Days of Nights

in search of dark skies

Month: October 2017 (Page 1 of 2)

Cross Quarters

Walker Lake.02

Walker Lake is the remnant of a much larger body of water produced by melting glaciers 12,000 years ago. It is not necessarily connected with Lake Lahontan. It is fed by the Walker River and has no natural outlet. It is surrounded by barren mountains and sandy playa. Since the European-Americans arrived in the late 19th century water has been diverted by agricultural interests. There is a dam as you come towards Schurz. The lake has shrunk dramatically in size, and consequently saline levels have risen to the point that the lake cannot support very much life. The sandy shores and boulders have all acquired this alkali frosting. It’s starting to look like the Great Salt Lake. The night skies are dark. But the lights from Hawthorne and the Army base, and the traffic along the highway are significant distractions. I am able to take refuge behind the trailer and turn my back to the road to gain significant observation time. It gets cold here at night. And windy. I took in the stars along the ecliptic between Algenib and Hamal. Made a sketch. They are basically the southern “v” of Pisces and the head of Cetus. Also later sketched the “rabbit tracks” south of Sirius. Haven’t had a good view of them in a long time. Venus and Mars before sunrise. We are right on the new moon here. Good timing. Some other campers pulled in last evening just above me and were gone quite early. Another rig showed up later just passing through. Had a pleasant conversation with the woman who was out walking the dog. For some reason I feel a need to tidy up my campsite. Picking up trash of course, and sweeping clean areas that I am going to be using most. Not the circle I did at Sand Mountain, but I built a circle of stones around the grill and oriented the four directions and cross-quarters. I then rebuilt one of the fire rings out of mostly stones from the other fire ring. This time also with the orientation. Tonight is the new moon and the celebration Diwali on the Hindu calendar. I remember doing this 2 years ago up Judd Creek in the Simpsons. I built a fire and collected more firewood. There is a good supply of dead tamarisk around. For someone with a chain saw. Cooked up the eggplant and peppers I got at Sprouts on the grill and a pot of linguine on the stove top. It got too windy to light the fire so maybe tomorrow night. The sky remained clear but wind continued strong. Was out at 300am and the clouds started rolling in. By 400am the wind was so strong it was rocking the trailer. Then it began to rain. There was no hope for sleep so I turned on the radio. An app on my smart phone. Nice. By daybreak the skies were clearing, but the wind continued. Evidence of snow on Mt. Grant to the south. The sunrise through the clouds over the wind-whipped water made for some neat photographs. After breakfast explored the shore of the lake to the north. Large granite boulders left by the glaciers I assume broke up the sandy landscape. There were areas along this beach that were algae free and clear water, but I was still not tempted to go wading. The wind was considerably less as sunset approached, so I lit my Diwali fire. The next day there were only two campers at this end of the campground. I went out to explore the south end of this campground and the other campground to the south. More sites that look like pull throughs but lower levels look just as sandy. The other campground is what remains of a more established area with a paved road and paved campsites. Some of them even look level. But you are much closer to the highway here. So pick your priorities. An uneventful evening and night. Set out for Beatty at 1000am. I have at least a 4 hour drive. Stopped to chat with my neighbor. Nice guy. The bonds of shared common experience in helping in difficulties never dies.

Walker Lake NV

Virginia City NV

From Reno the approach to Virginia is up a steep, windy road into the mountains. The highway hugs the western side with dramatic drop-offs and panoramic views. A bit scary for this novice truck and trailer driver. Plenty of turn-outs which I used frequently. Even got a toot of appreciation from one passer-by. The city owes its existence to productive silver mines. It is now a tourist attraction. It reminds me of Park City, without the ski areas. I continued on the route I missed on my way to Reno by coasting down Six Mile Canyon. Much easier to take, with a lot of color in the cottonwoods. Hwy 50 towards Silver Springs, then Hwy 95 to Walker Lake. I didn’t have to go back to Fallon after all. Passed by the Buckland Pony Express Station on the Carson River, but did not take the time to stop. I clearly have sites to revisit on a more leisurely journey.

Walker Lake NV

There are some pretty desolate stretches of Hwy 95 that rival Hwy 50 for loneliness. Just north of Walker Lake I pass through the Walker River Paiute-Shoshone Tribal Lands. The southern end of Walker Lake is US Army Ammunition Depot. The largest in the country. And the town of Hawthorne. The rest of the land around the lake is BLM. There are three established camping areas right off Hwy 95. Two are dispersed areas and are free, the third has designated sites with canopies shielding the picnic tables from the sun and wind. There is also a boat ramp there. A nightly fee is charged. I chose the first campground because it had come with acceptable reviews on the Internet. These reviews also came with strong warnings about the sand. And what did I do but got stuck in the sand almost as soon as I had pulled into the campground. Second time in two weeks. Duh. I thought I had learned my lesson at Sand Mountain. My only neighbor at the time witnessed the whole event. After I had talked with him as I evaluated the approach. And this time the trailer was attached to the truck. Sand to the level of the hitch and the rear axle of the truck. I did the only thing I could do and managed to jack up the hitch and uncouple the truck. The truck came out easily by itself. The trailer itself was not stuck in the stand. But in order to move it to firmer ground, reconnect it to the truck, and move it to a suitable camping site I would have to pull it away from the soft sand backwards. And I had nothing to tow it with. Hawthorne is 20 miles away and has an Ace Hardware. I got what I thought I needed fortunately. Tying the towing strap to the rear bumper of the trailer and hooking it onto to the chain hooks on the rear of the truck I was able to drag the trailer about 100 feet up the road. Re-attaching the trailer and backing into a nice firm gravelly site was very straight forward. The only casualty was the Tongue-Twister and that could have been avoided. Also easily replaced. My neighbor was as helpful as he could be, assisting me in digging sand with his shovel. Offering words of encouragement, and recommending the store in Hawthorne. After that it was like nothing had happened. A perfectly normal camping experience. Sort of.


Reno NV

It was important for me to go to Reno before heading south. My daughter was coming over from the Bay Area with my grandson to compete in a bowling tournament. I parked the trailer at the Boomtown KOA. Nice location. Sort of. My brother has a second home near Donner Summit. I drove up there to visit him and meet my daughter and grandson. I watched her bowl at The Bowling Stadium twice. So I got to spend good time with them. I also needed to be in Reno to take care of some business. I haven’t received my permanent Nevada driver’s license. It wasn’t with the mail my daughter brought with her. A visit to the Reno DMV informs me that the license was mailed to my PO Box in Pahrump on September 06. I will have apply for another temporary, when I get to Pahrump and wait there until it shows up in my mailbox. I picked up a prescription my University doctor had forwarded to Reno. Since I don’t have prescription insurance this was going to cost me $230. My drug store membership reduced the price to $130. I am used to paying $15. And I needed to have the slow leak in one of my truck tires repaired. I had to wait 2 hours at Costco for them to tell me the tire was beyond repair. They will not replace just one tire on a 4WD so a new set of tires was going to cost $600. I also got my laundry done and paid a visit to Sprouts and REI Coop. A little reflection prompted me to search for some Yokohamas. I was very happy with ones I had on DaNeZeWa. Costco doesn’t carry them. Discount Tire does, but they didn’t have any in stock. I wasn’t going to wait until the end of the week for a special order. I took what the salesman offered me as an equivalent to Yokohama. I have to trust him. I can already feel the difference on the road. I was kind of dubious of those Michelins from the beginning. But they seemed all right going into this in April. So I stayed 2 extra nights in Boomtown. Took a scenic tour of Verdi after I didn’t have anything more to do. Full water tank. Full propane tank. Full tank of gas. And brand new tires.

Sand Mountain NV

Salt Wells

Sand Springs Pony Express Station

Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge



Lahontan shoreline

another day at Beach Lahontan

Hickison Petroglyph Site

Antelope Mtns. Hickison Summit


Toiyabe Mtns.

the perfect pinyon

the perfect rock

the perfect juniper

Oh So Lonely.

Great Basin National Park. culture

Great Basin National Park. dark skies.

Great Basin National Park. living nature.

Baker Creek

Douglas Fir

giant white fir skeleton


Snake Creek

icicles on overhanging tree branches

Great Basin National Park. landscapes.

Jeff Davis Peak. Wheeler Peak.

just a short time later.

Lake Teresa.

Swazey Peak. Notch Peak. House Range UT.

north Snake Range. Deep Creek Range UT.

Baker Creek.

towards Garrison UT

Baker Canyon. Jeff Davis Peak.


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