Backcountry Exploring – Modoc National Forest, Cave Lake campground, Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, and Gooch Spring campground.

Duke and I  have decided to go out camping and exploring every couple of weeks during this time of quarantine. It is a great way to maintain our mental health, such as it is! We just returned from a trip to the area where the northeast corner of California and the northwest corner of Nevada meet.

We drove north from Reno on highway 395 almost to the Oregon border and camped the first night at Cave Lake forest service campground. We had a lovely isolated camp spot just a short walk from the lake.

Because there was going to be a full moon we wanted to stay up until the moon cleared the  mountains. After dinner we sat by the fire for a while and then sat in the truck and listed to the wonderful This week in Virology podcast.  In the morning when we were ready to leave the truck wouldn’t start. The battery in our relatively new truck was dead! Luckily we have a portable jump starter which worked perfectly.

We drove east into California and into the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge. Just inside the refuge we took a side road to the top of Bald Mountain where there is a fire lookout tower and a magnificent 360 degree view.

They also had something I had never seen before, a Faraday Cage Shelter.

As we drove through the refuge we saw several groups of Pronghorn antelope. Unfortunately they were all in the distance but they are extremely fast and fun to watch.

All the campgrounds in the refuge had “No Campfires” signs. I’m sure the restriction is because of the high fire danger. So our camp at Gooch Spring was a dry camp.

The horizon was a long way away and there were no trees so the moon was spectacular when it came up.

If you would like to see more details of our route you can click the map below to open an interactive CalTopo map in a new browser tab.

NE CA and NW NV Aug 2020

Nevada Outback Exploring – Jarbidge Mountains, Big Bend Campground, Pine Creek Campground

Duke and I just returned from three days exploring the Jarbidge Mountain area of northeast Nevada. It was a wonderful back country adventure

We just returned from a two night camping trip in northeast Nevada. We were primarily in the Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest, essentially we circled the Jarbidge Wilderness Area.

On Thursday we drove east on Interstate Highway 80 to Elko and then took highway 225 north to Wild Horse Reservoir where we turned east and left the pavement. Our campsite Thursday night was Big Bend campground just inside the National Forest. The campground had 19 sites but only about 4 were occupied. It was lush with Aspens and wildflowers.


Big Bend Campground, Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest

View from Big Bend Campground, Humboldt Toiyabe National Forrest

On Friday we continued exploring. We went north and even crossed briefly into Idaho before heading south along the Jarbidge River through the tiny town of Jarbidge.

Road along the Jarbidge River
Jarbidge, Nevada
Jarbidge River

Our campsite Friday night was right next to the river in the Pine Creek campground.

Our campsite in Pine Creek Campground

One of the things that really struck us on this trip was how the mountains, canyons, and creeks were so unlike stereotypical Nevada landscape.

The view from Bear Creek Summit

On a slightly different note. Take a look at the piece of wood we used as a work surface on this trip.

It is a single plank from what must have been a very big tree. I remember it as my Grandfather (Poppy’s) workbench in the basement of my Grandparent’s house in Bismarck, North Dakota. It was passed down to my Dad and then to me. Duke recently sanded it down, stained and sealed it. It is a gorgeous piece of wood. I’d love to know where it came from. Poppy’s family homesteaded in western North Dakota. There were certainly no big trees there. He was born in Wisconsin so perhaps that’s where it came from. Who knows.

If you would like to see more details of our route you can click the map below to open an interactive CalTopo map in a new browser tab.

Jarbidge Area July 2020 Northeast Nevada Backcountry Route around the Jarbidge Wilderness Area.

Camping in Nevada’s New State Park – Walker River State Recreation Area

Duke and I just got back from a two night camping trip in Nevada’s newest State Park, the Walker River State Recreation Area. The park just opened this summer. It is made up of four units along the east fork of the Walker River. The units are not contiguous. The first night we camped in the Pitchfork unit in the Riverbend Campground. The campground is less than two hours south of Reno. It has nice bathrooms with flush toilets and showers. I loved the setting, especially with the fall colors.

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We had yummy Guiness stew for dinner.  Once it got really dark we enjoyed the amazing number of stars and the view of the Milky Way that you can only see when you are away from city lights.

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The park includes a 5.6 mile stretch of the Walker river that is open for floating or kayaking. I think it would be fun to rent a kayak and make the trip some time.

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During the days we had beautiful fall weather. The only problem was that the nights were cold. The first night it got down to 27 degrees!

The next morning we packed up and moved about 45 miles down dirt roads to the Bighorn Campground in the Nine Mile Ranch unit of the park. It is a rustic campground with brand new pit toilets. Each camp site is well separated and right along the river. We were the only ones camping there and overnight it got very cold – down to 18 degrees! Other than the cold it was a wonderful place to camp.

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We had good sleeping bags and lots of blankets but it was hard to get up in the morning. Even the water in our five gallon container was frozen! The temperature warmed up pretty fast once the sun came up.

When we warmed up we packed up and headed home. Along the way we stopped for lunch at Rosie’s Place a great Mexican restaurant in Wellington.

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Off Road Camping Adventure – Sawtooth National Forest and City of Rocks National Reserve in Nevada, Idaho and Utah

Duke and I like to pack our four wheel drive truck with our camping gear and explore the back country. We just got back from a wonderful 5 day trip to the area where Utah, Nevada and Idaho meet.

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Our first day we drove 400 miles to Jackpot, Nevada in the far north east corner of Nevada on the Idaho border. We stayed at Cactus Petes Casino, had a great steak dinner in their steak house, and then played some black jack. They have a couple of tables out by the pool. It was a beautiful night and a lot of fun.

Monday morning we headed off road north and east into Idaho. I think we saw one other car all day. About 10 miles into Idaho in the Sawtooth National Forest we saw a moose! and then 2 more and a bit further along another 2! Neither of us ever expected to see Moose that close to Nevada.

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We camped at Bostetter Campground and were the only ones there.

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Tuesday we took a circuitous route to City of Rocks National Reserve.

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The camp sites are spread out through out the Reserve so we felt like we were on our own. Our site (campsite # 19) was set in among the boulders. Duke took a video.

Wednesday we were in Utah again in Sawtooth National Forest. We camped at Clear Creek Campground and were the only ones there. Our campsite was next to a babbling brook which we used to keep our wine cool.

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Thursday we visited the Golden Spike National Historic Site. That’s where the cross country railroad was completed in 1869 and the golden spike was driven.

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In 1904 this section of rail was abandoned when a  cut off was built across the Great Salt Lake. The tracks were taken up for the war effort in 1942. Now there is a 90 mile back country byway along the old rail grade. We drove it and felt like all we needed was a train whistle to complete the experience.

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Thursday night we spent in  a casino hotel in West Wendover, Nevada, and Friday we drove home to Reno.

We got some great pictures on the trip. If you would like to see them they are on Dropbox here.

A Flat Tire and a Fat Lip

In the last few weeks Duke and I have taken two three day camping trips in the Nevada Outback. The first trip to Berlin Ichthyosaur State Park and Columbine Campground I described in my last post. The second trip was northeast of Reno and directly north of Winnemucca.

When we headed north from Winnemucca we were on pavement until we reached the little town of Paradise Valley, Nevada. From there we took a good dirt road north about 6 miles to a Forest Service campground called Lye Creek. I think there was only one other camp site in use. We had a wonderful steak dinner and enjoyed the evening. 

  The next day we headed north again on more remote dirt roads. We stopped to have a look at an old mine site. The entire route must have fantastic views but unfortunately it was very smoky because of several northern Nevada wild fires.

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 When we were about 30 miles from the nearest paved road we ran over this remnant of a fence post in the road. There was a loud whoosh as the air blew out of our right front tire.

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The spare tire is stored under the bed of the pickup. You are supposed to crank it down to get it off the truck. But the secondary latch on the mechanism that holds the tire under the truck wouldn't release. The instructions include steps to take if cranking the tire down doesn't work. We went through those steps several times… jacking the spare and the release mechanism up and down again and again but nothing worked. We always carry lots of extra food and water. I was beginning to think that we might have to use it.

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Surprisingly we had enough cell phone coverage so that we were able to get through to GM OnStar. They connected us to a maintenance guy at the Chevy dealer in Reno. He had no suggestions for how to get the secondary latch to release the spare. But he asked if we had a air compressor. As I was thinking " Who carries an extra air compressor?" I was amazed to hear Duke respond "yes, why?"

The maintenance guy suggested that letting the air out of the spare might give us enough room to maneuver the spare off the mechanism holding it in place. We said we would give it a try. Duke let the air out of the spare. There was still no way to release the spare but we now had room to access the piece of metal what was holding the tire on the truck. So Duke pulled out his bolt cutters. They are about three feet long. I described them as big but he says they are small bolt cutters.

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Duke and I laid on our backs under the truck for over an hour while I held the piece of metal with channel lock pliers and he used the bolt cutters to  little by little cut through the metal and bend it enough to get it off the truck. At one point the bolt cutters slipped and slammed into Duke's lip just under his nose. Although it must have hurt like hell and the swelling gave him a very fat lip he was very lucky not to break his nose or lose a tooth.


 During this whole process the jack was holding the spare up out of the way. We were finally able to get the spare released and lower the jack. But the jack no longer worked. It wouldn't go up or down. Duke also carries a spare jack!! He used the air compressor to refill the spare tire. He used the spare jack to jack up the front right side of the truck and then he replaced the blown tire with the spare.


The whole process took us over 5 hours but thanks to the patience, preparedness and ingenuity of my wonderful husband we were exhausted but on our way again. 

We camped for the night along the Quinn River and made it home to Reno the next day.


All our pictures from this adventure are on Flickr here.

Camping – Berlin Ichthyosaur State Park and Columbine Campground

Last week Duke and I did a two night camping trip in central Nevada. From Reno we headed east on Highway 50. Just past Fallon Naval Air Station there is sign which points south to earthquake faults. We have been wanting to explore that road so we headed south. There are some signs along the road explaining that in 1954 a big earthquake in this area uplifted the ground as much as 20 feet. Although the uplift is covered by vegetation now you can still see it. We got out and looked at the fault up close and then drove along it for a ways. In this picture the wavy line in the hills is the uplift along the  fault.


Heading east the map showed a dirt road across the Paradise Range through Germany Canyon. We found the road  and started up it in four wheel drive but it got very steep and there were some land slides across the road. We thought we were near the top but after getting out to survey the road ahead we decided to turn around. In the picture below you can see where we stopped the truck.


We went south a bit and took the paved road across the Paradise Range. We camped for the night at Berlin Ichthyosaur State Park in the next mountain range to the east. It was a beautiful night and there was only one other camper in the whole campground.


During the Triassic period 200 million years ago the park was under a shallow ocean. The ichthyosaur was a giant marine reptile that resembled a dolphin. Some of the ichthyosaur fossils found here were left in place and covered with a barn like structure. Last time we were at this park we just looked in the windows. It was difficult to know what we were looking at. This time the building was open and we took a tour. The giant ichthyosaur fossils are pretty amazing. The round rocks you see in the picture are vertebrae.


After the tour we headed east. Our second night was spent at the National Forest Service Columbine Campground at the edge of the Arc Dome Wilderness. The campground is set beside Stewart Creek in a big aspen grove. We had a few rain showers but they didn’t last long. Columbine campground is one of my favorite places to camp.


Before heading home we hiked up the Stewart Creek Trail towards Arc Dome for a couple of hours. Some day I would like to do the whole hike. It would be an all day adventure. According to the book 50 Classic Hikes in Nevada the Stewart Creek Loop Trail is 8 miles long and has 2500 feet of elevation gain, The hike to the top of Arc Dome is 3 miles out and back from the loop trail.



 On the way home we found another impassable road, turned around and found a wonderful four wheel drive road across the ridge top of the Shoshone Mountains. The first picture is the road in Bonita Canyon where we decided to turn around. The second picture is from the road at the top of the Shoshone Mountains.



If you would like to see all the pictures from this trip they are on Flickr here.

The New Galena Creek Bridge and Freeway Extension south of Reno

Tuesday we got to take a tour of the new freeway extension south of Reno. There were about thirty of us in 3 Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) vans.


We had to wear vests and hard hats. Do we look ready to pick up garbage on the side of the road?


The project cost about $550 million and is along the edge of the hills west of the current 395 highway. It would have been much easier and cheaper to build the freeway through the valley but the homeowners didn't want it there and the politicians decided on the current route even though it was much more difficult to build and much more expensive.

The new freeway is 8.5 miles long and includes several bridges. The biggest is the new Galena Creek Bridge – the longest concrete cathedral arch bridge in the nation.


The first contractor decided that construction of the bridge would be too difficult so there was a break in constuction while NDOT went out for bids and brought in a new contractor. In order to build the arch they filled in the area under the bridge, built the arch, and are now taking all the fill out. The giant earth moving trucks under the bridge don't look very big in the picture above.

The project web site has lots of interesting information There is also a time lapse video of the bridge being built. I thought I might be able to include it here but I have spent way too much time trying to figure out how to do it and I have given up. If you go to the web site and look under photos and videos you will be able to find the time lapse video. I think the east facing camera is the best.

Democracy at Work – the 2012 Nevada Republican Caucus

I love being a part of democracy at work. I just got back from the 2012 Nevada Republican caucus. It was so much fun!

I've been to a caucus and blogged about it twice before. My blog about the 2008 caucus is here and about the 2010 caucus is here. Of the caucuses I've been to this seemed the most organized and the best attended. There were a lot of people there. The caucus was held at our local middle school. 

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Registration didn't take long and then they sent us off to the classroom where our precinct was meeting. In my precinct meeting there were 23 people. We met in an American history classroom. I loved the quotations on the cabinet behind me.

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First we elected a chair person and a secretary. My new neighbor was elected precinct chair person. She was efficient and did a great job. She is the one standing on the left.

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The second order of business was allowing volunteers to speak for each candidate. My neighbor spoke for Romney and was quite convincing. She talked about watching Romney when she lived in Utah and how impressed she was with how he managed the Olympics. Someone else suggested we read Romney's plan for America.

Another woman spoke for Rick Santorum. No one volunteered to speak for Gingrich and when no one volunteered to speak for Ron Paul I said I would.

I am a life long Republican. I believe in small government. I am a fiscal conservative and I believe that usually free enterprise can do things better than government. But I do believe that government has a role to play. I have become convinced that everyone should have health insurance and that Obama care is a step in the right direction. I am pro choice and pro gay marriage.

When I spoke for Ron Paul  I was thinking about foreign policy. I still have not forgiven the Republicans and George Bush for capriciously taking us to war in Iraq and for running up our national debt. Because of George Bush I voted for a democrat for the first time in my life four years ago.

The president can't change fiscal policy without the congress but he can take us to war. After listening to the Republican debates I am afraid that Romney would invade Iran to prevent them from becoming a nuclear country. So I spoke for Ron Paul because even though he is a bit of a wing nut I am confident that he wouldn't start another war.

So anyway, the next step in our precinct caucus was for people to volunteer to be delegates to the county convention. I volunteered.

Next we voted and the chairperson and I counted the votes.The results were

Romney 14

Santorum 4

Gingrich 3

Paul 2

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The whole experience was fun! I got to meet neighbors and as I said enjoy democracy at work. I even got to see Reno's mayor Bob Cashell.

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If you would like to see all my pictures from the caucus you can see them on Flickr here.

I usually avoid talking about politics but you can see all my politics blog posts by clicking on politics in the category list to the right.


Blue Lakes – Glacial Lakes in Northern Nevada

Northern Nevada has an amazing number of beautiful spots for exploring and camping. I often think that someone looking for adventure travel would find northern Nevada a dream come true. Exploring the outback of northern Nevada often requires driving on very bad roads, following the very thin dotted line roads on the maps, (We use Benchmark Nevada Road and Recreation Atlas), and being without cell phone coverage . The rewards are many. They include widely varied scenery, wild animals, beautiful rocks, interesting geology, and lots of solitude. 


 Last weekend Duke and I decided to do some Nevada adventure travel for the weekend. We wanted to collect some obsidian for our back yard and we decided to check out Blue Lake which is described in 50 Classic Hikes in Nevada as follows:

"Not only are lakes in general a scarce commodity in the Great Basin, but glacial lakes scoured out of granite basins are even more unusual, which makes the Blue Lakes particularly appealing. Cradled into a cirque below Duffer Peak and dammed by a moraine, the Blue Lakes offer hikers some incredibly unique mountain scenery."

We left Saturday afternoon and drove north east on Interstate 80 to Winnemucca where we headed north and then west. The last 18 miles were on rough gravel and then very rough dirt roads to our camping spot. There were three cars at the trail head. One left with some fishermen soon after we got there and the other two cars were apparently owned by a family camping at the lake. We had the trail head camp site to ourselves.


The meadow next to our camp site was covered in wild flowers. We enjoyed a stunning sunset and a great steak dinner. After dinner we sat around our camp fire and enjoyed finishing our wine and watching the almost full moon come up.


Sunday morning we got up and hiked the short (.75 mile) hike to Blue Lakes which were as beautiful as they were described. The fish were jumping and we sat by the lake and enjoyed watching them for a while before hiking back to the truck, packing up and heading west.


We explored some of the roads in Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, saw wild donkeys, pronghorn antelope and collected lots of obsidian and other cool rocks before heading home to Reno.

If you would like to see all of my pictures from this weekend they are available on Flickr here.

We Finally Visited the National Automobile Museum in Reno

Bill Harrah who built and owned Harrah's Casinos had a enormous car
collection (over 4000 cars). When he died in 1978 most of the cars were
sold. But 175 of them became the core of the National Automobile Museum
in Reno
. It is located right on the Truckee River downtown across from
the Reno Aces Baseball Stadium

Duke's brother Jim and his wife Marilyn were visiting last week. Their visit gave us the perfect excuse to finally visit the National Automobile Museum. We have lived in Reno for three years and this was our first visit to the car museum. We took a docent lead tour. The guide was fantastic. He knew a lot about the cars and he made the tour really interesting. I can't over emphasize how much I enjoyed the museum. I'm ready to go again.


I especially liked the early camping displays.


and this 1956 Corvette and matching pedal car.


After touring the Car museum we were hungry so we headed over to the Nugget Diner and shared a couple of Awful Awfuls the best hamburger and fries in Reno.


If you would like to see all my pictures from the National Automobile Museum and the Nugget Diner they are available on Flickr here.