The hardest part of planning for the next ride seems to be finishing the route! I'm about halfway done, but I'm just not sure where I want to end the ride. To help get ideas, Ryan and I just returned from a whirlwind road trip through the northernmost portion of Nevada, where we explored several of my route options. Over the course of 1,000+ miles we got to see some of the most beautiful and remote parts of the state. It is certainly inspiring to see such amazing country and several times I found myself saying "I want to ride through here!"
We began our adventure in Jarbidge, a small town in a remote canyon in northeastern Nevada, not far from the Idaho border. There's no such thing as a spontaneous drive through Jarbidge -- you have to want to go there. That's because after driving all the way to Elko (four hours from Reno) it's another several hours along a dirt road to the tiny town. We loved the mountains and the many flowing streams and creeks. Lots of tall grasses too - something for Sage to look forward to! On the way we did get a flat tire, but Ryan threw on the spare and we made it Jarbidge in one piece. Surprisingly, Jarbidge was pretty busy for such a remote town. Lots of campers and ATVs. Though the winter population is 12 people, it's hardly a ghost town in the summer and fall when recreation seekers and hunters flock to the area. Nonetheless, we found the residents to be quite helpful and they gave us some good contacts for when we pass through during the ride.
The next day, we headed for the east side of the Jarbidge Mountains. We found the perfect place to camp, perched high up on the mountain overlooking the O'Neil Basin far below. We spent a few hours hiking along an old pack trail which crossed a nice flowing stream and led us back into the wilderness area. The pack trail started out great, but unfortunately we lost it in the thick brush. I'll have to find a different route through to Jarbidge it seems. This is why it is so important to scout trails before the ride. You can stare at maps forever, but you don't know what the conditions are unless you see it. Especially with back country riding, it's best to scout in advance wherever possible. I'm sure I'll find a good route through -- there seem to be an abundance of pack trails on the topo maps to choose from. This is one section we'll definitely want to come scout again before the ride.
We left out perfect little camp spot and dropped down the long valley to the interstate and headed east. In Winnemucca we turned north and headed for the Santa Rosa Range. I really liked this range. The road in, though steep, was well maintained. Inside, I was surprised to find a pretty landscape of rolling hills, tabletop mesas, and lots of water and grass. The gentle country was dotted with roaming cows, but few people. This is one section I definitely look forward to riding through. I especially loved the view coming down from the Windy Gap summit. Stunning is the only word to describe it. This is the Nevada most people do not get to see.
After descending the Santa Rosas, we headed for the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in the western part of the state. It is desolate and dry country out there, despite the numerous springs. We saw an abundance of pronghorn antelope in the refuge, but only two wild horses. These handsome guys were standing in the tall sage near the road, but didn't run off when we drove by. The stallion in front with the little star on his head seemed to have sustained a pretty serious break in his rear left pastern or fetlock at some point. His lower leg was pretty swollen, but most disturbing was how his hoof now twisted unnaturally sideways. Despite this horrific injury, he seemed to be quite healthy and mobile. I was glad to see he had a friend with him. Ryan and I checked out two of the refuge's "horse friendly" campgrounds, both of which had corrals. This region is a question mark for me in terms of the ride route, but I'm glad we got to see it.
So it's back to the maps for me as I continue to firm up the final route. For now, I'll leave you with what is certain... I plan to begin at the geographic center of Nevada and head northeast to meet up with the Pony Express Trail. Just before the Utah border we'll head north and make our way northwest to Jarbidge. From there? Well we will see what the maps suggest. I'll certainly keep you all posted!
The latest updates from Samantha on the Nevada Discovery Ride.