Mountain Bike Nevada

Mountain Bike Nevada

By Rich Staley/on September 16, 2011/in Blog

As many of you know, I am participating in a supported mountain bike ride across the state of Nevada.  We started at Cal-Neva on the north shore of Lake Tahoe, and finishing at the Utah border east of Ely, Nevada.  The ride is around 11 days, and over 500 miles.  We are now 7 days, 370 miles, and 23,900 ft of climbing into this ride.  Here are some quick notes on the ride.

Day 1:  Cal-Neva Lake Tahoe north shore to Washoe Lake State Park.

We left Cal-Neva, and rode up Tunnel Creek Road to The Great Flume, then on to Marlette Lake, over Sunflower Hill, down to Hobart Lake, then over the Carson Range, and down to Washoe Lake State Park.  This was 29 miles, and 2900 ft of climbing. This was an uneventful ride, but beautiful, and got us well on our way for our first day in the saddle.

The GPS route can be found here:


Day 2:  Washoe Lake State Park to Ft. Churchill State Park on the Carson River.

We left Washoe Lake State Park, and immediately started to climb up to McCllean Peak.  The climb was not that steep, but relentless.  The views from the top are worth the climb.  Once at the top, we descended  to Jumbo Grade, then down to Virginia City.  Had some ice cream, then descended down 6 mile canyon to the Carson River across Highway 50.  The road that parallels the Carson River is a bit sandy, and we were bucking a bit of a head wind into Ft. Churchill State Park.  All in all, not a bad ride.  It was 40 miles, and 2864 ft of climbing.  Problem is that all the climbing was done in the first 12 miles.

Here is the GPS link for the ride:


Day 3:  Ft. Churchill State Park to Rawhide.

This was brutal.  The ride was supposed to be 71 miles, and around 3400 ft of climbing.  We started out having a blast.  I am riding with Jami Horner, a friend of the shop.  As we rode along, we dropped out on one of the Navy Air Station Bombing ranges.  Well, we were way up the south end of the range on this old playa.  When a group of us hit the playa, we just started riding circles.  The playa was about as hard as concrete, but much better traction.  We all were spinning fast circles around each other as if we were all planes dog fighting on the playa.  Then Jami and I started making high speed strafing runs on each other.  Should show up fantastically on the video to come. Once we passed the playa, it was a gradual climb to a hydro-electric plant, then crossed over the Pony Express Trail, and then to one of the worst sections of trail yet.  This was 3 miles of the deepest sand you can imagine.  Everyone (12 riders in total) all had to walk.  The sand would pack into your shoes no matter what you did.  I had to stop 3 times to evacuate all the sand.  Then to add to the sand, it was extremely hot.  Once we cleared the sand, the riding was relatively uneventful until we reached our last climb.  This was the climb before Rawhide, and it was horrible.  It was steep, and sandy.  Almost everyone there ended up walking most of the climb.  It was hot, and brutal, and almost everyone was completely crushed.  Then once on top, it was a nice roller all the way down.  This is where the thunder showers started to pop up everywhere.  They made the views stunning.  Once we finally hit camp, Jami and I were the 3rd and 4th people back to camp, with Steve E. (Who works at the Saint Mary’s Health First next door) the 5th one back in.  Then I realized that there was still one person way back on the trail.  So, realizing how crushing this ride was, I turned around and headed back out to meet up with the last person and ride with them back to camp.  I ended up meeting them 12 miles out, and by that time it was dark.  The group running the ride, Mtbike Nevada has a Quad that follows us as support for each section, and he (Super Dave the driver) had his lights on, and we used his lights to light the trail for the 12 miles back to camp.  It was a stunning ride back with a thunder storm off in the distance to our right lighting up the sky ever so often.  This was a brutal ride.  I ended up turning my GPS on a bit late, so I got in 100 miles, and 4440 ft of climbing for the day.

Here is the GPS link for day 3:


Day 4: Rawhide to Berlin to Berlin Ichthyosaur State Park

This ride was much easier than the previous day, but still a tough one.  66.5 miles, and 4500 ft. of climbing.  We started out on a nice down hill run.  One of our riders was still  crushed from the day before, so I turned around and rode up behind him, and started pushing him back to the group.  We were fighting a head wind, and all of the riding on this ride is jeep road, so drafting makes a huge difference.  So, after 30 miles of pushing him, we finally caught up to the group.  This group was a tough one to catch up with because Jami H. was in the front doing all of the work pulling a train of 4 guys across the valley.  Then we hit a paved road section where I sat on the front, and took the lead.  Then Jami would get bored behind me, and she would take up the slack and give me a break for a while.  We finally pulled into Gabbs, Nevada for some lunch, and some ice cream at the local market store before we headed out for our last pull to Berlin.  Again on pavement, we climbed out of Gabbs, and over the Paradise Range towards Berlin.  The final climb to Berlin was a tough one.  Mainly just steep.  Once at the Park, we took the tour.  If you have not taken the tour of the Ichthyosaur state park, you should.  It is extremely interesting.

Here is the GPS for day 4:


Day 5:  Berlin to Big Smokey Valley (Then Shuttle to Carvers, NV – a very small mining town)  Day 5 was a 34.5 mile ride with 4400 ft of climbing.  We left Berlin for a nice down hill start, then along the valley, up a short climb, across Reese River  Valley where the right turn was not marked.  So, the 3 of us ended up going almost 3 miles out of our way before I used my Garmin GPS radio to ask about the unmarked turn.  We ended up turning around and riding back to the turn, then up and over the Toiyabe Range.  This was a very strait forward climb, just up, up, and up.  Once at the top is where the fun began.  Again, Steve E, Jami H, and I were way out front (there is usually one person in front of us, but he always leaves camp 45 min to an hour earlier than everyone else) when we crested Ophir summit.  It crests at just over 10,100 ft. with the valley floor around 6200 ft.  But the real fun starts on the down hill.  This down hill is very technical.  It is narrow for a jeep road, and it drops fast.  Almost 1000 ft per mile over loose rock, rutted road, and wet and slimy in areas.  We had more than 50% or our riders crash on this downhill.  Luckly, Jami and I came out unscathed.  Once down Ophir Grade, we got to Hyw 376 were we were going to be shuttled 10 miles down the highway to Carvers for the night.  Jami and I both just decided to add the 10 miles into our trip and just ride to Carvers.  So, we ended up with 46.3 miles, and 4740 ft of climbing.

Here is the GPS for day 5:


Day 6:  Carvers, NV to Monitor Valley.  (But we were shuttled that 10 miles back to the trail)  Once on the jeep road, we continued east over the Toquima Range.  Again, this climb was strait forward.  Just a grind.  But again, the thunderstorms started building even more.  We were lucky, we were sprinkled on a couple of times, but not much, and because of the cloud cover, the last 3 days have been wonderful.  The clouds have been keeping the temps down, and providing striking depth to all of our photos.  Getting over the Toquima range was a tough climb after the previous days.  The climb it’s self is really not that hard.  It was very comparable to doing the old dirt highway up to Mt Rose Realy Ridge.  But after the previous 3 days, it was a slow climb.  It provided stunning views back into the valleys below.  Once to the top, it was a delightful ride down, then down to a jeep road that headed back north towards camp in the Monitor Valley.  About 2/3 rds of the way to camp, we stopped at Diana’s Punch Bowl.  This is a volcanic formation that looks like a small lava dome that has collapsed at the top.  Then you look down on clear emerald green boiling water below.  It is stunning, and you can drive there if you don’t want to ride your mountain bike all the way out.  I also have Flickr photos if you go to my Flickr link on the bottom of the home page for Great Basin Bicycles.  Anyway, then after the Punch Bowl, we headed off to camp at a hot spring just a little way down the valley.  This is where the thunderstorms started to pick up.  That night there was lightning everywhere, and tons of rain.  The odd thing was that the almost full moon was still clear of the clouds, and was shining brightly to our east, and we were just buried in rain, thunder and lightning.  Then we all saw one of the most stunning things I have ever seen.  Looking off in the distance to the east was a full double Moon Rainbow.  This is the first time I have ever seen this, and here is the link to the photo:

So, for day 6, we got in 46.7 miles, and 3620 ft of climbing, and here is the GPS link for the ride:


Day 7:  Monitor Valley to Antelope Valley (Eureka, Nevada)  All night on Day 6 it did nothing but rain.  The ground was slimy mud, and it was still down pouring with lightning flashing in the sky.  The sound of thunder would echo across the valley, and before one echo would die down, another would start.  So, we were all sitting there wondering if we should do the ride.  I was up for it, and so was Jami, be we were not sure about everyone else.  So the lead of MTBike Nevada gathered everyone around and asked who, if anyone, wanted to attempt the ride.  Mostly everyone was hesitant about even attempting the ride.  Then Jami said that she was doing it.  I backed her up, and reluctantly, most everyone agreed to attempt the ride.  This was going to be a 54 mile ride.  So we left camp in Monitor Valley, and up and over the Monitor Range.  This climb was delightful.  Just a mellow grade, and again, stunning views.  We ended up starting a bit late to let the clouds move along, and we ended up riding just behind the storm.  Once on top, the downhill was as smooth and delightful as the uphill.  The rock formations, the clouds, the colors were all stunning.  Then it hit.  It started to hail, and lighting was lighting up very corner of the canyon.  We all donned our rain gear, and rocketed for the valley below.  And all it did was rain, rain some more, spit hail, and strike lightning that echoed through the canyon.  Everyone of us was wet down to our little toe.  Once we Antelope Valley, we were more than 1/2 way to our final destination, but we could see storms closing in on us from every direction.  Our next climb was over the Antelope Range, but it was shrouded in black clouds that where electrified.  So in the downpour, and worried about being struck by lightning, we called for backup, and all loaded up into the vehicles and got shuttled to Eureka for the night.  So the ride was cut short by 20 miles, which we will be making up tomorrow.

Here is the GPS of our route for Day 7:


Day 8:  Back to the Water Tank that we bailed at, and off to Green Springs.  Because we cut the day before short by 20 miles, this day turned into a 78.5 mile day.  The first climb was short and steep, but completely ridable.  This took us over the Antelope Range.  Then we dropped down, and right back up again.  The roads were still wonderful.  Fairly smooth and fast.  Then it was up and over the Pancake Range. Once over, Jami and I were riding comfortably a fair distance behind 3 riders. When we approached our left turn, there was only one rider waiting.   He then informed us that the other 2 had missed the turn about 6 minutes ago.  So I set my pack down, and took off after them.  I caught them in about 6 miles.  Then brought them back to the turn.  So this leg’s GPS is about 12 miles longer than it has to be.  Back at the turn, we took our left, almost 12 minutes behind the first 2 riders, and almost pulled them back by Green Springs Ranch.   Green Springs is an old abandoned (but still privately owned) ranch that we had permission to stay at for the night.  There is a cold spring on the ranch where the water is frigid.  It is amazing that every other valley had natural hotsprings in, but this one had icy cold springs that were filled with 1/8 inch fresh water shrimp.  Or at least that is what it looked like.  The buildings and corrals were all falling apart, and a ghost town if you will, but a great place to pitch a tent for the night.

Here is the GPS link for day 8


Day 9:  Green Springs to Preston:  This day was great.  Right out of Green Springs in Cathedral Canyon.  So we left Green Springs, and headed east to Cathedral Canyon. The gate was tied shut, so I untied the gate, and decided to make a noose out of the rope and tie a rock to the noose, then just throw it around the gate.  This would make it easier for the other riders to open and close the gate.  So I reached down for a rock and I picked up a Softball sized rock filled with 40 million year old Trilobite fossils.  So, that one went in my pack, and I grabbed another rock.  This canyon was spectacular.  It had giant white cliffs, at least 1000 feet up, and the canyon was no more than 12 feet wide in it’s narrowest spot.  It used to be an old mining road that has now turned into a cow trail.  Someone really has to teach those cows how to build trail.  Although the entire canyon is ridable, it is almost impossible to ride the cow trail when you are gawking at the stunning views.  Most of us walked just so we could look.  Once out of the canyon, there was a quick downhill, then back up again to get over the White Pine Range.  Then a gradual down hill all the way into the town of Preston.  Preston is just 3 buildings that make up a Truck Stop.  One of the buildings in a motel that provided a fantastic shower and a bed for the night.

Here is the GPS for day 9:


Day 10: Preston, Nevada to Cave Lake State Park.  Jami and I both have to ride about 20 miles before we are warmed up.  This worked out great for this day, because the first climb was about 20 miles long.  It again was just a mild climb.  Both Jami and I were out front again by the top of the climb.  Her knee was giving her some fits due to a crash back on day 3.  She was fighting swelling in the knee since that day, but it did not stop her from pulling groups of guys across almost every valley.  It was just amazing to watch.  Anyway, we made the first climb over the Egan Range, then gradually down into the valley where the road turned north.  We continued north to the Ward Charcoal Ovens State Park.  These Ovens look like upside down bee hives.  They are all mortared out of rocks, and build wide on the bottom and narrow on top.  They have a hole on top to let smoke escape.  The miners would fill the huge ovens full of timber, and cook the timber into charcoal that was used to smelt the ore.  The local forests were decimated, and now are 2nd generation forests.  After we explored the ovens, we continued across the valley on a magnificent dirt road, then across Hwy 93 and up the pavement to Cave Lake State Park.  The lake is very cold, but beautifully nestled in the mountains.  This is a fantastic place to stay and play.

Here is the GPS route for day 10: