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2011 Blog Entries

Granite Peak, Granite Range, Washoe County, NV
12/19/2011 – The good weather has now continued well into December, and many of the higher Great Basin beasties are still available for hiking. Looming over the small burg of Gerlach, Nevada, is Granite Peak. It appears compelling - nice steep ridges and seemingly clean terrain - from below. But once you start up this beastie, your outlook will change quickly. Boulders, loose rock, slabs, dense tree zones, and never-ending brush are what you'll endure as you claw your way to the top. Of course, once you get to the top (where a small installation is located, 8974'), you look over and see yet another summit 1/4 mile away. And sadly, it's true - the northwest summit is some 6 feet higher. So if you want the true highpoint, keep on walking. Regardless of where you take your summit break, the views are splendorous. Kumiva Peak, Tohakum Peak, the Warner Mountains, the Hays Canyon Range, Bald Mountain (Sheldon NWR), Donnelly Peak, Division Peak, King Lear, and Pershing County high point Star Peak are all easily identifiable. The good news is that the descent is much faster - when you lose 4200' in only 3 miles, it better be!

Mount Lewis, Shoshone Range, Lander County, NV
12/12/2011 – While hiking is our favorite method of getting to the top of mountains around Nevada, another peakbagging opportunity sometimes presents itself – the time-honored yet often maligned “drive-up”. The naysayers might dismiss the notion of a drive-up peak, but every once in a while even the hardest core among us will do it, and do so gladly. Mount Lewis (9680’), proudly towering over the town of Battle Mountain, can certainly be hiked. Horse Canyon provides an appealing west side route of around 14 miles. But on the other hand, there is an excellent graded dirt road going to the summit, which is used by vehicles to access the government radar facility at the top. So, with the outside temps hovering in the high teens/low twenties, I decided it would be a perfect day to do a drive-up. And I was not disappointed. Many distant peaks and ranges were visible, including the Ruby Mountains and Ruby Dome (highest in Elko County), Mount Callagan, Mount Tobin, Mount Tenabo, Star Peak (highest in Pershing County), and Granite Peak (highest in Humboldt County). This was one of the most appealing aspects of Mount Lewis – as the most prominent peak in Lander County, good views were guaranteed. It also brings up another good point – the highest peaks in each of Nevada’s counties are not necessarily the most prominent. In fact, in about half the counties a different peak gets the title of “most prominent”. And you know what that means – more bonus peaks!

Donnelly Peak, Calico Mountains, Humboldt County, NV
12/05/2011 - When most people think of hiking in Humboldt County, they probably think of the Santa Rosa-Paradise Peak Wilderness, or perhaps the county high point, Granite Peak. But in the far western section of Humboldt County lies an easy dayhike peak with awesome views—Donnelly Peak (8533’). Towering over the Black Rock Desert, this peak gives a commanding view in all directions. Some of the peaks and ranges visible include: Kumiva Peak, Tohakum Peak, Granite Peak, Division Peak, the Warner Mountains, the Hays Canyon Range, Bald Mountain (Sheldon NWR), King Lear, and Pershing County high point Star Peak to the distant southeast. It’s over an hour of driving north from the small town of Gerlach NV, but by utilizing a 4WD, you can get to within an hour’s hiking distance of the peak. There are also some old mining ruins to visit on the southwest side of the peak. It’s a great one-day outing, and it can be combined with Division Peak, which is just across Donnelly Flat to the west. Watch for lots of wild horses during your visit.  

Great Basin—Late Fall Conditions Report
11/28/2011 - Another Turkey Day has passed and I’m sure a lot of folks have some extra calories to burn. The good news is that winter hasn’t completely devoured the Great Basin...at least not yet. There are significant snow accumulations at the higher elevations, but many peaks are still hikeable. Most 5-6K peaks are wide open, and the minor amounts of snowfall on the 7-8K peaks are not yet a hindrance. The 9-10K peaks are a different story. If you’re planning on trying some of these, you’ll need thick waterproof boots, gaiters, hiking poles, and multiple robust clothing layers. If you’re venturing up north-facing slopes, you may need ice axe and crampons. Keep in mind, it is also variable from range to range, and region to region. Take two peaks of a similar elevation—one in Clark County and the other in Elko County. You are likely to see a very significant difference in conditions from one end of the Silver State to the other. The important thing is to be prepared—not just for winter hiking conditions—but for winter driving conditions as well. Carry chains, drive slower and more carefully, and watch for animals. Remember, the peaks will always be there, and if you can’t get to them safely, wait for next spring or summer. 

Dogskin Mountains, Washoe County, Nevada
11/14/2011 - One of the nice things about Fall storms in the Great Basin is the hiking after they blow through. After giving things a day or two to melt out, the mountains are oftentimes just as hike-able as they were before. Especially at elevations below 9000’, the interior ranges can provide good leg-stretchers all winter long. One such range, not too far from Reno, is the Dogskin Mountains. After approaching from the south, a person can ascend to the Dogskin Benchmark (7464’), where a superb view can be had of Tule Peak. Then by heading southeast along the high ridgeline, a two mile traverse can be accomplished, culminating in the Dogskin Mountains High Point (7487’), which provides a partial view of Pyramid Lake. Some lingering snow will likely be encountered, but you may also encounter wild horses or antelope. A different return route can be taken as you descend, to complete the Dogskin loop. As with all hikes at this time of year, be sure to check the weather forecast before heading out, and always let someone reliable know your itinerary. 

Mount Limbo, Pershing County, Nevada
11/7/2011 - It may be the time of the year for Fall colors and last-minute ascents, but its also the time of year for winter storms, and the white stuff can and will reach even the lower elevations of the Great Basin. During a recent hike of Mount Limbo (7,312’), an initially clear morning yielded to flurries by 10 am and outright snowfall by 11 am. On typical terrain (e.g. sage and pinyons) snowfall can be a pleasant surprise. But when you are ascending peaks with class 3 rock, extra caution must be taken. That means packing (and lugging) more clothing and gear for certain Great Basin beasties. The reward for the extra effort is “getting the peak” and not getting foiled by the weather. So break out the winter gear—its not just for skiing, its for winter hiking as well.   

Tule Peak, Washoe County, Nevada
10/31/2011 - If you’ve already hiked the Nevada County High Points in the Carson Range (East Peak, Snow Valley Peak, or Mount Rose), then you’ve enjoyed the great views of everblue Lake Tahoe.  But there’s another lake nearby of similar size—that Lake Tahoe drains into via the Truckee River—and that’s Pyramid Lake northeast of Reno. And Tule Peak, high point of the Virginia Mountains, is just the place to get that awesome view. It is easily approached from Sparks, via NV SR 445 and the Winnemucca Ranch Road, and is a straightforward ridge saunter. You’ll likely encounter grazing cattle near your starting point, but don’t be surprised to see antelope and wild horses as well. Atop this 8722’ summit, you’ll be amazed at how many distant peaks you can identify, from Lassen Peak to Kumiva Peak and  all the way south to the Sweetwaters. But more than likely your eyes will return to Pyramid Lake, one of the largest still remaining in the Great Basin. For a peak that’s less than an hour from Reno, you can’t do much better.  

Eagle Peak, Warner Mountains, California
10/24/2011 - The Great Basin isn’t limited to Nevada—it reaches into California, Oregon, Idaho, and Utah as well. Nor are the county high points a Nevada-only phenomenon. If you’d like to expand your hiking area a bit, then consider the Warner Mountains in the far northeastern section of California. Eagle Peak (9,982’) is the range high point—but it’s also Modoc County’s high point and gives far-reaching views to Nevada’s Great Basin ranges—especially the Hays Canyon Range and Granite Range. To the west, you can spot Lassen Peak and Mount Shasta, the “California Cascades”, and how awesome it is to see those mighty beasts looming on the horizon. You can approach the Warners from either side—Alturas or Eagleville—and the dirt roads are pretty good. The natural setting is superb—meadows, pines, and aspens...so yes, you get the Fall colors as an added bonus! For a really nice hike, start at the Patterson Guard Station and head north on the Summit Trail. It’s an easy dayhike, and this late in the season, you’ll likely have the South Warner Wilderness all to yourself. 

Chocolate Peak, Washoe County, Nevada
10/17/2011 - One of the nice things about northern Nevada is that it touches upon the Sierra Nevada. In the Tahoe Sierra, the Carson Range is awash with color come autumn. If you’ve already done Slide Mountain, the bonus peak to Mount Rose, then consider an alternative. Chocolate Peak (9,401’) is a great hike, and is easily accessed from Reno. Starting at the Galena Creek Recreation Area off the Mount Rose Highway, one hikes the Jones Creek Trail to the vicinity of Church’s Pond. Here one heads cross-country south along the north ridge of Chocolate, to stand on a summit that has amazing views. Mount Rose, the high point of Washoe County, towers overhead. To the east, Mount Davidson is easily spotted in Storey County. One can also spot the Sweetwater Mountains in Lyon County and Mount Grant in Mineral County. The urban sprawl of Reno lies below. But the best thing about hiking in this area is the trees. The color from the turning aspens is truly mind-boggling in October, and is not to be missed. So lace up the hiking boots and hit the Jones Creek Trail before winter arrives...and don’t forget your camera!   

State Line Peak/Hays Canyon Peak, Washoe County, NV
10/10/2011 - Washoe County is host to 32 distinct mountain ranges, so there is no shortage of peaks to ascend after you’ve done its county high point (Mount Rose).  A really nice peak not far from Reno is State Line Peak, high point of the Fort Sage Mountains. This well-situated peak is approached via US 395 and the town of Doyle, and proffers splendid views of the Sierra Nevada, which lies to the immediate west. Other distant landmarks include Lassen Peak, Tohakum Peak, Peavine Mountain, Honey Lake, the Sierra Army Depot, and the Smoke Creek Desert. Hays Canyon Peak, on the other hand, is in the far northern portion of Washoe County, and seems more desert-like. Approached via a long dirt road emanating east from Eagleville, the hiker will make this one as long or as short as they desire—depending on how much four-wheel driving they are willing to do. Atop this rather flat summit, one will probably gaze at the lovely Warner Mountains west across the valley, and the lakes below. To the north, Oregon is visible, and to the southeast, one can pick out the distinct double-topped Granite Peak near Gerlach. Hiking these two is a great way to spend a fall weekend—just be aware that it’s hunting season, and at this time of year it’s okay to dress garishly.   

New Pass Peak, New Pass Range, Lander County, Nevada
9/30/2011 - Tucked away on the north side of US Highway 50 “the loneliest road in America” between Middlegate and Austin lies the New Pass Range. Honestly, it doesn’t look like much from the highway, but it turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. The road to New Pass Peak (9,007’) is mostly okay for 4WD vehicles, though it steepens significantly in the last two miles. But hidden along the approach is the lovely Gilbert Canyon, replete with meadows, wildflowers, and a bubbling brook. Due to the abundant snowfall this year, the canyon was still green and vibrant, even in September. You can hike the last 2 miles to the top (thereby saving some wear and tear on your car) to enjoy the splendid views. Two of Nevada’s county high points are visible—Desatoya Peak in Churchill County and Bunker Hill in the Toiyabe Range. Other notable summits in the distance include Mount Augusta in the Clan Alpine Range and almost every peak along the Toiyabe Crest, from Mount Callagan to Arc Dome. The Shoshone Range as well as the Edwards Creek and Reese River Valleys round out the view. This mountain is an excellent side trip when you are in central Nevada bagging county high points. 

Mount Grant Memorial Challenge a Complete Success!
9/15/2011 - This past weekend nearly one hundred runners and hikers from around the United States converged on Hawthorne for the Mount Grant 9/11 Memorial Challenge. This event was a fundraiser for Veterans Park, and succeeded in bringing together locals and visitors to generate money for the park. The proceeds will be used for park upgrades, purchasing big flags, and buying bronze statues.

Participants came from as far away as Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia, and New Jersey. A large contingent visited from Seattle, and Nevada was represented by folks from Reno, Carson City, Dayton, Las Vegas, and Hawthorne. Other eager ascenders drove or flew in from California, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and Montana.   

The festivities began Saturday afternoon at Veterans Park. The Challenge participants were treated to a barbeque conducted by local volunteers. While enjoying hamburgers, hot dogs, and potato and fruit salads, many friendships were initiated or renewed. A local group performed music to keep the out-of-town guests entertained for several hours.   

Sunday morning it was an early start for both participants and volunteers alike. The “Ironman” runners and hikers started up the Cottonwood Road from the town of Walker Lake, while the relay participants were shuttled to their starting points along the route.   

Poignant pictures and remembrances of September 11 were placed at the aid stations. Many folks commented on how friendly and helpful the volunteers were at these checkpoints, and how welcome and supported they felt.  Gatorade, bananas, granola bars, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were available to keep people hydrated and energized.   

By 9:30 am, Mark Jackson from Minden, NV, was the first runner to summit 11,239’ Mount Grant. Others arrived soon after, and hugs and high fives were shared all around. The trickle turned into a steady stream of summiteers as the clouds increased and the temperature dropped.   

A few folks wished for better weather and hoped for better views, but the exclamations from the top were resoundingly positive. “It’s so awesome up here – what a great day,” said one. Fred Lobdell of North Carolina jokingly commented, “Wasn’t there supposed to be an escalator up here?”   

Back at the highest checkpoint, many participants proudly wore their Challenge completion medals. They spoke fondly of their peakbagging adventures in Nevada, and other peaks they would climb next around the state.   

By mid-afternoon the last of the 59 summiteers were off the peak, and the final caravan of vehicles slowly and carefully descended. A special treat on the way down was watching a mother black bear knock sap-laden pine cones off a tree for her two cinnamon-colored cubs.   

Organizations represented at the event included the Highpointers Club, the County Highpointer and Sierra Challenge groups, and the Angeles and Toiyabe Chapters of the Sierra Club.   

The Mount Grant Memorial Challenge was made possible through the efforts of many Hawthorne volunteers, including Courtney Robinson, Dave Womack, and Dennis Bunch. Many individuals from the base and Mineral County Search & Rescue gave generously of their time to ensure the event went off smoothly.   

One thing was very clear – many of these mountaineers would like to come back next year for another shot at the summit, and would like to bring more of their friends and family. Hopefully this event will be an annual pilgrimage for interstate hikers and runners and become a recurring source of revenue for Hawthorne.   

Six Peak Loop, Jarbidge Wilderness, Elko County, Nevada
9/4/2011 - If you’re looking to get “really out there” in the Nevada Outback, this just may be your destination. Located in the northeast corner of the state, the Jarbidge Wilderness is as empty as it gets. My recent Labor Day visit was a classic hike, yet I saw no other hikers and had the wilderness to myself. From the campground 3 miles south of the funky little town of Jarbidge, the hiker will direct his efforts into many miles of walking up canyon, ultimately reaching Jarbidge Lake and the saddle beyond. Soon the cross-country ridge traverse north begins in earnest, with the adventurer summiting Government Peak (10,178’), Cougar Peak (10,559’), Matterhorn (10,838’), Square Top (10,694’), Jumbo Peak (10,635’), and Jarbidge Peak (10,793). Matterhorn is the high point of the Jarbidge Mountains, and the views are large and beautiful. To the north are the plains of southern Idaho, but closer at hand, one’s eyes travel from meadows to tiny alpine lakes to the rugged ridgelines. It’s truly a “must visit” area of Nevada, and though the drive is long and grueling, it’s worth it! Be sure to visit the Outdoor Inn in Jarbidge after your hike—they have a great $4 burrito that a hungry peakbagger will truly enjoy.   

Arc Dome Wilderness/Toiyabe Crest Trail, Nye County, NV
7/24/2011 - Situated west of Carvers in the Big Smoky Valley, the South Twin River trailhead is the southern starting point for the Toiyabe Crest Trail. This route circumscribes a gigantic loop around Arc Dome (11,773’) and plunges deep into its namesake wilderness. This is wild and rugged country, which is why the TCT should be considered a “route” more than a trail. The brush is abundant and the creek crossings are many so it’s not uncommon to lose the route and find yourself bushwhacking. For folks who want a 19 mile (one way) sampler of this gorgeous yet strenuous area, consider hiking the TCT from the South Twin River trailhead to Big Sawmill Creek, then exiting to the southwest via the Cow Canyon Trail. With a car shuttle, it can be hiked in a day...if you stay on route. It also works nicely as a two-day, with an overnight in the upper Reese River valley. It’s one of the remotest areas of the Nevada Outback, and an adventure you won’t soon forget.   

Mount Grant, Mineral County, Nevada
7/1/2011 - A fundraiser will be held on September 11, 2011, benefitting Veteran’s Memorial Park in Hawthorne, Nevada. This event is a run/walk to the top of Mount Grant, and both individual and team entries are being accepted.

Charleston Peak, Spring Mountains, Clark County, Nevada
6/27/2011 - Summertime is the primary season for bagging Nevada’s County High Points. One of my favorites is Charleston Peak (11,918’). Overlooking a large swath of Southern Nevada, the Springs Mountains are sometimes referred to as a “sky island”, meaning that these mountains are surrounded by ecosystems dramatically different than they are. In this case, the Springs represent a lovely Great Basin environment, but the surrounding low desert more closely resembles the Mohave.  We had a big snowpack this year, and there are many lingering snowfields and snow banks on the North and South loop trails. Yet the entire loop is currently hike-able. The snow refreezes every night, but by 9 am it’s already getting mushy again. So throw the gaiters in your pack and have some fun hiking mighty Charleston Peak!   

Kumiva Peak, Selenite Range, Pershing County, Nevada
5/2/2011 - It’s the spring season in the Great Basin and that means it’s an excellent time to get out and hike.  Flower, grasses, and plants are sprouting and the wild beasts are on the move. There may still be a lot of snow on the higher peaks, but mid-elevation peaks (5-8K) are ripe for plucking. A recent journey had me marveling at the expansive views from the summit of Kumiva Peak (8,237’). To the southwest, I could discern Washoe County high point Mount Rose, as well as the Virginia, Pah Rah, and Lake Ranges. Lassen Peak and the Warners could be seen to the west and northwest in California. Granite Peak near Gerlach was prominent and still rather snowy. The Black Rock Desert (home of Burning Man) was visible with Division, Duffer, and King Lear Peaks beyond. Barely visible to the extreme northeast was another Granite Peak—this one the high point of Humboldt County. Star Peak, highest in Pershing County, was detectable to the east. I could also spot, though just barely, Bunker Hill in the Toiyabe Range and Mount Grant in Mineral County, far to the south. It was truly amazing to view so many Nevada county high points from one centrally located peak, and other distant peaks in California and Oregon as well. Kumiva Peak can be hiked from the northwest, from the Jenny Creek Road. A worthy endeavor!   

Turtlehead Mountain, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Clark County, Nevada
3/27/2011 - While most of the peaks described in Hiking Nevada’s County High Points are best done in the summer months, the side trips are sometimes better in the cooler months. One example of this is the side trip for Charleston Peak in Clark County, which is a visit to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area near Las Vegas. Known far and wide as having some of the best rock climbing in the world, “Red Rocks” offers a myriad of other activities. Biking, bird watching, and photography are just a few of these. Hikers, of course, can choose from a variety of trails, and during my recent visit, I chose the hike to Turtlehead Mountain (6,323’). The hike begins at the Sandstone Quarry parking lot and follows an initially nice trail along a wash for a mile. After that, it steepens as you approach the sheer south face of the beast. But fear not, that route remains easy, with many different footpaths ultimately converging to escort you to the summit. The views of Red Rocks, Las Vegas, and the nearby Spring Mountains are truly exceptional. This hike checks in at around 5 miles and 2000’ gain round trip, and is described in Desert Summits by Andy Zdon, available at www.spotteddogpress.com. 

Peaks in Mineral County, Nevada
3/1/2011 - January and February have passed and we are now on the cusp of Spring. It was a relatively mild start to the year, and many peaks in the Great Basin have remained hikeable through the winter. We’ve even seen some days where it made it to 60 degrees, and that’s t-shirt weather! I hiked many fine mountains around the Gabbs Valley area, including Ghost Dance Ridge, Rand Ridge, Copper Mtn, Nugent BM, and Modoc BM in the Gillis Range; Gabbs Mountain and Finger Rock in the Gabbs Valley Range; Big Kassock Mtn in the Sand Springs Range; Fissure Ridge and Black Hills in the Monte Cristo Mtns; and Lodi BM in the Lodi Hills. Wild horses and antelope were frequently spotted during these outings. The peaks all had one major thing in common—snow was not a problem at any time. 2011 has definitely been a great year to get an early start on the lower peaks of the Great Basin. 

Owlhead Benchmark, Death Valley National Park
2/18/2011 - The Owlshead Mountains are one of the remotest ranges in Death Valley National Park. While the highest peak in this group, Owl BM (4,666’), is a fairly routine stroll from the microwave tower at the end of the Owlshead Road, the route to the range’s namesake is much longer. Centrally located within this cluster of peaks, Owlhead BM (4,408’) is an 18 mile round trip day hike that is beautiful and delightful. Starting from the road, one immediately enters wilderness and hikes an old road for 4+ miles to Lost Lake. Here the cross-country begins, but it is not too bad and after traversing an alluvial fan and ascending a connector ridge, the views really broaden while hiking the last mile of ridgeline to the summit. So many peaks and ranges are visible that is almost defies description. One important “must do” deviation should be pursued on the descent—go directly back to Lost Lake. Head for the north end of the dry lake and walk straight south through the center of it. You’ll encounter “moving rocks” ala The Racetrack, and the feeling of vastness really hits you when you arrive at the geographic center of the lake. A great place for a rest break and a snack! 

Anvil Spring Point, Death Valley National Park
1/21/2011 - Anvil Spring Point (4183’) is located in one of the southernmost sections of Death Valley National Park, in the Sugarloaf Peak area of the Panamint Range. It’s a good distance to get the peak—7 miles one way, and you’ll certainly have the place to yourself. Except possibly, for the burros. They love this area, and Mesquite Spring and Lost Spring both provide water. Birds and bats also congregate near the canyon water sources, and Lost Spring is especially enchanting since it lies hidden in a mini-slot canyon. A person could spend a couple of days camped back in here, and ascend several peaks including Sugarloaf Peak and Antenna Point. This is a great place to hike when the higher elevations are still socked in by snow.