Monday, June 13, 2011

Middle of NVwhere

Murphy and I disappeared into the depths of Nevada over Memorial Day weekend. The idea was to spend some quality time exploring a couple of wilderness areas, and I'd like to warn you that the next sentence is rather contradictory. I've long implored friends to act on the principle that there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear, but Mutter Natur had other plans for us out in the unpopulated stretches of this great state.

Our continued winter weather pattern was in full effect, and while we had enough gear in the truck to outfit a battalion to safely cross a glacier that was floating down a river during a sandstorm, the incentive to put ourselves deep in the backcountry with no promise of a break in the weather waned past the Empty mark and settled somewhere around Absolute Zero. Which meant that we stayed a little closer to the car and still explored a lot, just not as far down the rabbithole as we would have otherwise. Photos of vaguely-recognizable scenes obscured by driving snow are only cool for a little while.

Our first stop was Lamoille Canyon in the Ruby Mountains, where the road had just "opened" to allow access to 8' snowbanks at the top, which we followed with a lap around the north and east sides of the Rubies. We eventually settled somewhere up the Krenka Creek drainage for our first night, where the ever-present storm cloud started gracing us with snow as the afternoon turned to evening.

Murphy contemplates the muted palette

Freshly melted


Fashion model

Ruby Valley from high above

Krenka Creek

New growth

After a morning excursion high into the snowfields protecting the Soldier Peak basin from Krenka Creek, we continued down the east side of the Rubies towards Ruby Marsh, during which time it pretty much just snowed, and the normally excellent dirt road turned gloppier by the minute.

Somewhere in Ruby Valley, just below snowline

Indian Paintbrush and sagebrush

The snow/sleet/rain/wind combination was keeping even the most hardened outdoorsmen hunkered down for cover, so we pressed on to the south and took a lunch break in Eureka.

Chilly beast

Sage and storm

Restrategizing over some hot food, we decided to visit a hot springs between Eureka and Austin before heading to the Arc Dome Wilderness in the mountains behind Big Smoky Valley. Unfortunately, the hot springs were overrun with RVs (it was a holiday weekend, after all), so we continued nearly 40 miles south in Big Smoky Valley to the North Twin River Trailhead. That 40 mile drive relocated us out from underneath a Mordor-esque storm cloud, so we were happy to be in calmer climes for the first time in 2 days.

Our plan for the morning was to make an early push as high into Arc Dome as we could, and we got the early start we wanted, leaving camp before 5:30am. Unfortunately, our forward progress was thwarted by frequent stream crossings that were swift and deep. They finally got to the prohibitively unsafe level, so we had no choice but to head back to camp, never leaving the deep canyon that held this tumultuous runoff. A closer look at the topo once we were back at camp revealed that we had nearly another dozen crossings to make before we would have attained our goal. This may be a mission for a little bit later in the season!

North Twin River

Contributing to the runoff one drop at a time

Lichen ramparts

Gypsy moth in the making

Murphy goes waist deep

Hummer at ease

Wet and cold from 8 frigid crossings but still in good spirits, we set course for home through the expansive Big Smoky and then Austin. Some thousand miles after leaving Reno Saturday, we got to see some neat stuff, albeit not at all the type of terrain we expected to be exploring. Some years, April and May are early enough to get into the high country, but there'll still be snow in a lot of prize destinations through July or even later this year!


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