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.