Thursday, July 13, 2017

Arc Dome Wilderness Nevada - July 2017 - Part One

please remember you can click on a photo to see a larger version

Meeting up with good friends in a favorite place.

The Lady did it. She retired after 36 wonderful years of teaching physical education to middle school students. They were wonderful years; a truly successful and rewarding career. One thing the Lady was good at - motivating her students to do their best. 

We received an email from our friend Ted prior to the July 4th holiday. It was to the point. "Now that the Lady is retired, will you two be avoiding trips over holidays, now that you can go anytime?" My reply was equally direct, "If traveling on holidays mean joining up with good friends like you and Donna, you bet we will do holiday trips!"

The stage was set. 

I suggested meeting at Columbine Campground in Nevada's Toiyabe Range. The campground has the big plus of being on the edge of Arc Dome Wilderness, therefore offering nearby wilderness - "an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." 

We set out from home late Thursday afternoon. After a quick sandwich on the road for dinner, we pulled off the highway at dusk, searched out a lonely dirt road that led to the Lady's favorite kind of spot to overnight - high with a view.

The cool of the evening settled around us, bathed with the scent of sage. The sound of rolling tires on distant Highway 50 cut through the silence, raspy and harsh. The intrusion was forgiven, it being such a quiet place that the sound could travel so far. We slept well. Our dreams drew us deeper into a quiet earth, yet we yearned for a distant coyote to call out to us. We listened in our sleep.

Columbine Campground sits at 8600 feet elevation along Stewart Creek's tumble down the west slopes of the Toiyabe Range. The aspen grove is dotted with seven primitive campsites. One site is so primitive we had missed its existence on our last two stays here. We arrived around 10:30 am. One other site was taken, a surprise. We thought we'd be alone. How busy would this place get over the weekend and in to the fourth?

We set up camp. The starboard side needed two boulders to drive up on to produce a float close to level. "This is exactly why god gave us 4x4 low range," I pronounced to the Lady as I crawled the truck up onto its perch. I am lucky she puts up with me.

We relaxed as we set up and enjoyed a leisurely lunch. We hid a watermelon in the cold waters of Stewart Creek for a treat when the Teds arrived on Saturday.

Early afternoon and it was time to go high. With hiking boots and packs we headed up.

Within a couple of hours we were wandering above tree line on the crest of the Toiyabes.

The crest is a broad plateau where glaciers once carved glacial cirques into its flanks.

It is a spectacular landscape.

Since we had easily made the crest, we decided to drop down into a different drainage and make a loop back to camp.

Arc Dome, the highpoint of the Toiyabe Range at close to 12,000 feet sits alone and grand to the south.

It was a long drop back to camp.

The local residents awaited our return. They were comfortable with our presence. A large aspen held the cavity nest of a family of House Wrens and a ravenous pair of Northern Flicker chicks shared another cavity just above. One wren parent was around on Friday but the two young ones were on their own. They would occasionally return to the cavity nest for shelter but each day would venture further away while foraging. Their song was delightful.

The flicker chicks cried out for food and both parents returned again and again to feed their family.

We wandered as night fell and let the evening colors work their magic.

Saturday morning was leisure as we waited for the Teds to arrive. The Lady's personal chef out did himself with offerings of blueberry pancakes topped with fried eggs and washed down with cold orange juice. I am not without skills.

The Teds arrived late morning and got camp set up next to us. The Lady offered an afternoon trip up to a high grove of aspen trees.

Much of the interesting artwork on the aspens date to the 1920's and 1940's.

Shepherds with bands of sheep were the norm in this country back then. And, these guys were horny and crude. I quickly nicknamed this place Pornography Grove based on the depictions of women and sex. I will spare you photos and if you decide to investigate, all I can say is brace yourself. I was naive and stared in wonder, unable to understand one carved image. Ted stepped in and explained it to me. Oh, my goodness. Thanks Ted.

But interspersed among the artwork was philosophy and political commentary.

We rested in the cool shade and searched out the nest of a Red Naped Sapsucker. 

Ted spotted the nest for us as a parent was occupied with feeding chores.

We rambled slowly back down to camp and stopped often to enjoy the wildflowers.

Back at camp, Ted was happy.

The activity of our feathered neighbors was wonderful to observe.

Mom Flicker kept up with the feeding chores also.

A little wren seemed to laugh about the feeding frenzy above it.

Donna joined the Lady and I on our wander down from camp to watch the light fade.

Our adventure continues in Part Two - Please Click Here


  1. I so look forward to these trip reports. And many more now that you untethered. Your camera work on the birds is impressive.

    1. Brenda, thank you for your very nice comments. It is much appreciated.

  2. Nice Ski.So much fun to watch the new hatched ones.

    1. Thanks Frank! Yup, those little rascals were a lot of fun to watch but after a bit we sure felt for the flicker parents working so hard.

  3. Just a wonderful read and great pics! Snow in I have so much to learn :)
    Do you ever have any trouble with the high altitudes? I don't think I've been over 4,000 ft if that high.....

    1. Happyjack, Yes, be careful with elevation. Take your time, let your body adjust. Never move faster than you can still carry on a conversation. We both do well up high but still pay attention to possible symptoms of AMS.

  4. Love the pictures you guys. We will get to go sometime in the future....