I feel like after multiple day tours in an area I have gained a certain expertise for that area. I have been drawn to Winnemucca Ranch Road for as long as I have lived in Reno. The Moon Rocks geologic formation is a very popular recreation site that anchors the area as a destination. To the north of Winnemucca Ranch Road lie the Virginia Mountains and to the south are the Dogskin Mountains. The land in the area is primarily managed by the BLM, the Winnemucca Ranch, and other private ranches. Today’s ride was intended to continue a loop I had started up Dry Valley Creek.
Billy Vicks and I started at Moon Rocks off Winnemucca Ranch Rd. Billy was a ride partner in my first post through Hungry Valley. The Hungry Valley Route would be an ideal way to link to this ride from Reno by dirt. The start from Moon Rocks to Bedell Flats was a bit of a sandy climb which characterizes the ride surface in so much of our area, hard pack roads interspersed with sandy decomposed granite sections. The sand can be very discouraging to narrow tire travelers but Billy and I both had 2.4 width tires on our bikes and never thought twice about the sandy patches.
After a 3 mile climb we descended into Bedell Flats. This was my third trip to the area on the south side of Dogskin, it doesn’t disappoint. Billy and I made great time through this valley to the rural residential area at its west end. The valley is flanked by Dogskin Mtns, Fred’s Mtn, and the Sandhills OHV Recreation area. At this point I chose roads I was familiar with that headed to Dry Valley Creek although I had plotted another route that headed further west which will have to be tested in the near future. These roads dropped us into Dry Valley which ironically must be very wet in some years because the roads cross many vernal stream beds before linking up with Dry Valley Creek. It is always an eye opener as to how much water is in the desert.
The recent rains had “greened-up” the valley by Nevada’s standards. Yet when we started climbing Dry Valley Creek we really really noticed what an oasis of grasses and wild flowers had been created by this tiny creek. At our first creek crossing my tires disturbed a pod of black pollywogs. This crossing took us to an old dwelling under the shade of some massive Cottonwood trees. I had stopped here on my last time through but had not spent anytime exploring this waist high structure. The front wall with a framed doorway was a couple feet thick of stacked and mortared rock. Down the middle of the hut the were two thick support posts holding up a timber forming the peak of the failing roof. The back of the shelter was dug into the side of the canyon. The size of the floor plan could comfortably sleep two, or four in a pinch. My imagination tells me cattle were run through here and the shelter was used repeatedly by the cowboys tending the herd. Across the stream was a broken down corral, further evidence of the historical importance of this valley.
Billy and I continued up the stream until the single track disappeared, the canyon walls became very steep, and the floor became a semi saturated meadow with small rivulets running through. Then we were surprised with a 20′ concrete dam blocking the canyon. It is not quite impassable, there was a “window” cut through it with a small waterfall cascading next to an easy rock scramble. But I don’t think we could risk carrying our bikes up and across the slippery rock. So we hiked our bikes up the loose rock scree and found a animal created singletrack above the dam.
I assume the dam was created by the Winnemucca Ranch and unfortunately we were now trespassing on private property. Our goal at this point was to make a bee-line to Winnemucca Ranch Rd to return to Moon Rocks. I am not an advocate of trespassing but we made our way following Dry Valley Creek via cow paths to Winnemucca Ranch Rd. We were respectful of gates and fences and I know for future rides this is not the route beyond the concrete dam. The valley we followed along Dry Creek was beautiful and I could see why it would be so valuable to Northern Nevada ranchers.
The ride back along Winnemucca Ranch road was like spending time with an old friend. This was the furthest out I had been on the road. I got a good look at the west side of Tule Peak. I admired the steepness of the Dogskin Mtns. And noticed some changes on the return trip. Unfortunately an old barn, a familiar sight from trips past was gone. Maybe the result of one too many windstorms, maybe too great of a liability for the rancher who owns it. There was also an illegal trash dump that had been cleaned up. We shall see how this close but remote backroad changes on my next trip to this area.