopped again and again for Renee to do handstands. I am so filled with fortune to spend the days of my life with a life-partner-in-crime so full of life and the fun of it.
Today’s Fun Photo Friday comes from yesterday! I have to work this weekend so I took Thursday off to climb State Line Peak, the highest point in the Fort Sage Mountains, east of 395 at Doyle, California. With the storm of the night before, you could see snow up high and I was determined even if we didn’t make the summit, we would make it to snow. And we did! This little palm-sized bit was my first new snow of 2017-2018, seen on September 21!
This blog is dedicated to stories and ideas from our explorations. We hope you enjoy!
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