Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Middle of Nevada - Memorial Day Weekend 2011



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Memorial Day Weekend Trip

“I’m sick and tired of Mayuary!” My buddy was over last Thursday. He’s a bundle of energy, full of wit, and never timid about making up his own words. He was grousing about our lingering winter and refusal of spring to take the lead.
“So, should I empty my snowblower gas can into the truck?” I asked.
“No! Don’t even think about doing that. It will snow a foot!”
“You were up on your roof uncovering your swamp cooler.”
“What a mistake! I’m damn lucky I didn’t charge the water system. The whole thing would have froze and I’d have water leaking everywhere. That is if the sun ever decides to come out!” He was on a roll.
I had to ask, “So you going out on the boat sailing this holiday weekend?”
“I’d sure like too, get some use out of the slip I’m paying for.” He countered, “So what are you two doing this weekend?”
“Well………we’ve had lots of plans. School graduation ceremony is Friday evening so no quick getaway. We were invited to meet two friends in Mt. Shasta early Saturday for breakfast and then ski up to the Red Banks and ski back down as a warm up to climbing and skiing Shastina on Sunday. Then the Lady was saying since we were already up there we should stay and ski Lassen on Monday. That got the other two excited and thinking about taking Tuesday off too.”
“And?”
“I’ve been checking the weather every day. Looks like rain and snow up there all weekend. I just heard the trips been canceled since we won’t have nice spring snow conditions.”
“Mayuary I tell you!” He was enjoying himself. “You still going somewhere?”
“Well the Lady and I were thinking if this storm cycle stayed a little north maybe the east side would be fun. We were thinking about skiing in the Virginia Lakes area.”
“You been checking the weather?”
I just looked at him.
“And?” he asked.
“Saturday partly to mostly cloudy. Chance of snow Saturday night and Sunday with wind gusts of 75 mph.”
“Sounds like fun, so are you going?” He smiled.
“We’ve got everything in the truck except the food. I think we’ll just head out to the middle of Nevada again. We have a lot of fun out there.”

That’s how our plans fell into place.

We left early Saturday morning and stopped for breakfast at the Roadrunner Café in Dayton. We headed east, a quiet day on Highway 50, the cares of a busy few weeks melted away. We left pavement just east of Austin, headed over the Toquima Range, and then continued south down Monitor Valley. There was not another vehicle on Monitor Valley Road. Our plans were to see how high we could get into the Alta Toquima Wilderness, if the weather cooperated. We had brought winter mountain gear. This was Mayuary, remember.

We pulled into Pine Creek Campground mid afternoon and found it half full for the holiday weekend. It’s a nice place, people ought to be enjoying it. The clouds built throughout the day. After dinner we walked up on the bench to the north and headed north. This gave us expansive views to the north and to the east across Monitor Valley to the cloud shrouded Table Mountain area in the Monitor Range. We had left camp with just wandering in mind. The camera was back in the truck. The light was spectacular with the occasional shaft of sunlight gloriously firing up spots across the broad valley. God light, some folks call it. It was a great evening. We were alone. It was quiet.

Sunday morning as I rose up in bed and looked out the window I said, “It sure is foggy.”
“And the ground is completely white, looks like we got some snow.” the Lady reported from her side. We still had coffee and breakfast outside.








We decided to head up the canyon on a day hike. The flowers were trying to make a go at spring here.




It was cold and Pine Creek was overflowing with high water.




We tired of the stream crossings in the slick conditions and at one daunting crossing decided to just climb out of the canyon to the north, get a view, and then work the ridge back down to near camp.

At a spot back near camp I pulled the camera out for a shot down the Pine Creek drainage, at camp, and down into Monitor Valley with the Pine Creek Ranch in the distance.




You’ve got to love the vast open space that Nevada offers.

It snowed all afternoon. We decided to just hang out in the camper, read and nap, watch it snow, and off and on take an occasional walk in the weather around the campground. Folks were bailing, packing up and leaving. We just relaxed. It was great to just almost do nothing for a change. This was a time having the furnace in the camper was priceless. It was a wonderful day.

The weather broke a bit around dinnertime. We bundled up and ate outside then headed back out on a walk to catch evening views.




With the clearing evening skies we figured we had a cold night ahead of us.




We carry a polarguard quilt with us for pulling over the sleeping bags when needed. It got used this night.

Dawn was clear and cold.




When I returned from wandering with the camera and mug of coffee, I found this ready on our small table.




Pine Creek Campground sits in the riparian area along Pine Creek. The bird life was active, even with the weather. A pair of Flickers looked like they were on eggs in their nest in a hollow in a Cottonwood.

Our plans for Monday were just to ramble and explore. We were packed up by 8 and headed out from the campground.




We wanted to spend some time east in the Monitor Range, specifically checking out the Barley Creek access into the Table Mountain Wilderness. It was obvious that the Monitor Range has received more precipitation than the Toquimas with snow still on the trees at a lower elevation. As we started the climb out of Monitor Valley we hit classic gumbo. The sun had dried only the surface of the road. Underneath was goo. We stopped at the top of the first downhill stretch. We laughed at the tires that were now gumbo donuts and then laughed at ourselves and our now gumbo shoes. We are cautious traveling in the remote places we visit so we decided we’d come back again at a drier time and check out this area.

As we traveled across the valley, looking at the towering Toquima Range, the Lady said, “I really like it out here.” I pulled over to the side and took a picture.




When we intersected back with the Monitor Valley Road, we had a great view of the Stone House Ranch up against the Toquimas with Mt. Jefferson’s South Summit above.




Traveling north we stopped where rushing Pine Creek reached the valley bottom.




Continuing north we decided to venture up Northumberland Canyon in the Toquimas. This was a very active mining area. These supports for a long gone water pipeline ran for quite a distance.




I’m told that the old Northumberland town site was completely obliterated by this huge open pit mine near the top of the pass.




We had hoped to make the top of Northumberland Pass and look to the west into the Smoky Valley and the Toiyabe Range beyond. We were blocked by a large snowdrift across the road.




We returned to Monitor Valley and continued north spotting some invasive species along the way.




There’s a spot up on a bench near the Monitor Range we enjoy camping at. It is in the open, exposed to the wind, but has wonderful vistas.




As we were cleaning up after dinner the Lady said, “There’s a speed goat coming up to check us out.” Pronghorn are speed goats in the Lady’s language. When they are running with their bright white rumps displayed, they are “bouncing butts”. This was a young pronghorn with a big belly. She acted a bit odd and did not want to leave the area; we suspected she was about ready to have a little one.




Of interest is that there was an abundance of elk nuggets on this bench and evidence of bedding areas. We had not seen this up here on our last visit.

We did not forget the camera for the evening light.




The wind was howling as Tuesday morning dawned. This was our last day, an extra one to make the weekend longer, and we were working our way home enjoying the vistas as we traveled.








Since we were driving by, we made a stop at Spencer Hot Springs and found that BLM has been doing some safety improvements there.




After Spencer, we soon hit pavement, the first time in three days. Here is one of my favorite billboards along Highway 50.




The rest of the drive home was relaxing, uneventful, except for the wind. Tahoe was covered with white caps. It was probably not a good day to go sailing. "Mayuary," I say.

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