I will be posting other photographs in their appropriate categories.
The next morning was nice and clear. The thermometer I had brought along measured an overnight low of 47. Not bad at all. I had expected colder. I took my time breaking camp and packing up. Decided to go back up the road to to the nature trail , and then one final visit to Road’s End. The trail circles down from the road to Lamoille Creek, visiting an abandoned beaver pond, and winding back up through aspens and more aspens to the highway. There is something to be said for water falling over rocks. It speaks with a distinctive voice. I know of the water faeries at play. And there is something to be said for thick stands of quaking aspens. I know of the tree spirits. The handout for the nature trail was very informative, with detailed descriptions of the geologic history, the trees and flowers in this habitat, and of mammals and birds that are found here. Up at Road’s End I took another little walk along the trail from the parking lot that follows Lamoille Creek for a ways. Ending up talking with a couple who were heading up to Lamoille Lake. I cautioned them about my own difficulty. They seemed confident and were eyeing the weather. On my way back down the canyon I stopped to check out Right Fork Canyon which is where I originally thought the campground was located. Turns out to be a private camp for the Lions’ Club. Pretty setting. And one more stop at the Power Station picnic area, for not much at all.
I decided to visit the town of Lamoille to see if I could capture some interesting perspectives on the Rubys. They have a very old Presbyterian church there which is very photogenic. Then on towards Spring Creek where I made a turn down Pleasant Valley. Some more nice views of the Rubys, including Ruby Dome, the highest peak in the mountain range. And then regretfully my little camping trip comes to an end. It was nice to get away, and to do it simply. I missed having my convenient toilet and real bed to sleep in. But for a couple of days, simplicity wins out over comfort.
On the morning of the second day, I was at the trailhead at Road’s End at 1000am. I was headed for Lamoille Lake a distance of 2 miles, estimated hiking time 2 hours. Liberty Pass was another mile beyond at a considerable rise in elevation. The weather was nice, partly cloudy and warm enough to start in shorts and t-shirt. I brought another significant layer of clothes just in case. It seemed I would be tagging along with an older threesome who were traveling in the same direction and at the same rate of speed. Measured by the senior member of the group who is probably 75 and doesn’t get out much. It soon become evident to me that I was going to have some difficulty. Stopping every quarter of a mile or less to catch my breath. On some of the steeper sections I had to stop because it felt my chest was about to explode. I could only attribute this to the higher elevation. The hike I had done yesterday was 1000 feet lower. My legs were doing okay. The landscape is absolutely spectacular. It didn’t matter how far I would get, the fact was that I was there, enjoying it all. When we got near the lake, there was a trail sign which read Parking Lot 2 miles. This was terrible. That is the hardest and slowest two miles I have ever hiked. We went on to the lake which is beautiful. Tall peaks surround it and one can see Lamoille Canyon down below. Snowfields reach down the mountainside toward the lake. One of the party had brought a fishing pole and that was his intention and the other two were with him. I felt as if I needed to press further up the trail towards Liberty Pass. I got misdirected and ended up in open territory above the lake. Had lunch beside some snow and a variety of flower I have never seen before. Had to don my sweatshirt as the wind picked up and the sun disappeared behind some clouds. Now it was time to turn back. Backtracking the lake trail, the fork to Liberty Pass was very evident. Another time. I took the Horse Trail down. It’s shorter and not as scenic. Stone stairways have been constructed, for erosion control, but I can see it makes for more sure footing for the horses. And us humans. I returned to the truck, exhausted, and disappointed. Not so much physically as mentally. After dinner was a spectacular sunset caught on the walls of the canyon across from the campground. I intended to sleep out on the lounge chair, but that was abruptly ended by light rain. Back to the truck. About midnight part of the southern sky cleared sufficiently for me to go outside for observation. I didn’t bring any covers with me so I only stayed for about a half an hour. Got a good view of the constellation Aquarius and made some interesting finds about some of its star groups and its relationship to Pegasus, the meridian, and the ecliptic. I made an assignment to become better acquainted with the stars that are directly on the ecliptic. There is always something to learn.
I decided to go camping. Strange to say when I am towing around my home on wheels. But I wanted to get out and explore some of the landscapes around Elko while I am still here and getting up into the Rubys was one priority. It seemed more of a hassle than it was worth to hitch up drive all around the back country, back into a campsite, unhitch, and then hitch up again. And repack the truck with what I am storing in the trailer. I have done truck camping before so not a big deal. Forget what I said about never having to make up a list and pack up the truck, and hope I didn’t forget anything. This is a reality too. Sometimes I am just going to go off in my truck and leave the trailer behind. For a day or two. Like I did to go to Reno.
I took the first morning to drive around to the east side of the Rubys, the reverse of the route I did in 2012. The exit off I-80 is just two east of the trailer park. The weather was not so good for touring, but produced some dramatic light and shadow effects for photos. It rained lightly off and on the whole time I was in Ruby Valley. It is largely an agricultural area. Remote, with water. Apparently long-established cattle raising and hay production. The destination on the east side is the Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge. It consists of the remains of a large ancient lake of which Franklin Lake to the north is another remnant. Now shallow wetlands fed by mountain streams and fresh water springs. I am developing an interest in the National Wildlife Refuges. The seem like a nice place to hang out. There is a Forest Service campground just to the south of the refuge, which was hardly occupied and very attractive.
The weather improved as I crossed over Harrison Pass and made my way up to Lamoille Canyon on the west side. You have to go through Spring Creek. By the time I had arrived at the campground I had driven 150 miles and taken 6 hours to get there. Which Google says I could have come directly in 49 minutes driving 38.5 miles. It’s not the destination. Setting up camp is easy. I have the option of either sleeping in my lounge chair on in the passenger’s seat of the truck. Depending on the weather. Charcoal grill for heating up my pre-cooked meals, And a 7-gallon container of water. The campground has running water and pit toilets. Each campsite has a picnic table. I found a space right next to Lamoille Creek with an open view of the southern sky, what there was of it being in a canyon in the mountains. This week an important factor was going to be the weather.
It was early enough to take a short hike up Thomas Canyon to test my legs and explore this beautiful glacial landscape. We are in the midst of an ecological zone that is dominated by quaking aspen and limber pine. And many wildflowers, which surprisingly this late in the year are still blooming. The trail follows the creek up the canyon, passing numerous small waterfalls and engaging rocks all along its way down from Mount Fitzgerald at the head of the canyon, still displaying large snowfields around its shoulders. I was telling myself I would stop hiking and turn around when I got tired, something in my body started hurting, when I lost interest, when I got hungry, or when I ran out of time. Well, the latter occurred first, but right about the time I attained this significant waterfall, and decided I had had enough exercise. The sun disappeared behind the mountain. I made it back to camp with more than enough time to prepare dinner and eat. I figure I may have gone about three miles round trip. I felt good. Well enough to tackle something more significant up at Road’s End tomorrow. The night turned overcast and I ended up sleeping in the truck. Every time I had to get up and pee, which is frequently, the courtesy lights and the cargo lamp come on when I open the door. Annoying. I kept checking on the skies. There were some tantalizing breaks here and there but nothing sustainable. I was able to orient to Polaris. Always a good thing.
I went to Reno this week to take care of some business. What I did was not so important as that I did anything at all. I constructed some goals, devised a plan, and, detail by detail, I accomplished it. It’s 300 miles east on Interstate 80. I stayed overnight at a motel near the University of Nevada. I made a significant step toward establishing myself as a resident of Nevada, did some shopping, enjoyed some of the natural beauty of the area, sampled some of the local food, and committed myself to a return visit in October. I made this trip in the truck only, leaving the trailer behind in the park in Ryndon. Forget what I may have said about never staying in a motel again, or flying along the freeway 85 mph. I can see that I will be doing this every once in awhile.
Interstate 80 follows the Humboldt River across northern Nevada. The waterway was an important resource and migration route for the Northern Shoshone for uncountable generations, and the indigenous people before them. The river begins in the mountains north of Wells and ends up in a sink east of Fernley. I will have to do some research on the geologic history of this area. The landscape of Nevada is many north-south mountain ranges with flat valleys in between them. They look like ancient lake beds, making the mountains islands. Not much vegetation grows except sagebrush and rabbit brush. Right along the river is a more diverse biosystem. There are no trees on the mountains.
This route became a way for European Americans to migrate to California starting around 1840. This has a devastating effect on the population and the economy of the Native Americans. In 1868, the transcontinental railroad was constructed through here, linking the west coast with the centers of finance, commerce, and government, in the United States, back east. Subsequently towns and small cities along the rail lines became transfer points for mining, agriculture, and livestock. I have ridden this route a number of times on Amtrak, from Salt Lake City to California. The train stops in Elko and in Winnemucca, before arriving in Sparks and Reno. Part of this journey is always at night, so there was much along the way that I was now only seeing in daylight. I identify landmarks that made an impression my mind. One of them definitely was the many steel bridges crossing the Humboldt around Elko, With the advent of motor vehicles, U.S. Highway 40 was constructed. In the 1960’s this route became Interstate 80, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Highway. Interesting personal connection there.
My truck is in good working order. I have taken care of details at hand in Elko. And I have addressed the problems I was having with my right leg. That’s another story. I made good time going east, stopping only once for a rest break. Every two hours I at least need to get out and stretch and use the restroom. I arrived in Reno in the early afternoon. The weather was warm, hazy, and partly cloudy. I got surprisingly good gas mileage on this leg of the trip. 15 gallons for 300 miles equals 20 miles per gallon.
One of my objectives was to open a checking and a savings account with a national bank with whom I have had a credit card for 10 years. And I wished to establish a Nevada address for myself with these accounts. I have recently opened an account with a mail forwarding service near Las Vegas that includes a P.O. Box, but a number of companies require a physical address as well. I ended up using the address of the RV park in Ryndon. That seems to work. That part was relatively easy. To open the two new accounts I wanted to use the money that was in my checking account at the credit union in Salt Lake City. I was blocked from using my debit card to make this withdrawal. I should have known there was a daily limit on cash withdrawals, but I didn’t. So I had to return on Wednesday morning to complete the transaction. This time I purchased a money order from the post office, which is what I should have done at the beginning. All the people at the bank were very pleasant and made the whole process a positive one. My cards will be sent to the mailing address and they will be forwarded to General Delivery, Elko.
Then a bit of shopping for a couple of things I couldn’t get in Elko. Both transactions were with some very pleasant people. Then for dinner I decided I would like to try to get a good Chinese meal. Especially after that disappointing experience in Elko. I researched the menu of this one place and discovered they serve chow fun. One of my favorites from San Francisco. The place was staffed entirely by Asians. When I ordered the chow fun with vegetables, the woman told me they had run out. Oh no! I had my mind set for this dish. She said if I wanted to wait 20 minutes, they were getting some more from another location. Of course. I give them credit for taking care of business. And fried tofu in brown sauce with vegetables. I was not disappointed. And I had another meal to bring home to Ryndon. It was nearly sunset when I left the restaurant. I decided to check out the regional park that is just west of the motel. A large, expanse of green and wooded land rising up the hillside. There is a nice view of downtown Reno and the mountains east, and a fantastic sky catching the remaining light of the day. Before darkness completely set in I toured the arboretum and experienced an awesome sunset through the trees. This tract of real estate used to be Rancho San Rafael. The people of Reno are fortunate to have such a natural treasure.
A reasonably good night’s sleep. The motel is comfortable, though kind of shabby. You don’t get what you don’t pay for. This one room is much larger than the trailer I am living in. In the morning I decided to explore the campus of the university. Directly across the street from the motel is the Fleischmann Planetarium. But they don’t open until 1000am, and I had things to do. Nice looking building in a very appropriate setting. Not like what happened to the Hansen/ Clark in Salt Lake City. I visited the Fleischmann back in 1999. Lawlor Sports Complex is home to the Lady Wolfpack basketball. UNR is a very modern campus. They have a lot of wealthy benefactors. The campus seems to be very pedestrian friendly. Nevada drivers tend to more considerate than Utah. There are no major motor vehicle thoroughfares cutting through it. The university seems to be heavily invested in athletics. They also support a lot of agricultural activity. There was supposed to be a post office around here somewhere. I had seen it yesterday. Never did find it. Didn’t think to use my phone to locate it. Duh. Anyway got in some walking exercise before I finished off my business at the bank. Picked up a bagel and a latte for the road. Had a nice chat with the owner about trying to do things right. Good bagel.
Then I went up to the KOA west of Reno to check out the campground for my return in October. This time I will be towing the trailer. And I won’t be coming on Interstate 80. I have had a good experience with KOA and I have a membership. It is a very attractive site in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada overlooking the Truckee River and the Union Pacific railroad tracks. I paid a deposit for my site and was provisionally given a site right on the edge of the park. The guy who took care of my business was very pleasant and knowledgeable.
Then it was on the road again. It was very windy for much of the way back to Elko. There were a lot of trucks on the road which makes it challenging. I stopped for gas, restroom, and refreshment in Winnemucca. Didn’t make such good time or get such good gas mileage on my way back. Arrived at my little home about 500pm and heated up the leftover Chinese dinner.
All is well. I feel a significant sense of accomplishment at having done all this without making too many errors or forgetting significant details. Driving did not fatigue me. I accomplished what I set out to do. Met pleasant people with every transaction. And allowed myself some interesting experiences that provided me with a positive impression of Reno. There is a lot about Reno that is not so great. The immense presence of the casinos and hotels. But you don’t have deal with that. And then there are a lot of people in Reno who are struggling. And I do have to deal with that. For whatever reasons, they came looking for something that wasn’t here, or they had something and lost it all. Who knows. But it is apparent. People finding life to be a challenge. And not doing very well in it.
Two bridges over the Humboldt River. Amtrak goes through here. Eastbound 1000pm. Westbound 400am. I have done this a number of times from Salt Lake City to Emeryville. It’s kind of neat in the middle of the night to see the passing cars with lights on. The Amtrak locomotives have a mellow harmonious horn.
Here are maps of the route I took from Salt Lake City to Elko attempting to follow the Pony Express Trail. My route is marked with red dots. The green circles represent Pony Express Trail markers erected by the Bureau of Land Management. The trail across Utah is well-marked with new large signs having been added in just the last year. The signage in Nevada varies from road signs at some intersections to iron posts stuck in the ground with the label “XP Trail” attached to them. The black circles represent Overland Stage markers. They have been recently installed. They are made of iron rails and contain quotes from travelers’ journals.