Tag Archives: Nevada

Red Rock Canyon

We reached the final destination of our road trip down SR95 on New Year’s Eve: Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. The area is full of scenic trails, grand vistas, gorgeous rock formations and lots of bouldering and rock climbing opportunities. As usual, we found places to camp along dirt roads on nearby BLM land.

 

Due to Red Rock Canyon’s popularity and close proximity to Las Vegas, you have to purchase a timed entry reservation online to access the scenic loop road and its associated trailheads but the system works well.  One thing I’d recommend to make the most of your time is to spend a day exploring the Calico Hills area from the other side – from the free-to-access Calico Basin area – so that you can have more time for other trails on the day you reserve entry to the scenic loop.

   

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Rhyolite Ruins, Desert Art and Wild Burros

Continuing south on SR95 from Tonopah and Goldfield, we came through Beatty and reached the Goldwell Open Air Museum a little before sunset:

 

We spent the next two nights in a spot in the hills outside Beatty and ventured out on our bikes to explore and visit the remains of the mining town, Rhyolite.  We also encounter some wild burros both out in the desert and in the middle of the town of Beatty.

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International Car Forest of the Last Church

Next stop along Nevada’s SR95: another once-booming mining town, Goldfield, and the International Car Forest of the Last Church:

There’s a few old buildings and several collections of abandoned mining gear in town.  We skipped those but did swing by the old “pioneer” graveyard in the outskirts of town to see some unusual epitaphs:

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Mirrors, Dunes, Clowns and Mines

To continue our road trip down SR95 in Nevada, we returned from our Berlin ghost town detour and camped out near Tonopah at the base of the Crescent Sand Dunes, in sight of a solar concentrating power plant:

The following day, we visited the freaky fun Clown Motel and the neighboring graveyard from Tonopah’s early mining days:

But we spent most of the day checking out the very interesting Tonopah Historic Mining Park:

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Berlin / Ichthyosaur State Park

The day after Christmas, Darlene and I headed out in the camper van for a road trip down the western side of Nevada. Starting from the Tahoe house, our first stop heading south along SR95 was an overnight stay at Walker Lake:

Passing through Hawthorne the next morning, we then took a major detour off SR95 to visit Berlin /Ichthyosaur State Park –both a silver mining ghost town and a significant fossil site for ichthyosaurs.  We enjoyed seeing and reading about this history of Berlin but unfortunately, the fossil site building has very limited hours in the winter so we could only peer in the window.

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Eclipse from the Ruby Mountains

Scouting over maps of the path of October 14’s annular eclipse, I spotted a potentially nice area to view it in the lovely Ruby Mountains of central Nevada (south of Elko) – an area I had never explored before. Darlene was off to visit Maine with her sister and Hera had been having more health issues but she seemed to have stabilized again when I decided to go ahead and pack up my bike and telescopes in the van and head out a couple days in advance to secure a nice spot.

I found a spot with a gorgeous panoramic view on Harrison Pass that was somewhat isolated from the access road – and the soon-to-be-gathering small crowd of vehicles and campers.  I set up and tested my cameras and telescopes the day before the eclipse and also did a bit of exploring by mountain bike on what turned out to be some nasty steep ATV roads.

Two-minute video of the annular eclipse

The sky started out fairly clear as the eclipse began but unfortunately the cooling air seemed to form more and more clouds as the time of max eclipse approached.  It looked like we were going to be completely overcast and I could see and hear lots of folks jumping in their cars and driving down the highway to try to find some open sky.  As it turned out though, the clouds thinned enough to give a filtered view of the full annular “ring of fire”.  And sure enough, the clouds dissipated as the moon began to uncover the sun again.  Maybe a mountain ridge viewing point wasn’t such a great idea given that mountains tend to attract cloud cover even without the cooling effect of an eclipse.  At any rate, the eclipse viewing was a success.

 

I decided to cut the trip short due to Hera’s deteriorating health but then the van broke down as I got to Elko: check engine light on and lots of codes saying half the cylinders were misfiring – and on a Sunday when all the repair shops are closed.  I eventually got a 24/7 mobile mechanic service to check it out but they recommended taking it to the one Ford dealer in town as it was going to be an extensive diagnosis and repair, and should be under warranty anyway.  (Only 21,000 miles on the van.)  Apparently driving it too far in this state could cause serious engine damage so I spent two nights in the Ford service parking lot.  First waiting for them to open on Monday morning and then waiting most of Monday for a technician to become available. Something’s failed with the VCT (variable camshaft timing) system and it’s going to be a multi-day repair job (engine take-apart) but they can’t even locate parts right now due to the UAW strike including closures of many parts warehouses across the country.  So I decided to rent a minivan, transfer everything out and head home with Hera.  Once again, the van is kaput and in a shop far away.


Update (11/10/2023): It took three weeks but eventually the UAW strike ended and they repaired the engine over three days.  Darlene and I drove out in my car (with Hera) to pick it up.

Before heading out of Elko, I noticed the fresh water tank was empty – which seemed very weird.  Why would they go to the trouble to find and open the dump valve?  We found a place to refill and it was nearly full before I stepped out and noticed all the water draining through the side door of the van.  Turns out the water pump filter/strainer had burst.  I should’ve emptied the tanks and pipes before leaving it because it apparently got cold enough to freeze and bust things.  I didn’t think about it before I left the van there amidst all the worry about the engine failure, my sick cat and being stranded in Elko for who knows how long.

The scary thing was that the water was flooding the electrical compartment.  It was right on the edge of submerging the fuse box.  It was dumb luck I caught it when I did.  I don’t know what would’ve happened – shorted out, started a fire?  Anyway, I stopped the fill and we sat there for a while letting things drain before moving the van for fear of shifting the water and making contact and then who knows what.

When we got home I investigated further and found that I was able to replace the little $10 pump filter part and there were no other leaks.
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Hot Springs and River Gorges

On our way through Nevada to southeastern Oregon, Darlene and I spent a couple of days exploring the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge and the Thousand Creek Gorge in particular.  Only spotted a single lone antelope but got in a bit of biking and hiking and a soak in the hot spring pool at the Virgin Valley campground.  Didn’t stay at the campground but found a spot in some nearby BLM land outside the wildlife refuge.  We also overnighted at Bog Hot Springs off of highway 140.

Somewhere along the way, on some rough and rocky side roads in the refuge, we managed to bust off our gray tank’s drain valve.  Didn’t even notice for a couple of days.  Oops!  Eventually we found enough parts to repair it about a week later.

It was also our first run using the Starlink system for internet access – working really well!

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Central Nevada Road Trip

After a week in Mt. Bachelor, and with Darlene still visiting her mom, my intention had been to explore southeastern Oregon, but a series of forecasted storms would make many of those dirt roads impassable so I headed back south and ended up on a trip through central Nevada with the ultimate goal of visiting Great Basin National Park near the Utah border. (Separate post and gallery here.)

This trip involved traveling lots of remote routes, both paved and unpaved, and finding interesting places to camp.  Along the way, I spent some time trying out the mountain bike trails near Ely at Ward Mountain, visited the Lunar Crater National Landmark and explored the amazing clay formations at Cathedral Gorge State Park.  No alien encounters (although I was buzzed by what might have been an F-22 Raptor) and unfortunately the ghost town / fossil site Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park is currently closed for road repairs.

 

(If this HDR video can’t play in your browser, here’s a more basic, non-HDR version .)

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Great Basin National Park

Looking towards Doso Doyabi (center) and Wheeler Peak (right).

These are pictures from spending four days in Great Basin National Park in mid-April (with the cats, of course) – driving up to the Mather Overlook (the road was still closed beyond that point due to snow), hiking up the Baker Creek Trail and the Lehman Creek Trail, taking the Lehman Caves tour and venturing around to the remote southern tip of the park to hike up to Lexington Arch.

I want to go back sometime and do the hike to the top of Wheeler Peak (elevation 13,065 ft / 3982 m).

(If this HDR video can’t play in your browser, here’s a more basic, non-HDR version.)

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Lake Tahoe to Desert Playa

We loaded up the van and headed out last week, stopping first for a couple of days to visit with Troy in Tahoe.

 

Our intention was to travel on to the Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada and maybe into Utah but we had to cut the trip short and head home early so that Darlene could help a friend.  So we spent the couple of days we had checking out Pyramid Lake north of Reno (which is where Lake Tahoe and the Truckee River drain to) and then visiting the Black Rock Desert playa before heading home.

All of this area (and in fact all of northwest Nevada) used to be submerged in a huge prehistoric lake (Lake Lahontan) and the ancient water lines are still obvious along the mountain sides.  There are also lots of cool tufa rock formations in the area, though unfortunately much of the area around Pyramid Lake is off limits to the public and open to tribal members only.  (The lake and surroundings are part of a Paiute Reservation.)

Tufa / calcium carbonate rock formations (or perhaps alien artifacts)

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October Road Trip

I made a number of additional miscellaneous stops on my October road trip with Pan and Hera in the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle, including along a section of historic Route 66 in the Mojave Desert, on the road in northern Arizona and southern Utah, mountain biking outside of Zion National Park, and taking the tour of Hoover Dam.  This was over the course of two weeks (October 4th-19th, 2017).

Mojave Desert outside of Baker, CA

Looking down Hoover Dam

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Here are the other separate galleries for this trip:

And here’s a video montage of my drone flights over the trip, including my last flight where I lost control, crashed and was forced to leave it behind:

What happens when the Mavic Pro doesn’t have GPS lock and you’re too high for the down-facing optical sensors to work is that the Mavic becomes unable to hold its position and it starts drifting all over the place.  I was trying to compensate and keep it away from the walls but I was not at all successful.  It almost crashed into one wall but halted itself when it’s forward-facing sensors detected the wall.  As it started drifting towards the opposite wall, I had just decided to try to get it up and out of the shadow of the canyon entirely to hopefully gain GPS lock and regain control but it was too late – and this time it wasn’t facing the wall and didn’t detect it.  It crashed and fell to a point immediately below me.  While it was only like 35 feet down, it was a sheer drop with only a couple of narrow soft ledges.  Without rope and climbing gear, I would have been risking my neck to try to retrieve it.  Yeah, very sad to have to leave it behind, though it looked pretty busted up anyway.

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