After a lazy day of driving, I left the Austin area looking for something relatively easy to hike. Sort of on a whim, I turned off towards Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park and then pulled over to hike Ball Rock.
It was a pretty short hike and I found myself at the summit fairly quickly. The sun was warm but it was fairly breezy.
After I summited and looped back around to the van, I continued south to Berlin-Ichthyosaur. I immediately drove up to the fossil site excited to check it out. Unfortunately, tours of the shelter only happen on the weekend (and they charge another $3 on top of your $7 entry fee into the park). I had to content myself with just peering in the windows.
I spent a little time poking around the Berlin townsite before heading further west!
When I started planning my trip to California, I really didn’t have any idea what snow conditions might be like along the way so I didn’t really know what county highpoints, if any, I’d be able to attempt. As it turned out, there was still a significant amount of snow to go along with some fatigue on my part from working so much. I just wasn’t feeling a lot of motivation to climb and more to sit at the van and read a book.
While perusing highpoints in Nevada and California, Mt. Davidson above Virginia City stood out as a good possibility.
I plotted a route near Spanish Gulch up Ophir Hill then wrapping around the ridge to Mt. Davidson. The Jeep road up Ophir Hill was steeper than I expected but I made quick progress knowing that my ridge walk would be a lot more relaxing. I wasn’t wrong:
I did really enjoy the views west towards the mountains of the Tahoe area as I meandered along the ridge. It was mostly snow free and the walking was easy. I made a short little scramble to the top of the mountain and there I was a the top of Storey County.
After a short stay on the summit I headed directly down the face of Davidson. I was hungry and In-N-Out + Great Basin Brewing were calling me from Reno…
Leaving Lehman Caves and Great Basin National Park, I piloted the van onto Highway 50, aka the “Loneliest Highway in America.” I love lonely two lane highways and I was excited about making the drive.
The road did not disappoint. Nevada is the heart of the Basin and Range Province and I really enjoyed the alternation between broad flat valleys and crossing its varied mountain ranges. (I also wanted to climb the highpoints of each and every mountain range but there was definitely snow lingering in the mountains and I lacked my usual 4wd.)
I paused to poke around Ely, Eureka, and Austin but as a combination of Sunday and vacant store fronts, I mostly took walking tours of the main streets.
Just before I reached Austin, I stopped for a dip at a hotspring. The water wasn’t scorchingly hot but it was nice to feel a bit cleaner and take in some mountain views. I thought about sticking around overnight to grab a morning soak as well but the lure of the road was too strong.
I visited Stoke’s Castle near Austin and started looking for a place to spend the night.
Although Nevada is full of public lands, the basins don’t provide much cover for camping so I felt kind of exposed and actually moved camp once because something just Didn’t Feel Right. (I think I was being paranoid but I didn’t really want to stay to find out if I was right or not.)
I don’t often visit National Parks when I’m out traveling. It’s not that I hold the No Puppy Service in low regard but Sprocket’s my adventure buddy and quite frankly, I’ll skip the crowds for BLM or Forest Service land just outside the park to hang with him.
Since he didn’t join me for this trip, I was free for National Park adventures! I spent some time in Arches but my next stop was Great Basin National Park. I’ve been wanting to go to Great Basin and visit the bristlecone pines for ages (and more recently, I’ve really wanted to climb Wheeler Peak); these high mountain adventures were on hold though since the upper slopes of the park were still pretty packed in snow. Instead, I signed up for the Grand Palace Tour in Lehman Cave.
Reservations for the tours are highly recommended so I made mine about a week and a half before I left on my trip. I’m not much for specific time points to be places but I’m really glad I made space for this! The cave tour was just the right length and our ranger was really informative.
This wasn’t my first tour in a limestone cave (I visited Shasta Caverns in 2009 and Carlsbad Caverns in 2010) but I was impressed. The cave was beautiful and the tour was really interesting.
I really liked this cave bacon:
I was having a really hard time making all of my knowledge of western geology come together while trying to fit in the formation of the cave. The final answer was: I don’t know anywhere near enough about Great Basin geology and I need to fix that before I come back to Nevada. #sciencenerdproblems
I’ll definitely be back to Great Basin in a different time of year to check out the upper part of the park!
F and Karen’s last day of riding took them from Indian Creek to Moab via Lockhart Basin and Kane Creek. Sprocket and I headed directly for town, expecting them to move quickly. When we arrived and found we had some extra time to kill, I stopped in at Back of Beyond Books and picked up the latest issue of High Country News. We retreated to the yard of the Manti-La Sal National Forest ranger station (a great place to relax!) and enjoyed the shade.
When our motorcycle riders arrived, we transferred gear around and said our goodbyes to Karen and headed north. When we got to Salt Lake City we decided to head to Wendover and camp above town and watch the pretty lights.
In the morning, we woke up to a beautiful sunrise over the Salt Flats and downtown Wendover. The light on the rocks behind our campsite was pretty fantastic too.
After we packed up camp (and I was done taking pictures), we headed west on I-80. I’d never been on this stretch of highway which I always find exciting. In Winnemucca, we headed north across the lonely desert towards Oregon.
We spent the night in Klamath Falls before heading onwards. We stopped at the Collier Logging Museum near Chiloquin, Oregon. They had lots of cool old machinery including this sweet early Caterpiller Tractor. After a brief stop at Diamond Lake, we were on our way to Salem.