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.
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