Thursday, May 21, 2009

Desert 2009

It was Friday and raining as I loaded camping gear into the truck. So much for postponing our desert trip till May 1, when the weather was nice. Since the storm was coming from the coast, I did not think that it would have too much energy after it crossed the Sierra Nevada's. Because of the weather we took Kevin's truck with the camper shell, in order to keep our gear dry. I kissed my wife goodbye as I climbed into the driver seat. Next stop Reno.

A stop in town gained us some very important supplies. Gas, food, beer, ice and ammo. A quick bite to eat and we were off, eastbound interstate 80. Not having seen my friend in a while, we were soon engrossed in conversation and missed our exit onto highway 447. No problem we will just turn around at the next exit. 15 miles later, I decided to make an illegal U-turn. This u-turn involved a 1/4 mile plus jaunt on a dirt road in order to hit the highway in the opposite direction. I guess you don't put off ramps when there is nothing to go to. This gives you an idea of how desolate Nevada is.

At the Town of Gerlach we turned off the main road and headed up Solider Meadow Road. It had been raining lightly off and on the entire drive thus far, but we were hoping that the dried lake bed would be able absorb the moisture. It didn't. I have seen the sign "Impassible when wet" before, but could not imagine the gouppiness of the mud created by the slit of the lake bed. We backed out of the access area on four mud doughnuts. I guess no playa for us on this trip.

It rained on and off and on the entire weekend, making this the muddiest desert trip thus far. But the rain didn't seem to dampen our sprits too much. The weather was relatively warm, and the volume of rain was not that great; that is why it is a desert!

Heading north on Solider Meadow Road, a nice graded gravel road, we made good time and were soon north of the Black Rock Desert Playa. It was close to three in the morning, so we pulled off a spur road and made camp.,-119.1475&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

The next day we drove further north towards High Rock Canyon. The Canyon now has seasonal closures for raptor breading. A little bummed about not being able to travel that direction, but the sight of several raptors circling over head made me feel that the closure was at least warranted. What always amazes me about this corner of the country is how wild it is. Our animal sighting for this trip included: raptors, deer, pronghorn antelope, herds of wild horses, and coyotes. We have not seen the herds of wild Donkeys in several years, and hope that they still exist.

That night we made our camp along Hays Canyon Road before it dropped into the Surprise Valley.,-119.9261&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1 Cedarville in Modoc County would have been the closest land mark. Our trek north had taken us within 35 miles of the Oregon border.

Much of the land out there is partly ranch and open grazing. As we were searching for a spot to camp we spotted a dead calf near the road. It had recently died and was still intacked. That night we heard several coyote howling. The next morning as we were driving out, we were about to pass the spot where the calf was spotted the night before. In the middle of the road was a large mass, however it did not look like the calf we spotted yesterday. As we got closer, I saw a coyote back itself out from inside the calf. It was eating it from the inside out. Gnarrr. What we found unusual was that further down the road we saw another dead calf, both were white.

We had run several hundred miles since last fuel up, and despite the extra 10 gallons we carried, our tank was close to running dry. We reached the town of Gerlach and filled up. Since this was short trip, we had not had our fill of "yeee ha ing", and decided to take an extra dirt route out from Gerlach. I believe the road we took was Empire Mountain Road, just north of the town. However this road was difficult to follow. A large set of power lines run in this area. Power lines all have a service road running under it. Our desired road cris crosses the power line, and thus the roads become mixed. The road which sees more traffic become the main road, and over time the lesser road disappears. I tried to stay the course but soon became lost in the desert. At one point Kevin said, " you can't just drive through the desert,we need to turn back." I thought that was a very amusing quote coming from him.
From Reno to Reno we did 500 miles, of which at least half was on dirt. This years desert trip did not have anything too spectacular occur. We snapped off a few pictures here and there. They never seem to properly portray the vastness and beauty I have come to love of the desert. But regardless, enjoy.

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