I was having a tough time figuring where to go on this trip. I had just spent some time near Sand Mountain and I need to plan my route between Sand Mountain and the Oregon border at McDermitt. One thought was to ride from Stillwater Wildlife Refuge to Ryepatch Reservoir. I also considered driving to McDermitt and start working my way south. I decided it was too much driving for a day trip. In scanning around the maps I landed on a road out of Mill City, crossing the Buena Vista Valley, into the East Range, then looping south before dropping into the Buena Vista Valley. Finding dirt roads that form a loop can be a challenge so I went for it. I was able to plot the route easily on my Garmin so that was an added bonus. The ride looked like it would be a 50 mile loop with less than 4000′ of climbing between 4300′ and 7000′ in elevation. It was going to be a hot desert ride.
The Bike, The “Water Boy”
I used my 2012 KHS SIXFIFTY 608 with dirt drop bars, water bottle cages on fork, and frame bag allowing the bike to carry 6L of water. In the seat bag I carried my first aid kit, bicycle repair kit, and essentials to be self-sufficient. Snacks today were peanut butter on Graham crackers. I need to make food a bigger priority!
Originally this bike was my marathon cross-country race bike. Light, fast, efficient. After I was bit by the bikepacking bug I though maybe it would become a bikepacking race bike, or my gravel bike. It has joined me on several trips and is a great example of “use the bike you have” in bikepacking/adventure touring. I do appreciate the light stiff carbon frame and suspension fork.
What I Wore
In anticipation of the heat I went with baggy shorts by Funkier and a loose fitting button down shirt. I wore a buff-style neck gaiter from Adventure Cycling and blade-style sunglasses from Optic Nerve. I wore a tight wicking base layer by Alpinstar. I chose my Kali helmet for its large visor. This kit worked well. Although the day’s temperatures were moderate, 70-90 °F, there was very little shade. Shade was non-existent while riding. Sunscreen was a must, SPF 50 on the face, SPF 30 on my arms and legs.
Getting Out There; Interstate 80 Exits – A Trip Down Memory Lane
Driving east on 80 for about two hours I passed so many exits that were starting points of rides past. Lockwood is the starting point for Lagomarsino Canyon. The turnoff at USA Parkway was used to get me to the Pony Express Route, Fort Churchill, Yerington, and south. Wadsworth is a turnoff for points north including Winnemucca Lake and the Black Rock Desert, as well as a starting point for the Tahoe Pyramid Trail and routes into the Truckee and Pah Rah Ranges. The Nightingale Hotsprings exit is a starting point for Ragged Top Rd and Blue Wing Flat. It is also a starting point to ride to the Black Rock Desert. Exit 78 is Jessup, the old mining ghost town to the north and the Carson Sink and 40 Mile Desert to the south. Exit 93 is Toulon, home to a popularly photographed ball mill and the eastern terminus of Ragged Top Rd. Exit 119 Oreana/Rochester is as far east as I have explored. This got me onto Lovelock-Unionville Rd which took me over the Humboldt Range to the Buena Vista Valley to a tangent of this write-up’s route. This route starts off Exit 149, south of Mill City.
Across Dun Glen Flat
I started on Willow Creek (Ranch) Rd off Bloody Canyon Rd, SR 400. The road was in excellent condition. Unfortunately the skies were still hazy from California’s horrible forest fires. Haze withstanding there were still stunning views of the Humboldt and East Ranges. As the road climbed into the East Range it paralleled its namesake, Willow Creek. I was shocked by how much water was moving through this stream. As a rare resource in the desert the vegetation was fighting for its fair share.
Willow Creek Rd to Klondike Canyon Rd
My Garmin kept me informed as to the road I was on as well as the road coming up. About mid way through the first climb I came across the ranching/mining property in this video. It appears this property is for sale. As I rode past it looked like a great place to live. From here the road steepened to the pass. Just before the summit I ran into a hunter from Reno who was out scouting elk by quad. We chatted a bit, so rarely do I get the chance on my solo trips.
The descent into Spaulding Canyon was very steep, a bit loose and rutted. But it smoothed out as the grade mellowed. The Spaulding Canyon was actively ranching cattle as I rode through. One of their stock ponds had a trash barrel with a “No Littering” sign. My thought was this must be a “popular” spot, maybe with hunters. At this point I made the turn onto Klondike Canyon Rd.
Klondike Canyon Rd to Leach Canyon Rd
I was passed by another pair of hunters in a 4Runner, ’tis the season. I was now climbing to Klondike Pass. A funny little bird flew up as I passed, a burrowing owl. I stopped to watch it as long as I could, it was a first for me. At the pass I descended Klondike Canyon. It was fast, and fun, and in one turn almost too fast and fun. I reminded myself to brake smoothly, ha! At the entrance to Leach Canyon the road merged into Leach Canyon Rd.
Across Buena Vista Valley to Unionville Rd
I T-ed into Kyle’s Hot Spring Rd to cross the Buena Vista Valley for 7.5 miles. To the south I could see the alkali flat (playa) of Buena Vista Valley, to the west is the Humboldt Range with Star Peak prominent on the horizon, and the East Range was behind me. I passed several ranches including Star Peak Ranch that looked like they were making the most out of the ground water.
At the four-way junction with SR 400, Unionville Rd is gravel to the west, Bloody Canyon Rd is paved to the north, and Lovelock-Unionville Rd is gravel to the south. I turned north for the final 14 miles back to my vehicle. I saw the hunter’s truck and trailer parked at the Unionville Historic Marker. He said he would have a cold beer waiting for me but looks like I beat him back to his truck. I’ll take a rain check on that beer.
I had to stop at the Star City Historic Marker. It looks like a great side trip but I will have to return at a later date. There were several canyons in the East Range that looked intriguing. I will return to visit Dun Glen Canyon and the Dun Glen Placer Mine. Clearly this area is rich in Nevada mining history.
This was a great loop with easy navigating. The water in the East Range made it particularly rich in wildlife. I saw a variety of birds, including chukar, a burrowing owl and water fowl. I saw signs of deer and the hunters were scouting elk. The insect fauna was rich as well. Add a little water to the desert and life abounds!